Disclaimer: Sentinel and Pretender Characters belong to their respective creators. I just borrowed them for a short visit and promise to return them unharmed. Third in the Sentinel/Pretender series. As always, Please send your comments to me via email.
Pretend She's a Lady
"Man, I never thought I'd be saying this but I'm looking forward to work," Blair stated as they headed back home. They had been camping for the weekend, working on their respective abilities. Jim was monitoring his exhausted guide. The younger man had gone into the tests, like he did everything else, at full throttle. Jim had tried to keep Blair from over doing it but trying to rein in his enthusiastic partner was almost impossible.
"I know what you mean, Chief." Jim responded as Blair leaned his head back against the back of the seat and dozed off. Jim glanced at him and smiled. //Just like a baby.// Jim thought. //Put him in a car when he's sleepy and he crashes.//
Blair began to stir as they reached the outskirts of Cascade, a frown creasing his forehead. Jim could hear his guide's heartrate increase.
"What's wrong, Chief?" Jim asked concerned.
Blair shook his head. "I don't know. I have a feeling something is wrong but I can't trace it." He tried to focus but the feeling was too nebulous, and he was unable to trace it to the source. Jim could feel his partner's growing frustration. He reached over and gently squeezed Blair's shoulder.
"Just relax, Chief, don't push. We'll find out soon enough."
Blair nodded. "I know. I just hate waiting for the other shoe to drop." He closed his eyes and tried to relax.
Within a mile of the loft Blair was hit with a wave of pain. Jim immediately pulled over to the side of the road. He placed his hands on his partner's shoulders. "Talk to me, buddy. What's happening?"
"Pain." Blair gasped.
"Does it feel like Angelo?" Jim asked, worried. He remembered the other times the empath had contacted his guide.
"No, this is different." Blair searched for the right description. "I'm feeling someone's emotions and physical pain."
"Okay, Chief, you know what to do. Just like you practiced, put up the wall." Jim urged; it was his turn to guide.
Using Jim's support, Blair was able to quickly set his barriers into place. The younger man's body sagged as the pain was blocked.
"Feeling better?" Jim asked as his partner's vital signs returned to normal.
"Yeah, I can barely feel it now. Who ever it is has a strong mental signature."
Jim turned and put the truck in gear and headed for home. He knew they would find trouble soon enough.
She leaned against the building opposite her destination. She prayed they would return home soon; she didn't know how long she would be able to remain conscious. Her mind drifted back to the reason for her sudden flight and current condition.
She had been relaxing at home after a long day, when the phone rang. "What?" She demanded.
"So tense! Did you have a bad day at the office?" The voice on the other end of the line asked.
"Jarod." She paused and lit a cigarette. "What do you want?"
"Tsk, tsk, Ms. Parker, I just wanted to pass along some information. There is no need for attitude."
Parker sat on the edge of the chair. "Is this about my mother?" She asked. Her need for information about her mother's secret rescue work and death caused her to go to great lengths. She would even work with the enemy to gain any lead on her mother's life.
"Yes, check locker number 3756 in Grand Central Station. The key is in your mail box." Jarod paused. "Be very careful. This information could get someone killed," he warned before disconnecting.
She sat staring at the phone, her mind trying to understand why Jarod would help her. Shaking off the numbness that held her in place, she quickly moved around her home packing for a short trip. She checked to make sure she had enough cash to take her to New York and her gun. She pulled the envelope out of her mailbox and double-checked that there was indeed a key. As she pulled out of her driveway, she reached for her cell phone and pushed the speed dial.
The phone rang four times. "Daddy..." She realized she had reached her father's voice mail. She sighed and left a message. "Daddy, I'll be out of contact for the weekend. Don't worry, just a little R and R. See you Monday." She closed the connection and settled in for the long drive.
She looked over her shoulder as she quickly walked through the station. Parker had felt uneasy for hours. She hadn't spotted anyone, but the feeling wouldn't go away. Many a head turned as she walked through. The men were taken by her long legs and toned body; their interest died, however, when they saw her beautiful but cold face. Only one man was fool enough to accost her. He made the mistake of grabbing her to gain her attention. It would be many months and a lot of physical therapy before he would be able to use his hand again.
She checked the numbers on the lockers, finally locating the one the key would open. She opened the locker eager to find another piece of the puzzle but afraid of what that piece might be. She collected the large manila envelope from the locker and turned away deliberately not looking at it. Out of habit she scanned the area. //Oh, shit.// she thought as she spotted a familiar face. Grand Central had just become a very dangerous place.
While running she tried to think of a place where the information she carried could be hidden until it was safe to retrieve it. Her mind flashed on the past and the man her mother had helped keep from the Centre when he was a boy . She quickly scribbled a note and addressed the envelope. Finding a stamp machine was a stroke of luck. Noting that her shadow was still on her trail, she found the nearest mailbox and dropped the envelope in.
Then she began to run.
