A/N- I'm a wee bit behind in responding to the reviews but very much appreciate them, along with comments and PMs. Thank you michaelfmx, for your editing and valued input. All mistakes are mine.

She found me roots of relish sweet,

And honey wild, and manna dew

And sure in language strange she said—

'I love thee true'.

-John Keats

Chapter 7

September 27, 2007 –Manassas Interpretation Centre -3:30pm

Carina Miller came out of the CCTV room shaking her head. How the hell could you come so tantalizingly close and yet still miss him? The Park Rangers had been helpful and shown her the tapes for the last two days.

Yesterday's tape was a goldmine. Eureka! She'd found Chuck.

She saw him entering the interpretation centre looking around some of the exhibits, he looked at the notice boards and then left to tour the battlefield. She finally found someone at the Super 8 Motel who remembered him.

Mr. Charles Irving had paid cash and had been absolutely no problem. The staff all said he kept to himself. The room had been thoroughly cleaned and offered no clues. The final piece of shitty intelligence was that no one at the Motel or at the Battlefield knew where he was headed.

Carina sat down on one of the benches and collected her thoughts. She allowed herself a smile because, so far, she'd outsmarted Casey and Blondie.

Carina hadn't survived this long in the field without being very smart and staying one step ahead of the Cartel drug lords and their sicarios. Her gift was to get people to underestimate her, she was a pretty face and a flirt, 'look no further'.

She knew Casey would do all the usual things; trace credit cards, cell phones, set up surveillance on the sister's apartment in Burbank, including her phones and computers. The DEA had done the same and the CIA probably was in the process of doing so.

Carina smiled, Blondie was in charge of finding Chuck for the CIA. She'd had to tell her some of the information about the search. Sarah had saved her life and that merited some truth telling.

But both Sarah and Carina knew that each of them would hold back some of what they knew ….it was part of the game. This time the prize was Chuckles.

She'd underestimated Chuck Bartowski once. She'd not do it again.

Her initial plan, two days ago, had been to tail Casey. Casey was one of the best at finding people and if she followed him, she would ultimately find Chuckles. The problem with that idea, of following Casey, was a 'lose-lose' strategy.

Casey's tradecraft was just too damn good. Eventually, he'd spot the tail and then he'd lead the DEA on a merry chase away from the prize.

Carina had quickly discarded that idea.

However, there might be another way. She knew that Casey had two assistants he relied on to do a lot of the 'detective work' and help him in his searches. She'd worked with Casey's team once … NSA Agents Janice Howard and Mohammad Nawfal.

Carina called in one her best trackers, Kirk Summers, to follow Mohammad. She decided to follow Janice herself. When she followed someone, she had to become forgettable, and that took some considerable work on her part.

Carina wore a mousy brown wig, put braces on her teeth and dressed one step up from being homeless.

She and her fellow agent were very careful in their tracking of the NSA agents.

Casey had trained them well, but they weren't up to Casey's standard …. yet.

Carina followed Janice around for forty minutes and made a note of where she went and how long she spent in each place. Janice spent a lot of time in the Army Surplus Store.

Carina went in after Janice left. The owner had recognized Chuck. She asked to look at the CCTV cameras and spotted Chuckles wearing a new ball cap, light brown windbreaker and backpack. They continued to follow Janice and Mohammad as they did all the heavy lifting of walking around the area and talking with shop owners.

Carina and Kirk Summers used the same system to find out where Chuckles had cashed his pay cheque.

Then, yesterday something bizarre happened.

Janice and Mohammad both got a phone call and headed back to Ft. Mead. It looked like they'd given up trying to trace Chuckles trail. Why? Had they found him?

Carina called her boss, Hortense Williams.

Hortense confirmed that the NSA had not found nor had they signed Chuck Bartowski to a contract. Carina asked the Director how she knew this. "Because, Agent Miller, not that this is any of your business but I've got a $100 bet with the General that we'll find him first. If she had him, I'd be out $100."

