A/N: So let me tell you. I swear there were days I wondered if I would ever publish this thing. SupesFan118 wrote the original draft. PJMurphy beta'd it and some days it felt like the whole world looked at it. A quick thanks to KateMcK, Chuckfan56 and others who said this chapter didn't suck too bad.
Warning: This is not fluff. The following is a back history of an important character in the rest of Heritage.
The good news is this is also a commitment. I will finish this story, and the next one won't come out 8 months from now. In fact, it may even be ready for beta.
This is not all non heritage. There is a teaser near the end.
Chicago, Illinois - 1968
Randolph Myerson was enjoying his newly-minted freedom. He had just graduated from high school and was dating his high school sweetheart, Joanne Kolowaski. He had been out searching for a job all day when he came home to find his mom a wreck on the floor.
Randy, as he had been called during high school, ran over to his mom to find out what was going on.
"Mom, what's wrong? What happened?"
Between racks of sobs she handed him the letter. As soon as he saw it, Randolph Myerson knew he'd never be the same.
Two weeks later, his friends had a party to wish him well, and his girlfriend gave him the best going away present she could think of. It was spontaneous. It wasn't anything like the stag film he once saw, but it was a moment he would remember forever. They promised to write each other and be faithful until he returned. Joanne started to cry as she looked into her boyfriend's warm, brown eyes. They were so loving and caring, and she wasn't sure if they would return to her. The men who actually returned from the war in Vietnam were never the same as they were before they left.
"Randy, please. Let's leave tonight. We can go to Canada. We won't be able to return, but at least we will be together and you'll be alive."
"Baby, shhh. Could you really live without seeing your family ever again? I love you for thinking it, but I promise you I will come back to you. Nothing will ever stop me. Understand?"
Between sobs she responded with a meek "I do."
"Good, now let's enjoy my last night of freedom before I ship out tomorrow."
They strolled back out on the dance floor as Otis Redding's Sittn' on the Dock of the Bay came on the radio, and they held each other closely as they began to dance.
The next morning came all too quickly for Randolph Myerson. His friends and family took him to the train station. He boarded the train for Fort Polk for basic training.
Fort Polk, Louisiana
It was quite clear to the drill instructors they had something special on their hands. Private First Class Randolph Myerson was showing himself quite adapt with a rifle. Well, with any weapon in reality, but his greatest proficiency by far was in any long distance shot. In nine weeks of training, he had yet to not score high marks in the known distance range, and he just seemed to instinctively know how windage and gravity would affect a round.
Myerson wrote to his beloved Joanne every day. One day he received a letter just before he was about to graduate from Basic Training.
My dearest Randolph,
Before you think this is a Dear John letter, it's not. I just wanted to let you know by the time you receive this letter, I will no longer be living at the address you have for me. I will now be residing at 6477 N. Bradford Avenue, Chicago, Ill. That's right; I'm living in your house. The thing is…my parents threw me out of their house. The reason being is…well…Randy…I am carrying your baby. In just a few months, you are going to be a father Please, please come home to us. To your family.
Randolph sent his reply back to Joanne, as well as a ring he got from Smith Jewelers a few weeks ago. He asked for her hand in marriage when he got back from wherever it was he would be shipped.
Twenty-four hours later, he was on his way to Vietnam.
It had been three months since Randolph "Rev" Myerson joined his unit: the 501st Infantry Division. In that time he killed far too many men with his own sniper rifle. He felt himself starting to harden like the older veterans who had been in the jungle for a year or two. His attitude was changing. How he saw the world and the horrors he never experienced stateside were now coming into full view.
He had just finished cleaning his weapon while whistling the tune of Reflections by Diana Ross and the Supremes when he was told to report to the "old man." Once he entered the commanding officer's quarters, he stopped at the appropriate distance away from his desk, stood at attention, and gave a crisp salute.
"Private First Class Randolph Myerson reporting as ordered, sir."
"At ease, soldier," his commander replied without looking up.
Myerson stood at parade rest and waited patiently while his commanding officer finished the paperwork in front of him. His C.O. finally looked up at him and frowned.
"Myerson, I said at ease. Save the parade rest for the ninety-day wonders they keep sending us."
Once he allowed himself to relax, he looked around the room and saw a tall man in his twenties standing in the corner. Myerson hadn't been in the service long, but he could already distinguish those who were in the Army from those who weren't. The hulking African-American with the permanent scowl was undeniably in that second category. A CIA agent, Myerson guessed, as he had seen his fair share of spooks during his short tenure.
"This man here is Special Agent Langston Graham," Myerson's C.O. confirmed. "He wants to talk to you in private."
