A/N- I continue to appreciate those who read this story and take the time to review it.
Sincere thanks to michaelfmx for his editing and valued input into the story.
"The streets looked small, of course. The streets that we have only seen as children always do I believe when we go back to them"
― Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
Chuck's update on events
Hi my name is Chuck and here are some things you may not know.
Two weeks ago I was dragged back into the spy world by Agent Emily Summers of the FIS. I almost wish that I hadn't gone to the Italian Embassy with Malina that evening three long weeks ago. But I did and I can't change what happened. Frankly, I don't know if I'd want to.
Emily dragged me back into the spy world. But on a positive note I got Sarah Walker back into my life, well .. unofficially, because .. you see … we can't really tell anyone, that she is now my real girlfriend.
She's my girlfriend, well for the next year at least.
Sarah is still struggling with what it all means but she's trying. She was right about one thing, she told me she doesn't really know a lot about being a girlfriend.
She is now staying with me in my flat. But she still lives out of her one carry on suitcase. I cleared out space for her in the bedroom closet. But it sits empty. I was thinking about maybe pointing out she could unpack .. but nahh, best to let sleeping Sarahs lie.
Things sort of happen that wouldn't happen in a 'normal' relationship. A week ago I nicked my finger on one of her knifes in my, or maybe I should say our, bed.
Okay…..maybe I should explain what happened. You see, we were tangled up with each other, arms and legs moving around enthusiastically and my hand slipped under her pillow.
She keeps her damn gun and her knife under her pillow. After we put a bandage on my finger and changed the bloody bed sheets, she looked at me. "Chuck there's a 30 foot rule for agents. An agent needs to be within 30 feet of a gun or a knife."
After a heated exchange about the precise meaning of the word 'or', she grudgingly agreed to keep the gun under the pillow but loose the knife. Thank God, that knife scares the crap out of me. She has knifes hidden in my study and another smaller caliber gun hidden in a cupboard over the sink.
Oh, yeah I should tell you we finally had a real first date.
Usually, I would've asked Reudi's advice about where you would take someone special for a memorable evening in Bern. That, of course, wasn't going to be possible. I truly wish I could tell Reudi about Sarah.
Eventually, I called Cole. He knows Sarah is staying with me. He and Emily both know that there's something going on between the two of us. Sarah has forbidden me to say anything about our arrangement … at least not yet. To tell the truth, I think her two spy colleagues have already figured it out.
Cole, in my mind, is the iconic international man of mystery and savoir faire. I've always imagined Cole travels throughout the world hopping on and off jets wearing an Armani tux. The only thing he carries with him is his British passport and a black American Express Card.
I tried to be subtle and asked Cole where he would take someone for a special dinner. He asked me if I liked cellars. I asked him if he meant the dank, moldy, chains hanging from the walls with rats running around kind of cellars.
He laughed and told me to go to Wein & Sein. It's located in a brick cellar in the old part of Bern, near the Munster. He even went one step further and asked me when I wanted to go. I told him the date and time and, like a true British gentleman, he offered his assistance. He said he knew one of the owners and would make sure a table was reserved for me under my name.
Thank you Cole, I forgive you for kissing Sarah underneath the Orange-Orange.
I'm happy to report to you that Casey didn't show up, nor did any Fulcrum agents to wreck the evening.
Sarah, of course, turned heads from the moment we left my flat to catch a taxi.
I couldn't take my eyes off of her. Neither could the taxi driver. I'm not sure how we arrived at the restaurant in one piece.
The purple dress she'd bought had a halter top. It left her shoulders bare and cut off above the knees. Oh yeah, it was backless. She wore her hair so it gently fell onto her shoulders. Not a hair was out of place, and I kept saying to myself, breath in … breathe out.
Forget the dress, I couldn't stop looking at her intensely blue eyes. Once or twice she had to repeat my name to get my attention; each time, after I was able to refocus she gave me this knowing smile. What did she know?
At one point, when we were riding over to the restaurant in the taxi, I leaned over to her and whispered in her ear. "You know Sarah, every man and woman in that restaurant is going to notice what a rare beauty you are."
