A/N: This is a sequel to my story Chuck vs. the Ninja Librarian. If you haven't already read it and a couple of my other stories, you might want to do so before reading this one. Check the order on my profile page. It is not a requirement to do so to follow this one, but it will make this story more fun if you know the background.
This story begins two days after "Chuck vs. the Cliffhanger" (episode 4.24). The team's number one priority is to get the Intersect out of Morgan's head.
Thanks to coreymon77 who read the first draft. Revisions have been made since then, so all boo-boos are my own.
Standard disclaimer: Don't own Chuck, etc. Oh, and of course, please review.
Chapter 1 – Drinking from a Fire Hose
Morgan Grimes struggled to get his breathing under control so as not to give away his position. He thought he was under a staircase, but he wasn't really sure. It was as dark as a cave and he would have sworn he was blind if not for the sliver of light his eyes fixed upon. He put his hands out and stepped forward cautiously in an attempt to find his way to a wall. It was like playing Blind's Man Bluff. He never liked that stupid game. He turned his head this way and that, listening intently, trying to pinpoint the position of his adversary. He had no tactical gear to help him, not even comms or night vision goggles. Or even something as conventional as a flashlight. He was completely on his own. Well, he did have the Intersect he accidentally downloaded a couple of days ago. But that was turning out to be not very helpful. Using the Intersect was a lot harder than Chuck Bartowski ever made it seem when he had it in his head. In his current predicament, he would have been much better off with the tactical equipment.
A trickle of sweat traced down his forehead and into one eye, making it burn. He swiped his arm across both eyes in a vain attempt to stop the sting. Wet with perspiration, his shirt stuck to his body. He was truly on his own since he knew Chuck and Sarah were around somewhere, but were in no position to help him. What would Rambo do? he wondered. Or John McCain from Die Hard. No, wait. That wasn't right. John McCain is the senator from Arizona who ran for president a few years ago. What was Bruce Willis' character's name? Oh, wait! Now he remembered. It was John McClane. Well, that's just confusing. He shook his head when he realized his brain had completely gone off on an unhelpful yet somewhat entertaining rabbit trail.
Focus. He had to focus. With his breathing now under control, he knew he had to do something. He couldn't stay in hiding forever and had run out of options. The decision was made. He was going to have to run for it.
He took deep breath in through his nose and let it out slowly, quietly, through his mouth. Creeping from his hiding place, he silently stole toward where he thought stood the door that held behind it his freedom. He shuffled around a corner and knew he was almost there. A grin started to grow on his face. He'd made it.
Or so he thought. His adversary sneaked up behind, reached around his torso and wrapped him in an incredibly strong bear hug. His foe's right hand gripped his fist left just below Morgan's sternum. The assailant stood up straight and easily lifted Morgan's feet off the ground.
Without any conscious prompting, Intersect images of various martial arts moves exploded in Morgan's brain. I've got you now because I just flashed, Morgan thought smugly.
He tried to raise his arms and grab his assailant around the back of the head, but they remained pinned helplessly at his sides. He swung his feet back trying to kick his attacker, but the man simply spread his feet wider apart, making Morgan's feet simply flail. Maybe a head butt, he thought and threw his head back in an attempt to hit the man in the face. Unfortunately for Morgan, his captor was much larger than he, so he only managed to hit the back of his head to the man's chest. That elicited an unsatisfying and faint "umpf". If I could just get my feet on the ground, then I could take this guy out, he was sure.
He struggled for another minute and the flash faded. He finally gave up and went limp. He was captured. Crap.
The lights in Castle flickered on and Chuck and Sarah walked into the main room. Casey still held Morgan in the undignified bear hug that left him immobilized.
"You can let him go now, Casey," Chuck said.
Casey's flashed a self-satisfied and somewhat evil grin. "That was fun," he snickered as he released his grasp. Morgan unceremoniously dropped to the floor but did manage to land on his feet.
"Well, that was an interesting experiment. Apparently, when faced with a much bigger and stronger opponent, for Morgan at least, the Intersect is not a lot of help," Chuck said. "Size does matter."