They caught her, as she was about to change planes at the Denver Airport. She remembered two of the men from the Centre, part of Brigitte's sweeper team. Parker never liked being forced to do anything. She fought but was quickly subdued by the injection of a strong sedative.
She awoke in a darkened room. She could barely make out the iron ring in the center of the concrete floor that she was chained to. She had a small amount of slack but was unable to move very far in any direction. After testing the limits of her tether, she sat on the floor of her cell and waited. She knew that whoever had kidnapped her would soon make an appearance. Parker made a bet with herself that the first person through the door would be that obnoxious blond bitch, Brigette.
Parker's patience was rewarded when her nemesis walked through the door.
"I should have known you would be responsible this." Parker sneered.
"Too right love, but you could say I'm working under orders." The blond gloated.
Parker feigned indifference. "Oh really, and who is pulling your strings today, thumbless or wheezy?"
"Oh, I'll let you know once I have the information I need." Brigitte laughed.
Parker turned away unwilling to look at the woman who was enjoying the thought of the methods she had permission to use to extract the information.
"I'm going to give you one chance to give me the information without pain." The blond woman tilted her head watching the other woman closely. "Don't feel like talking yet? Pity." Brigitte motioned to the guards standing in the doorway. She gestured for them to take up the slack in the chains. Brigitte stepped forward, standing in front of her captive. She deliberately turned the ring on her finger until the pronged diamond setting faced the palm of her hand. Ring now in position she slapped Parker, slicing the other woman's cheek. Brigitte was disappointed when her victim didn't utter a sound.
"I don't care what you have to do, just convince her to talk." Brigitte ordered as she turned to leave. She stopped and looked over her shoulder. "You should have talked when you had the chance."
The two men began beating Ms Parker, tentatively at first, growing angry when she refused to speak. They continued until she could no longer stay upright, and was huddled on the floor. The two walked away to discuss their next step. She knew that rape would probably be next on the agenda.
She forced down the pain as they walked towards her, preparing for her chance to escape. The minute the first man unlocked the chain around her feet she went into action. She kicked out with all of her strength, catching him in the jaw, knocking him unconscious. The second man found himself with the slack from the chain wrapped around his neck. Two minutes later she was sure he was dead. She pulled the keys toward herself and quickly unlocked the remaining chains. She went through their pockets for money and car keys.
"Yes." She said to herself when she found over five hundred dollars and two sets of keys. She cautiously let herself out of the room, making her way out of the building. She tried the keys on the cars parked to the side of the building until she found one that worked.
She headed out, following the signs to the freeway and headed west.
When they pulled up outside the loft, both men opened their senses. Out of habit Jim scanned the loft itself, Blair lowered the mental wall he had been holding.
The woman was surprised when the man she recognized as Ellison's partner, Sandburg, turned and looked directly at her. He nudged his partner and gestured in her direction.
Blair could feel the wave of pain radiating from the woman standing opposite their building.
"Jim, she's hurt really bad." Blair whispered.
"Yeah, I can see it. Looks like trouble has found us."
"Do you recognize her?" Blair asked.
Jim sighed, he remembered very well. "It's Ms. Parker."
"Jarod's Ms. Parker?"
"Yep, that's the one." Jim answered as he started across the street.
"Great." Blair said under his breath, following close behind his partner. He mentally searched the area for other Centre personnel. He relaxed slightly when he couldn't feel anyone else strange in the neighborhood.
When they drew close, Blair could see how badly she had been beaten. As they reached her side, she collapsed. They both reached to catch her before she hit the ground. Jim gathered her in his arms and they took her to the loft. Once inside he carefully lowered her onto the couch.
"No, Chief." Jim stopped his shaman before he could follow his instinctive need to heal her injuries. "Let me check her out first." Blair nodded; he didn't feel that any of her injuries put her into immediate danger, so he was willing to wait for the moment.
Jim dialed up his senses. "Damn."
"What is it?"
"Remember the tracking devise I found in Broots' shoe?"
"I can hear another one." He located it in Parker's shoulder holster, stitched into the strap. "Give me your knife, Chief." Blair handed over his Swiss Army knife. Jim pried the transmitter out of the strap and dropped it to the ground, grinding it beneath his heel. "Okay, Chief, go ahead."
Blair placed his hands on her ribs. He could feel the energy flowing to the broken places in the bone speeding the healing process. He moved to her broken wrist and then went to work on the deep bruising covering her body. As he reached for her face Jim stopped him.
"Are you sure you want to do that?" Jim asked. "You know she will want to know how."
"I know, man, but I can't leave it. We both know she can't risk a hospital and her face will scar." The younger man shrugged. "I can't leave the job unfinished." Jim smiled understanding. He moved to support Blair, lending his strength, knowing that the young shaman was using the last of his reserves.
Jim watched as the skin on her face began to heal. It was like watching time lapse photography. As soon as Blair reassured himself that she was in a natural sleep, he collapsed against his waiting partner. Jim held the younger man close, having learned that if they stayed in contact Blair would recover sooner.
He sat quietly until Blair began to stir. He tilted his head and looked up at his partner. "How long this time?"
