A/N This is the last chapter of this episode, but the story continues. Chuck's dreams lead us into the second half of the Tooth, combined with Living Dead.
"He's got a what?"
"Is that a symptom of something?"
"Why don't I believe that?"
"I'm your two o'clock."
"Team One, this is Kaleidoscope. What's your situation?"
Carina was faster with her napkin, so she answered. "Kaleidoscope, we are on overwatch at an R-A-M in Silver Springs, feasting on overpriced and underflavored Chinese take-out."
"What the hell's an R-A-M?" Casey hated to ask, they could hear it in his voice.
"It's short for Rent-A-Mansion," said the DEA agent, and added, "A rich house with a poor owner."
"Don't feel bad, Casey," said Sarah. "I didn't know what it was either."
"Why would I feel bad about that?" said Casey back. "I don't expect you guys in the CIA to know anything. That's where our guy Vogel's holed up?"
There was a large animal enclosure on the grounds, but nothing was in it at the moment. "I think even the Grand Ambassador would draw the line at an uncaged tiger on the premises."
"They might," agreed Casey with a grunt. "I'm sure they'd turn a blind even to that, if the money was right."
"For that price he can get the house, with fewer questions asked."
Carina shook her head. "Not the whole thing, just a part of it. And not for long," she added. "Without a subscription, he's paying through the nose for this place, even for a week. I doubt he's planning to wait that long."
"Sounds like the Turners are on their way. Any ideas on how to find them before Vogel does?"
Sarah ran her fingers over her charm bracelet. "It would help if we knew how Vogel knew where they were."
"You haven't heard from Eagle-Eye, then?"
Carina and Sarah shared a look. "You didn't hear, Kaleidoscope?"
Even over the phone Casey's voice dripped with suspicion. "I was at the ceremony."
"Doctor took Eagle-Eye off line," said Carina. "We got something, but he–" got it from a dream. Yeah, Casey would bank on that. "His source is unreliable and it doesn't make a lot of sense."
"Unreliable?" Carina was using that word.
Both ladies heard the sub-text, so Sarah stepped up. "According to Doctor, it's valid, just…cryptic. They called in a specialist to help interpret."
Sarah calling her husband's last flash valid was infinitely more reassuring. "We can't wait. Gimme what you got."
Leo Dreyfus thumbed through a stack of newly-signed-for and as-yet-unread documents about his newest client as he chatted. "The symbolism of dreams is a fascinating subject, Chuck, well-marked out, and yet unique to each dreamer, in your case especially." He dropped the papers onto his desk with a splash. "I find this…Intersect's use of the tiger imagery to be especially fascinating–"
Chuck didn't look over from where he reclined on the firm leather couch. "Uh, Doc, there really is a tiger involved in the case, so, not so fascinating."
"Oh." He gave Chuck a mild look over the rims of his glasses. "And the stiletto-heeled ninjas?"
"Uh…movie, I think." Chuck turned his head to look at the doctor. "Underworld, where the vampires leap off the bell tower at the beginning…no?"
Dreyfus shook his head, looked down at the list of notes he'd made in his pad. "Are these…flashes of yours always so personal?"
Chuck sat up and rotated his body into a sitting position, all in one move. "No, Doc, that's what I'm saying. They're never personal. I've always…received information from the flashes, never put the information into some other image."
"So the question is, why are you doing so now? What has changed?"
What hasn't? "Don't go there, Doc. The question is, what do all these images mean? Let Doctor handle the Intersect, she built the damn thing."
"The answer is in you, Chuck, not the code. You and the Intersect are linked, this dream shows us that much. It's operating in combination with your subconscious mind."
"That's never happened before, Doc. I've always been conscious."
"I beg to differ, Chuck, having met Charles Carmichael, in your flesh. Has he been around lately?"
High-heeled ninjas? Casey's lip curled in silent contempt. Sounds like a videogame. Red door, Tron poster, check, check, check. "Marasca cherries? Why'd he come up with that?"
"We don't know, Casey," said Sarah. "We googled it, got a lot of historical data, but nothing helpful."