"That's what she said," Sarah mumbled.
Chuck sputtered and coughed, Morgan's eyes grew huge and Casey gave an amused grunt.
"What?" she asked, her face a picture of innocence, save the twinkle in her eye.
Chuck recovered enough to clear his throat and give her a wink. She quirked an eyebrow and shot him a lascivious smile. The hand she placed on the small of his back seemed to scorch through his shirt and cause his insides to liquefy. At his wife's simple touch, he nearly became nothing more than a big pile of tremulous goo on the floor.
A deep breath helped to steady him, but only just slightly. His legs were still a big wobbly as he continued, "The physical element of the Intersect 2.0 doesn't seem to work as well with a person of a more," he stopped for a moment as he tried to think of the right words, "diminutive stature."
Morgan hung his head glumly. He had accidentally downloaded the Intersect only two days before and was already a complete failure in trying to use it. They had been testing him and he had yet to use the Intersect effectively. The good news was that he could see the flashes of intelligence when appropriately triggered. The bad news was that he could only remember about half of what he saw in a flash when he tried to relay the information to them.
"Morgan, it's okay. It will just take awhile to get the hang of it," Sarah said, trying to be supportive.
He lifted his head and shook it slightly. He knew the truth. "No, it won't. I'm not cut out to have the Intersect," he replied matter-of-factly. "I appreciate the support, but let's get real. Dudes, this isn't going to work."
"So then, what do we do?" Sarah asked.
"We try to figure out a way to get it out of his head," Casey replied.
Panic flashed across Morgan's face. "What if we can't? What if I'm stuck with it? Do I need one of those special watches like you wear, Chuck?" He looked into their faces and was not comforted by the unsure looks he found. "Dudes, I'm starting to freak OUT here!"
Sarah walked over to Morgan and put a comforting hand on his arm. "Morgan, don't freak out. We'll get this all straightened out, won't we Chuck," giving her husband a pointed look.
"Yeah, of course, buddy," Chuck responded quickly. "We'll get it figured out. Trust us, okay?"
Morgan relaxed a little and smiled. "Yeah, your right. We'll get this figured out. We always do, right?" First he looked at Chuck and then at Sarah. "I mean, look what we were able to do to save you from that icky poison, Sarah. Face it. We're awesome."
Casey grunted as Sarah smiled fondly at him. She looked at Chuck and Casey and asked, "Do you mind if I speak with Morgan alone for a moment?"
Chuck and Casey looked at each other, shrugged and moved a small distance away. They watched while Sarah guided Morgan a few steps in the other direction.
"Morgan," Sarah started in a low voice, "I wanted to thank you for staying with me in the hospital when Chuck was out getting the antidote."
He jerked a little, and said sheepishly, "You heard me? I thought you were unconscious."
She shrugged, "I was…mostly," and then smiled, "I vaguely remember hearing a story about pants."
Morgan's eyes fell to the floor and a shy smile crossed his face. He shrugged and looked back up into her face, expectantly.
Her face became serious. "You said that Chuck never gives up. That part I remember for sure. I want you to know that I won't give up either. Neither will Casey. We'll do everything we can to help you with this," she said, gently tapping his head with her index finger, "whether it means getting it out of your head or helping you deal with it if it stays for awhile. We'll be here for you all the way, got it?" She looked at him right in the eye.
A huge smile of relief bloomed on his face, "Thanks, Mrs. B. I needed to hear that."
While Morgan and Sarah had their little tete à tete, Chuck and Casey discussed what equipment and technologies they needed to buy in order to get Castle up and running. Originally, that had been their first priority, but Morgan's accidental Intersect download had changed that. Chuck and Sarah had already purchased new tactical equipment, and that was a huge step. That gear would do them no good, however, until Castle was equipped as well. They discussed the importance of acquiring what they needed as soon as possible. Their conversation stopped when Morgan and Sarah returned. Chuck asked, "Everything okay?" His face showed a mixture of curiosity and concern.
