Broots found the address and Jarod put off his current Pretend for the day. A life was at stake. He left to the address and found the beach house. In his typical, heartless fashion, Doctor Melissa Blass was tied up outside. She was facing away from the ocean, but her feet were resting in the sand. As soon as she saw him, she started to struggle.
“It’s okay,” Jarod said, trying to calm her. “I know I look like him. I am not him. He is like my twin brother,” Jarod said, hoping that was a good enough explanation. “Please. Doctor Blass. I’m the real Jarod Kinsey, I swear. Now. Where is he?”
Jarod looked toward the other side of the house and saw Hades on the side of it. Out of the way of any bullet. Which Jarod definitely had for him. “Do you know how many times she’d already been hurt? What you are doing to her psyche right now, by kidnapping her like this?!”
“Of course,” Jarod Hades replied, only coming out a little. “I wanted a good one. I wanted to kidnap someone that would make you leave your current Pretend just to check for her. I figured she was a nice start.”
“Let her go!” Jarod demanded, holding his gun at him.
“Ooh. Have I really pissed you off that far already? I may have miscalculated,” Jarod Hades said with a shrug. “Ooh, the whole Christmas thing, it pushed you off a little faster, didn’t it?”
“Eighteen children.” Jarod repeated the phrase that haunted him at night.
“Oh, yes, including Angel, it was eighteen,” Jarod Hades said. “Good memory.” He took another step back. “Now, let’s be civil. You want me out of your life. Playing your old Pretends, it isn’t really my style. So let’s make a deal, hm?” He pointed at Jarod. “Bring me my Angel, and keep your little twins. I’ll be off to Africa, never to return again.”
“You can’t have Miss Parker,” Jarod warned him.
“You kidding? She’s begging for me,” Jarod Hades said. “By now, I bet she’s met the Angel. She’s figured it out. Tell me? Did she . . . decorate herself for me yet?”
He knew about that?
“Hmm. Angels and devils make such good music together,” Jarod Hades almost purred it.
“Why is she doing that?” Jarod asked him. “The angel and devil wings?”
“Angel and devil wings?” He didn’t look too happy about that. “Little bitch. Well, of course she is,” he chuckled. “She was trained for me, you know? For the scrolls? Ever since she was fourteen years old, she has been trained to appease me.”
“What?” Jarod came closer, his gun still trained and focused on Jarod Hades.
“The twins? Simpleton?” Jarod Hades made fun of him. “Twins of the Angel. Don’t mean the babies have to be angels.”
“What are you talking about?”
“She is destined to have my twin devils, and then Angel’s twins. Destined to come to my hell, and end her life in his heaven. Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Jarod cocked his gun.
“Oh, come on,” Hades urged him. “How do you think she knows how to play the roles so well? That firey attitude that lights up any man’s loins? That’s mine. And that sweet, sweet almost saccharine fake smile and attitude she gives others? That’s his. You?” He scoffed. “You’re just the original DNA makeup to us. Nobody needs you anymore. Fuck off.”
“Is that right?” Jarod growled. “I’m just nobody except the genes called for, huh?”
“Yeah, so back off of my Miss Parker,” Jarod Hades growled right back. “You’re screwing her up to pieces. Haven’t you noticed that you can’t really peg how she’ll treat you? You are this in-between thing, not the real ones she needs to be with.”
“Funny,” Jarod remarked, watching Hades for the slightest opening to shoot. “For being so possessive, you’re so sharing with Jarod Angel. A little hypocritical, isn’t it?”
“Oh, of course not. I? I’m sucking out all the juiciness from my Angel first,” Jarod Hades said. “Everything. Until she’s ready to bear my little Devils. Even maybe then probably, I mean, I can be careful enough,” he assured Jarod. “But once my little Devils are born, the firey attitude she used to have, I’ll have it vanquished. I’ll win. The focus broken, I will be able to give her up like any old broad and give her to Angel. Know what he’ll do?”
Jarod felt his breathing moving out of control and gulped to try and keep it all back. “What?”
“He’ll love her. He will tend to her like she was truly an actual Angel from heaven,” Jarod Hades said. “He’ll hold her, comfort her, tend to her every need until she falls in love with him. Then, she’ll bear him his sweet angels of love, and then she will part from this world. So it is written, so it shall be.”
“You’re wrong.” His mom saw the scrolls. The ending. She would have shared something like that! It’s hard to read them. This isn’t cut and dry.
“I could be. You are right, maybe Mutumbo’s translation is right instead. It’s what Jarod Angel is striving for right now.” Jarod Hades laughed. “Seriously, you haven’t figured it out yet? Did Broots tell you anything else besides ratting me out?”