"PFC Myerson, please follow me," Special Agent Graham said in a growl as he guided him towards a private tent on the base.
"Myerson, I have been following your development since boot camp. I have a special team under my command I'd like you to join."
"Well sir, that sounds great and all, but does that mean I'd have to extend my tour?"
"No, son. But it does mean if you do a good enough job there, a job may be waiting for you when you get back to the States."
Myerson was encouraged. "Sir, the only job I have waiting for me is a wife and child back at home. I'll be glad to do whatever I can for you."
"We will see," Special Agent Graham said quietly to himself with the tiniest of smiles as he walked out of the tent to talk with Myerson's soon-to-be ex-commanding officer.
Over the next nine months, PFC Myerson became Lieutenant Myerson. Whenever a tricky mission came up, his name was the first one mentioned. "Rev" became "The Padre." After every kill he would say a prayer for the one whose life he just took. By the time he signed his discharge papers, The Padre was had said more prayers than the last ten Popes combined.
Once he got home he joined the Chicago Police Department, married his high school sweetheart, Joanne Kolowaski, and met his now two-year-old son, Mark.
Chicago, Illinois - 1984
Detective Lieutenant Randolph Myerson was about to close the case of his career. He was close to taking down Vito Sabatini of the Capaveti crime family. Sabatini was due in court the next morning, and Detective Myerson stayed at work late to make sure he had everything in order for the start of the trial. He spent the better part of two years helping build the case against one of the Capaveti's most ruthless family members, and nothing was going to stop him from sending this bastard to a nice federal prison in Terra Haute.
He exhaled slowly and headed to his home in Skokie. Many of his neighbors were Chicago cops, as the suburb bordering the city was popular among officers because of the better school system and lower property taxes. As he pulled up, he saw a man nervously walking down the street and his front door halfway open. His eyes widened. Randolph took his gun out and held it at the five o'clock position as he slowly climbed the stairs.
What he saw when he looked inside his house changed him forever. In the middle of the living room were his wife and teenage son lying in a pool of blood. His wife had been tied up, and their son was lying on top of her.
As he approached his family, he dropped his pistol on the ground and cradled the body of his young son. He held him tightly and closed the eyes of his beloved. When he felt a tear fall down his cheek he wiped it away with such intensity it left a mark on his face.
"Hey Randy," his neighbor Bill, who was a fellow Army vet, called out from the sidewalk in front of Randolph's house. "Everything OK?"
Randolph staggered to his door, grabbing the pole outside his doorframe and smearing blood across it in the process. He looked at his neighbor, who picked the worst time to walk his dog. "Call 911 and have them send units to my house. Don't let anyone in. Tell them "Code 10-1, Officer in Danger-needs assistance." Randolph turned to head down the street.
"Randy, what's going on?" Bill shouted.
"Just don't go in there. Please, just call them and keep everyone away from my house until they arrive!" Randolph yelled as he sprinted down the street.
Randolph caught sight of the murderer as he turned down an alley on the next block. He slowed down and peered around the corner. He caught sight of the man ditching his clothes in a trash can in the alley and pouring lighter fluid on them. The former veteran crouched low and slowly tiptoed towards the man. He wasn't going to let him get away. He slipped his hand underneath his jacket and reached for his pistol, but suddenly remembered where it was: next to the bodies of his wife and child.
He made up his mind what he was going to do. With a yell that would make a Marine proud, Randolph Myerson ran at the man who had murdered his family. Just as the man turned to face him, he felt the crushing weight of the ex army vet crashing into him. Randolph landed on top of him and straddled his body. Rational thought left the former father and husband's mind as he repeatedly struck the nameless face before him. He threw punch after punch, paying no mind to what was happening as a grotesque scene began to dominate the area around him. He let out a primal scream as he grabbed the man's head and smashed it repeatedly into the concrete.
Once his adrenaline levels evened out and exhaustion set in, he let go of what remained of the man's head, leaned back, and took a deep breath. He wiped the sweat from his brow with his hand and unknowingly got blood all over his face. As he started to get up, he noticed the lights from the arriving police cars along the walls of the alley. A moment later, two patrol officers came up with the weapons drawn.
"Put your hands up slowly and thread your fingers together behind your head!"
Randolph stared blankly at the two officers. He barely acknowledged his surroundings, but he obeyed their commands.
"Next, get on your knees and cross your legs behind you."
Randolph did what was asked of him without ever saying a word. The second officer stood in the background with his light shining on Myerson. From what he could tell, the man kneeling in front of them was in a daze. He was borderline catatonic.