Jim looked at his watch. "Only fifteen minutes, Chief."
Blair smiled. "It's getting better. I guess all of our practice is paying off." He said as he sat up. "I'm starving."
"Food would be good." Jim stated. They helped each other to their feet, and moved to the kitchen. As they worked to put together the meal Blair kept glancing over at their unwelcome guest.
Jim clasped his shoulder. "Don't worry, Chief. We'll find out why she's here when she wakes up." Blair tried to relax, but he couldn't get the memory of their first meeting out of his mind.
It had been as they were helping Jim escape from the Centre. Blair had been so focused on getting out he hadn't seen the two men stop abruptly in front of him. He plowed into Jim's back.
"Why'd you stop?" He peered around the big detective. "Oh, shit!" Blair exclaimed, when he saw the beautiful dark-haired woman with a gun currently pointed at Jarod. Jim reached back to keep Blair behind him. Jim had gone into protect mode. Even in his weakened condition, his first concern was his guide. Blair moved closer to his Sentinel.
She had argued with Jarod; he claimed that the Centre was killing them.
Her brow furrowed in confusion. "No one is going to kill them."
"Come on, Parker, don't play dumb. It doesn't suit you. Just look at them and tell me the Centre wasn't doing just that."
She finally took a good look at the other two men. She was shocked by the toll that had been taken on both men. They were both pale, faces drawn, dark circles under their eyes. The larger man, Ellison, was visibly weakened due to drugs and confinement. She watched as Ellison kept himself in the position of protector for the smaller man standing close behind.
"We are not going back," the big man stated, speaking aloud for the first time. "And neither is Jarod." He became alarmed as two men came running up behind the woman.
Blair remembered what Sidney had told her in order to convince her to let them go.
"Parker, let them go." the older man ordered.
"You have got to be kidding, Sidney."
"If you do this, you will never be able to forgive yourself."
"I can forgive myself quite a lot."
He leaned toward her and whispered, knowing full well Ellison would be able to hear. "He is one of the children your mother was responsible for saving."
She looked at Sidney stunned. "What do you mean, my mother saved him...he was never at the Centre."
"She was aware that Raynes was making plans to kidnap him. She managed to contact his father and convince him that his son's abilities had come to the attention of some very dangerous people. I don't know how his father convinced him not to use abilities, but it worked and he stayed safe until now." He looked directly in the eyes. "Don't throw away her legacy."
Jim's knees gave way as the import of what had just been said sank in.
"Jim, what's wrong? What happened?" Blair asked trying to keep calm. He knelt down beside his friend. "Come on, man, talk to me."
Jim lifted his head and looked at his partner. "He was trying to save me. My dad did it to save me...to keep me away from them."
Blair looked at him with understanding. "When we get out of here, we'll deal with this, okay?"
Jim nodded unwilling to trust his voice. He reached out and patted the younger man on the cheek. "Yeah, when we get home."
"There's something I need to do now. It's going to be okay." Blair stood and walked over to Ms. Parker. "You will let us go, and that includes Jarod." She started to shake her head no. Then she looked into the blue eyes staring at her that were growing progressively colder. "We don't belong here and we never will. All this place can do is kill us both. It wouldn't happen over night but it would happen. Before we died, we would destroy as much of the Centre as possible."
Ms. Parker knew he was telling the truth. She was torn but, in the end, lowered the gun. "Go, Raynes can clean up his own mess. I'll see you another time, Jarod. That's a promise." She turned and walked away. A single tear ran down her cheek. "For you, Momma." She whispered.
The men watched her walk away. "Go with her, Broots." Sidney ordered. With a last look at Jarod, Broots turned and followed the retreating woman.
The aromas from the cooking meal finally awakened the sleeping woman. Her eyes snapped open; she kept her body still, trying to remember where she was. Slowly she turned her head to find the man she knew as Ellison watching her. He had sensed he return to consciousness.
She carefully pushed herself into a sitting position expecting to feel pain. She was surprised by its absence. Her hand reflexively reached up to her cheek. Jim could see the confusion on her face when she realized the wound was missing. She didn't see Blair standing behind his partner; He leaned against Jim as he focused his mind on Parker trying to assess how much of a threat she posed. The mental wall he ran into staggered him. Jim reached back to steady his Guide. The only other person he had met with such strong shields was Jarod. Blair knew Jared's shields were due to his pretender abilities. Parker's shields had the same feel. He shook his head slightly. //Shields.// he sent to his partner along with the image of a starship with a force field around it. The exchange had only taken a moment.
She tried to get to her feet, but fell back onto the couch. Blair moved to her side.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
"I'm fine." She stated tersely, feeling nervous about being in the enemy camp. "How long have I been here?" She pulled herself together and demanded.
"A couple of hours." Jim answered from the kitchen.
She reached up to her face again. Blair realized that she needed to see for herself. He helped her to her feet, steadying her until the dizziness passed. He then directed her to the bathroom.