“Something else.” Jarod remembered that.
“Too worried about your Doctor Blass.” Jarod Hades just shook his head. “Ugh. I have no idea how I ever came from you.”
“Mutual feeling,” Jarod growled, not surprised he was starting to show his true colors more vividly to him.
“Alright, alright. Differences aside? Go ahead, call Broots.” Jarod Hades sniffed. “Go ahead, I’ll wait. Doctor Blass isn’t going anywhere.”
Damn. Jarod grabbed his phone and called Broots back.
“What else was there?” Jarod asked.
“Oh. Uh. Well, it’s Debbie really,” Broots said on the phone. “Um. Usually she talks about Miss Parker or something. She hasn’t spoken about anything. I even said she could call. I mean, she won’t talk about the past at all.”
“The past? How far in the past?” Jarod asked. “Ask her about her birthday. Now.”
“Okay, okay. Um, Debbie? Did you like your birthday? Well, do you remember what you got for your birthday? Who was there on your birthday, Debbie? Jarod, I asked her everything. She’s not um. Is she okay?”
Jarod hung up the phone, glared at the devil and dialed a different number. His father.
“Dad. How’s Gemini?”
“Oh, he’s getting it,” Jarod Hades said. “That’s right. If they had two fully grown Pretenders that were already you, then why did they need The Centre to build one more offhanded little guy?”
“Ask Gemini about Christmas. Now, Dad,” Jarod insisted. His heart was racing. “Yeah. I was afraid of that.” He hung up. “They don’t have memories. They’re clones.”
“Well technically Gemini was the clone of you. It’s a clone replacing a clone kind of thing. A cloned clone. That’s funny, isn’t it?” Jarod Hades chuckled. “Oh come on, that’s funny.”
“What is Jarod Angel doing with them?”
“Well, Jarod Angel loves his Miss Parker. He doesn’t really want anything to happen to her, it’s not a fake act like I’d put on. It’s sincere. So, he’s trying Mutumbo’s idea. Not one angel, two twins. But two angels, among the twins. The original twins.”
Jarod felt his breath leave his body in a big gasp so fast, he felt pain in his chest.
“That’s right. You thought being dad was hard for you? Try fourteen,” Jarod Hades said. “Now. You don’t have much time to lose at all. So, you can either kill me and lose the one person who can find them? Or, you can trust me.”
Jarod gulped. “Trust you? You’ve killed so many people that I cared about.”
“Two kids. One fifteen. May or may not be pregnant yet,” Jarod Hades said. “Oh, come on. How else are you going to find them, Jarod? At least, in time?” He pointed to his eyes then back to Jarod’s. “Look at me. I’m serious. Jarod Angel is fucking everything up for me, and I want you to stop him.”
“And why do you think I’d believe that you are helping me?” Jarod demanded.
“Because.” Jarod Hades shrugged. “I don’t want the other ‘angel’ to get pregnant. If she does, then there goes my happy days with my angel in the future. It’s completely selfish, I know, but Miss Parker is mine. If I want her to be shoved up in my cage . . .” He glared at Jarod again, same telling eyes. “When the time comes, then she’s got to still be the option of the scroll.” He pointed to his right. “Helicopter, to your right. Toodles!” He chuckled as he darted off.
Jarod watched him leave, keeping his gun trained on him. He called up the cops as he rescued Melissa Blass. “It’s alright now, I’m so sorry about him.” Petrified. “He didn’t . . .”
She shook her head. “I’ve been tied on this beach for three days.” She gulped. “I’m sorry. I-I really believed that-“
“He looks just like me,” Jarod said, relieved she was talking. “The police are on their way. Listen. Don’t open the door for me, ever. Not me,” he said softly. “I can’t promise it’s not him. He convinced you once, he can do it again. If I ever need to talk to you, I promise not to come face to face first. In fact, do you have a new email?” She gave it to him. “Okay. I will contact you that way if I ever have to contact you.”
“Jarod?” She cleared her throat. “Be careful. Do you really think it’s true? Are you really going to go?”
Jarod nodded. “Our . . . interests line up this time,” he said hoarsely. “Police will be coming. I have to go. Take care.” Having saved her, he had no choice but to get out by the helicopter. If he read Hades right, he wanted Jarod to get back to them. There was only one way to find out.
When he reached the helicopter, there was no pilot, but there was a map of Africa, with a small little area circled. He climbed into the helicopter and started it up.