"As far as I know, there's a maraschino liqueur made out of it, and the original maraschino cherry."
"That's what we found. How did you know?"
"All the bartender jobs I've had to pull, how could I not know?"
"You make it sound pretty common."
"Well, it's not common, the stuff's kind of expensive. You get booze snobs all over, especially the kind of high-end parties we used to stake out, who want their drinks made with only the 'correct' ingredients. Bunch of show-offs."
"So now what, we track all the imports of marasca cherries into DC?" Carina didn't sound thrilled with the prospect. Not only was it analytical work, but it would probably take too long.
"Probably the country," said Casey.
"Dammit!" said Sarah suddenly, "This is exactly what we need Chuck for."
"There are other analysts than Chuck," said Casey testily. The last thing they needed was another pair of eyes brought into the project.
"Do you know one that's anywhere near as good?"
"Yes," said Carina. "That Hannah girl, you were always raving about her."
Complete silence reigned.
Casey chuckled over the phone. "Go ahead, Walker, what have you got to lose?"
Bartowski, dammit! Sarah fumbled with her pockets. "Not as much as you do if you ever call me Walker again."
"Got you moving, didn't it?"
Carina smirked silently, and Sarah played with her screen a few seconds as Casey wisely said nothing. "Hannah? Yes, it's important, why else would I…exactly…Would you believe marasca cherries?...Just like it sounds…Imports, main consumers, especially in the DC area…Yes, we have a Grand Ambassador, why do you…of course they did. No one told you to take the…really, one hundred twenty seven percent? That's great…okay, I'll let you go back to making it one hundred twenty eight. We'll check there first. Yes, we'll speak tonight, if you don't call back sooner. Thanks." She put the phone away and started the car. "Casey?"
"I heard. What's your play?"
Sarah waited until the car had turned and leveled out. "You're not done?"
"She's always around."
"And you're complaining?"
"She's always around Morgan."
"Marines don't complain. They take action."
"Fine, as long as you're ready to back us up if we need it."
"I said I'll be there, I'll be there."
Carina waited until the screen went dark. "One hundred twenty seven percent of what?"
"Efficiency and performance improvement."
"And she's been there what, a month?"
Sarah grinned, happy for her friend. "Less."
"No wonder you liked her so much, she's a female version of Chuck. How did she know about the Grand Ambassador so soon?"
"Coworker took her to the hotel bar there, tried to impress her with his knowledge of mixed drinks. Apparently the marasca cherry is the only cherry to be used in a real Manhattan, and only the Grand Ambassador stocks them, and blah blah blah. She'll text me if she finds anything else."
Carina wrinkled her nose in distaste. "He sounds like either a snob or a lush."
"Funny you should say that…"
They finally emerged from the restaurant where they'd gone for their lunch, Alex on Morgan's arm. She was guiding him toward her car, but for some reason he balked at getting in.
Casey aimed a shotgun mike at them.
"-glad you came, really I am, I couldn't have made it without you, but you've got classes. I'll catch a ride back to the apartment on my own."
Alex hesitated. "If you're sure–"
"I'm sure. I'm only gonna take a nap anyway, gotta get my sleep schedule back on track, I work tomorrow."
"Okay." Alex gave him a kiss-on the cheek, Casey was glad to see-and got in her car. Casey put the mike away.
Morgan watched her go, his hand reaching up to touch his cheek, and a smile creeping over his face, the smile of a happy man. He looked up the street, clearly in search of a taxi.
Time to end this. "Grimes!" called Casey.
Morgan looked around, spotting him on the other side of the street, and quickly walked over. "Casey, buddy, what are you doing here? I was gonna get a cab–"
"Get in the car, Grimes."
Morgan got in the car, and made sure to buckle up this time. "Thanks for the lift."
"It's not a lift," said Casey, pulling out into traffic. "Your little nap's gonna have to wait, I've been trying to get you alone all damn day!"
Ellie and General Beckman were discussing something, probably him, when Chuck walked back in his sister's office, but they put their conversation on hold. "Hey Chuck, how was your visit to the company shrink?"