She closed the door and moved to stand in front of the mirror. She stared in disbelief. The wound on her face was completely healed without even the faintest trace of a scar. She unbuttoned her blouse searching for any sign of the beating she had received. She found no trace of injury. She leaned against the sink. "How in the hell did they manage this? I feel like I'm in the twilight zone. I wonder which one did this." She muttered to herself. She looked at her face again. "It doesn't matter. There's no way the Centre will find out about this... last thing I need is for Raynes to be healed."
Jim had been listening since she closed the door. He relaxed when he heard her muttering.
"What's going on?" Blair asked seeing his partner's jaw muscles relax.
"She's decided not to tell anyone about being healed." Jim answered. Blair smiled at the news. He pulled their dinner out of the oven and started to set the table. Jim walked over to the bathroom door and knocked.
"If you want to eat, dinner is on the table." He announced and headed back to the table, not really caring if she joined them or not. Moments later she joined them at the table.
"Have a seat." Blair gestured at the extra place setting. She sat down realizing that it had been a long time between meals, and the food in front of her was very tempting. By mutual agreement, the two men had decided to hold off on questioning her until after the meal.
Parker was now totally confused. She had expected to have the door slammed in her face after what the Centre had done to the pair. But they had taken her in and in some way healed her injuries. It was a sad commentary on her life that kindness created confusion.
After dinner, Blair guided her back to the couch.
"Can I get you anything?" He asked, trying not to burst out with all the questions he had been holding back since they found her.
"No, thank you." She answered as she pulled out a cigarette. Blair took it out of her hand as she prepared to light it.
"Sorry, no smoking." Blair told her not realizing how lucky they both were that she thought first before reacting. But her survival instinct reminded her that any injury to the younger man would call down the wrath of Ellison.
She shoved the pack back into her pocket. "It figures, the Do-right twins would have to be non-smokers." She muttered slumping back onto the couch.
"Okay Parker, what's going on?" Jim asked. Blair sat beside his partner with an equally curious look on his face.
She took a deep breath. "I received a message from Jarod about information he had found about my mother." A flash of pain went across her face. "When I went to pick it up, I knew I was being followed." She looked directly at Jim. "So I sent the package to you."
"Why?" Jim asked, puzzled as to why a woman he barely knew would send something so obviously important to him.
Blair watching her face answered for her. "She knew that no matter what you would keep it safe." Surprise was evident on her face. She glanced at the younger man and then back to Jim.
"He's right. I knew you would keep it safe, if for no other reason than the fact that my mother saved you from the Centre." Her intense hatred for the place that had been part of her life from the beginning caused the feelings and the image of her mother's death to spill over her shields and strike at the unsuspecting shaman.
Blair's eyes widened and his pulse rate escalated. This quickly gained the attention of his Sentinel. Jim reached over to his partner.
"It's okay, Jim, just caught off guard." He sent his worried partner the feelings and images he had received. Parker watched the exchange not understanding what had just happened.
"Did you mail the package to the loft?" Jim asked calmly.
"No, I sent it to you at the police station."
Jim looked at his partner. "Well, Chief, it looks like vacation time is over. We might as well go in and see if the mail has arrived."
The odd trio left the building and headed for Jim's truck. Parker stopped dead in her tracks when she spotted it.
"You've got to be kidding?" She voiced her disbelief.
Jim looked at her with a tight smile. "You have a choice. You can either ride with us or you can walk." Jim turned away from her. "It doesn't matter to me."
"Fine." She said making her way to the passenger side. She looked at Blair. "Get in, I don't intend to be crushed between the two of you."
Blair shrugged and climbed in giving his partner an amused look. He knew how much his partner loved his truck. //Unclench the jaw, big guy. // Blair sent trying to get his partner to relax.
When they reached the station she was the first out of the truck. She turned to the two men. "Are we going in or what?" She demanded, turning on her heel heading for the door.
Jim shook his head as they followed her. He didn't understand the woman walking in front of him, but would do everything in his power to protect her. When they reached the bullpen Jim looked over to his desk. He could see an oversized manila envelope in the basket on his desk.
"Looks like your package arrived safe and sound." Jim told Parker. He picked it up and handed it to her. He was as curious as his young partner to know what was inside. "Go ahead and take a seat while we go in and fill our Captain in on what's been happening."
Parker sat at the desk almost dreading what she might find when it was opened. She felt that she might be opening a Pandora's box. But her need to know everything about her mother caused her to push the fear to the back of her mind. She opened the package and spread the contents on the surface of the desk. The first thing she saw was a note from Jarod.
This may answer some of your questions.
There was a packet of envelopes, each one addressed to 'My Daughter'. There was also an unsealed envelope filled with photographs. She laid the photos out on the desk.
Jim explained the situation to Simon and was trying to arrange for time off just in case. He and Blair were at their most persuasive.
Simon was totally confused. "I thought she was one of the people hunting Jarod? The same people, I might add, who kidnapped you."
"She was part of the Centre but it looks like they are hunting her, or at least one of its factions. I owe her, Simon; her mother saved me as a kid. I have to help her daughter."
