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7 Days to Pretend (2/2)

Title: 7 Days to Pretend
Fandom: The Pretender/7 Days
Genre Crossover
Word Count 13,475
Summary While acting as a bodyguard, Jarod meets another Parker
FollowsTrust Someone
Author's NoteThis was originally posted on FanFiction.Net in May 2001. It was nominated in the Best Crossover category of the 2001 Pretender FanFic awards. More to follow!

>Part 1


Jarod walked into the convention center and saw a number of security guards gathered by one of the doors and knew that was where he was meant to go. He quickly checked his appearance before knocking.

"Come in."

Jarod entered and immediately spotted Morales. The woman from the office was there as well. She smiled when she saw him. "Señor Morales, this is Jarod Farmer, one of our best. He will be your personal bodyguard leading up to the conference."

Morales held out his hand. "An honor, Señor Farmer. You have been spoken of most highly."

Jarod shook his hand. "Some of it might have even been the truth," he said with a smile. Jarod took an immediate liking to this warm and open individual. There was no hidden agenda, no ulterior motives. What you saw was what you got. It was hard to imagine him as the possible target of assassins. He wasn't a political or religious leader, or even a radical dissident. He was just a father looking for justice so other fathers wouldn't have to go through what he went through.

"On the contrary, señor. I have been hearing of your stellar record. I'm sure my wife and I will be safe under your watchful eye until my personal bodyguard arrives from Columbia."

"Or until the convention starts up."

"Exactly," smiled Morales.

The woman from the agency opened a folder and pulled out a sheet of paper. "This is Señor Morales' itinerary leading up to the convention. You are to be with him at all these functions. You do have the proper attire? Most of these are black tie."

"I'm sure I can lay my hands on something."

"Very good." She handed the folder to Jarod. "I'll leave you two to get to know each other better."

Morales looked at Jarod. "Señora Warner told me you asked to be my bodyguard."

Jarod sensed his unease and smiled. "Yes, but not for the reason you think. I'm a great proponent of family and I can understand what you're going through."

"Oh?" Morales was intrigued.

"My brother was killed and I've been trying to bring about justice for him."

"Then you do understand. I think this will work better since I will not be just another assignment to you."

"I hope so," agreed Jarod. His phone rang. "If you will excuse me?" Morales nodded and Jarod walked to the opposite side of the room. "Yes?"

"Jarod, it's Olga. Mr. Parker and I had guests waiting for us in our room when we returned. They were looking for you."

"They must have been watching to room. Did they do anything to you? Make any threats?"

"No. They were interested in a 'mutual acquaintance' and wanted us to contact them whenever were heard from you."

"Thanks for letting me know. You did check the room before calling, of course."

"Of course. With Mr. Parker's paranoia, it was the first thing he did."

Jarod heard a slight scuffle then Frank was there. "I may come off a little paranoid, but most of the time I'm right. These two mean business. Though I wish I had her chasing me for other reasons."

"Frank, her last boyfriend ended up dead."


"Just keep an eye out for them and let me know if they contact you again. I may have a bit of an idea and I think I'm going to need your help." He closed the phone and rejoined Morales. "I apologize for that. I've been helping a friend."

"I'm sure they appreciate it."

Jarod smiled. "I'm sure they do."


Miss Parker stabbed the buttons on the phone mercilessly, imagining them to be Jarod's eyes. The other end picked up after the third ring. "Broots."

"Miss Parker, did you-"

"No, but we have a lead. I want you to check up on recent releases from psychiatric institutions." She described Frank. "All I know for sure is that his last name is

"How recent is recent?"

"Try three years." A sudden inspiration struck. "Try the military first. I want to learn as much as possible about the guy's background."

"Yes, Miss Parker. I'll call you as soon as I get it."

"You had better." She snapped shut the phone and found herself staring into her brother's snake eyes. "What?" she snapped.

"You think this Parker is military?"

"He seemed to act the part."