The Director almost snarled the last words at her. "Find him!"

Carina and three other agents were now doing the search the hard way. They'd been looking at CCTV tapes of local buses and The Metro tapes for long tedious hours. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

They got lucky and a young agent with good eyes spotted Chuckles on the Silver Line. Then they lost him at the bus depot. Carina called in three more agents and they checked the CCTV cameras for the local buses where Chuckles disembarked from the Silver line.

Four hours ago, their hard work paid off. Finally, they spotted him getting off of a bus in Manassas.

Carina looked around the interpretation centre. She could feel her anger growing, she'd been so close. He had been here in Manassas yesterday.

She wearily got up and walked over to the notice board.

She took out her phone and took pictures of everything on the notice boards. Chuckles had stood here reading the boards for five or six minutes. She'd have her team check out all the notices. There might be a clue, some leads to follow.

Carina had no way of knowing that the printed notice for the 'four day guided trip' to follow Stonewall Jackson on his Shenandoah Campaign had been removed early this morning and thrown in the garbage. The tour had been set up by a third party and not the Ranger service.

Cameron Boyle, was young, efficient and very eager. His boss told him to get rid of the old notices on the board. The bus tour had left early this morning, therefore out it went.

September 28, 2007- Delta Airlines 8542- Final Approach to LAX -11am

Sarah turned her iPad on again.

She reached up with her left hand and rubbed her forehead. She felt the beginning of a headache.

A careful second reading of Tom Corrigan's 'deep dive' report on Chuck Bartowski, left her perplexed. She realized that some of her first impressions about Chuck, based on the initial information she'd been given,when she first met him, were terribly suspect.

She also felt a tiny ping of guilt, with the memory of their first meeting, because of how she'd treated him.

Tom had discovered some interesting things about the tall, lanky man, who'd been on her mind a lot these last two days.

Tom was like a bloodhound when he caught the whiff of an interesting scent. He'd told her that he'd only slept five hours in the last thirty-six. He was still narrowing down the CIA's wanted list of elite hackers. There was a bit of guess work involved in determining those who lived in Canada and the US.

Tom's Executive Summary –Deep Dive Report Charles Irving Bartowski

Executive Summary

CB is a highly intelligent man, 99thpercentile on standard IQ tests. 'Gifted' is the term often used in academic reports about CB.

Expelled from Stanford

CB's roommate (name redacted because of Stanford's 'Whistle Blower 'policy-It will take me another day or so to find out the roommate's name from Residence records.) reported that CB was cheating on midterm exam for 'Cognitive Enhancement/Adaption and Recall to Visual Stimulation' course. The Course was offered by Professor Fleming. Special note: Professor Fleming has received several funding grants from DARPA.

The Stanford investigation, the hearing and final decision by the Provost to expel him was extremely rapid. CB did not appeal.

CB's fiancé, Ms. Jill Roberts, broke off engagement with him. Assume this was due to his expulsion. All the indications are of him having a broken heart. Returned to previous employer, Buy More. Moved in with his sister and her fiancé. Every appearance as a classic underachiever.

Questions

CBs was on a full scholarship. He already had enough credits to graduate. He had no reason to cheat. According to the records I accessed, he'd never been accused of cheating before. Was he being set up? If so, why? Was the roommate's role entirely innocent?

Comment

I have a growing belief CB did not cheat. It makes no sense.

Arrest by FBI for Hacking in 2004

I talked with FBI Agent Laura Henderson. CB and a Mr. Morgan Grimes were both initially arrested, as both had confessed to the crime. Grimes and CB are apparently lifelong friends.

Agent Henderson is an IT expert with a master's degree from MIT. According to her, the code used to hack into the federal website originated in Russia. She questioned both suspects. It is her firm belief that Grimes did not have sufficient knowledge to write the code. But, and this is interesting, she suspected it was Grimes who procured the code and did the hacking. Her comment. "The code was used by several hundred people in the Los Angeles area."