Sarah fixed me with her gaze. Then she leaned towards me and I breathed in a subtle scent of perfume. The smell of which will stay with me for the next forty years. Her warm breath and soft voice wafted into my ear. "Chuck, you dolt, this dress is for you. Tonight, I don't give a damn about anyone else's opinion. You do get it, right .. this is my way of saying how special you are to me and .. and that I'm very, very pleased to be your girlfriend."
Sarah's eyes were moist and she quickly added. "Where are we going dancing afterwards?"
I didn't have the courage to say I hadn't planned on going dancing afterwards. No problem, Sarah knew where to go. And we danced the night away, again without interruption. Afterwards, when we got back to the apartment it was one of the most incredible ..…
Oh yeah, sorry I guess I should tell you about the mission.
Emily met with Reudi and 'read him in' on the mission. Reudi, as I suspected, was more than willing to help the FIS and was appalled that Malina might be in some sort of danger. I found out later that he and Emily fought over his desire to tell Malina right away.
Emily and Reudi took several hours to hammer out what would happen in the ensuing days and, possibly, weeks.
Finally, Reudi agreed that Emily and Cole would be in a new department that he would set up to deal with the physical security of buildings, computer centers and select executives' homes.
It was also agreed that Reudi would 'read me' in on the mission. He and Emily took me into a room and briefed me. Emily should win an Oscar, because she acted like we'd just met for the first time. Oh, yeah, she turned up at Valyrian looking very professional but beautiful nonetheless.
I almost laughed out loud when Reudi told me later that he had been very clear with Emily that she, Sarah and Cole had to do real work, while they were at Valyrian, with real clients. Not just sit around on their asses being spies.
Reudi can sometimes be really picky, and he is a bit of a Nerd. That's why I like him so much. He took a long time choosing a name for the new department, because 'Physical Security Department' sounded truly boring in English, French and German.
In the end he put up a yellow sign outside Emily and Cole's office with an image of Gandalf holding up his staff; it had the inscription, 'Du kannst nicht vorbei!'
Reudi's final touch was to get everyone at Valyrian yellow T-shirts with the Gandalf's image and German wording on the front to celebrate our new department. The staff loved the T-shirts.
Emily was appalled that she had to wear the yellow T-shirt. But I think Cole secretly liked it.
Reudi agreed that Sarah Walker would come into my department and become my assistant, working closely with Malina. The idea was that they would become friends and Sarah would keep a close eye on her and keep her safe.
Sarah came into work that first day dressed in a plain dull, loose fitting brown outfit. Her hair was done up in a tight bun at the back of her head. She wore no makeup, no finger nail polish, no perfume and her beautiful blue eyes were muted by dark rimmed glasses.
To my mind I think Sarah failed miserably in trying to dress down and making herself look average. All she accomplished was to make plain dull brown outfits look really sexy.
I, of course, had to pretend we were meeting for the first time as I introduced her to members of my team.
Sarah's language skills were a huge asset. I think you already know she speaks French, German and English, so she was able to talk with every member of my team better than I could.
Malina's jaw dropped open the second day that Sarah was on the job. She pretended to trip on the edge of a carpet and swore like a trooper in Polish. It only took two additional days before Malina and Sarah were talking regularly in Polish.
So the good news is that Emily and Cole are working at Valyrian. Sarah is working as my assistant and she is well on the road to gaining Malina's trust.
And as I say that to you, I feel like a total shit.
I mean, I can't tell Malina what we suspect. I can't tell Reudi the whole truth. And I feel even shittier about having to pretend that I don't know Sarah.
On the other hand, I'm very proud that my dealings with Sarah as an employee are above reproach. I'm very formal with Sarah and apart from work issues I don't talk with her at all. I'm very businesslike, always polite and civil but a little distance.
Oh, one more thing to tell you about. Janek has gone off to the UK for a week. He's attending an economics conference on the impact of the Euro on foreign capital coming into the EU. I was hoping I could've gone to that conference … just joking!
Cole followed him to the UK in order to coordinate surveillance with MI5.
November 18, 2010- 10:30pm- Chuck's Flat, Lorrainestrasse 6,- Bern
Chuck was sitting at the kitchen table reading the novella Mystery Knight.
He heard the front door open and smiled to himself. He was on pins and needles, wanting to find out about how Sarah's dinner with Malina had turned out.
