The Centre . . .

Miss Parker was having Broots track down some information on the strange women that looked like her, but the search was interrupted by her father. While she walked along the halls though, she heard the flat sound of Broots following her. He’d also been summoned.

Strange. The sound of her stilettos clack on the ground was always alone, or with the sound of two pairs of men shoes on either side of her. Hearing just one next to her was another subtle reminder of another dear friend lost.

Until she swore her ears were playing tricks on her. She stopped, alongside Broots who also heard it and looked back.

Sydney. He’s alive. Broots ran to him quickly, questioning him, while Miss Parker played it cool. She was in The Centre after all. Where no one really ever died. “Well, Freud turned into Houdini for the past two months,” she said simply. “Where have you been?”

“A terrible time,” Sydney said. “I’m just relieved to be back. How are you, Broots? Miss Parker?”

“Oh? Oh.” Broots looked toward the floor. “Mm. I don’t, um.”

“Not good,” Miss Parker answered for him, not wanting him to think about it. “Cover it later, Syd. Where have you been?”

“Stuck in some terrible places,” Sydney said, almost revealing about the same thing. “And you? How have you been?”

“Oh you know, The Centre never stops ticking,” Miss Parker said to him. She noticed a strange look from him. “What?”

“Healthwise, nothing unforeseen happened in any way?” Sydney asked her.

“I’m fine, Syd. I’m more worried about you,” she said. “Where have you been?” She repeated.

“Short answer. Amnesia if you want something,” Sydney said looking around lightly. Ah, Miss Parker understood. The Centre. Once again. She would find out more about that later.

“Great. We’ll go over the little we have on Jarod soon,” she said, “but my father summoned Broots and I to his office. So come on. Move it or lose it, Sydney.”

Her step after seeing him and flinging the doors open to her daddy’s office felt so much better having Sydney there beside her. The loss of Debbie was tragic, but having Sydney back gave her a rejuvenation boost.

“You wanted to see us, Daddy?”

“Yes. Sit down. Broots, you too,” Mister Parker said. They both sat down as he looked at Sydney. “You’re back?”

“Yes. I was on a special assignment I was told,” Sydney said. “Although the details are a little sketchy.”

“Oh, fine. Sit down then too,” Mister Parker said. “Now. I don’t know how to say this.” He looked straight toward Miss Parker. “I wish I didn’t have to, frankly,” he said. “But. I’m sorry. Angel?”

He looked so lost. He needed her. Miss Parker leaned more forward in her chair. “What is it, daddy?”

“Some time ago, I was injected with something,” he insisted. “I used a temporary cure but it’s over. I’m dying,” he admitted. “Soon. I’m sorry.”

What? “But daddy-“

“Now, now, now. It’s okay.” He held his hand to her. “There’s not going to be much pain, it’s just gonna happen. I don’t want to go through any more about it. I’ve seen the doctors, I know it all. But. Before I go. I want to secure the Centre’s future.”

Dying. Daddy is dying? “The future?” she asked. “You’re dying.”

“That’s why I need to secure the future,” he said. “The Centre. It needs extra care to it. Now. Angel? I love you, but the Triumvirate want to leave The Centre to Hades.”

Hades? “Jarod’s clone? They want a clone, to run The Centre?” Ridiculous.

“Yes, but I don’t agree,” Mister Parker agreed. “I want you to have it. But. It can’t be like this, not without some promise of an heir afterward,” he said. “Give the Triumvirate that promise, and they agree that you can share it.” Mister Parker smiled. “It’d be the best thing in the world to see you sitting in this chair before it’s all over. Dying man’s last wish.”

An heir? “I don’t understand, daddy?” Miss Parker questioned.

“They want Hades to have it, but . . . marry him. Commit. You both can share The Centre. It’s the Parker legacy, you have to agree to it,” Mister Parker said. “before I go. I’m sorry.”