Simon knew that nothing would be able to sway Jim away from an obligation that strong. The big Captain sighed. "How long do you think you will need?"
"I'm not sure, Simon. Hopefully it won't take more than a couple of days, but it may be more. It's something we have to do."
Jim was alerted when Parker's heart rate spiked. He heard her say, "Oh, daddy, you did know about my brother." He could hear the sadness and betrayal in her voice. "You lied to me, daddy."
The two men exited Simon's office. "You alright, Parker?" Jim asked concerned. When she turned toward them, they could see that the walls were back in place as high as ever.
"I'm fine." She snapped.
"Did you find anything?" Blair asked trying to find out what had happened.
She nodded and pulled out a cigarette. Blair slightly shook his head; she glared as she put it away. Jim was amused with the by-play between the two. Only slightly surprised that she actually responded to Blair's reaction without a fight. His guide never ceased to amaze him.
They focused on the photographs laid out on the desk. Parker tapped on one of the pictures, it was of an old farmhouse with a large barn off to the side.
"This is where Jarod's family hid for a while." She pointed out another house with a family standing in front of it. "This is my home." Her fingers traced the outline of her mother's face. Her jaw clenched when she saw the picture of her father standing over two bassinets looking at two very similar babies. The two men decided not to ask. She pulled two pictures from the group.
"These are the only ones I couldn't identify."
Jim took the pictures out of her hand. He took a deep breath when he looked at them. He held one out. "This one is my father's house." He laid the picture on the desk. "This one I don't recognize." He gestured with the other picture and shrugged, handing it over to his partner.
Blair's brow furrowed as he concentrated on the image in his hand. Jim turned in time to catch his partner and ease him into a chair. He had been alerted by a sudden spike then slowing of his guide's heartrate. Jim stood behind his partner holding his shoulders keeping him from toppling over.
"What's wrong with him?" Parker asked impatiently.
"Just a minor problem." Jim said absently, focusing on his partner, lending him his strength.
//Where are you going, Chief?//
//I think I can see something, I need to take a closer look.// Blair answered.
//Be careful, and when I say it's time, no arguing.// Jim warned.
//Yes, mom, I promise.//
At first, all he could pick up were feelings of pain and fear. The majority from the past resonating from the site. Suddenly his mind was filled from a current source, one filled with intense fear and the other anger and hatred. Drawing on his partner's help he reached out to the person who radiated fear. He carefully made contact after double checking that the person was alone.
//Hello, don't be afraid.// he said quietly in what he had determined was an elderly woman's mind. He felt her confusion. //You are not imagining this. I can feel that you are afraid.// The woman started looking around for the unseen voice.
"I'm finally going crazy." She said to herself.
//You are not crazy. My name is Blair Sandburg.// He introduced himself sending her a mental picture of himself.
//I'm Leona McKenzie.// She wasn't sure that she was still in her right mind but the voice seemed nice.
//Ms McKenzie, where are you?" // Blair asked.
//Do you need help? I can feel that you are afraid.//
//Help would be good, but I don't think that there is anything that you can do.// She gave a laugh.
//You let me worry about that part. Are you safe for the moment?//
//Yes, young man, I'm safe. My keeper won't be back until morning.//
//Chief, it's time to come back.// Jim interrupted.
//It's alright, young man. Go back to your place.// She urged.
//I'll be back as soon as I can.// Blair promised trying to reassure her.
//I know you will, but for now you need to go back to your friend before he worries. Good bye.//
//Good bye.// Blair sent, and followed Jim back to himself. He opened his eyes and looked up at his partner. "You get all that?"
"Yeah, Chief, I got it. Come on, let's get you into Simon's office before you crash." He helped the younger man to his feet and started for the Captain's office.
Once they had settled on the couch, Simon just giving them one of his long suffering glances. Jim turned his attention to their impatient visitor.
"Would someone tell me what in the hell is going on here?" She demanded.
"Do you know a Leona McKenzie?" Jim asked. He was not prepared for her reaction. Her face paled, and she looked as if she were about to faint.
"What did you say?" She asked, hoping that she had heard the name right.
"Leona McKenzie. Do you know her?" He asked watching the color return to her face.
"Leona McKenzie was my grandmother. She died the year after my mother was killed."
"She's not dead." Jim gently told her.
"That's not possible. My father told me..." Her voice trailed off.
Jim turned his attention to his partner giving Parker a moment of privacy to pull herself together. //Time to wake up, Chief.//
//Do I have to?// Blair mentally complained.
//Yeah, buddy, time to get to work. We have a grandmother to find.//
Blair opened his eyes. "Let's go." He stood and looked toward Parker.
"Where are we going, Sandburg?" She asked.
"To find your grandmother."
The flight to Reno was quickly arranged. During the flight, she kept glancing at the two men in the seats in front of her. She knew Ellison's abilities and she was learning first hand about the other half of the team. She made a mental list of what he had done since she arrived in Cascade. She had first hand knowledge of his ability to heal, and it looked as if he had abilities similar to Angelo's. For their sakes, she hoped the powers that be at the Centre never outgrew their fear of what the two men could do. She knew she would never forget the virus that had incapacitated the Centre's computers.
