Disclaimer: "The Pretender" is a protected trademark and I'm Just borrowing the characters. I promise to give them back once I've used them, hopefully more or less intact.
Keywords: Jarod and Sydney
Summary: Jarod confused and Sydney asks for help, or is he?
Jarod's last pretence, to expose one of the town's most upstanding members of society as a wife beater and child-abuser, had taken him longer than he had expected. What made him feel sick was that the wife had stayed with her husband, even after all had come out in the open, and basically condemned her daughter to her husband's habits. Luckily, the town hadn't stood for it and had locked the man up. Maybe a spell in jail would knock some sense into him.
It had been gruelling on the nerves for everybody involved, including Jarod's.
Compulsorily he had laid his paper trail for Miss Parker and the others to be able to follow him to his last case and then had checked himself into a hotel in the next town, too exhausted to even think of moving further away. He arrived there in the morning, but he was emotionally exhausted beyond words and finally sleep had overtaken him by the onset of evening.
A soft knocking on the door woke him up.
For the first time, as long as he could remember, he woke up disoriented. It was not a pleasant feeling. The knocking came again.
He got up, slipped on his slacks and walked cautiously towards the door. Who could it be? No one knew he was here. Maybe it was one of the neighbours in need.
He opened the door carefully and found nobody directly in front of him. He looked out into the dark corridor and saw a huddled figure on the floor a small distance away from his door. He walked up to him and gently turned him over.
The pale face of Sydney looked up to him. "Help me, Jarod," his lips moved. Jarod tried to lift him up by the arm, but Sydney let out a moan and passed out.
"How stupid of me," thought Jarod, "I should have checked to see what was wrong with him first. Stupid!" He did so now.
He felt for the left arm area, since that was the one Sydney had reacted so dramatically to. It was wet. Wet? It hadn't been raining, hadn't it? He must have been injured. He checked Sydney's right arm and found it to be dry. Injured than!
He moved Sydney's body in such a position that he could lift him from the right side and moved him into his room. By the light of the room the extent of Sydney's injury became clear. He had been shot in the left shoulder.
"How did he managed to do that?" thought Jarod, "Sydney is normally not your most violent type of guy nor does he attract violence. Well, apart from a frustrated Miss Parker," he chuckled at the thought.
Sydney had been wearing his black turtle-neck sweater, which took years off his age and had served him as a camouflage in this instance to hide his injury getting here. Unless he had been shot close by!
Jarod carefully took Sydney's jacket off. Not carefully enough, though, and Sydney's pain filled eyes flicked open while he released a soft moan.
"Sorry, Sydney, but I have to check the wound. See if the bullet is still in."
Sydney nodded in acquiescence. He let Jarod remove his jacket and gritted his teeth, nearly passing out, when Jarod lifted his arm to remove the left sleeve of the sweater.
"Today of all days, you have to wear a sweater," admonished Jarod. Sydney just moaned back.
"Seemed to have gone clear through the fleshy part of the shoulder. You're lucky there. But it looks like you have lost a lot blood, though. And it must have been a few hours ago. Some of the blood has clotted on the sweater and jacket. A clean-up and some bandages should do for the moment. Care to tell me what happened?" he asked while he set about cleaning Sydney's wound and dressing it.
With stops and starts Sydney told him what had happened, gritting his teeth at times when Jarod's prodding was too painful to bear.
"We followed your trail to Clearview and were too late again to catch up with you. You should have seen Miss Parker's frustrated face. She was not amused.
It wasn't difficult to work out the details of your last pretence and I had a feeling that you might not have left the area yet. When Miss Parker and Broots left..."
"...You stayed behind?"
"...I stayed behind on the pretence of visiting and old friend in the area."
"And they bought it?"
"Why shouldn't they?
"Anyway, I waited for an hour after they left, to be on the safe side and started to make my way over here."
"How did you know where I was?"
"I always know where you are, Jarod. Sometimes I just don't want to find you." Jarod looked at him with a puzzled frown on his face. "I had hired a car and drove up here. Well, at least that was my intention. About three quarters on the way I saw a car parked by the side of the road and a man leaning against it. When I approached the car he hailed me to stop. Thinking he had car-trouble I stopped and got out.
When I started walking over to him, my sixth sense kicked in and sent alarm bells to my brain. Before I could turn and run back, he had whipped out his gun and shot me." Sydney closed his eyes, remembering the heat of the slug entering his arm and drilling through. "By a stroke of luck I didn't faint or fall and was close enough to the car to get in and lock the doors. I could see him aim again at me while I was fumbling with the key. I managed to start the car and escape. He didn't follow me and assume that there really was something wrong with his car."
Jarod had been doing some mental calculations, "Sydney, am I missing something here?"
"I laid the trail this morning. From here to Clearview is about one hour and a half's drive. Yet, you have already found me? When did you leave Clearview? Why is the blood on your sleeve several hours cold?"