The first officer handcuffed Myerson and slowly lifted him up. He took him back to the squad car as the second officer went to investigate what was up ahead. Both officers had noted the blood all over Myerson but didn't place where it had come from until the second officer came up the body of the assailant. Just as the first officer was tucking Myerson's head down into the squad car, he could hear his partner vomiting down the alley. After making sure Myerson was secure, the first officer took his flashlight and made his way to his partner. When he came upon him and saw what his partner was looking at, he doubled-over and retched as well.
As other squad cars descended on the scene, the two officers turned the investigation over to the arriving Site Commander and the forensics team. They returned to their car to go back to the precinct with their prisoner. What they found was a man rocking back and forth in the back seat muttering the names Joanne and Mark over and over.
Six Months Later
When Randolph Myerson was sentenced to five years in jail for manslaughter, it was a sentence no one wanted. The judge gave him the smallest sentence he could. The defense attorney knew he could have, and should have, won the case, as there wasn't a jury in the world who would begrudge a loving husband and father seeking revenge against a cold-blooded hitman sent by one of the most brutal mob families in Chicago. Even the DA had offered to just give him probation. Not a single person wanted this man to suffer further after his family was brutally murdered simply because he was doing his job.
However, the only words to ever come out of Randolph Myerson's mouth since that fateful night were "I'm guilty" and "throw me in jail."
Joliet Correctional Facility - 1985
Randolph Myerson sat in his cell in solitary confinement. He was the first prisoner the warden could remember who requested being placed there. Myerson had nothing to fear from other prisoners, who would ordinarily be salivating at the idea of a cop within their midst. But not this cop. He was a broken man who had nothing left and no reason to ever leave this facility, no matter how few years the state of Illinois said he would be incarcerated here.
A pair of guards came to his cell. Myerson was placed in hand and leg shackles. They led him to a secure room normally reserved for lawyers and clients. He had no need for such a room. He fired his lawyer last week for continuously attempting to appeal his sentence. Myerson had no idea who his visitor was.
The guards attached his shackles to bolts on the floor. As the doors opened, Randolph lifted his head and saw Langston Graham approach the table and take a seat on the opposite site from him. After the guards departed, Graham reached out to shake Myerson's hand. Randy didn't even move, not even acknowledging Graham's presence.
Graham put his hands on the table. "Randolph, how are you? Randolph just stared into space. "OK. Well, I am not going to beat around the bush. First of all, I am sorry about your wife and son…..I truly am."
Myerson didn't react. Langston Graham took a deep breath and continued. "Second of all, I am here to offer you a job."
Randolph finally focused his attention on Graham. He was about to reply, but Langston raised his hand to stop him.
"You are up for parole in six months. I think you might be perfect for a new program which will make that wait a bit shorter." Graham stopped and smiled, but Myerson didn't react. Graham's mouth was curved in an upward direction, but his eyes did not share the sentiment. "Once you've been approved and processed, I will give you access to my private jet, where the pilots will be directed to take you wherever you want to go."
"What's the catch?"
"I will need you for the occasional job. No one will know who you are or anything about you. Only you and I will communicate through whatever system you set up."
Myerson took a deep breath. "Langston, I am not the same man that I was during the war. I've changed. I don't know if I can pull the trigger."
"No, you're not the same man. I know you never saw the world the same way after Vietnam, and now your last bit of connection to the man you were was taken from you. That makes you a very dangerous person. I don't know if you can ever get the person you were back, but perhaps you can use your grief to help me preserve the greater good. To honor your family's memory."
Randolph sat back in the chair and thought about how to respond.
Graham exhaled slowly. "Look, I'm not saying you'll be out there killing every bad guy in the known world. I am talking about the occasional job where my agents may have gotten themselves in over their heads and need to be bailed out."
Graham leaned in closer, trying to seal the deal. "Padre, I am truly sorry for your loss. I know those words might sound hollow coming from an Agency man, but I mean it. I'm going to devote all my available resources to finding the man who ordered the hit on your family. After I've located him...well…I imagine you'll do what needs to be done. Just think about it."
Graham stood slowly and looked sadly upon his former employee as he knocked on the door. The guards let him exit before leading Myerson back to his cell.
One month later, Randolph Myerson walked out of the Joliet Correctional Facility a free man. As he exited the prison, he noticed a black sedan in the visitors' parking lot. The door opened, and Langston Graham stepped out. They shook hands and Langston Graham gestured for Myerson to get into the back of the car. Myerson slid inside slowly, and Graham sat next to him. Graham's driver started the car and headed for Interstate 55 North.
Randolph turned to Langston. "I'm in, but only on my terms. I will not be your personal assassin. You send me an assignment, and only I will decide if I want to do it. You are never to question me. Agreed?"