He got up to give Sarah a hug. However, one look at the stern expression on Sarah's face and he knew there wasn't going to be any hug, let alone a kiss. He quickly sat back down without saying a word and watched Sarah disappear into the bedroom.
Chuck dearly wished he could reach out and call Ellie and talk with her about how complex his life had become since he started living with Sarah Walker. And this was after only two weeks of being her boyfriend.
The loud noises from the bedroom told him Sarah was getting ready for bed.
Shit. What happened? When she left the flat three hours ago she was in a very upbeat mood? He considered going to see if she was OK, but decided against it, thinking that she needed some time to herself.
After all, this was Sarah Walker, the most independent person he had ever known. He didn't know how she would react if he tried to help right now.
So Chuck kept his head down, reading his book, and didn't look up when Sarah sat down at the table across from him in her pajamas. He counted in his head, one .. two ..
"Chuck, as my boyfriend isn't it de rigueur for you to ask me how I am?" she asked in an icy tone.
Chuck looked up and gave her a weak smile. "I think you're upset ….but I'm not really sure why. It can't be something I did. I mean, when you left …"
"Do you know what Malina told me over dinner Chuck?" Sarah now had Chuck's attention.
" Hmm … well apparently everyone on your team is wondering why you're treating me so differently from everyone else. Perhaps you'd like to know what the office gossip is saying about the two of us?"
Chuck gulped. "Sarah, I haven't put a foot wrong. I'm very businesslike with you. I'm very polite and civil. I …"
Sarah cut him off. "Chuck, you joke around with every other member of the team. You ask them how their families are and what their plans are for the weekend. As far as I can see you're very relaxed and friendly around everyone else."
Sarah leaned forward. "But with me you're tight as a drum."
Chuck sat back in his seat, surprised. "What? I'm trying to let people know that there isn't anything going on between us. That's quite hard to do you know?"
"Well, Chuck, maybe you'd like to hear Malina's theory about us.
"She thinks the way you're acting is because you're nervous around me and that you really like me. She was even kidding me that she thinks you're terrified that I will shoot down any possible advances you might make towards me. That's why you're being so formal and extra careful around me."
Sarah sat back in her chair and fixed him with her gaze. "Malina believes you're going out of your way to indicate that you're not interested in me, when in fact you are."
Sarah leaned forward. "Malina then asked me if I liked you?"
Chuck knew he should keep this discussion serious but he couldn't help himself and laughed. "Well, what did you say?"
Sarah narrowed her eyes. "I said you seemed like a nice guy, but perhaps a little too nerdy for my taste. And maybe you'd become more relaxed around me once you got to know me. So Chuck, starting tomorrow, you need to treat me like everyone else, okay?"
Chuck groaned. "Sarah, you're not like everyone else. You can beat the shit out of everyone on my team. Most times you're packing a gun and I don't know how many knifes."
Sarah went to the fridge and grabbed some water. "We'll start slow. You should ask me what I'm doing for the weekend."
"Sarah, I know what you're doing for the weekend, we're going hiking at…" Chuck was cut off.
"Chuck, just ask me the damn questions and I'll handle the rest, alright?"
Chuck nodded, and was very happy that tomorrow was Friday. He'd have the weekend to work with Sarah on how the hell he was supposed to interact with her at work. He almost longed for the old Burbank days, okay on second thought, maybe not.
He was fully aware that he and Sarah couldn't be viewed by the staff at Valyrian as a possible couple. He swallowed his dislike of the fact that Sarah still might have to entice Janek into a honey trap.
He sighed inwardly and headed towards the bedroom. He should get plenty of sleep tonight. It didn't auger well for him when Sarah wore pajamas to bed.
November 19th, 10am -Bern Switzerland- Offices of Valyrian (GmbH)
Chuck was not looking forward to his little play acting with Sarah that he was about to undertake.
As he predicted he got way too much sleep last night. And before he left for work Sarah reminded him that he needed to ask her some questions at work and be more relaxed around her.
Chuck walked up to Sarah's desk. "So Sarah, it looks like it's going to a lovely weekend. Any plans?"