“They just want an heir, and they want to get their greedy hands into the Parker’s legacy blood,” Sydney said, standing. “Mister Parker. Think about it. This is yours, and they are trying to claw for it. I recommend someone else for the position.” He gestured to Broots. “Broots. You’re a simple man. Simple employee of the Centre.”

“Uh. Yeah?” Broots answered Sydney. “So?”

“No wrongdoing. He’s fine,” Sydney said. “In fact, I believe your daughter has done more than mere flirting with him. He can marry her before your death, giving Miss Parker the full reigns still.”

“Yes, I was going to suggest that one too,” Mister Parker said. “I didn’t quite know the relationship there.”

In what world? From marrying Hades to Broots? I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone. “I need a drink.”

“The request we both considered is a little bizarre,” Mister Parker said to Sydney. “Yet, if there is something there between them already, then maybe they would agree to it. The Parkers could stay separate from the Triumvirate, as it always has been. Not every member was eager for Hades.” He smiled at Sydney. “Good fortune to hear it could work, Sydney.”

“Good ihuh?” Broots looked to Miss Parker. “What?”

“Yes. That’s what I like. There’s been no motive for wrongdoing for you, Broots. You’ve had nothing to gain. You were even a fine father I heard,” Mister Parker finished.

“Yeah. Were.” Broots repeated his word. “Were.”

Miss Parker crossed her legs. “Um? I?” Her father was dying. He wanted her to have a baby? It seemed strange and awkward. A marriage, with intentions of a baby. “I don’t . . .”

“Don’t worry,” Mister Parker said. “At this rate, I’m probably not living long enough to see one born, sad to say,” he said. “But, uh, I want it secured.” He looked to Broots and then back to Miss Parker. “If Sydney’s right, I’d stretch for it. He’s a simple man, but you’d be good for each other. After losing his daughter, having another one would be good for him. For you? He’s a good friend that you’ve always trusted. There aren’t many you’ve ever admitted to trusting.”

“Agreed,” Sydney said.

What? What?! I can’t even think straight. This is too fast. “I don’t understand, Daddy?”

“I’m sending you and Broots to Africa to get married this week,” he said. “Need to do it quick. Need to secure the Parker legacy in this.”

Broots was visibly shocked, but Miss Parker stood up. “W-wait, daddy. Are you saying that I have to marry Broots to take over the Centre?”

“Yes, and soon, Pumpkin, or you’ll just have Hades,” her father smiled. “I. I might not even have a month. Don’t worry. You’ll have a beautiful ceremony, and you’ll even visit the floating bridge like your mother and I did.”

Miss Parker grabbed her temple with one of her hands with the other on the side of her hip. “Well. I did not see this coming.”

“Um? If I could?” Broots stood up, and tried to dust his sleeves off to look professional. “This. I don’t. I mean, not that I wouldn’t want to. But I mean, not that I’ve been thinking about that sort of thing. But. Marriage is a big commitment to two people who really love each other.”

“And you really love her,” Sydney said, “and she loves you. This whole thing is just going to have to push the envelope of truth open faster. If you don’t, Broots, you’ll lose your secret lover forever.”

“But? What? I don’t?” Broots questioned Sydney just as much. “Since when?”

“How long do you have, Daddy?” Miss Parker questioned her father, putting everything else on hold. Sydney’s lies, Sydney’s suggestion, Broots’ response, Hades, and everything else. On hold. He was taking huge steps, interfering within her life in the worst way. She needed to know more. “Are you sure there’s nothing? Are you sure there aren’t any test trials at all?”

“My best bet is to live long enough that The Centre can find something better,” Mister Parker said. “But to do that, I would have to be relaxed. No worries. No stress. My life is filled with nothing but stress. Especially about this,” he said as he stood up. “I don’t want someone else running the Centre, it’s always a Parker!” He shouted. He touched his chest painfully and tried to calm down.