Sarah winked at Morgan and then looked at Chuck. "Everything's fine, sweetie." She gave him a quick peck on the cheek.
Morgan grinned back at Sarah and added, "Yup. No problems."
"So, you're not worried about having the Intersect in your head?" Casey bit off the word "moron" before it could escape.
"No," Morgan answered truthfully. "It's not like this is new to you all. Chuck's dealt with it for years. Granted, my brain isn't like Chuck's, but it will all work out," he finished confidently.
Chuck was both pleased and surprised at Morgan's calm. "Well, okay then. Casey and I were just discussing that our next priority is to get Castle back up and running," he started. "We can't do anything about getting the Intersect out of Morgan's head until we get our resources in place. Like I said the other day, we already bought a Gulfstream and tactical equipment. Now we need to get video equipment, computers, lots of weapons…"
"A refrigerator," Morgan interrupted. He looked at his team members and said, "What? I get hungry."
"Actually, Morgan, a fridge is a great idea," Chuck said.
Casey looked pointedly at each of them and said, "That's all great, getting all this stuff. What are we going to do with it? What's this big plan Decker talked about? Who's been manipulating us? Who do we go after? Who are we fighting against? Do we just sit around and wait for them to find us?"
"All good questions, Casey and no, we don't just sit around," Chuck said with determination. "Frankly, I don't know if we should believe anything Decker said, anyway. Decker's a pecker. He might be full of crap and just yanking our chains." The other three nodded in agreement. "We need a plan of our own." He looked at Sarah and said, "Sarah has a phone call to make. We need some more resources."
She looked at him and nodded again in understanding.
Sarah continued, "I need to meet with someone, so I think it would be best if we got together again after that to sit down and really think this all through."
Casey and Morgan looked at each other in confusion.
"There's someone I'd like to recruit to our team," she clarified as she grabbed her phone and made her call.
The following morning, Sarah sat at a small table, sipping her latte at the Starbucks in the Buy More plaza. Of course this Starbucks was not to be confused with the eight other Starbucks within a one mile radius of the one in which she now sat. Hipster indie music swirled through the coffeehouse. She was a little early for her meeting, so she skimmed the newspaper left on the table by the previous customer. She smiled when she heard the familiar voice say, "Don't read that. It will just depress you."
Sarah stood and gave her friend a hug. Jen Hatch hugged her back and then sat down in the chair across from her, placing her cup of Earl Grey, hot, on the table in front of her. Sarah and Chuck had met Jen at the Buy More when she went there to get her computer fixed. Jen had mentioned that she was working on a project for Vivian MacArthur and was recruited to help capture her. The team, with the help of Jen, had succeeded apprehending Vivian and put a stop her plan to sell Russian nuclear missiles to known terrorists.
Over the course of the mission, Jen and Sarah became good friends. Jen was older than Sarah and had been married for almost 20 years. Her experiences allowed her to give a lot of good advice about marriage and relationships. Her home life was a model of normality and stability. Plus, Sarah didn't have many female friends. Ellie was a wonderful friend and sister-in-law, but was busy with her job and family. She rarely saw Carina, and frankly was the last person in the world she would want to talk to about relationship stuff. She and Zondra had been estranged for a long time and had just recently repaired that relationship. She never really saw her either. So it was great fun for Sarah to have her own special friend.
Jen was a librarian and researcher by profession but had proven to be fairly competent in the espionage game. She had been instrumental in the Volkoff mission and had even managed to impress General Beckman. In fact, Beckman had been so impressed she had offered Jen a job with the Agency as an analyst/researcher. That was what Sarah needed to discuss with Jen, but certainly not before the really important stuff.
"Sarah, you look fantastic!" Jen beamed at her friend. "Married life suits you."
Sarah cheeks pinked a little and simply said, "Thanks." Then she leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, "Actually, married life is awesome!"
Jen laughed and nodded. Ah, newlyweds, she thought to herself. "You're looking tan and blonde. How was Maui?"
"Maui was wonderful. It was nice to just relax," Sarah sighed thinking about it.
