come up,” Sydney murmured
into the phone.
There was a short pause
before the pretender asked, “What is it, Sydney?”
Raines found someone . . . someone that we think could be a potential pretender.”
“Why are you telling
“Because . . .”
Sydney turned to look out the car window. He was sitting parked next to a private university.
Many students milled around on the sunny sidewalks, but one girl caught his attention, with long brown hair, blue eyes,
and a book bag and violin case slung over her shoulder. She was walking quickly
down the sidewalk, attentive to all around her. She caught Sydney
watching her and began to walk faster. “Jarod, this girl that Mr.
Raines wants . . . I think she’s your cousin.”
Jarod was silent for a
long time, and Sydney began to think that he had
hung up, then he quietly said, “If she’s my cousin, would she know about me, about who I am, where my parents
“I don’t know
all the details about her, Jarod,” Sydney
answered. “I only know that I saw the DNA file that one of the hospitals
had on her, and it was a perfect match to yours. Mr.
Raines has Miss Parker,
Broots, and I tracking her down. We just found her at a university in Colorado. Her name is Sara Adams. She’s majoring in music at Colorado’s
Music Institute, a private school. I’m surprised she didn’t come
to The Centre’s attention before. She seems to be very smart, almost as
smart as you.” Sydney knew the pretender’s mind was already working
at a mile a minute. “Jarod, you know this could be a trap.” Sydney
saw Miss Parker and Broots approach the car, files in their hands from the school’s admission’s office. “I have to go, Jarod.”
Before Jarod could protest,
Sydney hung up.
Parker slid into the front passenger seat next to Sydney. “Like we were told, the girl’s got brains.” She opened up the file in her hand to show the man. “Perfect
GPA in high school and college. Perfect scores on the SAT and ACT. She even took an I.Q. test, and she’s off the charts.”
mean she would make a good pretender,” Sydney
“But she has the
makings of a genius,” Broots commented. “There’s lots of stuff
in here about things she’s done, science fair projects, papers she’s written.
She could have majored in anything she wanted, but she chose music.”
this,” Miss Parker pushed a hand labeled CD
into the car’s CD player. The notes of a violin began to play Pablo
de Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen, a Hungarian gypsy song.
It was clearly the performance of an advanced and talented hand.
junior recital,” Miss Parker said after a moment. “The girl’s a prodigy.”
old,” Sydney shook his head. “The Centre doesn’t take them when they’re this old.
She knows too much of the freedom of the world. She would not take well
to living in a hole in the ground for the rest of her life.”
Miss Parker looked him in the eye, “whoever
said we wanted her?”
The gut feeling in Sydney’s
stomach expanded, and he knew that his assumption as to their latest mission had been right.
He restrained his emotions and responded flatly, “We’re using her to get to Jarod.”
the perfect bait,” Miss Parker answered. “A little blood ties, a little genius that can aid The Centre . . . Jarod can’t
do this!” Broots protested, unable to hold back his feelings.
bait,” Parker reassured them. “We won’t do anything about it. The Centre knows she’s too old to take in.
She won’t know anything about us.”
“Unless Jarod gets
to her first,” Sydney pointed out.
“Which is why we
are keeping an eye on her until he shows up,” Miss Parker
stated. “Let’s get moving.
She had a head start on us back to her apartment.”
started the car up and turned into the road to follow Sara.
* * *
After searching the internet
and newspapers at the local library in New York, Jarod had all he needed on
Sara Adams – at least, all he knew
the public services could provide on her. She had popped up quite a few times
in the newspapers, the first time when she gave a concert in Germany,
performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D at age seven. She
was declared a prodigy, and went on to win a national Violin Concerto Competition, sight reading along with the Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra. She appeared several more times after that, having won various competitions.
The latest news on her,
however, was more disturbing. Her parents, world travelers, had died in a plane
crash on their way to visit her in a school in Italy. They had lived in Russia
at the time, and try as he might, Jarod could find no clue as to who they were. He
wished for just one article on them so he could determine if Sydney
was indeed telling the truth: that Sara was his cousin.
He would have no proof, of course, unless he could see a DNA sample from the girl, since he himself did not know his
parents died when she was twelve, and since she was staying in a girl’s music school at the time, she remained there
until she graduated at age sixteen. Her first year in college she spent in Oxford,
then transferred to Colorado’s Music Institute, where she now was studying
violin and piano performance. No newspapers had mentioned her exclusively since
the death of her parents, but her name was occasionally cited due to the many performances that she held with her school’s
orchestra and neighboring orchestras.
