Prescott, Arizona. John Casey had never been here before.
It was a nice enough little place – and the neighborhood he was driving through was certainly a pleasant one. The unfortunate thing was, it appeared that the valley outside of Prescott had been massively Californicated. Casey frowned. He didn't like that.
But right at the moment, he was driving down Mount Vernon Street, which was lined with turn of the 20th century Victorian-design houses. "Who would've ever figured on seeing a street like this in Arizona?" Casey snorted.
He came to the address he was looking for, and pulled his black Crown Vic over to the side of the road. Turning the car off, he stepped out and breathed in the air.
God, it was nice to breathe air that wasn't laden with pollution. Prescott sat over a mile above sea level, so it was a little bit cool at the end of September as well.
He looked at the two cars parked in the driveway as he headed toward the front door. A BMW 328 sedan and a Lexus ES 350. Both black, both nice cars, and both definitely unobtrusive and unremarkable, especially on this street.
Casey grunted his approval. It was good to see that the two of them were being smart.
He trudged up the front path and up the steps to the porch. Standing in front of the front door, he extended a hand and rang the doorbell. Cocking his head, he listened closely…
Please, God, tell me that he didn't program his doorbell to play the Mario Brothers theme, Casey thought in disbelief. But that was unquestionably what the faint notes he heard coming from inside were.
A moment later, the door opened, and there he was. He definitely looked different. His hair was cut short, was a little bit spiky, and was definitely lighter. He'd grown a goatee and a mustache – something Casey had once thought would be impossible, as baby-faced as he was – and was now wearing glasses.
But it was still unmistakably Chuck Bartowski.
His eyes widened and his jaw dropped. "Holy shit," he breathed. "Is that you, Casey?"
Casey rolled his eyes. "No, it's the fuckin' Easter Bunny," he shot back. "You gonna let me in?"
"Of course, of course!" Chuck replied, stepping back. Casey stepped into the 115 year old house and looked around as Chuck shut the door behind him. "I'm just shocked… I can't believe it took you two years to find us!"
Casey turned and fixed Chuck with a look of amusement. "Bartowski, I found the two of you six weeks after you closed on this house," he replied. "I just didn't feel like coming to find you."
"Why not?" Chuck asked. "I figured you'd be beating down our door once you knew where we were."
"I was upset," Casey shot back sarcastically. "You failed to invite me to the wedding."
"Casey, there were only eight people even at the wedding," came a remarkably familiar female voice. Casey looked up, and saw her descending the stairs. She looked different as well – a shoulder-length haircut, with a red tint in her hair, and unless he was mistaken, she was wearing green contacts as well. But it was still definitely Sarah Walker.
She smiled as she walked over to Casey. "Kelly Fordham Irving," she said, holding out her hand. "Pleased to meet you."
Casey rolled his eyes, and then did something that probably took Chuck and Sarah both completely unawares – he reached out and hugged Sarah. She was shocked for a moment, but then hugged Casey back.
"Sorry," he said, pulling back after a moment. "Weird as it is, it's good to see the two of you… almost as if a bit of normalcy's back in my life."
Chuck raised a disbelieving eyebrow. "WE were normal?" he asked incredulously. "What part of that year and a half was NORMAL?"
Casey shrugged. "None of it. But it was nice to have a routine."
Sarah – KELLY! – tilted her head to one side and looked at Casey. "You know, John, I'd like to think you're just stopping in for a social call," she said. "But… you wouldn't do that."
Casey nodded slowly. "Score one for Walker," he replied. "No, actually, the NSA has a very sensitive mission for which they need both the Intersect and the Angel of Death."
Chuck and Sarah looked at each other. "When, and where?" Chuck asked.
Casey smiled. "Houston. Next Sunday. Be in the restaurant at the Marriott Woodlands at 2:00 P.M. Your contact will meet you there to give you further information."
Chuck nodded. "We'll be there."
"Good," Casey replied. "Now, before I go, there's one other thing you need to see." He reached into his jacket, and brought out a letter, which he handed to Chuck.
Chuck looked at Casey curiously, and then unfolded the letter. "Dear Mr. Casey," he read aloud. "It is my understanding that you know how to get in touch with the woman known as the Angel of Death. I find her to be a highly compelling individual who would make an excellent character in the graphic novel field of fiction."
Chuck began to smile as he read. "If she would be willing to have a comic book character based on her, we would certainly be prepared to compensate her generously. I would ask that you get in contact with her and reply to me with her answer.
"Thank you for your time. Stan Lee, Marvel Comics."
Chuck's eyes had gone very wide. "Holy shit," he whispered. He turned to Sarah, a huge grin on his face. "Babe… the god of comics wants to do a comic based on you."
Sarah made a face. "I don't know if that's such a good idea."
Casey laughed. "Oh, come on, Walker. Nobody's ever gonna know it's you, and if anything, it will improve your reputation. Right now, you're just a vigilante. You let Stan Lee turn you into a comic book hero – you become Batman."
"Wrong company, Casey."
"Shut up, Bartowski. You get my point."
Sarah looked at the floor. "I don't know, Casey…"
"Well, take your time deciding, then," the NSA agent replied. "You know how to get in touch with me."
Chuck nodded. "And we will."
Casey smiled. "I need to go, then. Till Texas?"
Sarah looked back up and smiled. "We'll be there."