Editor's note: This is the end of it. I hope you enjoyed it. There is no more. Nik.
Beckman could and did pull strings and they were married quickly and quietly by the base chaplain with Beckman and her aide as witnesses. Beckman was delighted with the marriage since it gave Chuck additional protection in the form of a deadly assassin for a bride. The marriage put paid to any notion of 'relocation'.
They'd have their honeymoon later when things calmed down and after they had the 'family affair' ceremony with the white gown and the frilly things he wanted Sarah to have. She didn't care. He was hers and he was safe from the clutches of Beckman's 'relocation' machinations.
FT Meade, MD
Jill was being held in detention under suicide watch. Her cell was a Lucite box with a bed and a mattress and a sheet. She was dressed in a formless orange jumpsuit and was under constant visual surveillance. Her state of mind since being incarcerated after surgery to repair her broken jaw was tenuous. All she did was sit on the edge of her bed and mumble and occasionally cry out that she wanted to see her husband, Major Bartowski.
Chuck and Sarah sat in the control booth watching the monitors. Every time she cried out for 'Chuck' or her 'husband', Sarah would squeeze his hand and let him know she was right there with him. He found it hard to watch the woman he'd loved and lost to Larkin and Fulcrum in such a state. He no longer loved her. He pitied her.
Beckman's aide entered the control booth and handed Chuck an envelope stating that he would take the Major's reply back to the General. Chuck tore open the envelope and read the single page of instructions and sighed. He handed the paper to Sarah and when the aide started to protest he silenced him with a glare.
"Agent Walker is my partner. She's privy to everything involving this operation. Go away and find something to do for the next 30 minutes. I need to think about this and formulate a reply. Why didn't she just call me?"
"The General is in conference with the President's intelligence director and is in a secure location. Cell phones are not permitted, Major."
"Fine. Thirty minutes." He dismissed the aide and put him out of his mind.
"Chuck, it might be better if I wasn't involved in this anymore. I can fly home and rescue Ellie from Carina's clutches and hold down the fort until you get done here."
"Does that ring I gave you mean so little? Can you just set aside your personal feelings, wall them up and ignore them, all for a mission? Well, I can't. The answer is 'no'. I will not allow her into my life anymore than she's already intruded. No. Beckman said it was optional and at my option. My option is to tell her 'no' and pack up and go home."
She knew better than to 'cross' him on this. She was in total agreement with him but still, she was an agent and he was duty-bound to follow his orders. She didn't believe for one moment that Beckman would just allow him to walk away from this mess. In this case, she was perfectly capable of ordering Chuck to take the mess home with him.
Chuck scribbled some notes on the letter and summoned Beckman's lackey and handed him the envelope. "Tell the general that Major Bartowski regrets but he will be unable to offer further assistance in this matter. Tell her that when you call her with my answer. And please, don't hand me any more bullshit about 'cell phones are forbidden'. I'm not a brand new 'butter bar'."
The junior aide glared at him but there was nothing he could say. He was obeying orders. He was a good little lieutenant. He wondered again about the mysterious major and what hold he had over the general that he could pick and chose which orders he would obey.
He'd read the major's ribbons and various branch insignia – a damned tread head, a tanker, a pillbox driver, a tin can man…still he did have several of the big ones and that meant he'd seen the elephant, been to the fair, gone downtown at night.
He wasn't even an agent and yet he ordered agents and lesser beings around like they were inconsequential. He was beginning to turn his attention to the gorgeous blonde sitting beside the Mysterious Major when he saw the eyes go cold, brown shifted to black, nostrils flared and pupils dilated. He'd bet even money this mysterious Armor officer was not even an officer, probably a super spook, a…
"Lieutenant, move your ass and make your damned phone call. I'm sure the General is sitting on pins and needles awaiting my response and formulating options and alternatives to give you to present again. Run along like a good little aide de camp and carry my response."
The aide colored and whirled on his heel and stormed from the control booth. Bastard! Probably pushing retirement age and has to impress the woman with his authority since he can't do much else. The General would not be pleased and the aide was so hoping to carry another message that would knock the cocky bastard off his lofty perch.
"Yes, General, those were his exact words."