Langston straightened in his seat. He tilted his head and stared at his newest employee. When Myerson just looked at him with a raised eyebrow, Graham's deep and cold voice echoed in the air.
"Agreed. How will I contact you?"
Randolph dug into his pocket and tossed Langston an object. After examining it, he looked up at Myerson with an inquiring glance.
"Obviously you don't have kids," Myerson replied with the most minimal of smiles. "It's a takeoff of the Little Orphan Annie decoder wheel. From A Christmas Story. It was my son's favorite movie. I made it myself. Send me a numeric message in the New York Times personal ads section every Friday. I will check it once a week."
"And where will you be?"
"Panama. There is a monastery there. The Franciscan Brothers do missionary work."
"Wait. Hold up, hold up. You, Randolph Myerson, want to be a priest?" Graham chuckled to himself.
"Two months before I left the Delta, we did a sweep of one of the villages. S.O.P. at the time. When we got there, some guy who could barely speak anything but Italian had been all but adopted by the village."
Graham shook his head "Wait. I remember that report. You weren't kidding; the 'Yards actually allowed an outsider into their village."
Myerson grinned. "One of the wildest things I ever saw. Anyway, after we evac'ed him, on his way to Palermo a couple weeks later, he said if I ever wanted to get away, I should come see him."
"So I guess that's where my pilots are taking you?"
Graham tapped his driver on the shoulder, who handed him the car's phone. He called his contact at Midway Airport and ordered him to give the pilots the destination in order to file the appropriate flight plans.
The sedan pulled up to a small executive waiting area on 55th Street on the north end of the airport. Graham turned to Myerson. He handed him an envelope with traveling money, a new ID, and a passport. His new name was Tommy Delgado, and one of the agents in the car handed him a newly laminated CIA credentials card. The only name on it was Simon Black, AKA "The Padre."
"A new name to go with a new life," the agent said with a mix of sympathy and admiration. Everybody had heard of Myerson. Randolph nodded to him in appreciation.
"One last piece of information for you, Tommy," Graham said gravely, which caught Randolph's attention. "Sabatini has fled the States. We are not sure where yet, but we will find him and I will let you know the minute we do. No matter how long it takes, he won't get away with what he did.
"Thank you, Langston."
"I'll be in touch, Tommy." he clapped the man on the back as he exited the sedan.
With that Randolph Myerson/Tommy Delgado looked out over the surrounding area one last time and then finally entered the plane.
Five minutes later the plane was taxiing the runway and taking off. He was not sure if he would ever see his hometown again. But with all of the pain and heartache it held for him now, it didn't matter.
Jungles of Panama – Eighteen Months Later
"Father Delgado! Father Delgado!"
Father Thomas Delgado turned around and saw Julio running down the hallway of the monastery.
After running up to the priest and catching his breath by putting his head between his knees, Julio raised his hand up. "It's Friday, señor. Here is your paper."
"Thank you, Julio," Father Delgado said as he pulled a dollar out and gave it to the young boy. He gently cupped the back of the young man's head, pausing momentarily to envy the lad's still-untainted innocence, before gently prodding him to run along.
Father Delgado went back to his room. It was sparse. A window, a bookshelf, a bed, and a nightstand with a Bible on it were all he needed. He had been checking the New York Times every Friday for a year and a half. He had done a few small jobs for Graham, but there had been no word on Sabatini. However as he scoured the page of ads this day, he found it. There was a numerical sequence. He went over to his bookshelf and took out his copy of Gray's Anatomy. He opened it and pulled out the decoder key.
123042288 63036323024182818 2183632303640 403026 7:30226 40186221040
240 6304228401036 423810 1418441028 22418238 26101040 6302840640
Father Delgado picked up the envelope with the travel money and the ID out of the book. He then took a knapsack out. He put a week's worth of clothes out and packed everything up. He then went out in search of Father Marion.
After a few moments he spotted the man he was looking for. "Father Marion!"
Father Marion turned around. The elderly priest still had the kick in him of someone forty years younger and spoke with an old but lilting Italian accent.
"Ah my favorite student, how can I help you?"
"I need to leave for a week or two."
"But you will be back, correct?"
"Yes sir, I will. I will need your guidance and ear when I return."
"I will pray for you, my son. Be safe."
With that, Father Marion turned and walked away. He was the only person in the monastery who knew of the life Randolph Myerson led and had not judged him for it.
Father Delgado made his way to the airport the next morning. After picking up his ticket at the counter, he boarded his flight. Thirteen hours later, his plane landed at Palermo International Airport. As he disembarked from the plane, he put his knapsack on his shoulder. He made his way through the promenade, admiring the beauty of the structure and the artwork within it.