Mutumbo’s Holding Area
“Something to eat?” Jarod Angel tried to hand Debbie a candy bar. “I got it from America. It’s got nuts, caramel and chocolate. A good assortment of mixes.” She wasn’t answering. “Maybe later.” He pocketed the candy bar and sat down.
There was nothing else to do now. He had to wait and see before he could leave, but even he could only pretend to look at the same charts for so long.
“So. Jarod Angel.”
Lyle’s voice. Great, he figured it out. He looked toward Debbie. Option number two had to go into full swing. “Just a second. Double check that data on the other computer.” He moved over toward Debbie, and opened up the cage while Lyle went over and would do what he did best.
“Oh, let’s see, ‘boss’,” he said mockingly. “It’s more senseless data that you should have been . . .” Lyle stared at it. “These are names and dates. What is this?”
“A part of The Rising Centre you will never get to see,” Jarod Angel said as he held Debbie tight. “It’s time to get out of the way now, Lyle.”
“Now see, this ordering me around?” Lyle gestured to three guards to come into the room. “You can change computers all you want, but there’s no stopping a simple check up call. Pretty big giveaway when Mutumbo asks how my project is going with my clone assistant.”
“Hold on tight to my neck, Debbie,” Jarod Angel instructed her as he moved around the cage, making it harder for them to get a good beat on him. “I wouldn’t get excited. Anything happens to me, the scroll is useless. So. Can’t we be friends?” As soon as he said that, he pulled a hidden gun from behind his shirt, destroying Lyle first. Afterwards, a few shots rang out, one hitting his leg, while the others sparked against the cage, until he was able to take down the others. “Come on.”
Debbie kept her arms around him as he started to take them out of there. She didn’t say anything as they left outside a fair distance and to a chopper.
“Time to go home, the show must go on. Let’s just hope Bhekumbuso’s replacement . . . is still not ready.” He looked toward Debbie. “It’ll be alright. Gemini will take care of you, while I take care of other things.”
God. Damn. Triumvirate. Fourteen years old! Gemini just celebrated his first official Christmas. He was getting his very first crush. And they ruin it, they ruin everything.
Innocents. Gemini and Debbie were absolutely innocent. Neither of them deserved this. They were just kids still. Almost the same ages he met Miss Parker. Even thinking about dealing with having his own children at that young of an age, so inexperienced with life?
This. Just. Jarod Hades. Jarod Angel. And now this?
Jarod looked around where he had been sent to. It was just a small outcropping, more like a holding station with some basic computers and a cage. In the back, he found more focus treatments. Another whole briefcase full. He grabbed it, and trying to hold his anger in check, made his way through.
He only stopped briefly to see the body of the one who probably started it all. Good thing you aren’t in The Centre. You can finally die. He stepped over Lyle’s corpse and headed out.
When he first got there, he checked out everything to try and find Gemini and Debbie. The one thing he discovered was that the orders didn’t match. Lyle was supposed to be in charge, but the current operation had Jarod Angel as the leader. At least, he was decent enough to not have Lyle touching them.
Jarod moved through the facility, checking the cage long and hard. Looking for any kind of clue Gemini could leave.
Then he found it, a longitude and latitude. He headed back out quickly to the chopper.
Inside Kyle’s cage . . .
Jarod Angel looked toward Gemini, who still had unsettled eyes toward him, even after rescuing him from the small cage.
“You should not have brought her here,” Gemini said simply. “This environment is too much.”
“Just take care of her,” Jarod Angel said, “and you’ll be fine.”
“He’ll. Be. Fine?”
Jarod Angel turned around and saw Kyle. “After this, I didn’t think it’d be fair to slink back to my cage without confronting you first.”
“Fair? Fair?!” Kyle grabbed him and threw him down on the ground. “You talk about being fair? They made that boy into a father!” He grabbed him and slung Jarod Angel to a tree. “You turned kids into parents, just to deceive some scroll? That doesn’t even make sense.” He grabbed him by the neck again. “And you didn’t bother to tell me that the Hunter carrying children, that would be put with Hades, was carrying Jarod’s children as well? That he had been taking care of her, and that she was . . .” He stopped. “She was obeying him, just to stay with her own children? They were working together, to protect their family?” He threw him down on the ground and looked at the girl hugging Gemini. “Is that her?”
“Yes.” Gemini lifted her up to face him. “It’s okay now. That’s Kyle. That’s Jarod’s brother, Debbie.” She looked out toward Kyle.
Kyle scooted up closer to look at her. She was still coming into maturity, and held a child’s innocent glow still. “Your dad was a Hunter of Jarod?”
“Used to. Sir.” She didn’t seem to know how to respond, her eyes darting toward his and back down.