"I don't know why you're bothering to check up on this guy anyway. We should be checking out the delegates."

"Then why don't you? We're not joined at the hip. You muscled your way onto this journey so don't expect me to just give in."

"Then you'd really make me suspicious." He smiled with false charm. She glared at him. "Face it, Parker, you're not as determined as you used to be in catching Jarod. Every time he contacts you in some way, he chips away at your reserve. So, until you regain your edge, I'm gonna keep an eye on you."

"You or one of your pet goons."

"Of course. You can't think that I want to spend all my time with you."

"The feeling is mutual." She walked away.


Frank hadn't had any contact with Jarod for a couple of days and he was beginning to wonder if he had made the right decision about giving him his own lead. Olga had backed him on his decision, but Jarod had this little lost dog look about him that had turned Olga into something of a mother hen. Somehow he knew he had nothing to worry about, as Jarod was a man with a mission. He couldn't afford to have much of a personal life.

Frank took a deep breath. He had no time to dwell on that now. He was in the midst of a mission as well, one that was rather out of his hands right now. He needed to try and regain control. He picked up the keys to the rental and headed for the door.

Olga looked up from her laptop. "Where are you going?"

"The site of the conference. I need to get more involved in this whole situation. Right now I feel like I was just the messenger and Jarod's taken over."

"Let me go with you." She turned off the computer and took off her glasses. "You know how you can get."

"Are you saying I don't know how to handle myself in a delicate situation?" Frank grinned knowingly.

"Your words, Mr. Parker." He smiled and held the door open for her.

They arrived at the hotel and Frank parked in front. "Remember, Mr. Parker, we have clearance thanks to Mr. Talmadge. You have to present yourself in a dignified manner--or as dignified as you can be."

They stepped inside the hotel and Frank immediately headed for the conference rooms. Once inside the main conference room, a non-descript man in an average suit
approached Frank and Olga. "I'm sorry, but this room is closed to the public."

"Glad to hear it," answered Frank as he took out his ID. "It's nice to see such a degree of professionalism."

The man took in Frank's worn jeans, navy sweater, and leather jacket, but didn't bother to point out that his clothes were a little less than professional. "NSA. So you're the ones who called about the possible threat to the conference. Care to share your information?"

"Right now we're only working on snippets of information handed to us from international sources, plus a few simulations. Nothing all that concrete, just enough to pull out extra security for this."

"Extra security?"

"Oh, we are here in a supervisory capacity only," put in Olga. "We only wished to stop and see how things were progressing."

The man turned to Olga and spoke to her as Frank had wandered off to see what the rest of the room provided. "Every delegate, every bodyguard, and every security member has been issued a special pass with photo I.D. and barcode, impossible to duplicate quickly and perfectly enough in time to infiltrate the conference."

Frank had returned in time to catch this last piece of information. "Let's hope that's true. How would Dr. Vuckavitch and myself acquire such passes?" The man looked at him. "We came here to help out and I think passes would be necessary."

"Sure. Room 203 is where we have set up the surveillance cameras and other such things. An agent there will prepare a pass for each of you."

"Thank you," said Olga. She ushered Frank out of the room and towards the elevator. "It seemed all in order to me," she said.

"It does. That shows how much weight Talmadge's name carries." The elevator arrived and Frank allowed Olga in first. "Now let's get our passes so we'll be able to witness history--literally for me."

The elevator door opened and Jarod was there with a South American man waiting to go down. They nodded to each other as they traded places in the elevator, and, as the doors closed, Jarod flashed him an okay sign. Feeling better about their position, Frank whistled as they walked to room 203.

Sometime later, as they were leaving the hotel, Frank witnessed Lyle's arrival. "I hope Jarod's gone."

"I would think so. Why?"

Frank looked at her over the roof of the car. "I just saw Lyle go inside. That was pretty quick if they've connected him to the conference already."

"Was he alone?"

"No, there was a black guy with him. I wonder where Miss Parker is?" he mused.

"Mr. Parker, you're not entertaining the thought. . ."

