J. Edgar Hoover Building
April 3, 2008
The elderly couple were sitting in a couple of uncomfortable metal chairs. The large, gray room was empty except for the large, shiny metal table in front of them. They were holding hands in silence, nervously glancing at the mirror in front of them or at the closed door.
The door suddenly opened and a large, imposing man dressed in a dark suit entered the room, a folder in one hand and a cardboard cup holder containing two cups of coffee on the other.
"Mr. and Mrs. St. Denis," the man greeted them.
"Ms. Ling," the elderly woman answered. "I've keep my maiden name."
"Of course," he said with a smile as he placed the cups beside them. "I'm Special Agent John Casey, FBI," he began after sitting down from across the couple. "And I wanted to talk to you about your daughter."
Both of the elderly couple looked at each other worriedly before the woman took her own cup and took a sip.
"What about Hannah?" the elderly man asked. "Is she in trouble?"
"Please, Mr. St. Denis," Casey began. "It's in your daughter's best interest that you listen to me. We believe that she was coerced into collaborating with some criminals, probably by threatening her or either one you." He paused as he looked into the couple's eyes. At this point, the narcotics that they had been pumping in the closed ventilation system and those in the coffee must have taken effect by now, making his words easily believable.
"We know that she left you a way to contact her," Casey added, knowing that this statement was a shot in the dark. However, the way that the elderly man's eyes widened, he knew that he had guessed right.
"We need to contact her, although she's not in any trouble," Casey added, reassuringly. "Your daughter is the victim here. We just want to help her but we can't unless you help us." He took a deep breath as he leaned back and looked at both of them in the eyes, switching his gaze between them.
Mr. St. Denis hesitated a moment as he looked to his wife. Despite Ms. Ling's worried expression, she gave him a slight nod in response to his unspoken question.
"Hannah gave us a number," Mr. St. Denis began. "To use in case of emergencies." He paused as he took a deep fortifying breath and capitulated. "Tell us how we can help you."
Sarah Walker hated protective detail with a passion. During her tenure as a field agent, the only blemish in an otherwise pristine career had been in the aforementioned assignments. She just lacked the necessary protective and self-sacrificing instincts.
However, those instincts came to the fore the moment she heard Bryce's warning. All of the sudden, her only focus was to take Chuck and run. She kicked the table to provide some cover and tackled Chuck to the ground.
Everything was happening so fast that Chuck didn't even realize what was going on. He cried out in protest but was muffled – rather pleasantly, he thought – by Sarah's chest as she used her body to shield him. With gun in her hand and Chuck secured, she tried to calm down and asses the situation. Although she couldn't see Bryce or Ellie, she could hear his heavy breathing and her silent sobs.
"What's going on, Bryce?"she hissed through her teeth.
"I don't know," Bryce answered. "I think that we can safely assume that we've been found."
Hannah juggled with her prepaid phone and the steering wheel as she left the cabin. She wanted to check her voice mail just in case her parents left her a message. She felt a shiver down her spine when she heard her father's tired voice, "Darling, it's Dad. Look, there's been a robbery at your Momma's shop and she was shot . . . "
Chuck was struggling to breath, pleasantly crushed against Sarah's chest. It's not a bad way to go, he reasoned to himself as he tried to relax in her embrace. That was until he heard his sister's muffled whimper of pain. With a sudden rush, he get out of Sarah's surprisingly strong grip and jumped over the upturned table and crawled toward his sister. She was lying in the floor, bleeding from an injury in her thigh.
Bryce turned towards Chuck and pulled him away from Ellie. "Listen to me, Chuck," he said with urgency in his voice that brooked no argument. "You need to get out of here now."
"W-what?" Chuck asked, bewildered and torn between his sister's plight and Bryce's urgent command. "Are you crazy?" he added once he'd gathered his wits about him. "I'm not going to leave my sister beh-!" He stopped as he felt a soft yet strong hand on his shoulder. He looked up and met Sarah's steady but determined gaze.
"He's right, Chuck," Sarah said as she began to pull him with her. "We need to leave now. They're coming for you!"
Chuck looked at Sarah with a frown and clenched his jaw. "I am not leaving my sister behind."
Sarah wanted to scream in frustration. Her need to get Chuck to safety was overwhelming. For a moment, she considered knocking him unconscious but there was no way she could evade whoever was after them with him incapacitated. Thinking quickly on what to do next, she shifted her weight impatiently from one foot to the other and looked at the cabin's ceiling.
"Chuck, you need to leave now," a faint voice said, breaking the uneasy silence.