After landing, they piled into the rental car Simon had arranged for them, and headed for Wilkstown. As the sun rose in front of them, Blair looked over to his partner.
"I need to contact her again."
"I know, Chief," Jim paced his free hand on his partners shoulder. "I'll be here." Blair focused and reached out.
//Ms. McKenzie, can you hear me?//
//Yes, loud and clear. I'm not deaf.// He could feel the amusement in her mental voice.
//Ma'am, we are almost in Wilkstown. Could you give me your exact address?//
//No. It's too dangerous. They will kill you if you come here.// She warned.
Blair could feel her fear for them. //Don't worry, I'm not alone. My friends are very good at taking care of themselves.// He sent a mental picture of his partner.
//You may have a point.//
//We will be there soon. Now, what is your address?// he asked again.
//1295 West Park Lane. It's a really big house with a lot of security, so be careful.//
//Yes ma'am.// the smile came through his thoughts. //See you soon.//
He pulled back, following the mental rope his partner held out for him.
"We're on our way, Chief. 1295 West Park Lane, now rest." Jim ordered. Blair leaned against his partner's shoulder and fell asleep. Parker had been watching the entire episode from the back seat. Jim could see her in the rear view mirror.
"Don't stress yourself into a stroke. Your secret is safe." She looked away wishing with all her heart for a cigarette. She was almost afraid of what they might find when they reached their destination.
Blair awoke before they reached the outskirts of Wilkstown. Jim patted him on the shoulder. "Good timing, we're almost there." The younger man stretched and brushed his hair back from his face. He looked out the window at the buildings passing by. The closer they came to Leona's location, the stronger the feeling of urgency became.
"Jim, we need to hurry."
"Bad Feeling?" he asked when Blair nodded Jim pressed his foot down on the accelerator. They soon pulled up outside the wall surrounding the house.
"Can you hear anything from the inside?" Blair asked seeing Jim tilt his head to focus his hearing. The big man could hear the sounds of someone in the kitchen area of the house, clattering pots and pans. There were two in the front of the house and one upstairs. When the phone rang, he listened in on both sides of the conversation. The person in the house picked up after one ring.
"Yes, now go take care of it."
Jim turned to his companions. "We've just run out of time." He ran to the fence and quickly scaled it with Blair and Parker close behind. They ran to the house following the exact path as the man in front of them, knowing he was taking the safest course. The big man kept his hearing focused on the person moving in the house. He quickly scanned the house, noting a partially opened window. He motioned for the other two to follow. He climbed through and turned to pull the others through. Jim took point with Blair right behind and Parker bringing up the rear. He paused at the door leading out to the hallway; he could hear two heartbeats on the other side of the door. Jim turned and signaled the presence of the two guards to his companions. They burst through the door taking the guards by surprise.
Blair stepped out of the way of the fight, he knew their skills at hand to hand fighting were superior to his own almost non-existent ones. He opened his mind to contact Leona; he felt the gentle touch of her thoughts. Suddenly, another's thoughts intruded. This mind was radiating hate and the lust to kill. Without a thought, Blair pushed past the fighters and sprinted up the stairs.
Jim looked up as his partner rushed past. "Sandburg, wait!" He ordered as he punched the guard.
"No time." Blair yelled over his shoulder continuing up.
The guard took advantage of the momentary distraction and landed a heavy blow to Jim's mid-section forcing the big man's attention back to the fight. Knowing his Guide was once again racing into danger, Jim's 'Blessed Protector' instincts kicked into high gear. He quickly dispatched his opponent, tossing the unconscious man to the floor. He could see that Parker was holding her own. He ran up the stairs hearing the sounds of fighting above him.
Blair had run up the steps, taking two at a time. When he reached the top of the stairs he could see the man broadcasting so much hatred. His eyes were drawn to the knife in the man's hand; the killer's other hand turning the doorknob to the elderly woman's room. The man was so focused on what he was planning to do he didn't even hear the young man's race up the stairs.
Blair barreled into the man, knocking him away from the door. The bigger man rolled away, coming quickly to his feet and holding the knife out at waist level. The killer started to close in on him, slashing back and forth with the knife. Blair kept trying to jump back out of the way. He knew he could immobilize the man for a brief moment, but he wanted to have his partner by his side. The young shaman knew from experience that trying to affect the motor control of a Sociopath would only result in a momentary distraction.
//Now would be a good time Jim.//
Jim reached the top of the stairs in time to see the knife slice across his young partner's chest and arm. He felt the mental push Blair had given when he realized the knife was on a direct path to his heart. Jim went into over-drive at the sight and smell of his Guides blood. Blair looked up in time to see his partner crash into his attacker. He watched as Jim wrapped his hands around the throat of the man he had just disarmed.
"Jim, I'm okay." Blair spoke softly trying to calm the big detective before he killed the man who was now his prisoner.