"Easy to answer. First of all, what day is it?"
Jarod looked at him stupidly, "Monday, of course!"
"Wrong, it's Tuesday. You must have slept a whole day. You sent the message yesterday and we worked out the clues to Clearview this morning, arriving shortly before noon. I left Clearview about two and was shot a little after three. It is now nine o'clock in the evening."
Jarod shook his head, "That's still a difference of six hours, Sydney!"
"I hadn't finished my story yet, hadn't I? As I said, I managed to get away from him, but a little while before I reached this town I could feel myself overcome with the shock of the gunshot and managed to pull over in a side lane before passing out. I must have been unconscious for a couple of hours. I do know that the people I hired the car from are not going to be very happy with the cleaning bill. I left a nasty puddle on their carpet." A look at Sydney's grey face confirmed this part of the story. He must have lost a lot of blood. "When I came to, I drove up to the town and parked the car several blocks away from here. Again, if the incident at the road side was deliberate and the man a member of the Centre... Even though my jacket and the sweater are black and would have camouflaged the extent of the injury I couldn't walk with it in broad daylight, so I waited for dusk to walk up here. And that is the extent of the story."
Jarod looked at Sydney with something akin to hero worship. Walking about with all that blood loss, knowing where to find him without clues and still having the sense not to betray him. Jarod was feeling a bit down that Sydney wasn't his real father, he would have been proud of him.
A soft moan from Sydney drew his attention back. The man had gone all pasty white and great droplets of sweat were forming on his face, he grabbed his injured arm and squeezed it in pain.
"Don't, Sydney, you will only open up the wound again!"
But Sydney didn't hear him. The urge to quell the pain was greater than any logical sense. Jarod moved over to him and pried his hand away from his shoulder, holding Sydney's body close. Rocking the older man like a child, soothing him. He could feel him go limp and knew he had passed out again. He gently laid him back on the bed. The wounds needed stitching, even with the dressing on he could see blood coming through again. Sydney's clamping down on the arm hadn't helped any.
He could do it himself, if he had the right materials. He walked over to his bag and looked at the contents. Ah, right at the bottom: sewing kit! It wasn't really the right thing to do and the scars of the stitches would be rather big, but it was better than bleeding to death or answering awkward questions in a hospital. He set about to sterilising the needle and thread and bending the needle slightly. Gently he removed the bandages from Sydney's arm.
Luckily Sydney was out for the count, stitching without anaesthetic couldn't be fun. Sydney came to with a moan when Jarod had started the stitches on the other side. "Lie still, Sydney, this will only take another short while and then you will feel better."
Sydney did his best not to move too much and bit into the pillow to stifle his moans. He was short of passing out again, when Jarod said, "There, that should be better."
"He isn't on the other side of the stitching," thought Sydney. He looked down and would have laughed if it weren't too painful to do it. What did Jarod need pink thread for? He was always wearing black!
"Sorry, Syd, used up all the black thread, these were the only ones left from a sewing package. Ahem, the other side has green stitching!" He washed the rest of the blood off the arm and redressed it. "Want something to drink?"
"Have you got anything stronger than water?" Sydney asked in a hoarse voice.
"Water would be fine, thank you."
"You said, you always know where I am. How?"
"That would be telling, wouldn't it?" Sydney grinned mischievously.
"So, even if I don't leave the breadcrumbs..."
"I could still find you. I doubt the others can."
"That's a relief."
"Well, I assume they can't."
Jarod frowned again. Sydney smiled and immediately looked quite faint.
"You alright, Syd?"
"When was the last time you've eaten?"
"This morning I had a doughnut and a coffee."
"No wonder you feel faint and with the blood loss... I have to go out and get us something to eat. I haven't had anything to eat since yesterday-evening, no, make that day before yesterday,"
Sydney nodded and fell back against the pillows.
Jarod shrugged into his jacket and left the hotel-room. He had seen a diner on the way up. With luck they let him have a steak take-away.
He was back in no time at all with two Styrofoam boxes filled with a medium-rare steak. That should get Sydney's blood count back to normal!
When he neared the room, he thought he could hear voices. He frowned. Cautiously he approached the door. The door was open a crack and he was sure that when he left he had closed it firmly. He peered inside.
It was just possible to see the bed and the people around it. Sydney was still lying in bed, but Miss Parker and Broots were standing on either side of it.
"Where is he, Freud?"
"I don't know, Miss Parker."
"Don't give me that! He can't be far, his bag is still here!"
"Still, I don't know where he is. He left some time ago..."
She got hold of his shoulder, which produced a yelp from Sydney, "You lie, Sydney. I told you before, you are a terrible liar!"
"Miss Parker, I didn't..." He closed his eyes and squeezed his eyes shut when she got a good grip on his shoulder again.
"You're hurting him, Miss Parker," Broots piped in.