Miss Parker moved to the other side, helping him back down into his chair. “Daddy, don’t stress,” she said. “Okay. I’ll marry Broots, no problem.”

“But?” Broots intercepted.

She looked toward him. If relaxing and getting him out of The Centre was what it took to give them time to find a cure, marriage to Broots was an easy thing. She wasn’t waiting for anyone in particular. He wasn’t either. In fact he had a pretty big crush on her so it shouldn’t even bother him.

Killing someone caused more of a reaction out of her than marriage. There was something though that did have her mind confused. She looked back toward her dad. “There’s no time for focus training for him, daddy.”

“Focus what?” Broots asked.

“Oh.” Mister Parker pulled a drawer open and pointed to a small chip. “Getting more advanced every day.” He closed the drawer back up. “Equivalent of seven injections in a chip. Triumvirate is still experimenting on a full treatment in one chip, but seven injections is good enough for him to be focused enough to be taken as a Parker.”

“Wait. A-are you wanting to put a chip in my head?” Broots asked Mister Parker. “I can’t put a chip in my head.”

“It’s perfectly fine,” Miss Parker said, not really knowing if it was perfectly fine. One thing at a time though. Making her father feel better was first. “After the marriage is fine, right, Daddy? I’ll be the one running it, not him.”

“Mm.” Mister Parker nodded. “Considering the situation, after the marriage is fine. I want you both on the plane to Africa in a few days. Get friends notified. Dresses. Whatever you want. Everything’s ready on their end.”

“How long has this been planned out?” Broots asked. “Why are we just now hearing about it?” He looked toward Sydney. “And why are you? . . .” He looked back to Miss Parker.

Mister Parker buttoned his vest up more. “Don’t mess this up, Broots, if you love her. Take a risk. The only other option I can get besides you is Jarod Hades.”

“Jarod Hades.” Miss Parker growled. Yikes. “Daddy, I don’t like the way he feels. He’s not . . .”

“Right, I don’t either. If you don’t marry someone soon, then to keep the Parkers in, you’d have to pair up with him and run The Centre together,” her father said. His breathing became slightly harder. “Give me a second, Angel.”

Miss Parker didn’t rush him. She moved from his chair and moved toward Broots. “Well. I guess you’re it.”

“But.” Broots wasn’t comfortable with it. “A chip in the brain?”

“I will find out everything I can about it, but obviously everything is ready to go,” she said.

“It’s alright,” Sydney said to Broots. “Saying you’ll get it done after will give us enough time to look into it.”

“But? What is this focus?” Broots asked.

“Traditional Parker thing. Don’t worry about it,” Miss Parker said. “Make sure you pick something nice out for the wedding. Invite your family if you want.” She sighed. “The more real and intimate it looks, the better. And then afterward, the Floating Bridge.”

“After the wedding?” Broots eyebrows raised a second, then fell flat again. “I mean, The Centre is causing this, so I don’t expect-“

“You’ll be my husband, it’ll be our wedding night, and daddy wants an heir,” Miss Parker said plainly. “We’re obviously having sex. Many times, lucky you.” She went ahead and dusted his sleeves, the nervous action he did earlier, while glaring to Sydney. How did he know? How did he come up with that so quick? She turned her attention away again and back to Broots. “I know you like me, Broots.”

“ . . . oh.”

“I’d have to blind not to see it.”

“Oh. Yeah. I uh.”

“So just marry me and let’s have lots of sex. It sounds like a good plan, right?”

“ . . .” Broots scratched the back of his neck. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to be . . . again. Yet.”

Oh. “I see.” That made sense. Losing Debbie just to have another one not long after her passing? “Daddy said himself he probably won’t be around for the birth. And if by some miracle he is? I’ll deal with his yelling,” she said. “After the marriage, we’ll give it just a bit of time, and then we’ll say I’m pregnant. How about that?” He still didn’t seem on board with it. “Broots. I know it’s not perfect. I know I’m not wife material but I will be loyal.“

“I. Just. I know The Centre is fast and crazy, but this?” Broots shook his head. “Marriage is sacred. I just can’t, not this fast.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that Mister Broots.”