Parker stood at the top of the stairs watching. "What the hell is going on?" Blair waved for her to be quiet.
"Jim, come on, big guy, come back. I need your help."
The big man took a deep breath and released the now unconscious man. He looked over at his wounded partner.
"Sandburg, how bad is it?" He lifted the younger man's shirt out of the way in order to check the wounds.
"It's okay; they're just surface wounds. See, the bleeding has already stopped. I'll finish taking care of them once we're out of here." Blair looked into his worried partner's eyes. "Check on Ms. McKenzie."
"Where is she?" Parker asked.
"In the room right behind me." Parker moved toward the door. "Be careful. She is very frightened. She doesn't know what's going on. So take it slow."
//Ms. McKenzie, we are outside your door. You need to unblock it.//
They heard a barely audible voice. "Blair, are you really out there?"
"Yes, Ms. McKenzie, I'm here with a couple of my friends just like I promised."
They could hear the movement of the chair from in front of the door. The knob slowly turned and when the door opened a worried face peered out. Her eyes falling on the youngest of the trio. Her hand flew to her mouth.
Blair immediately began to reassure her. "It's alright. It looks worse than it is." He smiled at the elderly woman. Parker had deliberately stepped behind Ellison as the woman can out of the room. She could see the resemblance; it was as if someone had aged a picture of her mother. Parker moved to stand in front of the big detective causing the older woman to gasp.
"Katherine?" The shaken voice whispered. Tears filling the old eyes. She shook her head trying to clear her vision.
"Katherine was my mother." Parker said quietly.
The elderly woman stepped closer and raised a trembling hand to the younger woman's face. Grief and hope were shadowing her face. "Angel?"
Jim had been monitoring the older woman since Parker stepped into view. He sensed that the older woman was about to collapse. He stepped up and caught her as she fainted. He carried her to her room and laid her down. Parker was desperately trying to control her emotions. Seeing the woman she had believed to be dead long ago rocked the foundations of everything she believed in. She looked across the room at the woman on the bed.
"Nana." She said in a quiet voice, slowly making her way to the side of the bed.
The two men eased out of the room, Blair barely hanging on to consciousness. Jim led his Guide down to the living room and settled him on a couch.
"Hold on, Chief, I'll be right with you. I just want to get the trash gathered."
Blair nodded, barely able to move his head. Jim quickly tied up and put the unconscious men in a small windowless room. Not caring if they recovered or not he locked the door behind him.
He went back to his partner who was, amazingly, still awake. Blair looked up at him. "Good, now it's safe to sleep." Jim held his partner, focusing his strength on him. He watched as his shaman's wounds healed before his eyes. As the younger man slept, his body repaired itself.
Upstairs, Parker had sat on the edge of the older woman's bed. Unsure about her next move, she reached out and brushed the hair away from the sleeping woman's face. "Nana Mac, wake up and talk to me." She whispered stroking the older woman's hand. She watched her grandmother's eyes flutter open.
"Angel, is it really you?"
"Yes, Nana Mac, it's me." At the touch of her grandmother's hand on her face, the tears began to fall for the first time in years. Leona held her close until the tears slowed.
"I was told you were dead." Parker told her when she could speak.
"I was brought to this house the year after your mother was killed."
"Why didn't you try to escape?" Parker asked.
"My staying and not trying to escape was the price of keeping you out of the program."
"The pretender program, of course."
"You mean that I am like Jarod?"
"Jarod? Oh, the boy your mother wrote about... Yes, dear. Your mother wrote that you and Jarod were the only children the Centre had found that were natural pretenders." Leona explained.
"Why didn't they start training me while they were training Jarod?" Parker was confused; it wasn't like the Centre to waste a potential asset.
"Your mother convinced them that you should be used as a control. To allow you to develop naturally as a check on the procedures used with the boy. Before she was killed, your mother made plans to escape the Centre with you and Jarod. She had overheard an argument between two of the Doctors at the Centre. Their names were Raynes and Sidney. Raynes wanted to put you into the program and Sidney said that you were to old to be trained and that your parents wouldn't allow it. Raynes told him that it was being taken care of. They already had your father's permission, and, even if you were untrainable, there was always the other part of the program."
"What other part of the program?" Parker asked, then her mind flashed on the room in SL-27, and the burned out room with the birthing table with chains. "Oh my God. They were going to start a breeding program." Parker dashed the tears from her eyes. She had tried so hard to please her father over the years, nothing she had done had been good enough. She hadn't realized how little she mattered to him as his daughter. "What was the date on my mother's last letter?" She asked.
"10 April 1970, Three days before she was killed."
Jim has been listening in on their conversation since he heard mention of Jarod. And relayed the information to his recovering guide.
"I knew she felt like a Pretender."
"You were right." They were both shaken, they knew the Centre was evil they just hadn't realized how evil it could be.
"So what do we do now?" Blair asked as he got to his feet preparing to go upstairs.
"We need to find a safe place for Parker's grandmother to live. A place where the Centre won't be able to find her."