Sarah's gaze snapped to the floor and saw that Ellie had momentarily rallied herself as she painfully sat up, leaning against the wall. She steadily and unwaveringly looked at her brother, her face pale and her eyes shinning with tears. "Chuck, sweetie, listen to me. Dad and I-" She hissed in pain as her injured leg was jolted slightly. Recovering momentarily, she continued, "Dad and I had a contingency plan put in place just in case I was captured." She stopped to catch her breath. "Don't worry about me," she added reassuringly. "I can take care of myself." she paused. "Chuck, the government is going to do anything in its power to get you back, and we didn't go to all this trouble just for them to spoil our plans now, would we?"
"But-" Chuck began to protest, not liking what his sister was suggesting.
"No buts, Chuck. You and Sarah need to leave now!" Ellie said with all the authority she could muster.
Sarah grabbed Chuck by the hand and dragged him to the bedroom. She tucked her gun into the small of her back. "Help me," she said as she pulled a tallboy to one side revealing a tunnel. Shouldering a packed camping backpack, she handed another one to him and lead the way to the tunnel.
Chuck threw one last look to his sister, silently promising that he'd come back for her, before the tallboy swung shut.
How stupid could you get? Hannah mentally berated herself for the umpteenth time. She had never felt so stupid in her whole adult life. She fell right into the NSA's trap and now she found herself lying on the floor in the back of a van, gagged with her feet and hands firmly secured. She felt the van slowing to a stop and waited nervously in the dark for something to happen.
The van door suddenly slid open and a large man in a Black Ops uniform entered with a somber expression on his face. In the dark, Hannah didn't fully recognize him until he sat down next to her. She looked up and was surprised to see Major Casey looking regretfully back at her.
They remained silent for a few minutes before Casey's gravely voice broke the stillness. "I understand why you did it," he said, while he helped Hannah to sit up. "Hell, a few more months in that hellhole and I would've helped you myself."
Casey's hand reached out to sweep some stray hairs out of her face when Hannah jerked away from him in fear. He sighed and let his hand fall down to his knee.
"You see, Hannah," Casey continued. "I don't have much. A few months ago, I learned that I had a daughter that I never knew. Her mother was the true love of my life but I left her to do my duty." He paused to remove a battered surveillance picture out of the pocket of his vest and showed it to her.
It was picture of a pretty young woman dressed as a waitress in a diner somewhere.
"That's her," Casey said. "I found about her existence thanks to the Human Intersect." And now I'm about to repay the kid back by handing him over to government, he mentally grunted. Talk about irony.
Hannah looked at Casey with a mixture of terror and wonder. She knew, as well as everyone involved in the Human Intersect Project that Major Casey didn't speak more than what is absolutely necessary. With him telling her things of a much more personal nature, she wondered if this was a good omen... or not.
Casey grunted in acknowledgment of Hannah's continued silence despite the tape across her mouth. He put the photo back in his pocket before addressing her once more. "So, we have a problem. I have a job to do and you have the information I need to carry it out. I'll remove the tape for now. Scream if you want. However, it won't help you since nobody can hear you." He gently removed the tape from her mouth.
Hannah moved her jaw and lips, still eying her captor suspiciously.
"I'm going to ask you nicely," Casey began with a somber voice. "Where is Bartowski?"
"Major, please," Hannah begged. Chuck's awake now. He has a chance of regaining control of his life. If you have an ounce of compassion, please, let him go."
Casey raised a hand and Hannah closed her eyes, preparing herself for the strike. Instead, she felt a large, rough hand gently stroke her cheek. She jerked away in surprise. A few seconds later, the same hand retreated.
Hannah opened her eyes to see the face of the stern NSA Major before her. Gone was the tenderness and kindness of the gentle touch, to be replaced by a mask of an emotionless killer.
The Major opened a metallic briefcase and took a prepared syringe from its foam mold. "You see, Hannah," he began. "I know that as an NSA operative working in top secret projects, we have been trained to withhold sodium pentothal and other truth serums. But this . . . " He waved the syringe in front of her. " . . . Is different." He paused as he measured the recommended dosage before continuing, "It doesn't just works as a very strong truth serum, it's also very, very painful. So resistance will be hard even for a trained individual.
"I'll only ask once: Give me Bartwski's location."
Hannah looked defiantly at Casey, despite feeling terrified out of her wits. "No," she said with a bravado she didn't feel. If I resist long enough, she thought as she tried to shore up her defenses. Then I could buy buy Chuck and the others enough time to escape. You have no right-"
"Then I'm sorry, kiddo," Casey said and with a regretful sigh, he put the syringe on her neck and injected the serum.