"Of course not! She's too cold and impersonal. Plus, I don't think she's the kind that would hang out with the boys."

Olga sighed and sat back as Parker weaved through the traffic back to the hotel.


Two days later, Lyle left for the site of the conference. He hadn't had any luck in tracking Jarod through the individual delegates, so perhaps he was tied in with the hotel. Parker hadn't been any luckier in trying to confront the other Parker, which made him feel a little better. With Willie behind him, Lyle approached the registration desk and pulled out Jarod's photo. "Excuse me, but have you seen this man? I think he may have something to do with the conference."

The man behind the desk stared at him as if he were crazy. He looked at the photo anyway. "No, can't say as I remember seeing him."

"So, you haven't seen him."

"No, that's not what I said. I don't remember seeing him. There are so many people coming and going right now for this conference. I have hotel security, police, bodyguards, hell, I even had the NSA in here. I'm sorry if I don't remember this one face."

"Mind if I just look around?" Lyle flashed an ID that made the man think he had the authority. "I won't get in the way." He knew his charm would make the man think him harmless enough.

"Sure." The clerk went back to his duties behind the desk and left Lyle to find his own way.

Lyle turned to Willie and they walked down the hall to the conference rooms. "It's amazing how lax security is for such an international conference." He shook his head. "Perhaps we should give some lessons."


Miss Parker went over the information she had just gotten from Broots. Francis Bartholomew Parker was born in Philadelphia in 1969, raised in an orphanage and went to Catholic school. From there he joined the Navy SEALS before moving on to CIA Special Ops. While on assignment in Somalia, he was captured and tortured by being placed in a hot box for a week and deprived of food and water. Upon his release, he had a breakdown which led to his incarceration at the CIA psychiatric facility at Hansen Island. He also held a B.S. in Biology from the University of Virginia. Quite a well-rounded character. However, she couldn't see anything in his file that would make him a subject of Jarod's attention.

She stood, put her gun in its holster, checker her appearance in the mirror, then left the room, carefully locking it behind her. She stalked to the elevator and waited for the elevator to take her to the lobby. Once inside, she wondered briefly what Lyle was doing but was happy that he was just out of her way. A brief smile crossed her lips just as the doors opened. Her day brightened immensely as she saw who was standing there.

He spotted her as well. "And things had been going so well," he groaned.

"Just the man I want to see."

"Should I be flattered?" he questioned as she grabbed his arm and dragged him back into the elevator.

"You've piqued my interest, Frank B. Parker of the NSA."

"You've done your research. I'm impressed."

"As was I when I read your file. It's a good thing that the NSA was willing to overlook your...shortcomings. But just what is your tie to Jarod? Why is he helping you?" He didn't answer her and she really hadn't expected him to.


Olga saw Frank pulled into the elevator by Miss Parker. Things were advancing a bit quicker than planned. She put in a call to Talmadge and the others back in Nevada. "Have you gotten any of the information I requested?"

"Ballard took care of that. John?"

Olga next heard John Ballard's voice. "It took a little time and finesse, but I finally did get some background on the two of them. They are twins, however for some reason the brother was raised by a foster family. They work for a privately financed research facility known as The Centre and located in Blue Cove Delaware.

Their father is one of the big-wigs so they each have some pull. Lyle was persona non grata for a time, but was reinstated last year and placed on the same retrieval project as the sister. Strange thing, there is no first name listed on her."

"That's not much, is it?"

"No. There security caught up with me at that point."

"Thanks, anyway, John."

"Do you think anything can come of this information, Olga?" asked Talmadge.

"I was hoping, sir, but I think all it's given me is some idea of where they're coming from. I'll call should anything else arise."

"Olga, where's Frank?"

"He's...doing reconnaissance, sir."

"Parker doing reconnaissance? That's a laugh," Ramsey snorted. "The man's a bull in a china shop on his best day." Olga knew that Frank was an expert on such matters and was not about to get into a long-distance argument, especially over the merits of Frank Parker.