"You still have contacts, right?"
"Yeah, I'll check them out when we are on the road."
They made their way upstairs. Blair could feel the conflicting emotions as he entered to room. The older woman was radiating a quiet joy and the younger despair. He informed them that it was time to go. They gathered up the few belongings Leona wanted to take, and quickly loaded the car.
"Sad, isn't it?" She gestured at the small collection. "This is all I have to show for all these years."
Blair drove while Jim started making the calls necessary to set up a new life. They made a brief stop in Seacouver to pick up the documents supporting Leona's new identity as Leona Keller.
Leona sat beside her silent granddaughter; she tried to give the time to deal with all of the information she had been given. "Angel, please talk to me."
The younger woman turned to face her grandmother, giving her a bitter smile.
"I was just remembering the last time mother and I came to visit you. We made so many plans for the next time, but there never was a next time. I remember after my mother was killed asking to see you, but my father said you were ill and unable to deal with a little girl. I prayed that you would get well and come to take me away. Later I was told that you had died. I learned early that prayer and the Centre can not coexist."
Jim occasionally glanced at his partner as they drove. He was beginning to worry about the continued silence. "Chief, are you okay?" He asked just loud enough for his guide to hear. Blair turned to look at him. Jim almost gasped at the pain in the younger man's eyes.
"The barriers are coming down, she's not controlling anymore. It's like a dam has burst and over twenty years of pain, anger and despair are finally escaping." He said quietly.
"Chief, they are her emotions; Let her deal with them." Jim argued under his breath.
"Not like this. Maybe if it happened gradually. This is too much."
Jim understood. He didn't want to, but he knew that it went against Blair's nature to leave anyone in pain. The big man nodded and reached over, placing his hand on the back of his guide's neck, reinforcing his strength. The older woman could also feel the fringes of Parker's emotions as the young Shaman was absorbing them. She caught the big detective's attention. Jim shook his head at her worried look and smiled to reassure her.
They were an hour away from their destination when Parker fell asleep, her head resting on her grandmother's lap. The sharp edges of her pain had been blunted. Blair hadn't removed all her pain; just eased it enough to make it possible for her to manage. As she fell asleep, he collapsed against his partner.
"He's a very special young man." Leona commented. Jim looked down at his partner and smiled.
"I know. He always has been." Jim said as he unconsciously brushed the curls from the sleeping man's face.
"I can see the bond between the two of you. Don't ever let anyone or anything come between you." She warned.
"Some have tried." Jim shuddered with the memories. "But as long as I remember to listen to him, we will be okay. He's my own personal Jiminy Cricket."
"I always knew your head was made of wood." Blair piped up, having awakened in time to catch the last part of the conversation." Jim tousled the younger man's hair. "Not the hair, man, not the hair."
Parker watched the by-play through partially closed eyes. She didn't know why, but she felt like she could now deal with the past with out self-destructing. She suspected that she had Sandburg to thank.
They had passed through a security gate before reaching Leona's new home. Jim could see the smile on the older woman's face as she surveyed the area. Jim had explained on the way that it was a retirement community. The area was as secure as humanly possible. They all piled out of the car and took a grand tour of the house.
Leona pulled Jim to the side. "This is all very wonderful, but how can I afford all this."
Jim smiled. "Let's just say that I have a friend who is very good at rerouting bank accounts." He didn't see any reason to tell her or Parker that the money had been provided by Jarod out of the funds he had taken from the Centre. They had set up a trust fund that would take care of Leona for the rest of her life.
Once they were satisfied with all of the arrangements, the two men said their good byes. Leona gave Jim a hug and whispered. "Don't worry. I won't tell." She looked meaningfully at his partner.
"I trust you." Jim said giving her a hug in return. He turned to Parker. "If you ever need our help, all you have to do is call." He told the younger woman before climbing into the cab.
Blair stepped up and embraced the older woman. //All you have to do is reach out. I'll be listening.//
"I'll remember. I promise." She assured him.
He gave Parker a quick hug catching her by surprise. //Smile, things will get better.// she heard in her head. She pulled back and looked at him in shock. He gave her a huge grin and ran to the waiting taxi, waving like a kid out of the back window as they drove out of sight.
"Do you think they are going to be okay?"
"Yeah, Chief, Parker will keep her grandmother safe." Jim answered.
Jim walked into the loft knowing his guide was upset. The bond between them had grown so strong over the past couple of years that it took a conscious decision to block the other's emotions.
"What's the matter, Chief?" he asked resting his hand on his partner's shoulder.
"It's Leona, She contacted me to say good bye." Blair said sadly. "She said that she knew it was her time and she was ready."
Jim gathered his partner close to his side. The woman had become a surrogate grandmother for his partner. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Just be here, I need to call Parker."
"I'm not going anywhere."
Blair knew he could always count on his best friend to be there, lending his support no matter what.
He dialed the number to Parker's private phone.
"Parker." She answered.
"Parker, this is Sandburg, I have some sad news..."