Sarah gave him a smile he'd seen many times before when they'd been on missions back in Burbank. It looked real but it wasn't. "Well I might do a day trip out to Fribourg." Chuck looked interested and sat on the edge of Sarah's desk.
"So, is that where your boyfriend lives?" Chuck dearly wished he could take that question back, especially when he saw Sarah's left eyebrow raise just a fraction. He knew this could well mean another night with Sarah wearing pajamas to bed.
"No, I want to go and see the Musee d'Art. It has some wonderful medieval art." Sarah gave Chuck another patented spy smile. He'd also seen that smile before and he knew she was pissed.
Chuck realized that it was time to beat a hasty retreat. He eased himself off her desk. "Well, ahh .. have a great weekend."
November 20, 2010- Saturday 9:00am- Chuck's Flat, Lorrainestrasse 6,- Bern
Chuck was sitting across the table from Sarah.
He had been slowly learning small things about his girlfriend. Some things he remembered from Burbank.
She liked her coffee black, she liked to sleep on the left side of the bed and she hated his sweet sugary cereals. Very quickly the sugary cereals had been consigned to the garbage, and he was now eating a healthy muesli nut mix she liked with plain yogurt.
She ran ten kilometers every morning, five days a week. She was now working on him to get up and join her. So far he'd resisted, but he sensed he'd lose that battle eventually.
Chuck cleared up the breakfast dishes, while Sarah finished her coffee.
Chuck had waited until today to try out a new idea on her. He was very conscious that Sarah needed to start talking about her past. Not her CIA past but her past before they recruited her.
The trouble was that Sarah didn't talk about her past easily. It was like pulling teeth.
So he sat down and reached into a brown bag at his feet, bringing out a miniature hour glass. Actually, it was a five minute glass. When it was turned over, the sand took exactly five minutes to empty.
Sarah was savoring her coffee and she arched her eyebrows when he placed the miniature hour glass on the table. "Sarah, I think we both need to share with each other … uhh ..I mean, we need to work at sharing our past lives with each other. I don't want to know about your CIA past. But we do need to better understand each other."
"Chuck, I've read your file. By the time the mission in Burbank finished, it was over twelve inches thick. I've read your psych profiles. What your weaknesses are and what your strengths are." Sarah gave Chuck a guarded look and sat back. "I think I know you pretty well."
Chuck felt anger stir within him. He knew that the red blush had crept up his neck and to the tips of his ears. He could feel the burning sensation of the blush.
But he also knew that getting angry at Sarah and her damnable arrogance wouldn't get him to where he wanted to go. It took him a moment to collect his wits while he bit back several scathing retorts.
He cleared his throat. "So, each day we each get five minutes to tell the other person something they don't know from our past. I'll start."
Chuck turned the glass over and as the sand trickled through he told Sarah about a trip he and Ellie went on with his mother before she left for parts unknown. He knew the trip wasn't in any file the CIA or NSA had. Only he, Ellie and his mom knew of the special trip to visit her father, who was losing his battle with cancer.
Sarah listened to his story keenly.
"Okay, now it's your turn." Chuck turned the hour glass over and the sand trickled through. The morning sun caught the individual grains of sand has they passed through the narrowed neck of the hour glass.
Sarah said not a single word and watched the grains of sand fall until the five minutes were up. She then looked up at Chuck. Their eyes locked, brown on blue. After several seconds, Chuck stood up. "Okay, not a bad start. I'm sure it'll become easier over time. Let's get ready for our hike."
Chuck went into the bedroom and left Sarah sitting at the table. Her eyes were moist and she was working her jaw back and forth. Because she literally couldn't think of one think she wanted to share with him in that special moment that he'd created.
Sarah knew that Chuck had been disappointed. He'd tried to hide it but his body language had betrayed him.
What the hell was wrong with her? How many chances would Chuck give her to open up before he'd throw his hands up in the air and just give up?
November 23, 2010- 7:00pm- Brasil Grille , Kirchenfeldstrasse 70,- Bern
Sarah had slowly but surely guided Malina into talking about Janek. Malina had finally confided to Sarah that she thought she was in love with him. But also shared that her father, Jacob, was not happy with her seeing Janek.