She felt that CB had more than enough skill to hack into the site. However, she strongly suspected that CB would've written better code to do the job.

Agent Henderson was not allowed to follow up on her suspicions. The NSA took over the investigation.

Comment

Agent Henderson asked what had happened to CB, as a professional courtesy she asked, 'Could we let her know about CB?'.

Sarah looked at the picture of FBI Agent Laura Henderson that Tom had included in the report. Laura Henderson was very pretty. She narrowed her eyes. 'Sorry, Agent Henderson, you don't have a need to know about Chuck.'

Sarah turned her attention back to the report.

Follow up

I talked with Shirley from the Los Angeles field office and Doug Cousins from our advanced Cyber Intelligence Unit. Their conclusion, CB should definitely be classed as being in the first rank of hackers.

Questions

Who actually hacked into the federal website in 2004? Was it Grimes who hacked into the site? Is CB the type of person who would take the fall for his best friend, to keep him out of jail?

Family

Mother Mary Bartowski (nee Gunter): No information available. I did find her birth certificate and a marriage certificate. She abandoned her family. (CB was in the fifth grade). More about her later.

Father is Stephen Bartowski, PHD: Gifted but eccentric. Current address is trailer in Barstow CA. He abandoned his daughter and his son shortly after his wife left. More about him later.

Dr. Eleanor Fay Bartowski, MD, PHD: (Friends call her Ellie) highly intelligent and accomplished. She had full scholarship through UCLA and attended medical school. She went on to get her PHD in Neuroscience/Neurology. She is a staff doctor at Westside Medical, Burbank, with full medical privileges and a small research laboratory.

Debt: EB still has $125,000 of outstanding student loans.

Comments

EB is the most important person in CB's life. She is a big sister and a mother to him. EB protected her brother and kept them both out of the foster care system. I contacted several doctors at Westside (I said I was with a private foundation looking to fund her research). She is well liked and respected.

EB is in a long standing relationship with Dr. Devon Woodcombe, surgeon. (Cursory search on him indicates he comes from a 'connected' family, with a long history in California. His parents have close links to the Governor and the senior Senator from California.)

My antennae are twitching about the mother Mary and the father Stephen.

There is virtually nothing in our digital data files. No record of whether she is alive or dead. No employment history. No military record. She's like a ghost.

Something's not right here!

I have the same bad feeling about the father. Records are non-existent after he completed Graduate School. I've hit a brick wall. No employment information and he has a zero footprint on the Internet.

CB comes from a dysfunctional family. It amazes me that both children didn't end up with lengthy criminal records.

Questions

Who is Mary Bartowski-Gunter? Where is she? Where did Stephen Bartowski get his money? Why is there almost zero information about them in the public records? Has their information been cleaned up? If so, by whom?

Warning

I would be very careful about asking any further questions within the Agency. My initial queries were accepted and considered normal, since we were looking for Charles Bartowski. However, the lack of any information should serve as a warning to both of us.

{o}

Sarah mashed down on the accelerator of the rental car. She was headed for Westside Medical.

She wanted to meet and talk with Dr. Eleanor F. Bartowski about her brother, Chuck.

She was sure that Chuck was keeping a low profile. He still hadn't 'popped up'. He wasn't using his cell phone or his credit cards. Where are you Chuck?

Tom was correct, as usual. Ellie was the most important person in his life, and she needed to make a connection with Ellie, if she was to have any hope of contacting Chuck.

{o}

Sarah parked the car and headed for Ellie's little research lab.

Tom had indicated that today was Ellie's 'research' day. Sarah had carefully prepared for the meeting. Ellie would be in work mode, her long brown hair would most likely be pinned up in a bun and she would have minimal makeup on. She would undoubtedly be wearing her white lab coat.

Sarah had decided to wear no makeup, her hair was pinned up in a bun and she wore a pair of zero prescription glasses. After a lot of internal debate, Sarah decided to present herself as an agent. She wore a blue grey suit jacket and trousers.