"OK, Olga. Keep in touch."

"Yes, sir." She then placed a call to Jarod. "Frank is with Miss Parker now. I saw her take him into the elevator."

"She'll probably take him up to her room to get the information out of him. That should buy us some time. The plan should stay on schedule."

"I'll let you know when they leave."

"Thank you, Olga."


Jarod turned off his phone after speaking with Olga. Things were going as planned, albeit, a little ahead of schedule. Frank should be able to delay things with Miss Parker. He smiled at the thought of that encounter.

"Is everything all right, Jarod?" asked Morales.

"Nothing surprising, no. However, I may need to leave you briefly this evening, but I've arranged for someone to stay with you. I hope you don't mind."

"Who is this other person?"

"There's nothing to worry about. He's with the NSA and has had a hand in the security for the conference." Which is no lie, Jarod added to himself.

"Is this the friend you've been helping?"

"Yes, he is."

"Then I see no problem in him taking over."

"Wonderful. His name is Frank Parker. He's a little unorthodox, but gets the job done."

"You are an honest man, Jarod so I trust your judgment regarding your friend."


"So, what interest do you have in Jarod?" questioned Frank.

"Merely as a means to an end, Parker." That felt strange, calling someone else that name.

"Why don't you just call me Frank. After all, you do know the intimate details of my life."

"God," she moaned. "Why do the government agents Jarod finds always think they can charm their way out of any given situation?"

"You mean I'm not your first? I'm hurt, I really am."

"He collects you like strays. The last one was with the FBI."

That last comment intrigued Frank. Maybe he could look up this agent. "What is it about Jarod that attracts people? There has to be more to it if you chase after him with guns."

She looked at him as if debating how to answer--or if to answer. The door to the elevator opened and he demeanor changed for their new audience. Her face softened and she linked her arm in his. "Darling, this trip has been so wonderful," she declared as they exited.

"Too bad you only get one first honeymoon," commented Frank as they strolled down the hall.

She glared up at him but for those watching from behind, it looked like a loving glance. As they paused in front of the door while Miss Parker got the key, Frank made to kiss her. She turned her head so he only grazed her cheek. He opened the door and allowed her to enter first. Once he was inside and the door closed, she slapped him soundly on the face and shoved him away. "Don't you ever try that again!"

Frank looked up from the foot of the bed where he had landed. "I was only following your lead," he said, gently massaging his cheek. "I thought that a couple on their honeymoon would do a bit of that, you know."

"Well, I've got news for you: the honeymoon's over." She began to pace the room. God, why did I ever give up smoking? "Try it again and you'll be getting your jaw wired shut."

Frank rubbed his jaw at the thought. He wouldn't put it past her to keep that threat. He made himself comfortable on the bed as she paced. He watched her and could see all that pent-up energy waiting for a release. She reminded him of a caged animal and wondered if he got that way at Backstep, though he did have a few more outlets. "Your gonna wear out the carpet if you keep that up."

She turned and glared at him. How dare he look so smug and confident! This was supposed to be an interrogation and he was treating it like a liason.

Frank knew it had to try and get the upper hand here. What kind of hold does Jarod have over her? "So, what's it like having a twin? I'm an only child myself."

Parker stopped and looked at him. "And how do you know that Lyle is my twin? You must have spoken with Jarod."

"Ooops, shouldn't have let that out." Frank attempted to look remorseful. "You caught me."

"You had better tell me all you can. My brother has his own method of interrogation that is none too pleasant."

"So, you do care."

"I know you have a high threshold for pain, Mr. Parker, but Lyle plays a nasty game of psychological as well as physical pain." Frank said nothing. "When did you last see him?"

Frank knew the truth couldn't hurt at this point. "Two days ago. We had just seen him when you made yourself comfortable in our room."

"So you haven't spoken or seen him since then?"


Miss Parker felt he was giving his answers to readily. "OK, let's try this again."