“Hey. Sins of the father, doesn’t equal sins of the daughter.” He bent down to look at her. “Do you know if you’re okay?”
“I-I thought getting into other cages wasn’t permitted?” Gemini asked Kyle. “Jarod Angel got in somehow and brought us over?”
“Right now, things are sketchier. I don’t know why. Hades and Angel, both clones seem to be able to leave more at will.” He moved over toward Jarod Angel, still flat out on the ground. “You won’t let me kill you.”
“No,” he said, “but you can pass your aggression toward me and I will turn the other cheek.”
“Turn this.” Kyle punched him in the face. “Angel. Devil. You’re all the same and youaren’t Jarod.”
He noticed Debbie give Gemini a quick look in concern. “I was talking about these guys,” he explained to her. “They’ve been manipulated since birth.” He walked back toward them. “Not Gemini, I wasn’t talking about him. He can’t help what he is, but he’s family.”
He saw the concern in Gemini’s eyes. “Whatever happens, you aren’t alone.” Kyle was not big on physical touch and emotion. Having been raised in The Centre by Raines, that had been lacking. However, even though Gemini had not been raised in the exact same way as he did with manipulated harsh experiments, he was still raised by Raines as well.
The girl also. He didn’t know how she’d respond after her capture. Yet, there was a time and place. He held out his arms. “Would you like a hug?”
Gemini was quick to accept it. Kyle could feel how much Gemini actually craved a human’s touch. He had not been out there very long, but he’d already gone through an ordeal. “It’s okay, little Brother. It’s okay. They rarely check cages. As long as we stay away from the sides and in the center, they won’t get you away from me.” He looked toward Debbie.
“It’s okay,” Gemini insisted. He grabbed her hand boldly, urging her to come forward. Debbie slowly did.
Kyle started simply at first. He had no idea if Lyle had messed with her or not. That man was sick. He placed a hand on her shoulder to see her reaction. She seemed okay, so he pulled her closer and moved her into a hug.
“An innocent child or family, you still take her under your wing like she’s family,” Jarod Angel said from his spot on the ground. “You are a good man, Kyle.”
“And you should be better at bleeding,” Kyle said. He’d leave Jarod Angel there close to the side. He would be discovered. “Don’t tell them about them.”
“Bhekumbuso’s replacement is not ready yet,” Jarod Angel said. “Until he is, nothing happens.”
“I don’t care about your welfare. You aren’t family.” Kyle let go of the hug and held each of the children’s hands, intent on taking them deeper into safety.
Then, he heard it. Kyle turned around and saw Jarod. The real and only Jarod. “Brother?”
“Kyle!” Jarod was looking all around, unused to seeing the cages.
“It’s a force field of some kind,” Kyle admitted as he let go of the children’s hands.
“I still, have one more sort of key.” Jarod Angel slowly went toward it, still beaten up. He held a strange yellow plastic symbol with words on it and went toward the tree, right in front of the cage. He laid it against it and dropped the symbol. “It’ll sever the connection briefly.” Jarod Angel looked toward Jarod. “Did Hades rat me out?”
Jarod wasn’t talkative. Kyle didn’t blame him. Kyle marched over with Gemini and Debbie holding his hands, making his way through the opening, and then took the little yellow blocker. “Enjoy prison.” He didn’t even get much of a chance to look toward Jarod before he was scooped into a hug. “It’s okay, Jarod. I’m okay. It’s good to see you, Big Brother.”
“Kyle!” Jarod was still overwhelmed to have found him. After he broke the hug, he looked down toward Gemini and Debbie. “Are you okay?”
Debbie didn’t respond. Gemini looked toward Jarod. “I think, we hope so?”
“There’s no telling yet,” Jarod Angel said from his spot in the cage. “Hopefully it worked.”
Kyle gave Jarod the chip. Jarod tried putting it back down.
“Emergency code doesn’t work very long, and it doesn’t work more than once. This force field has to hold Pretenders of all things.” Jarod Angel leaned against the tree. “I hope Miss Parker is okay now. I don’t want her to come to my heaven.” He looked back to Jarod. “Take good care of my Angel.”
Jarod moved closer, as close as he could before he felt the strong waves keeping him back.
“Jarod, there’s no time,” Kyle warned him. “They have sets of guards that check near entrances, we’ll be caught soon if we stay.”
Jarod understood. He swallowed and looked toward Angel. “Focus treatments. You’re ‘kindness’ couldn’t be more messed up because of them. You are no angel,” Jarod warned him, “and you come near any of my family . . .”
“And you’ll send me to real heaven,” Jarod Angel proclaimed. “Of course. Until we meet again, Jarod.”