As she walked up the three flights of stairs to Ellie's lab, she couldn't shake a growing sense of how important this meeting would be. The 'feeling' she had was centered in her gut, and it wasn't a comfortable feeling. Sarah was going over in her mind what she wanted to say and how she wanted to say it.

She reminded herself to treat Ellie as insightful, intelligent and informed. Sarah had zero doubt that Ellie had been in contact with her brother since he'd left the NSA.

{o}

The knock on the door broke Ellie's concentration as she looked into her microscope at a neuron. Ellie had a small grant to study how the neuron 'fires'. She was mildly annoyed by the interruption, usually no one bothered her on her research day. Ellie allowed herself a smile, sometimes Devon would visit for lunch. She'd lock the door and ….

Ellie shook the thought away, who the hell was at the door.

Sarah was prepared to meet a lovely looking, intelligent woman. Ellie in the flesh was all that and more. It was the eyes, they were similar to her brother but not as dark, there was more gold and a touch of green.

"Hello, may I help you?"

"Hello Dr. Bartwoski, I'm Sarah Walker, I'm a federal agent and it was my privilege to work with your brother. I wonder if we could chat."

Ellie had expected to bump into a John Casey with the NSA. Chuck hadn't mentioned another federal agent. Certainly not one who was this beautiful and with such riveting blue eyes.

Ellie had a quick thought. Chuck, what have you been up to? Ellie invited Sarah in and they sat down on two bench stools. Sarah presented Ellie with her ID and cred pack. Ellie looked closely at Sarah and her picture. "So, why on earth is the CIA interested in my brother?"

Sarah gave Ellie a smile. She'd decided in the stairwell that to gain a little trust from Ellie, she'd tell her a little bit of the truth. "I worked with your brother on a classified mission. What I can tell you is that your brother is very talented, very smart and he helped save an agent's life. The agent in question is my best friend."

Ellie was paying very close attention to Agent Walker's body language as well as her words.

She was a little confused. Agent Walker's words were measured and spoken in a cool alto voice. The body language was very controlled, one hand resting on the lab bench and the other resting in her lap. Ellie wasn't sure, maybe she was wrong, but she detected a warmth in the tone of her voice as the agent spoke about her brother.

"Agent Walker …" Sarah interrupted. "Dr. Bartowski, please call me Sarah, this is not a formal visit. I'm here to send Chuck some information he may not know. It may be helpful to him."

Ellie's internal radar picked up on the use of his name. 'Chuck' is it then. "Very well, Sarah and please, call me Ellie.

"So, Sarah, how might I help you?"

Sarah shifted her position and gave Ellie an edited version of what was going on. It took her five minutes to explain.

Ellie sat back and laughed. "So, the NSA, the DEA and the CIA are all interested in having Chuck come and work for them." Sarah nodded. Ellie shifted her position on the stool. "And you're certain he doesn't know this?"

"Ellie, I don't know what Chuck knows for sure. I was wondering if you could take out your cell phone and perhaps record a short video message to Chuck from me and please send it to him, when I'm gone."

Ellie studied Sarah closely. She wouldn't tell Sarah where Chuck was and she wouldn't tell her how she contacted him. But she was very curious to listen to the message. "Alright, I can do that."

Sarah looked into the iPhone and, when Ellie signalled she was ready, began.

"Hello Chuck, I've asked your sister to record this and send it to you. I wanted you to know that the NSA, the DEA and my agency, the CIA, all want to recruit you. The 'affair' you were involved with where you helped save my friend's life didn't go unnoticed."

Sarah focussed all her energy into the next bit.

"At the moment, you're in a great position to negotiate a lucrative contract with one of the agencies. However, I must warn you that this moment will not last long. Things move fast in Washington and if you delay, it will pass you by."

Sarah took out a pen from her purse and ripped out a page from her little notebook.

"Chuck, I'm writing down a burner phone number where you can reach me. I'll give this to your sister. Only you and she have this number. I know a lot about Federal pay scales and I would be happy to talk with you further. I ….uhh ...guess you already know only to make the cell phone call when you're registered on only one cell tower."