The underground tunnel suddenly end and Chuck's eyes easily adjusted to the pale light of the moon and the stars. From there, they covered the last hundred feet to the shed in open terrain, sprinting from cover to cover afforded by the scattered tall bushes and trees. When they finally arrived at the shed, Sarah kicked open the door. Inside was a motorcycle, covered by a dirty blanket. She threw the cover off and read the innocuous note taped to the motorcycle's speedometer.
Sarah took her backpack off and indicated for Chuck to do the same. "Secure them to the motorcycle's luggage rack," she said as she rummaged at the toolbox on the adjacent table. She grabbed a pair night-vision goggles and tossed one to Chuck.
"Do you know how to drive?" she asked him.
"Me? Really?" chuck asked with incredulity. "Do I look like a closet biker?"
"No, not really," Sarah replied with a small smile as she kicked off the stand and turned the keys to ignition. "Hop on," she said above the roar of the motorcycle's engine.
They speed from the shed, following a dirt trail. From there, they took a local road to the city.
Twenty minutes later, the van door opened and Casey stepped out. "Kid's a mess," he said to the gathered agents outside. "Took three doses to get the location." He cleared his throat before issuing an order to the agent adjacent to him. "Get her to the medical bay at headquarters and have someone administer the antidote. I have a man to hunt."
"Yes, sir," the agent replied before he turned away to carry out his order.
"Beggin' the Major's pardon, sir," a young Captain interjected. "But what about her parents? What do we tell them?"
"Nothing for now. As far as they know, we never found her." Casey growled before turning to leave.
"Yes, sir," the Captain replied.
Back in the cabin, Bryce and Ellie were sitting in the floor, looking at the barricaded door. He took a few shots at the window trying to hinder the strike team from approaching the cabin and buying some time for Chuck and Sarah to escape. He looked at Ellie while he ejected an empty magazine and replaced it with another one. "So, this contingency plan," he prompted her.
"Yeah, there is one," Ellie replied with a grimace of pain. "But I don't think that Dad is in a position to execute it. We are on our own."
"In other words, you lied to him."
"He's my brother," Ellie simply replied and no further words said.
Casey was in his car, waiting for a report on Bartowski's location with a bottle in one hand and a polished wooden box on the other. He looked at the ceiling of his pride and joy: a 1985 Ford Crown Victoria. A few months ago, he remembered with a sour smile when Bartowski mentioned his favorite car. That fact obsessed him for weeks. He knew that his preference in vehicles wasn't in his NSA personnel file.
The idea of Bartowski guessing something that specific gave Casey the creeps. The thought that his Pond-induced counterpart being so similar to the real thing was, well, a disturbing thought. However, he had found out that Doctor Evans had added "personal preferences and other relevant information" about the moron's handler's to help facilitate the Human Intersect's dream-state. And like with all the things on that hellhole, that was just smoke and mirrors.
But Bartowski wasn't just the Human Intersect. He was a man, a real person, with rights. The kind of person Casey had spent his entire life trying to protect. Without his duty, he had nothing, not a single thing to prove that he once walked this land. Until he found out all about Alexandra McHugh.
Shock and surprise didn't even come close to describing what Casey felt when he found that out. Kathleen McHugh has a daughter – his daughter, damnit! She was bright, beautiful and innocent. He had observed her from afar many times, always too scared to initiate contact. She was the greatest thing he had ever done, and he almost spent his entire life without knowing she even existed. Thanks to Bartowski, Casey now knew that he had done something right for once in his dark and dreary life.
And this how you repay him, Casey thought bitterly as he glared angrily at bottle before throwing it to the back seat without a glance. It bounced and fell to the car's floor and the strong smell of scotch filled the air. With steady hands, he opened the wooden box.
Resting in red velvet was a silver Kimber ICQB pistol, Casey's dress sidearm. He absentmindedly caress it. It was in perfect condition, he was sure of it as he had cleaned it himself every week as part of his "zen therapy" ever since the last of his bonsais died. He took the gun and began to load the clip.
Letting Bartowski go is dangerous, Casey reasoned logically to himself. The kid's got too many secrets stored up in that noggin of his. The chances of him falling into the wrong hands are far too great. He is the property of the US government, so letting him go is considered treasonous. So, therefore, returning Bartowski back in his Pond is right and just, he again reasoned with his conscience.
It's also inhumane, Casey's conscience countered vehemently. We didn't sign up for this! This is not the reason why-
Orders were orders, and at this point, Casey only saw one possible way out, only one way to disobey without betraying his country.. He was going to need a gun, and it was fitting that he was going to to fire his officer's gun for the last time. Doing his final act as a soldier and a man will only take two final shots.
Just two. And he never missed a shot.