Chilling. Not that she would admit it. Miss Parker watched as Hades walked in. Black and red and . . . he’s not right in the head. I can’t marry him. He’s a clone of Jarod, but he’s so much worse. There’s something evil in him. I know it.

“I have zero problems sharing The Centre with your daughter,” Hades said to Mister Parker. “Sharing is caring I hear, and having some delightful twins with her would only top my life off with a cherry.”

Miss Parker felt his fingers barely trail up her shoulder. Twins. She barely met her eyes to his. Crazy. Vicious. She could hear it. She’d known him for two months, and could see it in his eyes. Hades. Even the name, with the legend of what was supposed to happen to her with the devil.

His name was Hades. And he even said the word ‘twins’.

But if I don’t, he gets The Centre completely. And the horror of The Centre would continue on, unchecked. But. No. No, I am not some weakling. I am a Parker! I can do this. Right before she consented with a curt ‘fine’ though, Broots interrupted her.

“I will,” Broots said. “If it’s not me, then It’s Hades and . . . and as crazy as this all seems, I can’t let Miss Parker marry someone she’s only known for a couple of months.”

Miss Parker tried not to let the shock of someone else saving her show on her face. She was used to getting herself out of jams, or dealing with the hell that was laid on her. Broots actually saved her though. He saved her.

She took Broots’ hand and stirred him toward her father, leaving a gap between him and Hades who was simply glaring at her little computer friend. “Broots is ready, Daddy. When is the marriage?”

“We’ll take off for Africa in a couple of days.” Her father smiled at her. “The night after tomorrow. My daughter’s wedding day. Never thought I’d live long enough to see it.”

While her father smiled though, Miss Parker noticed Hades look. It was murderous. He wanted The Centre. Her grip tightened on Broot’s hand. If you come after Broots, I will kill you, Scumbag. I don’t care what they told me as a child. You’re not touching me, and you’re not touching Broots. She knew her thoughts must have appeared back in her look, but he was still unphased.

He simply smiled wickedly. “I never sensed anything about a relationship between them. You all aren’t just trying to fool the Triumvirate, are you?”

“Oh no, I’ve been here for years. I believe there is something,” Sydney challenged him. “Love should come first before business.”

“Yes. Broots’ was Kagiso’s first choice too,” Mister Parker said. “Some Triumvirate doesn’t all agree on the same action. But love? Well, that should top it.”

“I’m first choice?” Broots asked simply. “How’d that happen?”

Hades clapped, slow and almost painful. “Fine. Can’t wait myself. New Parkers coming to run The Centre. This should be a real fun adventure.” Hades left the room.

——————————

After they left the office . . .

“I am marrying Broots and having a baby, Sydney, damn you, you can’t tell me after that display in there you didn’t know something was going on!” Miss Parker let him have it.

“I suspected things,” Sydney said, “especially after my time of re-evaluation. I prepared myself with Broots as an excuse for The Centre years ago, just in case anything ever happened quickly. Getting you prepared is the first thing Mister Parker would ever want to do.”

Still upset, but calming down. “Fine. I know it’s the best option.” She looked to Broots. “Thanks, by the way.”

“Um. Yeah, I guess,” he answered.

“Freudini over there isn’t going to give any real answers,” Miss Parker blamed Sydney, “but my father is dying. If this reduces the stress, and improves his chances to live, fine. I need to get a hold of The Centre anyhow, or it’ll just go to Hades. Either way, that future’s not bright.”

“A chip in my head,” Broots said out of the blue. “I’m letting The Centre put a chip into my head.”

“A small price to pay for the lovely Miss Parker,” Sydney softly joked. “Well. There truly is always something going on in The Centre. So now? Broots? What do you have on Jarod so far?”