"I'll bet. Did Chuck like the song we found?" She was referring to a song Jen had helped Sarah find to play as a special gift for him.
Sarah's face reddened. "Yes, he did. Thank you for helping me."
Jen noticed Sarah's face blush, but decided to let it go. Instead, she shrugged and said, "It was your idea. I just helped you find the perfect song." She chuckled, "I knew my time working at a music library would pay off some day. And how was Mama's Fish House?" she asked.
Sarah's eyes widened and exclaimed, "Oh my god. It was the best fish I've ever eaten." She laughed and said, "I did have some people staring at me while I was eating, though."
Jen eyes danced, "I'm afraid In-N-Out will be offended. We'll have to go back soon so it won't feel bad."
"Yeah, we wouldn't want that to happen," Sarah said with a laugh. She knew Jen loved In-N-Out as much as she did, if that was somehow possible.
Jen looked at her friend fondly and said, "I have to say, Sarah, your wedding had to be one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever been to. You were gorgeous and Chuck was so handsome. I can tell your friends and family love you both very much," Jen said.
Sarah grinned and said, "Thank you. I'm so glad you and your family could be there." A hint of sadness flitted across Sarah's face and her grin faded. "I almost didn't make it, though," she said softly.
Jen's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean, 'almost didn't make it'? There is no way I'm going to believe you had cold feet and were nearly a runaway bride."
Sarah gave her a small smile and said, "No, it was nothing like that." She nervously twisted the corner of a napkin between her fingers and said softly, "Vivian Volkoff tried to kill me."
"What?" Jen shouted. Several heads turned and glares were shot her way. When she realized she had said that much louder than she had intended, she ducked her head and leaned forward. She whispered loudly, "Vivian Volkoff? The one we arrested? The one who screamed she would kill me? 'Half-a-bubble off level' Vivian Volkoff?"
Sarah nodded, still looking down and twisting the corner of the napkin. "When she recovered from the gunshot wound you gave her, she escaped custody."
Jen leaned back in her chair, incredulous. "I have to tell you, Sarah, I'm not overly impressed with our government's ability to keep people who want to hurt you locked up. First that Shaw idiot and now Vivian. They need to send them to Gitmo and make them swim to Florida if they want to escape." She took a deep breath, sipped her tea and said, "So tell me what happened."
Sarah pushed the napkin to the side and looked into her friends face. She was comforted to see the care and support she found in Jen's eyes. "Vivian got a hold of a device her father developed called the Norseman. It finds a specific person through their DNA and poisons only that person. It usually kills immediately, but I was lucky in that it didn't kill me," Sarah shrugged.
Jen's eyebrows furrowed and asked, "Why do you think that is?"
Sarah grabbed the napkin, stared hard at it and started twisting the corner again. She had wondered about that herself. She shrugged and said, "Personally, I think it was a combination of a couple of things. Vivian was using a second, different Norseman device since Chuck and I captured the first one. Her lawyer slash 'mentor of evil' had helped her use the first one and had it precisely calibrated. He wasn't there when she used the second one, so I don't think it was as accurate."
"Um, her 'mentor of evil' was unavailable?" Jen asked. She took into Sarah's deadpanned face and said quietly, "Got it. We don't need to worry about him anymore. Carry on," she said, sipping her tea again.
She looked into Jen's eyes and continued. "The other element that worked in my favor is that I don't think the DNA sample they had for me was very good. I don't know what they used, but I'm pretty sure I would have remembered if they had swabbed the inside of my cheek," Sarah tried to sound light as she sipped her coffee.
"So the poison got to you via this Norseman device but it didn't kill you like it was supposed to. Did it affect you?" Jen asked in a low voice.
She gave a slight nod and began twisting a different corner of the napkin between her fingers. "I collapsed at our rehearsal dinner." Her voice caught and tears stung her eyes. Jen waited silently as Sarah drew in a deep breath. "They rushed me to the hospital and immediately put me in an ice bath. I had a fever of over 106 degrees. It's a long story, but eventually Chuck, with the help of everybody, got the antidote and I recovered," Sarah said with a weak smile, her eyes glistening with the threatening tears.