"LT Grimes, tell him it's not an order. It a personal request. A favor, in recompense for Agent Bartowski's new status. And say 'please', Lieutenant. And try not to rub him the wrong way. His wife, the agent sitting with him, will take exception and you don't want that to happen."
"Yes, General." Jesus, 'say please'? Who is this guy? His wife is an agent?
Chuck glanced at his watch when the door to the control booth opens and then Chuckles when Sarah sighs and hands him a $20 bill.
"Major, General Beckman's compliments and she says 'Please, it's a personal request in recompense for Agent Bartowski's new status'. That's word for word, sir."
He handed the $20 bill back to his wife and sighed. Women thought alike, apparently. At least the women in his life.
"OK, LT…what the hell is your name? You're supposed to be wearing a name tag."
"Grimes, sir. And it's on my other uniform at the dry cleaners."
Sarah started to chuckle and then laughed outright, holding a hand up to the mortified lieutenant. Getting her laughter under control she said, "Not laughing at you, LT Grimes. My husband pulled the same crap with his decorations. Are all you Army types so devious at flaunting authority?"
Her husband? This was the Agent?
"No, ma'am, I was just being truthful." He waited for the eventual smart assed comment from the Major and when none came he looked at him. He was nodding his head. "Honesty is the best 'excuse' you can give, Ell-Tee. Keep that in mind in the future. Troops will follow an honest officer before they'll think about obeying a liar."
Chuck sighed; he did that a lot lately, and stood. "Ell-Tee, sit with my wife and don't let her leave this control booth." He turned to his wife. "Sarah, don't hurt him. He's just doing his job and following orders. Now, don't freak out and remember you're a married woman and she's a divorced traitor."
He walked out of the control booth and they watched on the monitors he walked across the open floor to the Lucite box and keyed in a code. A door opened and he walked in and seated himself on built-in bench across from Jill. The door closed and locked itself automatically behind him.
"Watch and learn, grasshopper. He's going crush her, then pull her out of her funk, and then make her feel good. She'll be singing like a bird before the hour is up." She loved her Chuckisms.
"You haven't been this quiet in years, Jilly. I should have broken your jaw years ago. Maybe you wouldn't have run around behind my back with that scumbag. Your primary seduction skill would be unavailable if you couldn't open your mouth."
She glared in response. She wanted to tell him how much better Bryce had been in the sack but it hurt too much to talk. And it wasn't true but Chuck couldn't have helped her career like Bryce could.
"So, since you're quiet, let me tell you a few things. First, you've seen the sun for the last time, Jilly darling. Second, when I leave this box, it'll be the last time you see me. And third, if they don't give you the needle for treason, you'll be sent to the special unit in Iceland."
She expected the first comment and shrugged it off. She figured he'd say he was never coming back but the Iceland comment scared her. Everyone knew about the 'off the books' holding unit in Iceland. It was the closest you could come to Hell without dying. It was legendary. There were no rules, just a hole in the ground. You were lowered into it in a cage. There were no guards, just steam tunnels for warmth and water and the monthly food drop.
"Yeah, the Hole. Once you're there, you're scrubbed off the books. What you know goes with you. Oh, and there aren't more than 5 female guests alive at last count. Oh, Jilly darling, you'll be so popular…and sore." He laughed. He could see the panic building. No one wanted the Hole.
"You can avoid it, y'know? Well, I could help you avoid it. I still feel something for you, Jill. I might be able to get you sent to Elko. At least there you'd only have to give your favors out to the guards, not 70 other prisoners." He was being deliberately cruel. She deserved it and it was necessary to break her.
She looked at him with wide eyes and nodded her head. Anything was better than the Hole or the needle. She could survive Elko until friendly elements found and freed her. No one came back from Iceland.
"Did you really mail yourself a package?" She nodded her head. "Is the material in it valid and accurate and…timely?" Stale-dated intel was useless.
Again she nodded. "And the flash drives are encrypted. Will you provide the code keys?" She nodded, a little more vigorously. So far, everything he asked was expected.
"Who told you I had developed an intersect process?" She closed her eyes and shook her head. She would need this intel as a bargaining chip later in the interrogation.