“Oh great, daddy wants to make sure Boy Genius knows he’s alive and well,” Miss Parker said, relieved at the change of subject. “Broots has a fat lot of nothing. He can show you all the nothing. All the piles and piles of nothing.”

“Ah. Well then? Why don’t we set our tracking on someone else?” Sydney offered.

A small rental in America . . .

“Easy, easy,” Jarod said, consoling Miss A. who was crying. He lifted her up into his arms. “Soon, I promise. Daddy got something for her. It’ll make everything better,” he insisted. “I know it will. It’ll give you mommy back, and everything will be good again. As good as we can have it at least.”

“She can relactate.” His mother walked into the room. He looked toward her. “It would take time, but she could do it. She could be here putting them to bed every night again. Everything could be better,” his mother agreed. “Only after Hades is gone, Jarod.”

With one hand, Jarod rubbed his eye. Tired. When Sydney left, he didn’t automatically charge after him, but then Jarod Angel came and told him what he did. He was putting himself in harm’s way to give them information on Hades, so that they could get him.

“Any word yet?” Kyle asked from the door.

Of course, Kyle was willing to take the shot, but it didn’t seem right. Jarod wanted to just immobilize him, and Kyle agreed to that, but his eyes didn’t say the same. And knowing Hades, immobilization might not be enough. It was what his mom was pointing out even right then. But Jarod had a different plan for Hades. One he didn’t want to discuss.

He heard his mother’s phone ring. She answered it right away. “Sydney?”

Jarod listened to the light conversation.

“Yes, that makes sense,” she finished. “Okay.” She hung up. “Mister Parker is dying. Hades was selected by the Triumvirate to marry her and have a child, in order to secure The Centre for themselves and to have the Parker legacy too.”

Ouch. All that time around him. She must be screaming to run. She must have figured out who he’d been. Miss Parker. “Of course, make it easy for him to get her. Use a clone of Mister Parker.”

“Mister Parker, Sydney, and Kagiso all had a different choice though,” she said. “Broots, of course. He agreed, but Sydney said that Miss Parker said there was no time for Focus training. Her father produced a small chip from a drawer, said it held seven treatments within it. It will go into him after the marriage.”

What? “A chip?” The focus was being turned into a chip now? Faster treatments. In the brain. That would be harder to counter back. He had the vials he needed from Miss Parker’s relatives. Three in all, but he wasn’t going to jump. To know the past, yet be stuck in The Centre with it all, it was cruel. But? He needed Broots out of there before anyone messed with his brain.

“Sydney said Hades was mad, left in a bit of a mood.” Margaret smiled. “And considering they couldn’t find anything on you, and now Broots is in the way of Hades? Sydney persuaded them to track him instead, without seeming suspicious.”

Jarod grinned from ear to ear with a small chuckle. Tracking Hades. Using The Centre to track Hades instead of him. Mister Parker was right. His own rising will be his downfall. It was perfect.

“Hades next destination is Branson, Missouri,” Margaret said. “Broots and Miss Parker are already on their way to investigate it.”

Branson, Missouri? Jarod looked at his watch. “Time and exact location.” His. Hades was his. And this time, Jarod could not afford to mess up.

Branson, Missouri. Residential apartment complex. 7:30.

“There is not enough room for three of us back here,” Miss Parker complained, feeling Broots and Sydney practically beside her, squeezing her behind the trashcan they were all hiding behind.

“I’m doing my best,” Broots said. “Not like I can even see on the other side.”

But she could, that’s all that mattered in the end. Marriage and twins. I know you are the sickening one I’m supposed to appease. Where are you? What are you doing way out here? She kept her eye out for him, but instead, fortune just landed in her lap. Jarod?

Whistling a light tune, he just strolled past the apartment complex. “That’s Jarod!” She softly but harshly whispered. “Move it!” They each strolled behind a little ways, following him from street to street. This just went from tracking Hades to capturing Jarod.