Jen placed a soothing hand on Sarah's arm and said with tears prickling her own eyes, "Sweetie, I'm so sorry you had to go through that. It must have been really horrible." She heaved a relieved sigh and squeezed Sarah's arm. "I'm glad you're okay. I would have never guessed all of this went on just before the wedding." She dipped her head to get a better look into Sarah's face. "So everything is okay, then? You got better, you and Chuck are married..." she stopped. "Wait, what about Vivian? Is she on the loose gunning for you? For me?"
Sarah's head snapped up and said quickly, "No, no! She and her father are out of the picture."
Jen's eyes widened, "Wait. Her father, too? I thought he was in some super high security prison." She grinned and said, "He broke out, too, didn't he? See, nobody stays in prison with you guys around."
Sarah laughed when she realized Jen was right. "Actually, Chuck broke him out."
Jen snickered and said, "Of course he did!"
Sarah's smile faded a little and said, "I'll tell you the whole story when we are someplace not so public, but yes, Chuck help Alexei Volkoff escape. He was the only one who could help Chuck get the antidote for the Norseman poison. He helped convince Vivian to relent and help me. Apparently, it was quite a tense standoff. But now, father and daughter have reconnected. They have new identities and have effectively disappeared. Neither of them are a threat to us anymore."
Jen smiled in relief and leaned back in her chair. "Well, that's great! Everything's back to normal." She clapped her hands together once, rubbed them and said, "So, when do I start as your researcher slash analyst?"
Sarah's face turned serious and started working the napkin again. "Um, yeah. We need to talk."
Jen felt like her insides had turned to ice and her face paled. "Holy crap, you're dumping me."
"Oh god, no!" Her face was stricken. "It's nothing like that. We, as a team, found out some highly sensitive information that the CIA doesn't want made public. They feel like they can't control us they way they want to, so they disbanded Team Bartowski. We don't work for the CIA or NSA anymore."
"They burned you?" Jen asked.
"That explains why they acted like they had never heard of me when I called human resources in Langley the other day." Jen shrugged and smiled, "Well, it was fun while it lasted." Realization of what it meant to her friend suddenly hit her. "Oh, Sarah, I'm so sorry. You don't have a job now. I guess Chuck can stay at the Buy More, but what are you going to do?"
An enigmatic smile curled on Sarah's face. "We're going into business for ourselves."
"You mean do for real the cover security work you said you did when we first met?" Jen asked.
"Not exactly," Sarah said. This was the part of the story she couldn't wait to Jen. "When Vivian and Hartley Winterbottom, that's Volkoff's real name," she informed Jen when her eyebrows shot up at the name, "disappeared into their new life, they had to give up Volkoff Industries. So," she paused for a few seconds for dramatic effect, "they transferred all of Volkoff Industries' assets to Chuck and me as a wedding present." Sarah stopped and waited for that nugget of information to sink in.
Jen's mouth dropped open and she blinked a couple of times. She recovered and leaned forward with eyes narrowed. "Sarah, remember," she said quietly, "I looked into Volkoff Industries before I accepted that job with Vivian. It's worth a lot of money. How much, exactly?"
Sarah's blue eyes danced when she looked Jen straight in the eye and said, "Eight hundred and seventy-seven million dollars."
Jen stared back at Sarah. She didn't even blink. "You and Chuck have $877 million?" she choked. Sarah, her face graced by an inscrutable smile, slowly nodded.
"What, pray tell, will you do with all this money?" she asked with a calm she didn't feel. Before Sarah could answer, Jen gasped and said, "Please don't turn into those people who go broke after they win the lottery because they don't know how to handle their money!"
Sarah chuckled and shook her head. Jen said, "Now if it was just Chuck, I'd be worried. But with you involved, you'll be okay."
Sarah grinned. "We haven't gone crazy yet. Actually, we know exactly what we want to do with it. We want to fund our own clandestine organization. We will be what you might call 'independent espionage agents.' And we want to you to join our team."