Sarah asked if Jacob had ever met Janek? Malina told her they'd talked briefly on a couple of occasions. "Sarah, you have to understand that my father left Poland in 1982. The year he left, he had just been granted his doctorate at the University of Warsaw. His dissertation was on the conservation and preservation of historical art and archival documents.
"He won't talk to me about those times, or why he left so abruptly.
"My mother, thank God, is more forthcoming. She told me he had to leave Poland, and quickly. He believed his life was in danger from the communists. Even my mother doesn't know the full story. He simply won't talk about it.
"In the fall of 1982, he had been granted permission by the communists to attend a conference in Zurich. In the middle of the night, he managed to slip out of his hotel bedroom and run away from his communist watchers.
"He then fled to Bern.
"He knew a professor in Bern who he'd collaborated with on his dissertation. Christoph Amtstutz was a renowned expert at the University of Bern on the conservation of antiquities and treasures from the past.
"He helped my father and agreed to be his sponsor in order for him to stay in Switzerland. My father was eventually given a job at the University here in Bern as a research assistant. And that's where he met my mother. I came along two years later."
Malina looked at Sarah and sighed. "My father doesn't like me seeing Janek. It's not that he doesn't like him. They've only talked briefly twice. Jacob doesn't want to even contemplate the idea that Janek may whisk me away to Poland. You see my father has sworn to me and my mother that he'll never go back there. But he won't tell us why."
As Malina was chatting, Janek appeared at the entrance to the cafe. When he saw Malina, his face lit up and he quickly joined them at the table. Malina had already told Janek about Sarah and how much she wanted him to meet her.
Malina switched to Polish and made the introductions.
Sarah had purposely dressed to make sure Janek would notice her. She was careful to select clothes that would be flattering to her figure but tasteful.
She was an expert at reading men from all walks of life. She smiled to herself, thinking that Chuck was the rare exception, since he continuously surprised her.
Janek was a good looking man in his early thirties. He had dressed casually for the evening and was very relaxed. He was obviously well travelled and erudite, a man of the world.
It was obvious to Sarah that Janek doted on Malina. But that might just be him working hard at the 'honey trap'.
The conversation flowed back and forth in an easy manner. Sarah was the perfect listener. She carefully prompted Malina and Janek to talk about themselves and their relationship.
She sent subtle signals to Janek to let him know how interested she was in what he was saying, nothing too overt. This was only a first meeting, and Sarah was getting a sense of the man, filing away information about him that she would go over with the team later.
As they were enjoying their second glass of wine, Malina excused herself and went to the ladies room.
Janek looked at Sarah and switched to German. "Sarah, I commend you on your Polish. For someone who is not a native speaker it's very good. Where did you learn to speak so well?"
Her spy instincts told her to be very careful around Janek. She didn't want to sound a false note or miss a beat with him; given this was the first contact with him.
He was a very smart man and she needed to tread carefully. Sometimes, out of real necessity, a spy told the truth.
Sarah smiled. "My maternal grandmother was Polish. I spent a lot of time with her when I was growing up. My parents had .. well, it was a troubled marriage. I spent a lot of time with her. She spoke halting French and was always much more comfortable in Polish."
What Janek didn't know was that Sarah had just told him the truth about a tiny piece of her past.
In that moment, it wasn't lost on Sarah that she had just shared something true about herself on a mission, but had not said a single word to Chuck when he'd tried to get her to open up with the hour glass.
Janek leaned forward and volunteered some information. "I'm hearing certain words you use. They are in the Kresy dialect. It's an area in the northeast of Poland. I think your grandmother came from this area. Your accent, and the way you pronounce certain words, are quite familiar to me. Do you know where she came from exactly?"
Sarah showed genuine surprise. "No, neither my mother nor my Babcia ever shared that with me."
Janek smiled at her. "There are people at the University of Warsaw who, if they had two or three minutes of a recording of your grandmother's voice, could pick out her place of birth within say 50 kilometers. Is your grandmother still with us?"
Sarah shook her head and felt the lump in her throat.
Janek nodded his understanding. "A pity then, we'll never know, but I'm confident she was from the northeast."
Sarah sat back in her seat as Malina returned. Something was wrong here and Sarah was deeply troubled at the recent turn of events. Janek really liked Malina and, it wasn't an act. Sarah had run enough honey traps to spot a phony.