Considering they hadn’t had a single lead on him, Miss Parker would take it. Jarod walked into an old abandoned building. “Got him. Broots, go around the back way. Syd, come with me.”

She made her move, her gun in hand. She tracked him inside, about to signal to Sydney, but he had disappeared? Great, just great, not a time for you to get lost, Syd! Still, she wouldn’t lose the opportunity. She continued on her way.

With a clear shot, and right behind Jarod, she called out to him. “Jarod!”

Jarod turned around. No hands up in the air. Just a smile. “Miss Parker. Face to face. It feels like it’s been forever.”

Hm. Jarod seemed out of it. Maybe he didn’t quite know Sydney was alive yet? Still mourning, now that he saw her? “There’s nowhere to go, Jarod.”

“I know that. That’s why I picked here to talk to you.” He pulled out some kind of syringe out of his pocket. “Do you know who Hades is?”

“Your annoying clone,” she answered.

“No. To you, do you know what he means to you?” Jarod questioned her. “You aren’t where you think you are. You’re already in the devil’s cage.”

Miss Parker’s mouth dropped, and a breath of air hit her. He knew? How? He could never remember! It was always erased from his mind, over and over. But, that surprise lasted long enough for someone else to get the drop on her.

Someone had grabbed her arms and placed handcuffs on her. “I’m sorry, but this is necessary.”

What? Sydney’s voice? “Oh, Syd, I can’t believe you betrayed me like this!” She watched as Jarod delightfully pounced up.

What was worse? Being caught by Sydney for Jarod to come over and torment her? Or him knowing the . . . she didn’t even look him in the eye. What’s wrong with me? So he knows. Jarod’s just a pain, it shouldn’t matter if he somehow remembers. Ow! She was good at handling pain, but she wasn’t prepared for Jarod to actually inject her with something. He wasn’t clowning around with that syringe after all. “Knocking me out?”

“For now, but not for long. You’ll wake up, back to your real self. You’ll remember.” He knelt down to her, and she felt him touch the top of her head, more tenderly than he had ever done before. “I won’t let the lions get you. I will never let you outrun it all alone. If you see an opportunity, don’t try to escape and tell Hades about this,” Jarod warned her. “If he knows, he’ll kill Sydney and blow the one shot I have.”

“Have for what?” she groaned. “What are you doing to your clone?”

“Something I don’t like to do,” Jarod confessed. “I have to destroy him for me, and for you.”

For me? Did he say he was doing that for her? She wanted to say something smartass back, her usual fair, but those two words. For you. She couldn’t.

“Move her out, Sydney,” Jarod said to him. “Keep an eye on her. Don’t let her go. We’re almost through.”

Sydney nodded and took Miss Parker away.

“Sydney.”

Sydney glanced back at Jarod.

“Be really careful with her,” Jarod said, “this is all still very risky. I’m going to get Broots now. Watch out for Hades. He’ll be arriving in half an hour.”

“Did you get his target out of here?” Sydney asked. “Do you know who it was?”

“Oh, yes, I did. I found him. He’ll be fine,” Jarod said. “Thank you very much. Now get her out.” He headed away, no more words to either of them. Presumably going after Broots. Why? Why was he being so . . . sweet? He rubbed things and secrets in her face, all the time. This wasn’t the same. That wasn’t the same.

“What’s going on, Sydney?” Miss Parker asked. “Hm? Your little Boy Scout doing things with his leader now, is that it? Getting a new badge?” She could feel herself losing consciousness. It was just around the corner.

“Miss Parker, Jarod is genuinely helping you. Please be patient. You’ll remember it all very soon, once your safe. He will give you something to rejog your memories. What was taken from you,” Sydney assured her. “Almost a year. This will be a heavy crash.”

Almost a year?

Was Sydney really serious?

————-

8:05.