Jen sat back in her chair, stunned.
Sarah said sympathetically, "I'm sorry, Jen. This is a lot to take in. I hate to tell you this, but there is a lot more I need to tell you. But I think this is enough for now."
Jen nodded mutely. After a moment, she shook off the shock and said, "Wait. I have one simple question. Why?"
"You mean why not just let the CIA and the NSA do their thing and Chuck and I buy an island in the Caribbean and retire?"
"Well, yeah." Jen grinned and said, "And if you did, then my family and I would have a great place to vacation every year," she joked.
Sarah's own mood was lifting and she noticed that Jen seemed to be returning to her old self as well.
"I love the idea of having friends that own their own island. You could send the private jet," Jen teased.
Sarah blushed a little.
"Wait! You already have a private jet?" she asked in disbelief.
"Yup," Sarah nodded slightly. She grew serious again and said, "Anyway, the agent sent to 'take care of us' because of what we know, a guy named Decker, told Chuck that everything we've done the past four years was all planned. Our lives were manipulated in everything we did." Sarah saw Jen's eyes grow wide. Sarah nodded. "Maybe even that call you received from Vivian MacArthur."
Jen's jaw clenched. "I never did find out how she got my name," she nearly growled. Jen's blue eyes flashed. "I don't like being manipulated by anyone," she said angrily.
Sarah's eyebrow rose at Jen's fierce reaction to this revelation. She continued urgently, "That's why we have to do this on our own. We don't know who in the government might be in on whatever all of this is. That's why we're going to go after whoever has been manipulating us. Manipulating you. It's up to us to stop it."
Jen threw her shoulders back and said with conviction, "Sign me up."
Sarah put up her hand to slow down her friend's enthusiasm. "Jen, you have to understand that there are serious risks. We are going after bad people. And we don't even know who they are. What we will be doing won't be government sanctioned since we don't work for it anymore. We won't have access to the kinds of resources we had with the Agency. That may not affect you directly since you won't be in the field." That elicited a snort from Jen. Sarah smirked and continued, "But it may impact your ability to perform research for us. We hope to get some people who still work for the government to help us, like our former boss, but that will take some time." She looked directly into Jen's eyes. "Are you okay with that?"
Jen sat back and crossed her arms in front of her. Sarah could tell she was processing everything she had been told.
"These people," Jen started. "We don't know anything about them, do we? Not even what their end game is."
Sarah shook her head, "No, we don't."
"Let me guess. World domination," Jen said sarcastically.
Sarah's eyebrow crooked up. "I wish I could laugh and say that was ridiculous, but Jen, I can't."
Jen groaned, put her elbow on the table and rested her chin in her hand. "Why is it always world domination? Why can't these people find something better to do with their delusions of grandeur? Like find a cure for cancer or develop the perfect flavor of ice cream." Sarah snorted. "What?" Jen said in mock defensiveness. "I like ice cream."
Jen schooled her features and continued, "Seriously, Sarah, my kid is 15. She has her whole life ahead of her. We can't let these megalomaniacs ruin her or anyone else's future. I said the same thing when we went after Vivian Volkoff and I'll say the same thing now. I could never live with myself if I could have done something to stop them and didn't."
Sarah looked into her friend's blue eyes and saw a mix of fire and resolve. When she was convinced Jen knew the risks she was taking, she nodded and said, "Okay."
Jen nodded and replied, "Okay." She relaxed and said, "So there's more to this story?"
"Yeah, but we'll get to that later. Right now there's a guy over there checking you out." She flicked her eyes to a man about Jen's age with blond hair and a fake tan. He wore a dress blue shirt that should have been buttoned up higher and dark dress slacks. A thick gold chain adorned his neck. He looked a little like a disco reject.
Jen nearly did a spit take. "Me? I'm sitting here with you and he's looking at me? He must be legally blind."
Sarah scowled. "Oh, please." Then she sat up straighter. "Don't turn around," she warned through clenched teeth. "He's coming over here."
Jen looked up at the man when he stopped at their table. Sarah watched Jen's face very subtly change from curiosity to annoyance.