A man came up on his right. "Mr. Black?" he spoke in a hushed tone.
Simon Black, aka The Padre, nodded slightly but kept walking so not to attract attention. The two men continued on their way towards the exit. As they went outside, a car pulled up in front of them. Out of the corner of his eye, Black saw the slight motion for him to get in. Black got in the back seat and took note of the two men sitting in front. The man who accompanied him out of the airport sat in the back with him.
"Sir, my name is Thompson," the man in the front passenger seat told him. "Our drive will be about five hours or so. We're going to a little town called Palermo. We have secured you a room at a nearby hotel close to the target.
"Good. I will need three days to watch his movements and figure out my best alternatives."
"Sir, we have video…"
"No, I need to see it in person," Black firmly replied.
'Very well, sir."
Five hours later, they arrived at their destination. Palermo was a quaint little countryside village with cobblestone streets, clothes hanging from clotheslines strewn across the alleyways, and even local vendors selling their goods. The people in the town were going about their business like they hadn't a care in the world.
Black set up on the adjacent roof. He pulled a pad of paper, a pen, some binoculars and some fresh pastries out of his pocket and sat down for the long haul. He crouched down and made notes of who came and went out of the villa across the road from him. He noted all the people who passed by the front of the villa. He noted where children played in the area, where the elderly sat and told stories, anything and everything that could affect the job that he was there to do.
After four hours, the object of his hatred showed his face. He pulled up in a dark car with his son. Black put his binoculars down and turned to a new page of paper. He began to formulate his plan. For the next three days, he waited and watched for any deviation in Sabatini's routine.
The day finally arrived, and Black went through his mental checklist to make sure everything was ready. He had a motorcycle a few blocks down waiting in an alleyway for his escape. He also prepared two dump sites to get rid of any evidence.
He took out the picture of his wife and son and taped it to the wall in front of him.
"Forgive me," he whispered as he kissed his fingers and gently put them over the face of his beloved.
Sabatini exited the villa with bodyguards both in front and back of him. However, they stopped before they went to the awaiting car. He looked down and saw a wrapped box with "Sabatini" written on the box and a note attached. Sabatini carefully unfolded the note.
Inside this box are directions to the legal attaché in the U.S. Embassy. Someone is coming after you, and the Embassy is your only way to avoid any extreme consequences. I am pleading with you: spare your life. Confess to the authorities.
Randolph Myerson could see the yellow on Sabatini's teeth through his scope as he talked with his friends. The same scope he had used to kill so many people during the war. This time was different. It was not his choice. He was doing this for redemption; to make sure nobody else would suffer the way his wife and son did.
Keep telling yourself that, Randy bitterly thought to himself.
He turned back to the scope to see Sabatini rip up the note, laugh, and drop the box on the ground.
Even from a half mile away you could see the concussion of the air long before you heard it. Once the box hit the ground, the explosives detonated. Myerson was glad he did not need to use the rifle in his hands. He was unsure if he could ever use it again. The Padre
made the sign of the cross, picked up his gear, and sprinted to the alley behind the building he was atop of before anyone realized he was there.
He dropped parts of the rifle in the pre designated areas to be picked up later by local CIA agents. He abandoned the motorcycle in another alley and hopped in a taxi to meet up with his contact. He got into Agent Thompson's waiting car, and they drove back to the airport. Once there, Agent Thompson handed Black a small packet.
"Sir, your ticket to Panama is ready."
"Thank you. No."
"Pardon me, sir?"
"No, I am going to Washington, D.C. to take care of something. Also, I would appreciate it, whenever you mention me in any of your reports; you only refer to me as "The Padre" and not Agent Black. There is to be no record of my ever being here. Is that understood?"
"Of course, sir," Agent Thompson replied as he turned around and picked up the phone in the car, attempting to make arrangements for the flight to D.C. However, all of the commercial flights were booked. There was a C-130 that was leaving for Andrews Air Force Base out of Sigonella Naval Air Station.
They made their way to Signoella NAS, and Agent Thompson dropped off The Padre. He walked directly to the tarmac where the crew of the C-130 was waiting for him. Throughout the entire ordeal, The Padre hadn't shown any emotion. He held his emotions in check since the incident. When the C-130 touched down at Andrews Air Force Base, Simon Black walked down the gangway and saw a car and two men from the Farm waiting for him.
"Agent Black, we are here to take you to Langley, sir," the dark-suited younger of the two droned.
"Not yet. Please take me to Arlington National Cemetery first. There are a few friends I need to see."