"I see some 'vigorous interrogation' will be required. If you don't know, you're useless. If you do know, we'll find out. Either way, you'll never be the same again. No man – or woman for that matter – will be interested. We employ some of Saddam's best people. It would be a shame to let such talents go to waste." He started to unbutton his uniform tunic and shrug it off. Then he removed his tie and then his shirt.
"See an example of their handiwork, Jilly? You're a woman. Imagine what body part they'll want to concentrate on first? A blowtorch or welding rig loosens the tightest tongue."
"Who told you I developed an intersect process?"
It took two hours to get the initial information. Less time than he expected, really, but he'd taken his time, letting her stare at the spaghetti on his chest, imagining her own covered in such scars. Sarah was right. It was basic vanity and Jill was the vainest, most narcissistic person he knew. He'd noticed the tiny scars behind her jaw line and around her eyes and mouth. She'd had plastic work done, probably a tummy tuck and a tit lift, too.
"Well, that's all the time I have for you, Jilly darling. Enjoy Elko. It's sunny there…on the surface but 800 feet down? It's like being in a tomb, like being buried alive, trapped, unable to escape the crushing weight, never to breath fresh air or see the sun again. You're young, attractive, and persuasive. I'm sure you'll find friends among the guards in the women's section. The female guards are all hand-picked, y'know? Special criteria."
He stood and buttoned his shirt and re-tied his tie. He had problems with his tunic and he just left it off and signaled Sarah to pop the lock and let him out.
He was sick to his stomach but he felt elated. No one knew who Chuck Bartowski was. No one knew outside of Jill and the pilot. She planned on using the information to leap to the top of the Fulcrum pyramid. She'd planned on bringing Chuck to Fulcrum.
She wasn't insane or crazy or demented. She was a product of her training and environment. She'd get the needle for sure since Fulcrum had a bad habit of rescuing its captive agents.
The best laid plans of mice and whores…
He walked into the control booth and the lieutenant snapped to attention and took his tunic and helped him on with it.
"Thanks, Ell-Tee. Now, Sarah, let's get the fuck out of this place. I need some serious alone time, sweetie." He picked up his cell and speed dialed Beckman.
"General, got it all on tape. She deserves the needle. See that she gets it. The sooner the better. As long as she's alive the intersect is in jeopardy."
Whatever the General said must have been pithy because Chuck's response was direct and venomous: "The needle. I don't care what deals the government wants to make. It's my ass, and my family's safety comes first. That was our deal. Keep your damned word, Diane."
The lieutenant's eyes bulged. No one had ever spoken with such disrespect to an officer in his presence. He didn't even know Beckman had a first name. Beckman would be totally unbearable now and he had to deal with her.
"Ell-Tee, a word of advice. She never breaks her word. Make sure if she 'deals', you get her word. Otherwise, you're just so much cat shit in her eyes."
"Sarah, sweetie, I hear the call of Bonanza land. Let's go home. You have a thing to plan with Ellie and Carina…a Blessing? And I'm going to just sit around and watch the confusion."
"Y'know, Major Bartowski, sir, that's an excellent idea. We'll invite my dad and Diane and, well, we have a lot of time to plan for that. Bye, El-Tee. Stay out of Beckman's way and remember what we discussed."
She wondered if someday in the future Grimes would look back on this day with fondness or hatred. He'd caught a glimpse of the shadow wars his boss fought every day. When the Major had punched the prisoner in the face he'd stiffened and she thought she might have a problem.
"He – he shouldn't do that. There are rules about the treatment of prisoners. You don't beat them, torture them. You're responsible for them. We have to stop this before he…"
"Before he what? Hits her again for trying to kill me? For leaving a daughter and husband and going over to Fulcrum? For killing an unarmed pilot simply because he was 'in the way'? For changing sides in an attempt to capture a valuable intelligence asset and subvert it to use against the American people?"
"There are rules, Agent."
"Yeah, well, tell that to the people in the WTC or the Pentagon. She's no different than those murderers, except she does it for money and power not religion. A word of advice, Grimes. Don't let Beckman hear you say that. You'll be gone before you can pack a bag. Welcome to the shadow world, Ell-Tee."