At this very moment in time, Sarah Lisa Walker is twenty-five years, four months, sixteen days, three hours, fifty-two minutes old. And she will grow no older.
He knelt next to her. "Oh, God, no…"
His older partner came running up, limping slightly. "God dammit," he muttered. "They are not gonna get away with this."
The facts were these: young Miss Walker was an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency. Following a lead on a member of the shadowy FULCRUM sub-organization, she and her partners, human computer Charles Irving Bartowski and Major John Casey of the National Security Agency, had been led to a mysterious city in a locale known only as "Papen County" in an attempt to run down a lead.
"How can… I mean… how…"
Chuck was at a loss for words. Just an hour earlier, Sarah had been full of life and energy, ready to take on FULCRUM. Then she had touched the black Prius parked outside of the bank, and he had watched in horror as electricity arced through her body. She had been thrown across the street, her hands scorched, hair strewn in a thousand different directions.
She had had no pulse. Chuck had tried CPR. No success. The damage was just too much.
"CIA's putting up a $100,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the responsible parties," Casey said, hanging up his phone.
"Great," Chuck replied woodenly.
Across town, a private investigator by the name of Emerson Cod was monitoring multiple websites, looking for unsolved murders, when he came across the posting on the C.I.A. website. Realizing what a boon it could be, he put on one of his many hand-knit scarves, and left his office, destination: the Pie-Hole.
"Hello, Emerson!" chirped the obnoxiously cheerful voice as he stepped through the door.
Emerson sighed inwardly and rolled his eyes. Olive Snook. Midget, as far as he was concerned. Perpetually bouncy. And so… BLONDE. Nice to look at, admittedly.
But he was not here to ogle Olive and her impressive assets. "Yo, Pie-Boy!" he called, ignoring the tiny woman practically bursting with excitement right beside him.
"Yes, Detective-Man?" Ned replied in a droll voice, striding out of the kitchen, hands covered in flour.
"We need to talk," Emerson said, sliding his bulk into a booth.
"Okay," Ned replied, sliding into the booth opposite Emerson, Olive sliding in beside Ned. Emerson sighed and just stared at her.
"What?" she asked, oblivious.
"Skedaddle!" Emerson snapped.
"And go do what?" Olive replied. "Do you see any customers?"
"I don't care," Emerson sighed. "Go see the head of the Lollipop Guild. Just go do it somewhere else."
At that moment, Chuck Bartowski and John Casey were departing for the morgue, in order to provide an official identification for the coroner. Despite Chuck's grief, something had occurred to him.
"How are we supposed to provide official identification?"
"Well, Sarah Walker wasn't her real name. I don't know her real name. You don't know her real name, as far as I know."
"Be that as it may, Sarah Walker was her official cover. She died while acting under that cover. As such, her death will officially be recorded as Sarah Walker. The CIA will fill in all the blanks."
Unbeknownst to Mr. Bartowski or Major Casey, the private investigator and the pie-maker were also headed toward the morgue. A reward of $100,000 was too big a payday for Emerson and Ned to pass up.
"Major John Casey," he said, flashing his identification at the coroner. "We're here to provide official identification on the body of Sarah Walker."
"There's actually somebody back there right now," the coroner said. "Private investigator and his assistant."
"You let somebody back there with the body of a CIA agent?" Casey asked, aghast. "Are you out of your…"
But Chuck had already taken off at a dead run. He skidded into the room just in time to hear –
– and see Sarah sit up.
The blood drained from his face. "What the hell?" he whispered.
Emerson Cod, Sarah Walker, and the pie maker all turned to see Chuck standing there. "Chuck?" Sarah exclaimed.
Chuck tried to form words, to reply to Sarah, but he could make nothing come out. So, instead, he staggered across the room, and practically fell onto Sarah, embracing her as though he would never let her go.
Chuck could detect tinges of rather disturbing smells – burnt flesh, burnt hair, ozone – but he didn't care. A great sob heaved itself through his body, as he forced words out.
"I didn't… I didn't think I'd ever see you again," he whispered. He pulled back to look Sarah in the eyes, make sure that it was actually her.
When he did, he discovered that her eyes were red and filling with tears. "I'm… I'm so sorry, Chuck," she whispered. "I…"
"It's not your fault," he said, "it was FULCRUM."
"Uh, excuse me, if I could interrupt this sobfest," came the caustic voice of Emerson Cod, "I have business to conduct.
"Who killed you?" asked Ned, looking anxiously at his watch.
"I can't tell you," Sarah replied.
"Excuse me?" Emerson said.
"It's a matter of national security," she replied. "I know who killed me, but I can't tell you."
"Fifteen seconds," Ned said, as Casey finally found his way into the room.
"Fifteen seconds?" Chuck asked. "What does that mean?"
"That's how much time he has to figure out who killed her before he has to touch her again and send her back to the big James Brown show in the sky," Emerson snarked.
"What?" Casey asked. "Are you telling me…"
"I touch a dead person, I bring them to life. I touch them a second time, I send them back. I only have one minute that I can keep them alive," Ned replied. "Ten seconds."
It took Chuck just a few milliseconds to process this information, and before he even realized what he was doing, he had snatched Casey's gun from the holster on his hip, and had the muzzle pressed against the center of Ned's forehead.
"You touch her again," he said with a voice like ice, "I will blow your brains all over the refrigerator behind you."
Emerson's face went several shades lighter. "Aw hell, not again," he moaned, taking off at a dead run.
Ned's watch ticked down. Five… four… three… two… one…
To be continued…