Jarod studied the picture
he had of her from one of the newspaper clippings. Her eyes were surprisingly
innocent of the tragedy that had struck her young life, but as Jarod’s pretender instincts began to kick in, he imagined
that she probably had to hide much in her life from the public eye. Nothing that
he could assume about her would remain for certain until he actually met her.
Jarod had taken a one
way flight from New York to Denver,
and was now on a bus on its way to Colorado’s Music Institute. Sara’s address was at an apartment nearby, and he wanted to get to
her as quickly as possible.
had not had time to tell Jarod much about the girl, but Jarod knew he had to be cautious.
He was certain Miss Parker would not let the
girl out of her sights if they were indeed using her as a way to catch him. Jarod
had a feeling, however, that the Centre wanted Sara as much as they wanted him, and if she
was indeed related to him, that made her all the more valuable.
A few hours later, the
bus reached its destination. It was an early Saturday morning, and not many people
were out on the streets, but Colorado promised three hundred days of sun a year,
and this day was indeed a sunny one. There would be people out and about soon.
The bus stopped at a street
corner, and Jarod stepped out and surveyed the streets around him. He arrived
a few streets down from Sara’s address, hoping to catch sight of Sydney’s
car if he and Miss Parker were still watching the
girl. He ambled down the sidewalks to the apartment area, looking as though he
had no destination but was just out for a morning walk. He wore a simple coat
over a t-shirt and pair of jeans. A small bag that held his red notebook and
sparse other belongings, was slung over his shoulder, and a pair of sunglasses hid his eyes.
He stopped at a coffee shop, not quite ready to meet Sara, and pulled out his cell phone
after ordering a drink. Dialing a number he memorized, he waited until a sleepy
“Hello? Sara? My name is Jarod. I wanted to talk to you about something important.”
There was a short pause. “I don’t know you.”
“I . . . I don’t
know you either, but I was told you were my cousin.”
“Cousin? I’ve never heard of you. I didn’t know I had any
“Neither did I,
Sara.” Jarod took a quick glance around
the quiet coffee shop, left a tip for the waiter, then walked outside and back down the street. “Listen, can we meet?”
you know that if this is a joke and you try and pull something funny, you’re going to be surprised.”
“Let me guess .
. . you know karate.”
There was a long silence,
then Sara suspiciously asked, “How did you guess?”
at that kind of thing.” Jarod paused, then added, “And I’m
guessing you are, too. I was told that you were my cousin, and I’m hoping
that it’s true. I won’t know until I can meet you face to face.”
There was a pause as Sara
thought about the pretender’s proposal. “Listen, Jarod, I’ll
meet you, say, in half an hour on Ford Street. We can talk more then.”
forward to it,” Jarod grinned, then shut the phone and deposited it in his pocket.
* * *
Miss Parker, and Broots listened intently to the
tapped conversation, then Miss Parker looked up sharply
* * *
It had been two days since
Jarod and Sara’s first meeting. Sara
had been suspicious at first, and Jarod had shared her feelings, not wanting to believe that he had actually found a lost
relative, a missing piece to his jigsaw puzzle life. Eventually, both had accepted
that they were indeed who each had said that they were, and Sara wanted to talk again.
Jarod waited impatiently
on the tiny sidewalk that lined the small street labeled “Ford.”
Only abandoned apartment buildings lined this street, a wise choice for someone who didn’t want their conversation
overheard, but also isolated enough from the rest of the town that if anything were to happen, no one would know. He paced slowly, hands in his pockets, knowing what he should say to Sara,
and then suddenly, she was there, standing at the corner, wearing jeans and a black top with a shiny leather coat. The coat reminded Jarod of Miss Parker, and he shook off the image that came to his mind. Sara’s hair was swept back in a tight ponytail, making her face look
more severe and serious.
he said, walking closer. A sense of urgency filled his voice. “They’re watching you. I had to warn you before
they came. The Centre,” he spoke quickly, afraid they would come before
he could finish and flee, “The Centre has been after me for a long time now, and I’m afraid they’ll come
after you, too.”
Sara looked confused. “The place you said
you escaped from?”
“I can’t explain
now,” Jarod continued, desperate now and knowing time was short. “You
have to be careful. Whatever they tell you, don’t get sucked in. They tapped our phone calls, so we can’t talk now. Meet
me at the corner of Treecrest Road and Lyon tomorrow,
this same time, and we can talk then.”
