Author's Note: this is the first chapter of a story I intend to write detailing Sarah Walker's entrance into the CIA and her service up until she was assigned to protect Chuck. You'll notice that I have given her the same "real-life" persona of "Elizabeth Lisa Reynolds" that she had in "The Star Spangled Intersect", "Chuck vs. the Bright Side of Life", and "Presenting the Senior Class." While this story is meant to be in the same timeline as those, it is a separate, stand-alone story.
This first chapter does re-use some dialogue and narration from "Presenting the Senior Class", in addition to further explaining the condition of Sarah's father as seen in Chapter 10 of "Chuck vs. the Bright Side of Life".
When the World Trade Center came crashing to the ground in lower Manhattan on September 11th, 2001, Elizabeth Lisa Reynolds, like everybody else in America was shocked and terrified.
The worst part, though, was the fact that two of the planes had left from Boston. The city she lived in, the city she had grown up in.
And that fact drove her father beyond the brink, into a dark realm that few understood.
He had returned from Iraq in 1991 with post traumatic stress disorder – something that few understood then, and not many more understand now. Unlike most, though, his extremely high level of intelligence – a trait passed on to his daughter – had allowed him to continue functioning, even to remain in the Army – until 9/11.
When Beth heard about her father's episode, she was ready to withdraw from the University of Massachusetts, and go back home, to help her mother. But her mother said no. She insisted that Beth remain in school.
And so Beth remained in Amherst. Over the next three months, though, things got worse and worse between her parents. Her father had finally been honorably discharged from the Army, having reached a point of disability where he could no longer serve. And so it was that he sat around the house all day long, yelling at her mother for no apparent reason.
On December 12th, Beth returned to her dorm room from her Russian Literature final, to discover the light on her answering machine blinking furiously. Three messages from the Hoovers, her family's next door neighbors, telling her she had to come home RIGHT NOW.
She had never made the trip from Amherst to Boston so quickly, pushing her two year old Beetle far faster than she really should have. When she reached her parents' house and discovered Massachusetts State Police cruisers outside, she feared the worst.
But her idea of the worst didn't even begin to scratch the surface.
When she went inside, she discovered her father, the strong, proud, Sergeant Major Marcus Lind Reynolds, catatonic, in a state of shock. He sat on the couch, two officers speaking with him, giving them one-word answers.
Beth went to another officer and demanded to know what was going on. Shortly, she discovered that her parents had had an argument to dwarf all others the night before. Her father had stormed out, and had gotten absolutely hammered. He didn't return home that night, and in fact, didn't go back to the house until the following afternoon.
When he arrived home, he discovered his wife, Caroline Pulte Reynolds, in bed. She was pale, and her skin was cold to the touch. She wasn't breathing, and he couldn't find a pulse. It was then that he noticed her prescription bottle of Ambien, just filled the day before, half-empty on the nightstand.
In a panic, he had called 911, but by that time, it was far too late. Caroline Reynolds had been dead for almost four hours.
Beth couldn't believe it. She refused to believe her mother was dead. She didn't sleep that night, or the next, or the next, believing that if she fell asleep, her mother might truly disappear. When she finally saw her mother's body at the funeral on Saturday, she broke down completely and had to be sedated.
She returned to U-Mass for the spring 2002 semester, but she wasn't the same. She battled insomnia, but she refused to get sleeping aids, simply because of what had happened to her mother. She often wished to seek refuge in the arms of her male friends, but she held herself back – an addiction to sexual activity that had formed during high school and had only recently been tempered made her fear even the slightest physical contact.
So it was that she discovered refuge in the form of alcohol. It began as just a little bit to numb the pain at first, but toward the end of the semester, it grew to epic proportions. When she awoke one morning, with no clothes, no idea where she was, a man on one side of her and a woman on the other, she knew that it had to end.
Beth lived the life of a recluse to the end of the semester – no alcohol, no sex, no contact with the outside world except for class. The alcohol withdrawal was horrible – it made her skin crawl, and it only served to worsen her insomnia.
She had been fortunate, though, in inheriting her father's high level of intelligence, and so was still able to finish the semester with high marks. That did not change her decision, however.
After her last final, she wrote a letter of withdrawal. She took it to the registrar's office, officially dropping out of the University of Massachusetts. Upon returning to her dorm, she searched for an old business card.
A month before she graduated high school, she had been visited by a federal employee named Art Graham. He had been particularly interested in her 1540 SAT score and her off the charts ASVAB scores. He had offered her a lucrative job that would be exciting and take her away from the life she had been growing to loathe.
As attractive as the offer had been, she had declined, believing she had an obligation to her family, and an unparalleled opportunity in her scholarship to U-Mass. However, he had given her his business card, writing a "code name" on the back, and telling her that if she ever changed her mind, she should call him, and identify herself by that name.
She finally found the business card, and dialed the number on the front. A 757 area code, which meant it was in the southeast corner of Virginia. "Hello?" a woman answered.
Beth took a deep breath. "May I speak to Art Graham, please?"
"Who may I tell the Director is calling?" the woman replied.
She looked at the back of the business card. "Tell him… tell him that this is Sarah Walker."
"Just a moment, please, Ms. Walker."
There was a brief pause, and then, the Graham's voice came on the line. "Ms. Walker!" he boomed. "I was wondering if I was ever going to hear from you."