Frank groaned. It was going to be a long afternoon.


Even though there had been nothing definite to link Jarod to the conference, it was the only game in town, and Lyle had always been one for games. After forcing himself onto security, Lyle arranged passes for himself and Willie. His sister would have to make arrangements for herself.

On the off chance that Jarod was involved with security, Lyle showed his photo to the pass photographer. "Have you seen him?"

"I think so, but I can't be certain. After awhile, the faces blend together."

"Are the passes made here? I would like to see if his is here."

"We need to keep the number of those who have access to a minimum. If you'd care to leave the photo with me, I can check it against those already developed."

Lyle reluctantly gave up the picture. "How long?"

"Not long at all. About five minutes, maybe ten."


As he waited, Lyle thought on his dear sister's reaction when he brought in Jarod. She had lost her edge due to Jarod's little mindgames. Everyone at the Centre knew it as well. That was also probably her saving grace as she knew his mind set as well as anyone else.

The photographer returned. "Yes, we do have someone who matches the man in the photo."

"Can I have his name?"

"Due to security-"

"Okay, okay, you can't give me a name. But if he is involved with the conference, he'll be here tonight, yes?"

"It would make sense, sir, yes."

Lyle stood and left the room. On the way down in the elevator, Willie asked, "If he's going to show here tonight, do you want me to stay and watch for him?"

"Yes. I'm going back to the hotel to share the news." Which might turn to gloating.

After getting off the elevator on his floor, Lyle immediately spotted that Russian woman in the little waiting area. From her seat, she could see down the hall that contained his room and Parker's. Since he knew her room was two floors down, there was only one other reason for her presence. It was time to turn the tables.


Olga was keeping an eye on the room where Mr. Parker had been taken without seeming obvious. She had just perused the same paragraph in her magazine for the tenth time when she heard a make voice ask, "You were with Mr. Parker, weren't you?"

She looked up to see the man who was after Jarod. She'd have to bluff her way out of this. "Yes. Olga Vuckavitch." She held out her hand.

"Lyle." He shook her hand. "What are you doing up here?"

"Mr. Parker saw an old friend. I decided to wait here."

"There's no need to wait alone. "My sister's room is right down the hall. You can wait there."

"Mr. Parker won't know-"

"We'll leave the door open. Come on now." Lyle took her by the arm and guided her down the hall towards the door she had been watching. He gave a knock on the door before opening. He ushered Olga in ahead of him. "It seems I'm not the only one with a guest."

Frank was lying back on the bed as if it were his own room while Miss Parker was sitting on the edge of her seat, leaning forwards. She stood quickly. "What are you doing?" she demanded of her brother.

"She was watching the room. I bet you didn't think of that when you took Mr. Mental Patient, did you?"

"Former mental patient, thank you," commented Frank as he moved to the edge of the bed. "You okay, Olga?"

"More embarrassed at being caught than hurt," she replied as she joined him. As the siblings began to argue on the other side of the room, she whispered, "Did you learn anything?"

"Only that they're trying to out-do each other to be the first to get Jarod. Seems whoever does gets a major promotion."

"That's..." She struggled for words. They were treating Jarod as if he were an escaped convict, just someone to bring in so they could get on with their lives. How could they live with themselves? "Inhuman," she finished.

"There has to be more to this," said Frank. "Unfortunately, we're not gonna get anything from these two."

"Do you think they're part of a government agency?" questioned Olga.

"No. They would have shown ID's once they learned we were NSA. I think they might be with a private organization."

Olga looked over at the bickering siblings. "They don't inspire confidence, do they?"

"Well, if all the women who worked there looked like her..." Olga glared at him. "What? I can't help it."

Olga looked at Lyle. "I wonder where that other man is? The one who follows him."

"He's not outside?"

"I didn't see him. Do you think he stayed at the conference hall to watch for Jarod?"

"I wouldn't be surprised. OK, here they come."


Miss Parker pulled Lyle off to the side of the room. "What are you doing, bringing her here?"