Sarah leaned in just a tiny bit for the last piece of her message.

"Chuck, my boss wants me to recruit you, to exclusively work at the CIA. But I owe it to you … because you helped save Car….. my friend …to tell you to be smart and drive a hard bargain and work with the agency you want to work for."

Sarah signalled to Ellie that she was finished.

Ellie was beyond curious. "Sarah, you worked with Chuck, correct?"

"Yes, just the one time. But he impressed my colleagues." Ellie almost laughed out loud. It looks like he made an impression on you too Agent Sarah Walker.

Sarah stood up and put her hand out. "Ellie, I'm sorry to have disturbed your research. I imagine I don't need to tell you to be careful and discreet when you contact Chuck. Don't use your own computer or any of your personal cell phones."

Ellie shook Sarah's hand. It was a firm handshake, denoting an underlying strength in the grip. "Sarah, I'll be careful. Chuck can be very cautious when he chooses to be, as can I. Don't worry, he'll get your message and your private cell number."

After Sarah left and Ellie was alone in her lab, she put her elbow on the table and rested her chin in her hand. Chuck, Chuck ….what have you been doing in Washington and why is this beautiful federal agent so interested in helping you? She remembered that Sarah actually said in her message …'I owe you?'

Ohh, I've got a lot of questions for you little brother.

Seven Hours Later – September 28, 2007 – 9pm

Quality Inn-Front Royal, VA –Deep in the Shenandoah Valley

Chuck had his old reliable laptop. He used the WIFI to make contact with Ellie through his secure website. Ellie had uploaded the video message from Agent Walker and had asked him a lot of questions on chat mode.

Chuck had to tell Ellie that he couldn't go into a lot of detail because of the non-disclosure agreements he'd signed. He most certainly didn't tell her about his interrogation.

His sister kept calling her Sarah like they'd met at some garden party. Ellie's final chat comment was, 'Let me know the next time you meet with Sarah.'

Chuck watched the video four or five times. If Sarah was telling the truth, then this put a whole different spin on things. Then the questions popped up in his mind, like bubbles in a bath. Do I want to work for the government? What kind of money would they pay me? Why did Sarah Walker go out of her way to contact Ellie?

What does she know about me and my background? Chuck laughed out loud. If he didn't miss his guess, at this moment he was a fly under a microscope. The good, the bad and the ugly of Chuck Bartowski's life was being collected, sifted and digested by three Federal Agencies.

So much for flying under the radar.

After a restless hour lying on his bed, he grabbed his laptop and checked cell coverage in the Front Royal area. AT&T, Verizon, T-mobile, Sprint ..they were all here, but the signals were weak for most of them. Sprint was the best so he spent thirty minutes getting past the firewall and ensuring that only one tower in the area would pick up his burner phone number. His signal would now be omnidirectional.

He then keyed in the number Ellie had given him for Sarah Walker's burner phone. Three times he keyed the number in and then cancelled the call.

He wanted to talk with Sarah, he wasn't sure he wanted to deal with the 'shield maiden'. He finally rationalized with himself, that if it was only a phone call, he wouldn't be mesmerized by those blue eyes. One second he saw a coldness that numbed him, and two seconds later he saw a warmth that touched him.

The fourth time he keyed the number in he pressed talk.

S: "Hello." Sarah wanted to say is that you Chuck, but hesitated. There was a three second pause.

C: "Hi, Agent Walker, you gave my sister your number … uhhh .. I have some questions. Is this a good time?" Chuck almost laughed out loud, man he had a thousand questions for this woman.

S: "Hi, Chuck, in order for me to keep calling you Chuck, I think you need to call me Sarah, okay?"

C: "Yes, okay. Uhhh …. Sarah, I got your video message. I already know the NSA wants to offer me a job. Why do the other two agencies want to offer me a job? Is it because of what I did to find Carina?"