"That's the point, you moron. He'll tell me where Jarod is and I stop hurting him. It's as simple as that! Deal?"
"But... But what if he's telling the truth?"
"Hmm... you've got a point there," she turned back to Sydney who was hugging his wounded arm, "Are you telling me the truth, Freud?"
"Yes Miss Parker!"
"Okay... We'll try again," she was smiling when she saw a twinge of fear in Sydney's eyes, "You don't know where he is?"
"You're right, not a lie! He could be in the corridor and you wouldn't know. You don't know when he'll be back?"
"Right again! You don't know when he left?"
Even Jarod could hear Sydney's slight hesitation. Funny, he had this knowledge all his life and it never clicked, but Miss Parker was right, Sydney made a terrible liar.
She gripped his shoulder harder that she had done before and produced a small cry of pain from Sydney. "You are lying! Now tell me... When?" There was another, loader cry from Sydney.
"Miss Parker, you can't..." Broots was wringing his hands.
"I can and I will!" said Miss Parker, "If he's not telling me what I want to know." Another moan. "Oh, look what you've done now! Got blood on my hands! Get some water, Broots. I think he has passed out!"
Broots scuttled out of the room, worried for Sydney, but even more scared of Miss Parker. He hadn't seen her this angry for a long time and definitely never with Sydney.
"Why don't you tell the truth, Syd?" she said gently to the silent figure. "Do you think I like hurting you? I could hand you over to the Sweepers and than my administrations might be sweet in comparison."
Broots returned with a drenched cloth and handed it to Miss Parker. First she wiped her hands on it and then pressed it to Sydney's forehead. He reluctantly came to, with a start.
Jarod considered stepping into the room and ending Sydney's torture. On the other hand Sydney must know by now that Jarod was close by, yet he didn't relent. Should he waste Sydney's tenacity?
"There you are again," purred Miss Parker, "More co-operative this time, I hope?"
"I can't tell you where he is," gasped Sydney in pain, "because I don't know where he is. And should I know I wouldn't tell you anyway."
"Sydney," admonished Miss Parker, "I thought we had no secrets when it comes to catching Jarod. Yet, here you are. First not letting us know that you might have an idea where he might be. Then getting shot, God knows how and by whom. It is quite obvious who has been bandaging you and I don't have the idea that he found you, but you found him. No secrets, Sydney?" She prodded his arm again when he didn't answer her. Great drops of sweat were forming on his brow, but he kept his mouth shut. "Just tell me when he'll be back and I'll leave you alone."
Sydney gritted his teeth and shook his head. She grabbed hold of both arms and nearly lifted him off the bed by the shoulders. Deep groans were issuing from his mouth and he feebly tried to take her hand of his left shoulder, this time it was too much for Broots and he tried to get her off Sydney too. "You wouldn't want to try it, Mr. Broots!" she hissed. Again she took a firmer grip on Sydney, who fortuitously passed out.
She let him drop back unto the bed. "Guess I have to leave it to the Sweepers," she said, using the cloth to wipe Sydney's blood off her hands.
"Or you could ask me where I've been."
She whipped her head around to the door when she heard Jarod's voice. "Ah, the prodigal son couldn't see his mentor suffer."
"There was no need to harm Sydney so. What has he done to deserve that?"
"He lied to me!"
"Is that all?" He could see Broots busy himself with Sydney, who came to.
"I knew you were around, just wanted to see how long you would hold," she smiled at him.
"I didn't think you could be this cruel."
"Think again, Ratboy," she reached inside her jacket and whipped out a gun and some handcuffs, "Now, put on those cuffs and come quietly. Or I will shoot."
"They want me alive Miss Parker."
"Preferably. They didn't specify in how many pieces."
He walked towards her, "Sydney needs help first."
"No, he won't. With a bit of luck he might evade the Sweepers... for a while. Now get back!"
He advanced on her. She held her stance.
Slowly he moved towards her. Broots was ready to jump Miss Parker. She aimed higher.
Jarod threw the Styrofoam-boxes at her; she brought up her arm briefly.
Sydney, in one last burst of energy came off the bed and knocked sideways into her.
The gun went off...
And Jarod woke up with a start. Sweat pouring off his face. It had all been a dream!
Nobody had found him and Sydney was safe.
He lay back on the pillow. He knew what must have brought on the dream. The helplessness he felt when the wife had gone back to her husband. The fear and the anticipation of being caught by the three from the Centre or that they might know where he was. Maybe even wanting to be caught, he never gave it that much thought. But he always sent breadcrumbs to them.
His secret want to do good in Sydney's esteem and his fear of what Miss Parker might do to reach her goal of bringing him back to the Centre. In his heart he knew Miss Parker would never harm Sydney just to get information, threaten him maybe, and certainly not out of pure cruelty.
All a dream! He tried closing his eyes again. Slowly he started to drift off...
There was a soft knocking on the door...