She was silent for a moment. "Circumstances in my life are not the best, and I need a change," she replied.
"I'm aware," Graham said. "I was very sorry to hear about your mother."
"What… how did you know?!"
"There's a very simple answer to that question, Ms. Walker, but I can't answer it over the phone."
"Then who can answer it?" she demanded.
"Do you know a Father Michael O'Halloran?"
She gasped. "Father Mike? At St. Joseph's in Boston?"
"Yes, Ms. Walker. One and the same."
"Of course I know him! He was my parish priest when I was growing up!"
"Go see him, Ms. Walker. Make an appointment to speak with him at his office. Your questions will all be answered."
A week later, she waited outside Father O'Halloran's office, waiting patiently to see him. Finally, he stuck his head out.
"Elizabeth!" he said cheerily, his Irish accent reminding her, as always, of the Lucky Charms leprechaun. "Do come in!"
She followed him into the office. He shut the door behind her, and then turned to her. "I am so sorry about your mother," he said, turning serious. "I wanted to say something to you at the service, but… you were… indisposed."
Beth squeezed her eyes shut tight, trying to make the painful memories go away. But she was unsuccessful, and before she knew it, her body was racked with sobs, hot tears pouring from her eyes. Father O'Halloran embraced her, calming her with whispers telling her to let it go.
Finally, she was cried out, and sat down in a chair in front of Father O'Halloran's desk. He sat across from her.
"There's a way to let go of the pain," he said earnestly. "Just return to the good Lord, Beth. He will wash everything away."
Beth heaved a huge sigh. "All due respect, Father Mike, but where was the Lord when my mother committed suicide? Where was the Lord when my father finally went around the bend? For that matter, where was the Lord on 9/11?"
"Elizabeth, even when all seems lost, you must have faith that the Lord will see you through."
"I'm sorry, Father, but faith just isn't good enough any more."
He nodded. "I know. I was just hoping. But I know that Art Graham wouldn't have sent you my way if you still had your faith."
H paused for a moment. "You see, Art Graham is the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency."
That gave Beth pause. "I beg your pardon?"
"He is the Director of the CIA," Father O'Halloran repeated. "And I, believe it or not, work for the CIA. I'm an asset handler."
"Wait," Beth Reynolds insisted, now thoroughly confused. "So does that mean you're not actually a priest?"
"Oh, not at all, Beth! I am a priest sure as you're sitting there. CIA or not, the Holy Church would never allow me to hold this position if I hadn't been to seminary and taken the holy vows."
She shook her head. "So what does this all have to do with me?"
"The CIA wants you, Beth. They want you badly."
"But why me?"
Father O'Halloran reached into a desk drawer and pulled out a manila folder. Opening it, he began to read. "Elizabeth Lisa Reynolds. Born June 14th, 1982. High school GPA, 4.28. College GPA prior to withdrawal, 3.91. SAT score, 1540. Highly athletic, perfect vision, perfect health. Hand/eye coordination practically unmatched. Fluent in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Polish, German, and Latin; serviceable Japanese, Czech, Swedish, Afrikaans, Italian, Greek, and Portuguese. Photographic memory."
He looked back up at her. "Shall I go on?"
She shook her head. "I get the idea."
"So, Beth, do you want to help rid the world of people like the ones who put aircraft into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Because that's the opportunity you're being offered here."
Beth sat back and looked at the ceiling. "What about my father?"
O'Halloran sighed. "Come now, Beth, you've seen the same reports I have."
And she had. After her mother's death, her father had suffered some sort of mental break. He had developed a selective amnesia which prevented him from remembering anything his mind perceived as negative. Unfortunately, this amnesia had not caused him to forget 9/11 or his wife's death – two events he remembered vividly.
He had landed in a mental hospital before she returned to Amherst, and had been there since.
She nodded her head. "But still, what about him?"
"He'll be taken care of, Beth. The CIA will make sure he's placed in a good home, where he'll be cared for and watched over."
Beth slowly shook her head. She had nothing to lose, everything to gain, and a chance for a new life.
"Alright," she said slowly. "What do I do?"
"Give me your wallet," Father O'Halloran said. Confused, she did so. He opened it, and removed everything from it that would identify her as Beth Reynolds. "From this day forward, Beth Reynolds no longer exists. When you walk out that door, your name will be Sarah Walker."
"But why do I have to change my name?"
"Because Sarah Walker does not exist. She has no past, no family, no friends, no enemies. There is nobody who knows her, and no way for the people you will be hunting to figure out who you are and use it against you. Consider it your nom de guerre."
She watched as he put into her wallet a set of documents practically identical to the ones he'd just removed. "Driver's license, social security card, library card, voter registration card… even a Blockbuster card, all in the name of Sarah Walker," he said.
She took the wallet back. "So, that's it?"
"Oh, no," Father O'Halloran replied. "When you leave here, you will be met by a car that will take you directly to the CIA training facility in Langley, Virginia. You will take nothing with you except what you have on your person. Anything you need will be acquired for you."
This was all going so fast, it was practically making her head spin. But it was her way out.
"Okay," she said.
She stood to leave. "One more thing," Father O'Halloran said.
"Good luck, and God bless you, Beth."
She stopped, and then looked at him with a puzzled face. "Who's Beth?"
A sad smile appeared on Father O'Halloran's face, but a gleam of pride appeared in his eyes.
Sarah Walker turned her back, and walked out the door.