S: "Yes, Carina and I both had to submit detailed reports, as did the Station Chief in Los Angeles. I'm afraid the reports were rather glowing about your abilities and efforts to save a federal agent's life. Saving an agent's life matters to the bosses."

C: "Are you still looking for me, I mean on behalf of the CIA?" Chuck had thought a lot about what Sarah's true motives were. There was a short pause as Sarah thought through several possible answers, some lies and some truthful.

S: "Officially, I'm still looking for you, because that's what my boss wants. I'm hoping you're continuing to keep a low profile and that means I won't find you. Unofficially, I wanted to help you."

C: "Why?" Chuck had been dying to ask that question. He pressed the phone hard against his ear.

S: "I ... I .. made a mistake when we first met. You told me I should've trusted you. I should've but …. I didn't. Now, I have an opportunity to help you. But you need to place a little trust in me."

Sarah, stopped there and waited. She felt her heartbeat increase. My God, how pitiful was it when she used words like misunderstanding and mistake. Shit, there first meeting had been a disaster. She'd punched, kidnapped and scared Chuck half to death, until he'd fainted away in the interrogation room. How can you possibly make amends for that, but she was determined to try.

C: "Won't you get in trouble with your boss? … I mean, you said in your message to go with the agency I choose?" Chuck heard Sarah's soft laugh on the other end of the call.

S: "Well, at the moment there are only two people on the face of the earth who could tell my boss what I'm doing …so, unless you or Ellie are planning on ratting me out … I'll be okay."

C: Chuck gave a soft laugh. " … Well, I guess you're safe then. So, would you mind telling me what the salary ranges might be and any other advice you have for me …. I mean, assuming that I want to work for the government."

Sarah spent the next five minutes outlining the salary structures in the CIA, and she told him they wouldn't be too different for the other agencies.

Sarah had to bite her tongue. She wanted to tell Chuck her growing sense that they would make a great agent/analyst team. She wanted to warn him to be careful around Langston Graham. But all those thoughts stayed locked inside Sarah.

S: "…. Chuck, one more thing. I wasn't kidding that this window of opportunity for you will close quickly. If you want to work for the government and leverage a very good deal …. Now is your chance."

Chuck had been making notes as Sarah talked, he had so many questions ….too many for a phone call.

C: "Can I send you a text or an email? Obviously, you won't want me to call this burner phone again."

Sarah gave him another burner phone number where he could send a text and a very private email address.

S: "Chuck, one final thing. Ahhh, I've been looking into your background and history. It's standard procedure for any possible new hire. One thing I came across is that Ellie still has a sizeable student debt." Sarah held her breath, waiting for Chuck to explode or protest that they were invading his and Ellie's privacy.

Nothing for several seconds.

C: "I know the NSA already has a file, so I'm not surprised that you and the DEA would be doing the same thing, but I'm missing the connection with Ellie's debt and my joining the government?"

S: "Once you're hired, you will be locked into the government's pay grades and policies. They are very rigid. Sometimes, government agencies offer signing bonuses when they're hiring. Now, if you want to help Ellie, maybe you could request … that based on signing a contract or your future performance … research grants could be sent to her."

Chuck pulled the phone away and looked at it. Was this the same woman who'd had him tied to a chair and scared the shit out of him? Chuck started to come up with an idea and needed to end the call.

Sarah waited and counted the seconds. When it got to eight, she wondered if she'd said something horribly wrong.

C: "A signing bonus? …. Uhhh, thank you. It's getting late …so … thank you for talking with me. Sarah, you might want to be in Washington and free … say around 9am on Monday. I'll text you later. Bye."

S:"Bye Chuck." Sarah smiled to herself. 'Don't worry Chuck, I'll be there … I wouldn't miss it for the world."

Saturday, September 29, 2007 – 3am

Text and email to: General D. Beckman; Director Hortense Williams; Director Langston Graham

CC: Agent John Casey; Agent Carina Miller; Agent Sarah Walker.