"She was watching the room, Parker. I'm surprised you didn't expect that. Why did you bring him to the room anyway?"

"To question him, of course." She told him about Frank's background.

"And you thought you could get straight answers from a former nutcase and spook?" Lyle glanced over at the two on the bed. "I'm surprised at you, Parker."

"I did learn that Jarod is helping with security at the conference. That's why he's in contact with Parker."

"He has a security pass and should be there in about an hour," Lyle supplied, looking at his watch.

"We can use them to get us in," she said.

"Speak for yourself. I have a security pass."

"And when were you going to tell me this?" Probably at the door when he gets in and I'm left standing in the cold.

"It wouldn't have done much good as I just made it before the deadline to get one made. I'm sure that's something your captive left out."

She resisted the temptation to smack his smug face. "So, we just sit tight here for an hour or so before heading there, taking them with us."

"And give them the chance to get in the way? I don't think so."

"They can also act as a bargaining chip. You know how Jarod gets."

Lyle grinned. "Now, there's the old Parker we've been missing. How does it feel?"

"Good," she snarled. "Do you want to tell them or shall I?"

They walked over to Frank and Olga.


Jarod approached the front door of the hotel but spotted Willie watching it from the lobby. He turned and headed for the café entrance to the side. With Willie here, that meant that he could expect to see Lyle and Miss Parker soon. He hoped that Frank and Olga were doing all right. He knew from experience that Lyle could get carried away in his enthusiasm.

He made his way into the conference hall where the security teams were doing their final checks. At a table along the back wall was a man guarding over the security passes. Jarod walked over, told them his name, and waited while they searched for it, then signed the form so they could match signatures. With that done, he had to wait as he was lectured on the security process for the evening. As the voice droned on, he looked away and saw as they walked in.

He looked about the room, fearing all the exits would be covered. However, it was just the three of them. He also noted that Frank and Olga were with them and all right. With a quick smile in their direction, he bolted across the room to one of the many doors that led to the kitchen, and from there, outside. He found his car in the lot and drove off. In the rearview mirror he could see Miss Parker and Lyle as they reached the lot. The look on their faces made this little game of cat-and-mouse worthwhile.


Miss Parker let out a frustrated sigh as she watched Jarod's car pull out of the lot. "Damn!" She turned around in anger.

"If we hadn't waited around the hotel, we would have been here when he came in," chided Lyle.

"Yeah, well, Willie was here for that and look how well he did!" Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a sheet of paper on the ground and picked it up in the off chance it had to do with Jarod. She read it and smiled. "C'mon, boys. We have a flight to catch." She strode back to their car.

"What's the deal here? What about the NSA?"

"They were only necessary to get us to Jarod. We don't need them anymore. What we do need is to get to SEA-TAC airport before Jarod's flight for Tampa leaves in," she looked at her watch, "one hour." She showed Lyle the paper.

"It's not like him to drop a receipt for his ticket."

"Yeah, but I don't think he expected us to show up so soon. We can talk about it on the way."

The three headed for the car.


Frank smiled as Jarod led the others on a merry chase. He fished a set of car keys from his pocket and tossed them to Olga. "Here. You'll find a dark green Taurus parked in the employee lot."

"And where are we going?"

"You're going to the airport. Jarod's gonna need help with his escape. I have to go be a bodyguard."

"But what about..?"

"They're done with us and are probably on the way to the airport now. You'd better hurry. This escape is planned down to the second."

"What?" She stared at Frank but could see he wasn't about to explain. "Fine, but I expect to be told the whole story when this is over." She exited by the front door.

When Frank saw both cars pull into traffic, he hailed a cab. When he arrived at the hotel where Señor Morales was staying, he approached reception. The uniformed woman behind the desk took in Frank's appearance with a disdainful glance. "May I help you?"

"Yes. Could you call Señor Morales and tell him that Frank Parker is here, please."

"I don't think Señor Morales is seeing anyone at the moment."