"He's a CIA psychiatrist, Ellie, and you guys really threw him in at the deep end."
"He asked for it, Mr. Bartowski," said Beckman. "Dr. Dreyfus refused to participate in your case without full disclosure."
"Consider me disclosed."
"And his findings?"
"Will be reported to my commanding officer in due course." He nodded at Ellie.
The expression he turned to her was so bland Beckman knew she'd just been played. "Very funny. You will be happy to know that the marasca cherries appear to have been a solid lead after all. Your wife and Agent Miller are on their way to apprehend the Turners as we speak."
"That's excellent news, General." Suddenly Chuck dropped his cheerful façade. "Ah, while we're all here together, one thing that Dr. Dreyfus said got me thinking. He wanted to know if we'd seen Charles Carmichael around lately…"
"Not since he almost got you killed, thank God."
"Why did he ask?"
"He thinks, um, that the Intersect is interacting with my subconscious mind, originally as him. Now he thinks it's using my dreams, so I was wondering–"
"If Carmichael was gone for good, and it needed a new outlet."
"How can we find out?"
"Carina's code, the one she used to call Carmichael out of me that night."
Beckman remembered all too well the tortured reshaping of his face after he heard that code. "You're either desperate or insane."
"A little of both, General, a little of both. He's got me feeling like a walking advertisement for Forbidden Planet right now and I just want to know that it's over."
He blew out a gusty sigh. "Or not."
"What are you thinking, little brother?"
"I'm thinking hospital restraints, sis."
Sarah and Carina stared at their prisoners in amazement.
Sarah's beautiful face twisted in disgust."You asked us to bring you to a safe house, you say this is all a misunderstanding, and now that we're here, all you want to do is pin the blame on each other? You guys are legends!"
"Screw that. You guys are partners," added Carina.
They gave her a sad, tired, weary look. "Call us in thirty years," said Mr. Turner, "Show us how shiny your youthful idealism is then."
Carina handed her gun to Sarah and grabbed Mr. Turner by his collar, hauling him to his feet. And Mrs. Turner as well, since they were cuffed together. "I don't have to wait thirty years, jackass! I don't have to wait thirty days. Less than a week ago I…betrayed…" She dropped her head, pointed back at Sarah. "My partner's husband was captured because of me."
The Turners looked at Sarah, shocked. She watched as their hands came together instinctively, joined by more than just metal chain.
"We, they, managed to get him back. They managed to save his life, his mind, and his sanity." Carina looked him in the eye. "But do you want to know the true miracle of it all?"
Mr. Turner nodded. "Here you are."
Mrs. Turner smiled ruefully. "They stayed away from your face, but I'm guessing you're wearing long sleeves in this weather for a reason."
She grinned at them both, letting go of his collar. "The miracle is I'm still her bridesmaid."
The Turners looked confused. "I thought you said she was married?"
"It's a long story." Someone knocked on the door. Carina backed up and reclaimed her gun. "Is that Casey?"
Sarah checked the monitor. "It's a tiger." She looked at Carina, stunned. "How did they know we were here? We didn't even know we were coming here!"
Carina dumped out the Turner's bag, picking up the large leather strap that fell out. "Sarah. Look at this."
Sarah took a look at all the studs and fixtures. "Diamonds and cell phones! Dammit! It's got a tracker built in."
Morgan shook his head in wonder. "That's-Wow! That's just the most incredible story I've ever heard!"
Heh. "Yeah," thought Casey, "Emphasis on story."
"A mission like that…and he was so…no wonder it's classified! And you're sure I can tell this to Alex?"
Casey gave him a small nod. "You're twice a Medal of Valor recipient, and it's been twenty years. I think I can trust you to use your judgment on this. Just leave my name out of it."
"But, after what you did? Why?"
Casey looked as sad as he could. "I couldn't save him. I couldn't even bring his body back. For a Marine, that's the ultimate disgrace."
Morgan patted Casey's back sympathetically. "Don't worry, big guy, I got your back. Your name shall never pass these lips."