As the agents pulled up to Arlington National Cemetery, the younger of the two looked back in the mirror and could see the fight raging within the man in the back seat. From the tense muscles in his neck, the weary eyes that reminded him of an abused dog he saw once at a shelter, and what appeared to be a sad aura, it was obvious he was about to explode. However, as the car drove up Memorial Drive and he saw the pristine white Hemicycle Wall of the Women in Military Service for America Building, Simon Black exited the sedan as if he was just any other tourist. He told the two agents they could return to Langley. He might be there awhile, and he would take a cab over there. Black watched them drive off and then looked at the gates in front of him. As he looked over the rows and rows of white marble headstones, he didn't feel the need to go to specific graves to grieve, for they were all his brothers in arms.
Simon walked around the grounds for a while until he found an oak tree with some shade. It was October, so the leaves were starting to turn orange, and the air was crisp. He collapsed under the tree and let it all out for his family, for his fallen comrades, and for what he had just done an ocean away. His body racked with years of guilt over the things he had done in his life. The people he had killed…murdered in the name of his country…who were simply protecting theirs. Simon just let it all out, for he wouldn't be returning.
After sitting there for what felt like an eternity, he began wiping his face when he felt the coldness of a shadow over top of him. He looked up, and an older man was standing above him holding out a handkerchief for him.
Simon nodded in appreciation. "Thank you, Mr…"
"It doesn't matter. I know it's not my place, but why don't you walk with me."
"Sir, I am fine. Really. I was just letting go of some guilt over surviving and remorse over the things I have done over the years."
"Come with me, son. I have to visit some old friends and I'd like it to be with someone who understands. My family may be supportive, but they can never truly know what I went through and how it makes me feel. Trust me; I totally understand survivor's guilt."
The older man patted Myerson on the back and led him in the direction towards his fallen comrades. After a moment, the older gentleman spoke again. "We were fighting a battalion of Germans in the Argonne Forest in '43. Half my company was already dead; we were just trying to hold on 'til reinforcements came along. Suddenly, we're surrounded by a dozen German troops, and I was one of the only soldiers who could still fight. But…I froze. They opened fire, killed six more of the men in my company before I got wise. Then…I…my mind totally left me. I was deranged; I went crazy attacking anything and everything that moved in the night. I took all of them out."
They came upon a set of six graves, all of which listed the same company and the same date and location when those men paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The older man's breathing became labored and a few tears came to his eyes. "For years, I couldn't be convinced I saved a dozen of my brothers in those foxholes. I could only think about the six who died because I hesitated. I wanted to give back the medals I won. I didn't think I deserved to come home."
After they both paid their respects, they stared to walk away. "Come on, son. There is one more person we must pay our respects to; another man who gave his life for his country."
As they walked down the long pathway, the older man spoke again. "You know, I don't know your name or anything about you, but I am good at reading people. Much to my grandson's chagrin. While I may not know the things you have done in your past, I know what it's like to live with that guilt. Perhaps you can't change your past, but you can put it to much better use. Help those around you to see their past mistakes and to use them to find the happiness that everyone can achieve if they try. There is mine right there, my family." He pointed towards the memorial they were walking towards. "After what I did in the war, my wife still found the courage to love me, and she showed me how to live again. So did the men in my company. That's why I became a deacon; to help inspire others."
The Padre was subdued, to say the least. "It's Randolph, Randolph Myerson, and it's funny you say that. While I had family like you, I lost them to senseless violence. I have been trying to follow a path to walk with God. But…I've fallen so far off the path I don't think I can return to it again."
The old man just put his hand on the younger man. "If you think just because you did something wrong that God would wash his hands of you, that's where your real problem lies. Never forget Jesus loves you, and He died a horrible death so you can make a huge mistake and still follow Him into the afterlife."
They stood and looked at President John F. Kennedy's memorial; the eternal flame still shown brightly to this day. "Randolph, don't let what all these brave men and woman died to protect go to waste. Make sure you live your life. Move beyond the guilt, the hurt. I know it's tough, but if you can make a difference for even one person, the rest of your life would be worth it. My family, the men in my company, they saved me. The ripples of your actions can do so much good."
"I will sir, and thank you."
"Good luck, son." The old man left to join his family.
Simon Black made his way back to the visitor's center. As he was walking, he saw one of the custodians taking care of some weeds that had sprouted up in the cement near the center. The custodian closed an eye and stared at Randolph for a moment.
"I hope you listened to that old man."
The former sniper's eyes focused at the custodian as the man resumed his yard work. "Did you overhear our talk?" Simon asked.
The custodian smiled. "Mr. Ryan doesn't come here on most days, unless it's Memorial Day. He only spoke to you; must have been an important conversation." With that the custodian walked away to continue his work.