"Aren't you Jen Garner?" the man asked, his veneered teeth flashing a cheesy grin.
Jen put on a fake smile and replied, "Well, I used to be. My name is Jen Hatch now. You're Troy Cooper, right? If I remember, we went to high school together."
"That's right," he smarmed. "So, you're married?"
"Yup," she held up her left hand. "Happily for 19 years now. How about you, Troy? Married?"
Uninvited, he pulled up a chair and sat down at the table. "Three strikes and I'm out," he grinned, a little too happily.
Jen's eyes grew wide. Ew. "Um, wow, Troy. That's…interesting." Shaking herself slightly, Jen remembered her manners and introduced Sarah saying, "Troy, this is my good friend, Sarah." They shook hands as Jen continued in a warning tone, "She just got back from her honeymoon."
Sarah noticed his handshake was a limp and his hand was soft and slightly moist. Charming, she cringed.
"Your husband is a very lucky man," Troy oozed. "Are you and the new hubby looking for a house? Because I happen to be in real estate and can get you into a great place with just a little down." He paused and leaned forward, closer to Sarah. "It's definitely a buyer's market right now," he said in what was apparently his sexy voice.
Sarah pressed her lips together to keep the snort from escaping. Now she understood Jen's reaction to this guy. "Well, you know, Troy," she purred, "we aren't in the market right now, but if you give me your card, I'll give you a call when we are." She gave Jen an almost imperceptible wink. Jen took a sip of her tea to cover the grin forming on her face.
He nearly fell out of his chair reaching for his wallet to fish out a business card. He handed one to Sarah with a flourish. He had his back completely turned to Jen now. Sarah said with mock innocence, "Don't you think Jen might want one of your cards, too?"
He jerked and spun around. He seemed to have completely forgotten she was there. "You're probably already in a house, right Jen?" hardly glancing her way.
"Yes, Troy, we are and we're very happy there," she replied sweetly. He turned his attention back toward Sarah. She saw Jen roll her eyes. She couldn't stop the snort from escaping when Jen raised her fist and gave the back of Troy's head a one-fingered salute.
Sarah covered her mouth with her hand and expertly turned the snort into a small cough.
"Well, I've got to go. Big real estate meeting, you know," Troy bragged. He stood, took Sarah's hand in both of his, shook it again and said, "It was wonderful to meet you, Sarah. You'll be in touch?"
She flashed him one of her dazzling smiles and he staggered just a little. He half turned toward Jen and mumbled, "Good to see you again, Jen."
"You too, Troy," her response dripped with sarcasm.
He dropped Sarah's hand and headed for the door. As soon as it closed, they both burst out laughing. "Oh my god, Jen, that man has to be one of the biggest tools I have ever met in my life!"
"I know," Jen laughed. "He was like that in high school, too. He doesn't even remember that he did the same thing to me at the last high school reunion. As soon as he found out Mark and I were already in a house, he just walked away in the middle of the conversation."
Sarah shook her head at Troy's boorish behavior. Suddenly, a realization hit her. "Wait! Your maiden name was Jen Garner? Jennifer Garner? Like the actress?"
"Don't start," she warned, but her eyes danced. "I'm older then her, so I had the name first. By the time she was famous, I was already married. There aren't that many people that know that little bit of information."
Sarah laughed, "Don't worry. Your secret is safe with me."
Jen smiled and said, "Thanks."
Sarah looked at the time on her phone. "Do you have time to meet with Chuck, Casey, Morgan and me right now? I'd like to get you up to speed and get your thoughts on what's going on," Sarah said.
Jen glanced at her watch. "Sure," she replied, "This is my daughter's last week of school before summer break, so I don't have to be back to Pasadena until this afternoon. Let's go."
They stood up and grabbed their empty cups. Sarah took the lid off her cup and dropped Troy's business card into it. She replaced the lid and dropped the cup in the trashcan as they walked out the door.
Next time on Return of the Ninja Librarian:
"Shall we christen our newly purchased supply closet?"