Hades checked his watch. Bernie, the old elvis impersonator should be coming out of his house soon. Hades had to admit, while it was funner when Jarod knew what he did, and he could leave clues, fucking around with his life in the dark was also fun.

He’d heard and watched Bernie before. He seemed like he’d be a good guy to be around, to strengthen Hades identity as Jarod. And then, when he was out in the open, doing his overrated act, Hades would pop him. Just, right in front of him, in sheer surprise. Then he’d give some clever line about at least not dying by overdose, or maybe he’d go with a more classic ‘did you escape the Hollywood lights by running away? Nope, you’re just dying. You’re no legend.’ Yeah, something like that. He’d be friends for a few days first, just to make sure he was one he wanted to knock off. After all, if he was actually funny in a different way, then he might change his mind and keep him. He hated killing funny people.

But killing people who thought they were funny but weren’t? Well, they were his favorites. He went into the apartment complex and knocked on the door, expecting him to be there. Instead?

He was face to face with Jarod. But only a few seconds, before pain made him hit the ground. He screamed, and felt himself being flung into the apartment, damaging his injury even more. When he looked back at Jarod, he saw a gun cocked straight at his head. “No,” Hades groaned. “The scrolls don’t say this. Nobody cares about the original, you can’t kill me.” He tried to stand up, but his leg was too injured.

“You stole her away,” Jarod said. “From her family. From her friends. Everything was coming together, and you just came and stole her away from me. You threw her into a fake Centre. You made her believe her father was alive!” He shouted at him. “You made her forget about me, instead making her and Broots try and hunt me down.”

“Yeah? Don’t forget the marrying her and having her bear the twins,” Hades joked. “Biggest one of them all. Was on my way with that one.”

“Broots and Sydney would never let that happen,” Jarod said. “And even the clone of her father wanted to follow Kagiso then you. Not quite as in charge underneath as you thought.”

Hades limped toward a chair and took a seat. “Nah, I would have still got her. I was going to kill Broots in a couple of days. If Sydney said anything about it, I’d kill him too.” He watched Jarod. “No one brought in Sydney, did they? How did you get him in there?”

“Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer,” Jarod reminded Hades.

“Ah. Angel. He was trying to move her out of hell before my turn, to steal her for himself. Little prick,” Hades complained. “Great. Fine, I’ll kill Broots and Sydney.”

“You’re not going anywhere,” Jarod warned him. “Not anymore. It’s over.”

“Not this again. Really?” Hades asked him. “I’m shot in the leg, good job on that one. Bad surprise, but good for you. What else are you going to do? Shoot me in the arm? I already know you won’t kill me. You can’t. You’re too good. Unless I make an attempt to attack you, you won’t do anything. We’ve been here before, Jarod. If you were going to kill me, you would have done it by now.”

“I need to see something.” Jarod shot Hades hand and then injected him with a syringe on the other side.

“Oh, I hate shots,” Hades said with fire in his eyes, glaring at Jarod. “You shouldn’t have done that. I’ll . . .” He looked toward a corner. Ooh, a little ant was crawling. Wow, what pretty wood. The carpet under his feet looked plush. The gun in Jarod’s hand was black. Who was the first to ever say ‘wuzzup’?

He looked down. The carpet was red and furry. His arm hurt. Where did the saxophone exactly come from? Could he learn to play one?

Jarod looked down at Hades. “Sorry. I had to know.” He looked at what he just injected him with. Along with the vials of the memory restorer, Amahle gave him one more thing. It was called Distraction. It was supposed to break focus so bad, that the one who took it, would never be able to focus on their own again. Not without complete guidance. As of now? Hades was feeling the carpet, touching the wood, and probably wondering about another thousand things at once.

He was alive. He’d stay alive. But his mind would never be the same again. Jarod made a quick call to the police about a man wandering around, seemingly out of his mind, now pinned up in an apartment. They’d figure out what to do with him.