Myerson knew he had to go to Langley, but first he had a walk to make. He had to search his thoughts. Figure out what was next. The walk from Arlington to the Lincoln Memorial was a good stretch of the legs. The autumn breeze kept him focused and on target. Plus, going over the Potomac this time of year was always nice. By the time he got to the other end of the Arlington Memorial Bridge, Myerson had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do.
First, he wanted to walk to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and run his fingers over the names of some of his old friends. This was his first visit to The Wall. It had been up for a few years. Someone had told him it was designed to muffle sound as it got nearer. He wasn't sure, but it sure sounded like it, as he saw the names written in stone. After his fingers rubbed over the crevices of the letters of his comrades in arms names, he decided it was time to see Graham. He walked to the taxi stand and got in the first available cab.
Once the cab pulled up to the guard shack seven miles and thirty minutes later, thanks to the insane D.C. traffic, Myerson told the guard his name, showed him his credentials, and requested a meeting with Agent Langston Graham.
"Sir, your name isn't on the list."
"Just call his secretary. They will confirm who I am and for you to let me in."
The Padre pulled out his dog tags. "I know it doesn't mean anything, but it should give you reason to at least accommodate my request. Now, here again is my ID. Please, just make the call."
The young guard went into the guard shack and made the call. He was staring straight ahead and was a bit annoyed when his back went straight. He glanced at the man in the cab as if he was a visiting dignitary.
"Yes, sir!" the guard replied to the person on the other end of the line.
He then hung up and returned to the cab. "Please drive to the main entrance. The fare will be taken care of. Agent Graham's secretary will meet you at the entrance."
"Thank you, young man."
The guard nodded his head and lifted the gate, and the cab was escorted inside by a nondescript sedan. Myerson was met at the entrance by a statuesque brunette wearing a very sharp suit. She leaned into the front of the cab, paid the cabbie, and then gestured towards the front of the building. As they walked into the entrance, once the obligatory metal detector and pat down search was completed, Randolph was finally given access to the headquarters one of the world's most secretive agencies. Just as they were walking to the elevator, he saw the wall with the anonymous stars on it. Each star was a representation of a fallen spy. He stopped immediately and made the sign of the cross while closing his eyes in silent prayer. After a few brief moments, he followed the secretary into the elevator.
Simon Black was escorted to the office of the Director of the CIA. Once there, he had a seat and was told the Director and Graham would be right in. A few moments later, the door opened up and the large frame of Langston Graham filled the entry way. Shortly after a grey-haired man wearing a suit and glasses that would have been popular when J. Edgar Hoover was running things entered the office.
"Randolph, it's good to see you," Graham spoke in his traditional booming yet gravelly voice as he extended his hand to the man he had known for almost twenty years.
"You too, Graham." He then looked at the Director and shook his hand. "Director," he curtly acknowledged. He then turned back to Graham. "Been a long time since I saw you try and wear fatigues."
The three men took seats in the office. The Director's assistant brought coffees for Graham and him, and a glass of ice water for Myerson.
"So I heard through the grapevine Mr. Sabatini got what was coming to him," Graham said, barely able to keep the smile off of his face.
Randolph took a sip of water. "Not sure what you heard, Graham, but from what I understand, it was his choice to leave."
Graham smiled and leaned back in his chair. The Director got up and put his hand on his protégé's shoulder. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Black. I hope to be working with you again."
After the director left, Graham smiled. "So Randolph, did this little adventure of yours get your blood pumping for more assignments? Maybe even a return to active duty?"
Randolph clasped his fingers together as if in deep thought. Finally, he looked up.
"Actually…" Myerson paused. If Graham had been paying attention to Myerson's hands, he would have seen his hands shaking. Graham leaned forward, looking for a certain answer. Ever since he had left Vietnam, he hadn't stopped mentioning this 'ghost' who was the best sniper he had ever seen.
"No?" Graham asked in a state of shock.
"No, sir. Quite the opposite, actually. I am returning to the monastery and…if they will have me…the priesthood."
Graham sunk back into his chair again. He felt like someone who was about to propose, only to have his girlfriend dump him.
"However, I do have a proposition for you." Randolph added.
Graham rubbed his face. "I am listening." Graham hoped Myerson at least wanted to stay within the Agency.
"I want to help out severely traumatized agents. Our burned-out operatives. I can help them back to being effective agents…or at least let you know if they can be brought back. I found out I seem to have a talent for it. And since I have the clearance, you don't have to worry about leaks."
Myerson looked into the eyes of his old friend. He owed it to Graham to sweeten the pot. "Also, if that included the occasional extraction I'd be OK with that."
"So, how would we stay in contact?"
"Same way we have been. Through the paper."