Subject : Hiring Charles I. Bartowski as Senior Analyst, IT expert

Dear Madams/Sir:

I understand that each of your agencies would like to recruit me.

I am open to negotiating an arrangement to work with one your agencies. I would like to meet with Agent Miller, Agent Casey and Agent Walker. Please ensure that each of your agent's has full authority from yourself to bind your agency in any final agreements with me.

I will be in the lobby at The Willard on Pennsylvania Avenue this Monday at 9am.

Yours sincerely,

Charles (Chuck) Bartowski.

Saturday, September 29, 2007 – 5pm –Front Royal, VA

Zondra came out of Martin's food store with a bottle of Bordeaux for dinner tonight.

She loved visiting her mom and dad up here in the Shenandoah Valley. Commander Marcus Rizzo had taken early retirement when he reached his twenty-five years of service. He and Gwen had purchased a half acre of land over in Riverton, that overlooked the North Branch of the Shenandoah River.

This was one of the few places where she could truly relax and be herself. No disguises, no lies, no suspicions and no CIA.

Zondra was still trying to get solid evidence on Amy. Evidence that would clearly show that she was a traitor and connected with Augusto Gaez. She had to tread very cautiously. Amy's star at the agency was ascending. She was one of Langston Graham's favored agents. Zondra was not.

Zondra had followed up on the transmitter and Chuck had been correct. It had been passed onto to the Drug Cartels by the disgraced and recently departed Thomas Shelby. She still wondered if she should chance reaching out to Sarah with what she knew ….and get her help. However, each time she stopped herself. She worried that Sarah would go directly to Graham and then that would be it.

Graham would side with Amy, and Zondra would be dismissed from the Agency.

As she turned the corner, she caught sight of a tall lanky man in a brown windbreaker. It took a couple of seconds before she mouthed the words 'Chuck'. She looked at him and she saw Chuck's eyes widen with recognition.

"Chuck Bartowski, what are you doing in Front Royal?" Chuck felt immediate relief with Zondra's question, obviously she wasn't one of the agent's from the CIA looking for him.

"Hi Zondra, … uhhmm .. I'm following in the footsteps of Stonewall Jackson."

Zondra laughed. "Well, just make sure you don't follow his footsteps all the way over to Chancellorsville." It was Chuck's turn to laugh because he knew that Stonewall Jackson was killed at the end of the battle that took place in Chancellorsville in 1863.

Chuck pointed up the street. "I'm with a tour group exploring his Valley campaign. I head back to Washington tomorrow. What's your connection to Front Royal?" As soon as Chuck asked the question, he saw Zondra sifting through possible answers.

"I'm on a little break, I like coming up here." Zondra, wasn't about to reveal any other information. Chuck sighed to himself, God, CIA Agents. Why did he even bother asking them any questions at all?

Zondra, saw Chuck purse his lips with her evasive answer. For some reason, his reaction tugged at her emotions a bit. Why did hiding the truth from Chuck elicit that reaction? Oh, well.

A little of the warmth in Cuck's tone disappeared. "Well, nice seeing you again Zondra, I'm going to rejoin the tour group."

Zondra, couldn't believe she'd retreated so quickly behind her defenses and shut down the conversation. Then she thought of a way to effect a little repair with Chuck.

"Chuck, I'm heading back to Washington tomorrow around noon. I wouldn't mind some company on the drive back. What do you say?"

Chuck's inside voice and outside voice got muddled. "That might be okay, I mean, if you actually talk to me on the ride back to Washington, you know, actually say more than ten syllables.…."

Zondra laughed. "Yes, Chuck, I promise to talk with you on the trip back. Seriously, I'd enjoy the company. Please."

Zondra had an ulterior motive. She wanted to pick Chuck's brain on the transmitter and for him to help her come up with strategies on how to link a transmission from Amy to Augusto Gaez.

Chuck looked at Zondra for a five count …. "Sure, okay, pick me up at the Quality Inn. And thank you."