The urge to run was almost
irresistible, and Jarod could almost sense Miss Parker
and the sweepers approaching.
Sara began, and Jarod cut her off, a finger gently laid on her lips.
“You have to trust
me,” he said. “They’ll come after you next. They’re trying to use you to get to me. I want to believe
that you are my cousin, and if you are then—”
Before he could continue,
sweepers poured into the street on both sides, dressed in black and armed with handguns.
There were over a dozen on them, and Jarod was sure there were more blocking off any exit available off of the street.
on?” Sara demanded.
Jarod immediately pushed
her behind him. “I’m too late,” he whispered.
Parker strode onto the street, parting the sweepers.
She had her own gun in hand and was wearing a dark power suit, sunglasses hiding her eyes.
“Nice to finally
see you face to face, Jarod,” she quipped. Sydney
and Broots were nowhere to be seen, and Jarod had a feeling that they did not know about Miss
Parker’s apprehension of their pretender.
“Had enough of seeing
my back?” Jarod couldn’t help but to throw back at her.
Parker’s face stiffened,
and she drew the sunglasses off of her face, tucking them into her breast pocket.
Jarod wasted no time. Pushing Sara behind him, he ordered, “Run!”
With a wistful glance
towards Jarod, Sara took a few hesitant steps away from him, then ran towards the end of the
street. Four sweepers stood there, blocking her way, but she did not hesitate,
coming towards them at a dead run, then jumping into a flying crescent kick to take out one of the men’s guns. They stood frozen at first, surprised by the girl’s actions.
“I want them alive!”
Jarod turned towards Miss
Parker and darted towards the side of the street, opposite of the way Sara
had taken, hoping that they would go after him first. There were eight sweepers
near Jarod, and all of them aimed their guns as he ran. A few dared to fire,
and stray bullets winged through the air. Two sweepers met Jarod head on, and
he was knocked over backwards by their combined weight, executing a complete somersault and flipping over onto his stomach. The sweepers were immediately on him, locking one of his arms behind his back and
wrenching it upward in an attempt to subdue him. Kicking and struggling, Jarod
refused to give up, refused to believe that The Centre was going to take him once more.
Parker stood over him.
“Give it up, Jarod. You’re coming back with us whether you like it or not.”
“No,” he raged
through clenched teeth.
“Let him go!”
All looked up in surprise
to see Sara standing several meters down the street, the four sweepers lying unconscious and
disarmed on the sidewalk behind her. She held one of the sweeper’s guns
in her hands, aiming it towards Miss Parker.
Parker did not seem perturbed
do you think you know how to use that thing?” she asked.
cocked the gun, and raised an eyebrow.
“I said let him
go,” she repeated.
“If you come with
us, then we’ll let him go,” Miss Parker
Jarod shouted from the ground.
One of the sweepers punched
him in the jaw, stunning him. Blood began to trickle out of his mouth as he lay
still, blinking, trying to regain his senses.
hurt you, Sara,” Miss Parker
continued. “We just want to talk to you, find out what you know, what you
can do. You can come and go as you please.”
“I think you’re
a liar,” Sara ground out.
Parker raised her eyebrows. “You don’t
even know this man,” she indicated to Jarod. “How can you believe
him and not me?”
stood still, obviously confused.
run!” Jarod screamed, managing to pull free of the sweeper that held his arm.
This time, Sara
listened, racing down the street.
The sweepers turned on
the pretender, beating him back to the ground.
“You need a little
calming down, Jarod,” Miss Parker said. She produced a syringe filled with clear liquid from a small box inside her jacket
and handed it to one of the sweepers.
“No! No!” Jarod shouted.
The sweepers held him
down, fighting to hold him still as he struggled against them. One of the sweepers
peeled back the sleeve of Jarod’s jacket, then rolled the sleeve of his t-shirt up.
The sweeper with the syringe knelt down and inserted the needle into Jarod’s arm.
Almost immediately, the world turned hazy. Jarod continued to fight, but
his movements began to die down, the sweepers did not have to use as much effort to hold him, and eventually, his eyes began
to droop. His last sight was of Sara, pausing
at the end of the street to look back at him, then turning the corner and disappearing.
“Good night, Jarod,”
Miss Parker said, lighting a cigarette.
Then the world went
from hazy to black.