Graham got up and walked around his desk, stroking his salt-and-pepper goatee for a moment.
"Well then, thanks for the flights and I pray you never need to contact me."
"Me too, old friend. Me too," Graham replied with an appreciative smile.
With that the man known as The Padre headed out to his new life.
Twenty-Three Years Later
Sarah Bartowski sat in the Blackhawk helicopter on her way to New Mexico. With her husband's head in her lap and fingers absentmindedly playing with the curls on his head, she thought back to their last few weeks.
Her best friend…no her sister…found out about their double life. Then all of them found out they were related to Diane Beckman. At the same time, the ancestral home Chuck had seen for the first time was destroyed, and Sarah feared everyone but Chuck were killed. Finally, she was kidnapped by a rogue agent out for revenge. But her magnificent husband came and rescued her. Sadly, it was a short-lived victory. Two days later, her worst fears were realized, and she was forced to tranq him.
Now it was her time to rescue him emotionally, just like he did for her all these years.
Sarah ran her left hand through his hair while simultaneously using her right to wipe the fresh tears falling down her face. She had already called the New York Times and placed an ad; a coded message to someone she never told Chuck about. The only person who could help save her husband was the very same man who had saved her. She never thought it would ever come to this. She had never been so scared in her life.
She was broken out of her thoughts by Chuck's ringing cell phone. She pulled the phone out of his pocket and saw it was Casey.
"Just tell me what happened to him, Sarah."
"Casey, he's damaged. Not physically, but mentally. We have a Blackhawk, and we're on our way to New Mexico."
Casey coughed for a minute.
"Casey…. he may never forgive me, but this is the only way I know to save the man I love."
"What do you mean?"
Sarah sighed. "Casey, this is just between us. Have you ever heard of The Padre?"
"The Padre? Get off it, Walker. That's the story they tell recruits when the instructors don't want to tell them how bad it can get. He's an urban legend."
"No, he's not. He exists."
"So you're saying there really is a priest who occasionally helps out the CIA with agents who have left the reservation?"
"That's exactly what I am saying, Casey."
Casey grunted in disbelief. "Just 'cause I'm on pain killers from the shrapnel in my shoulder, it doesn't mean I'm an idiot."
"Casey, you said it yourself. I used to be Langston Graham's wildcard enforcer. On a mission back in 2007, something went very wrong. I completed my mission, but Bryce bailed on me after I got hurt. I was falling apart. I was taken to this man. A man who was a deacon. A man they called The Padre. He helped me to survive."
Sarah paused to wipe away some tears. She pulled Chuck closer to her. "You were right when you said I had been compromised when I met Chuck. But The Padre taught me to see the emotions I was feeling not as a curse, but as a gift to be embraced. He told me I'd meet a man one day who would need me. Not the spy, not Agent Walker. Me."
Casey thought for a moment. He recalled hearing a story about how a turncoat ambassador was assassinated just before he could pass schematics for a chemical weapon to Al Qaeda. After getting the intel, they took him out. However, his two young sons were killed at the same time.
"That mission in Poland? 2007? That was you?"
"Casey, I didn't know they were in the car. I staked out his house for three weeks. I knew his routine backwards and forwards. I didn't know his wife would push him to take his sons to work for the day. They shouldn't have been there."
Casey exhaled. Even he couldn't have lived through that without downing a few bottles of Johnnie Walker to dull the guilt. "It's OK, Sarah. I'll handle things here. Now take care of that husband of yours, and I will see you soon. We can discuss it in more detail then if you like."
"Casey, will he hate me?" Sarah almost whispered into the phone.
"No, he won't," Casey replied in full confidence. "He's a Bartowski. He will always love you and the nerdling in your incubator. Now get some rest and call me once the transfer is made."
Sarah hung up the phone with her lips trembling. As she gently ran her fingers through Chuck's curly locks one last time, she place a gentle kiss on his forehead as a tear slid from her cheek and landed down his face, running a line down to his lips. She put her lips against his ear.
"I will always be with you and will always love you. Please, Chuck. Please come home to me and our baby," she whispered as more tears fell from her onto her husband's face.
As the chopper set down, the payload doors opened. The bright light temporarily blinded Sarah as she could barely make out a faint pair of legs. A man wearing robes approached the helicopter with a wheelchair in front of him.
"Mrs. Bartowski, I will help you get your husband inside, and then it will be time for you to leave. Father has asked me to remind you he will call you twice a day until Chuck can."
With that he helped Sarah load him into the wheelchair. Sarah gave her love a final kiss before boarding the Blackhawk again.
The End for Now.
AN2: Please go to Chuckthis dot com and vote in the polls I made for the fandom.
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