"I think he's expecting me." He leaned against the counter, showing that he wasn't planning on moving until she did as he asked.

She made the call. "I'm sorry to disturb Señor Morales, but there is a man here at reception who says he is expected." She paused while the person on the other end spoke. She then looked at Frank and asked his name again. "Frank Parker." Another pause. "Yes, I'll send him up."

Frank smiled. "Thank you very much." He took the elevator up and had his ID ready for the security waiting on the floor. He then strode down the hall and knocked on the door to Morales' room. "It's Frank Parker."

The door was opened and a Latino man stood and walked over. "Welcome, Señor Parker. As you are here, that must mean that things are going as Jarod expected."

"Very much so."


Jarod left his car in the rental lot and took a shuttle to the terminal. If he timed this right, he would just be passing through security when they spotted him. Knowing he
didn't have much time, he headed toward the gate for his "flight". He hoped Frank had made it over to Señor Morales. He had asked Morales to stay in the room and not let anyone in except Frank or himself.

"There he is!" he heard a female voice cry and turned to see the three start off in his direction.

Jarod quickly walked through the throng. Soon he heard the alarms at the checkpoints go off and he grinned. He knew he could depend on them to rush through the security gates. He quickly turned to one of the many doors that led to the tarmac. Using an airport employee pass, he opened the door and headed down the steps.

He flashed his pass at the stunned baggage handlers and headed to the passenger pick-up area. Now, if Frank had just told Olga the plan...


Olga followed the signs on the highway for the airport. She only hoped she didn't pass Jarod's pursuers or even get caught by them. She was mad at Frank for not telling her the full story but her anger could wait until this was done. As she arrived at the airport, she debated between arrivals or departures before deciding on arrivals. After all, she was picking up a passenger. She lined up with the other cars and watched for Jarod. She soon glimpsed a spot at the curb and pulled over.

Almost immediately the passenger door opened. She turned to yell at the person to get out when she realized it was Jarod. Olga pulled out into the traffic "When Mr. Parker said you had this timed down to the second, he wasn't kidding."

Jarod smiled as he looked in his side view mirror. "It helps when you know how the other side thinks."

Olga finally realized what was happening. "So now they think you're gone and will leave you alone to finish."

"Frank helped out with some of the details. He's with Morales now." She could feel his eyes on her as she concentrated on the road. "You mean he didn't tell you what was going on?"

"No, he just said to go to the airport because you would need help."

"Does he always do that?"

"He was with the CIA. He sometimes reverts to a need-to-know mode of thinking."

"I know the type. Let's go and see how he's doing."

Olga drove to the hotel and followed Jarod up to Morales' suite. He knocked on the door and Frank answered. "Great. You made it." He grinned at Olga. "No problems with the timetable, then?"

"None. I had barely pulled over when Jarod got in. Why couldn't you have told me what was going on? I don't like being left out like that."

"There just wasn't time. Believe me, I felt bad about it."

Olga seriously doubted that, but let it slide. She looked over at Jarod who had joined Morales and his wife. "Do you think it worked?"

"I think so. By the time Parker and Lyle find out their mistake, this will be all over and Jarod will be on his way again. We can always go to the conference and find out," he grinned.


The limousine joined the line of those waiting to relinquish their passengers. An unnatural calm seemed to settle on those waiting inside. Señor and Señora Morales faced forward, holding hands in mutual support. Jarod sat opposite them and he, too, was nervous. He looked out the window, eyes darting everywhere.

"Why so uptight, my friend? You have discharged your duty. Here we are at the conference and I am still breathing."

"I won't feel confident until you're in that room under the watchful eye of the federal government."

"Miguel is on his way from the airport and you can soon be on your way. All that you have done was above the call."

"I felt it an honor, Señor."

The limo stopped and Jarod jumped out and carefully surveyed the area before allowing the Morales out of the car. He walked alongside the couple up the stairs and into the building. There was a reception area where the delegates could meet and speak freely. Jarod milled about, keeping an eye on both the assignment and the crowd. He glanced quickly at his watch before making his way to the diplomat's side. Miguel had arrived by this time and soon after the introductions, Jarod made his farewells and left.