Casey's phone started beeping. "Nuts!" With a twist he turned the car around.
Ellie tightened the straps carefully. "Give it a pull."
Chuck tugged, and the straps held firm. "That should hold until you can use the tranq darts."
With Beckman watching the scene and Manoosh watching the scanner, Ellie took a position in front of Chuck, gun in one hand and paper in the other. "You ready?" He nodded. She raised the paper. "Orange, orange, green, red, orange, red."
Chuck looked relieved. "Nothing."
Ellie wasn't buying it. "Manoosh?"
Ellie pushed the table with the monitor on it over the bed. "Let's try with Carina's voice. It worked before." She clicked her mouse, and the computer played back the recording.
Still nothing. Carmichael was gone, it seemed.
John Casey, the trained soldier, crept across the back yard of the safe house, reconnoitering. Morgan Grimes, the untrained Medal of Valor recipient, refused to stay behind in the car.
Casey spotted a lump in the dark, splayed out on the lawn. As he was checking it out his backup walked into his back. "Oh, there you are, Casey. Couldn't see you." He looked down. "What's that?"
Casey's voice rumbled from the darkness. "Knocked out bad guy." Something jingled. "What the hell is this?"
Something else rumbled from the darkness.
"That didn't sound like you, Colonel."
"It wasn't me, idiot. It's a Bengal tiger." Casey looked, remembering all the useless info that hunter had thrown at him. "Female. Full grown. Don't move."
Sounds of sudden violence erupted from the house.
"Casey! They need us!"
"Tell that to the cat."
Morgan took several quick breaths. "Sir, yes, sir. Be ready to move." Suddenly Morgan was gone from his back, yelling "Here, kitty, kitty!"
The tiger bounded after him.
Morgan ran to the car, threw open the door, and piled inside with a large predator on his heels. The stench of cigars slowed it down for a second, so by the time it got inside the other door was already closing. Before it could maneuver its bulk around, Morgan raced around to the driver's side and shut the first door, trapping the beast within. He turned and offered a thumbs up–
To no one. Casey was at the house, and Morgan ran to join him.
Casey whacked him upside the head. "They need us, huh?"
Morgan looked inside to see Sarah and Carina, standing opposite an older couple, with some unconscious bad guys between them. "It sure sounded like it."
They turned to look at Casey's car, rocking wildly as something moved within. "Tell me, genius, when you lured it in there, did you have a plan for getting it back out?"
"Chuck's the brains, sweethea–I mean, Colonel."
"Roger that." Casey sat on the step, lit up one of his cigars and took a few puffs. "Morgan, I misjudged you."
"You did? Sir?"
"Yeah. You lured a full-grown Bengal tiger into a car, with no exit strategy. That is bar none stupider than anything I've ever seen the stupidest recruit do."
Morgan plopped down onto the step, head in hand. "I know."
"Also the bravest. Couldn't have accomplished the mission without it."
Morgan raised his head. "Sir? You mean that?"
"Of course I mean it, numb-nuts, I wouldn't let you within a mile of my daughter if I didn't."
"Alex McHugh. It's her mother's name. Mine's Coburn. Keep it under your hat."
"But you said–"
"I lied. I do that."
"Oh, man! And I liked that story too."
Chuck lay back on the couch, unwilling to go to the bed when his wife wasn't in it. She'd be a while getting back, too. According to her, the Turner's betrayal was a sham, intended to lure Vogel into a rash pursuit and eventual capture. Hey, it worked for the Spartans.
They recovered the software, that was nice. And he wasn't losing his mind, good to know. The cherries were important, and the cell phones. He could relax.
What's the deal with all those wedding dresses? He couldn't answer that before he fell asleep.
Ellie Woodcombe walked into her house, alone, what with Devon being on call tonight. Her security was top notch, of course, but she still kept her panic switch under her thumb until she'd seen it for herself.
Halfway through her walkthrough the lights went out.
Sarah, Carina, and Casey all looked down as their watches started beeping.
A/N2 Cliffhanger, anyone?