So what was she missing? What game was Janek really playing?
Janek had certainly noticed Sarah. She'd shown him just the right amount of subtle attention that if he had a wandering eye she would've responded favorably to his attentions.
But he hadn't put a foot wrong all evening.
He'd been attentive to Malina and charming to Sarah. The truth was he only had eyes for Malina.
She needed to talk with the team. They were missing something critical in their assumptions. Sarah couldn't put her finger on it. Janek was seen with Alexandra or Vladmilla, so something was going on. What was she missing?
Janek dropped Sarah off at an address that was four blocks from Chuck's flat.
Malina gave her a hug and was beaming, because she'd had a lovely evening. Janek would now drive Malina home. The usual routine was for him to drop her off four doors away from her house in order not to antagonize Jacob.
Sarah waved goodbye to them and as the car sped away, up the road. When they were finally out of sight she pulled out her cell.
"Cole, we need to meet tomorrow night and reevaluate our mission parameters. Something's not clicking here. I'll bring Chuck over … say 1900 hours. Okay? Night."
Sarah walked around aimlessly for ten minutes checking for anybody who might be following her. Once she was happy she wasn't being followed she ducked down an alley, near Chuck's flat.
There was a fence at the end of the alley, which Sarah had cut a hole in, big enough for her to slip through, during one of her morning runs. She then hurried to Chuck's flat.
She'd tell Chuck about the meeting tomorrow. There was something more important she needed to do … and it had to be done tonight."
That same night, 10:00pm- Chuck's Flat, Lorrainestrasse 6,- Bern
Chuck was in bed when he heard Sarah come into the flat. Chuck shouted out, "Hello".
Sarah came into the bedroom and looked at him very intensely. "Chuck, we need to talk. Do you mind if we do it at the kitchen table?" Chuck shrugged okay and got up.
When he came out, Sarah was sitting down and she looked nervous. Sarah Walker hardly ever looked nervous, at least on the outside. This made Chuck's anxiety sky rocket. What the hell was going on?
"Sarah, is everything alright? Did something happen at dinner with Janek? Is Malina okay?"
Sarah quickly brushed aside his questions. "Chuck, Malina's fine. Dinner went alright. The team is meeting tomorrow. I'll go over everything with you at the team meeting. But you and I need to talk about something else, something important."
Sarah reached behind her and put the miniature hour glass on the table. She looked at Chuck and turned the hour glass over. "Three years ago, you asked me a question. The answer to your question … is .. Lisa."
Chuck hesitated because he'd asked Sarah a lot of questions when they were back in Burbank. This was like Jeopardy, "Uhh …what is .."
Sarah spoke softly. "Chuck, my middle name is Lisa. Do you remember the question you asked me back in my room?"
It came back to Chuck and his eyes grew wide. Chuck had an eidetic memory. "Yes, I think I said, 'What's your middle name? Can't you just tell me your middle name?'
Sarah gave Chuck the saddest smile. "Well, now you know...three years ago, when you were in my room, I whispered my middle name to you when your back was turned. I wanted to tell you .. but…"
Chuck reached across the table and gripped her forearm and squeezed.
"Chuck, there's more …. there's something else I want to share. When I was very young, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, my Babcia, she was Polish and was my mom's mom…"
Sarah then told Chuck of her memories of her Polish grandmother. When the sand ran out, Chuck reached across the table and gently laced their fingers together. His voice was husky and his eyes were moist. "Sarah, thank you .."
Sarah cut him off and turned the hour glass over. "Chuck, let me finish." For the next five minutes Sarah couldn't talk fast enough about her grandmother and her earliest years with her.
This time when the sand ran out she immediately stopped talking and sat back in her chair.
She looked at Chuck and was clearly struggling with her emotions. She could feel them swirling inside of her. Sarah felt like a burden had been lifted off her shoulders. She felt somehow lighter. But she was also bone weary. There was just one thing she wanted to do now.
"Chuck, I'm really tired. We'll talk about my dinner with Janek and Malina tomorrow. But right now, all I want to do is for you to take me to bed and hold me.
A/N – Okay, working hard on Chapters 8 & 9. Those who like spy intrigue and history may enjoy what's coming.