“Jarod, there’s no time!” Kyle said more urgently.
Jarod got the hint. He went toward Debbie. “I have to pick you up so we can get through this terrain. Is that okay?” Debbie nodded so he picked her up carefully. Kyle had already picked up Gemini. Having the two weaker party members trying to keep up would have put them more behind.
Jarod took them to his chopper, helped get everyone in and took off.
Jarod Angel waited, a little battered and tired. Kyle sure did know how to wail on him. He winced, but waited. Waited right there by the entrance. After about an hour, a figure started to approach. “Ah, there he is, the man of the hour.” He propped himself up and bent down. “Hi there, Kagiso. How are you? Checking up on everything?”
The little six year old looked at him with strange eyes. “Hello.”
“Hello there,” Jarod Angel smiled. “Is it your first day of work? Aw. I heard what happened to your daddy. I’m sorry.”
“He can’t come home no more,” Kagiso said sadly. “Momma says he can’t come home no more.”
“No, no he can’t,” Jarod Angel said, “and unfortunately, some bad things have happened to the people your daddy cared about. Yeah? A lot of them lost their jobs. That means they can’t take care of their own children anymore.”
“Oh?” Kagiso remarked.
“Kagiso,” one of his armed guards said. “We shouldn’t linger. You are due to see Adama soon.”
“But see, that’s the one who took all the jobs away from all the people, so they can’t take care of their kids,” Jarod Angel said. “He was a bad man.”
“Bad man?” Kagiso asked.
“Yes, a bad man,” Jarod Angel continued. “Do you want to help those people get their jobs back? It’s just a little outcropping in America. Tiny little place called The Centre. Now, even though your daddy’s enemy got rid of it, there is another place deep in the bayou of Louisiana, which is also The Centre. It’s a backup.”
“Mommies and daddies could take care of their kids?” Kagiso asked.
“Yes,” Jarod Angel said. “Absolutely.”
“Kagiso, I implore you-“
“No, no!” Kagiso yelled. “I am in charge! Hmm . . .” He looked toward Jarod Angel. “Adama is a mean man who took away the jobs? But there’s another place to work?”
“Yes. And, I can even help watch over it,” Jarod Angel said. “It already has the leader, a lovely woman named Miss Parker. In fact, she just had two lovely twins, so it would be very good to take care of her.”
“I don’t know,” Kagiso said. “I don’t know. No, I remember. Hades wanted it.”
Jarod Angel gritted his teeth. “He beat me?” He tried to relax himself. “Yes, but, Hades is not good friends with the leader. A Parker must run it, and she won’t run to him.” Please. “Miss Parker is a mommy, and that mommy has kids. Those kids have a daddy. His name is Broots,” he said. “You see, Hades wants to be the daddy, but the mommy doesn’t want him as the daddy. Mommy and daddies love each other. Right?”
“Right,” Kagiso said.
“Then, it wouldn’t be right to let Hades get in between them. If you give him The Centre, that’s what will happen. The leader won’t come back, and a Parker must run it,” Jarod Angel said, doing his best to smooth it over. “His reputation shows he’s not a nice person. He shouldn’t be a daddy, and the mommy doesn’t love him. So, if you put me in charge?” Jarod Angel asked. “I’ll make sure that mommy and daddy even get a wedding, so that he can’t ever hurt them.”
“Hmm.” Kagiso tapped his chin. “I’ll think about it.”
“Kagiso,” his guard tried again. “Sir, you should take all your focus treatments before agreeing-“
“I am leader!” Kagiso yelled at him. “I am leader and I might want the mommy to have the daddy. I don’t know yet. For now, Jarod Hades will run the new Centre. Now. Where are my snacks?!”
“Okay, okay, up in the Swiss Alps. There is another Center backup,” Jarod Angel said. “Same thing. Please? Let the mommy be happy?”
“Hades said he would make her happy. You say he won’t.” The six year old groaned. “She will be in both then until I decide!”
Both. No. “Then, mine first. Please?” Don’t let it be. Don’t let it be.
“Hades will have her in his Centre, and then you.” The six year old patted his hand. “However, the daddy will go to both of them, and Hades will be commanded not to bother him or the woman until I decide more. I have more treatments I have to take before I can say anymore.” He started to walk away. “Besides, Mister Hades is already picking her up.”
“No. No, no, no, no!” Jarod Angel called out to him. “No!” He dropped to his knees.
The Angel would be brought to the devil now. No matter what he did to try and stop it. There’s only one hope left. One thin hope.
The Competition for the Angel’s hand.