Once out the door, Jarod loosened his tie and headed outside. Frank and Olga were there waiting. "Well?" Frank asked.

"Everything went fine. Miguel just arrived and so I wasn't needed anymore."

"So where to now?" asked Olga.

"I never really know until I read the papers," he answered with a bit of a smile.

"There's more to this than you're saying," Frank said. "I think we could hear a bit more."

Jarod thought on that request. It couldn't really hurt. After all, he knew their secret. "The condensed version?" Frank nodded. Jarod took a deep breath. "I was kidnapped as a child and used to create simulations, some of which were used with horrifying consequences. I escaped and try to right those wrongs."

"And that's why they want you back? To continue these simulations?" questioned Olga. "What about your family? Surely they can help."

"When I was still a boy, they told me my parents were dead. I have since met my father, seen my mother, and hold my dying brother in my arms. I also learned I have a sister. They're out there somewhere and we'll meet up again soon. Right now it's safer to remain apart."

"That's harsh," commented Frank, "but at least you know you have family. As far as I know, I have no one."

A thought crossed Jarod's mind, one almost too terrible to consider. He looked intently at Frank. Why spoil his life by giving him a possible family as skewed as the Parkers? He seems stable where he is and has accepted the fact that he has no blood relatives.

Frank noticed Jarod staring. "What's the matter? Do I have food stuck on the corner of my mouth?" He wiped a hand across his lips.

Jarod smiled. "No, I was just thinking."

"Anything I should know?"

Jarod shook his head. "No, nothing important at all." He held out his hand. "A pleasure meeting you both." Frank shook it. "I trust you'll keep my secret?"

"As long as you keep ours," grinned Frank.

"Mum's the word. Dr. Vukavitch, " he shook her hand as well.

"Good luck to you, Jarod. I hope you are reunited with your family."

"I know I will be. Thank you both for your help and I hope it doesn't cause any problems when you return to...wherever."

"Nothing I haven't handled before."

With a parting smile, Jarod walked down the sidewalk and disappeared into the crowd.

Olga looked at his retreating back. "Do you think we'll see him again?"

"With my travel agent, the odds are pretty good."


The Centre jet arrived at Tampa/St Pete thirty minutes before Jarod's flight. Parker and Lyle stood by the arrival gate and Sam went onto the tarmac should he decide to escape that way. As the passengers disembarked, Lyle and Parker scanned the faces. Jarod was not there. "Damn!"

"Seems he left us another red herring," commented Lyle dryly.

"And sent us across the country giving himself enough time to go somewhere else. I can't believe I fell for it!"

A woman dressed in the uniform of the airline walked up to her. "Miss Parker?"

Parker turned. "What do you want?" she growled.

"There's a phone call for you. You can take it at the courtesy phone." She motioned with her hand to the phone at the gate.

Parker walked to the phone and picked it up. "Yes?"

"I hear the weather's lovely there this time of year."

"It could be snowing for all I care. Why Tampa?"

"It was all I could get at the time that was far enough away." She could hear laughter in his voice. "Stay there a couple of days, get a tan. You're looking rather pale. Prison life can do that to a person."

She pulled the dial tone away from her ear and stared at the phone before setting it back on the base. Not like his usual calls after a pretend. This was more to taunt and gloat, not confess and mope. This experience must have left him in a good mood. She frowned. At least one of us is.

Lyle came over. "So, what did Jarod have to say?"

"He sent us here to take a vacation. He said I was looking too pale."

"Well, you are a bit."

She glared at him. "When I want your opinion, I'll bite my tongue."

Lyle backed away. "Fine. We'll talk later."

The look on his face made her feel a little better. Maybe her mood was changing. No need for Lyle to know that, she thought as she followed him back to the jet and the Centre.


SPN Dean Writing

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