Summary: The Verrat want the coins or the key, both preferably. They hire the Inception crew to get the hiding place. Every mind is organized a little differently but Burkhardt's is unlike all others Eames had inhabited.
"A detective. In Portland, Oregon." Eames was singularly not impressed and he wanted Arthur to know it. "Somebody wants something from him? Are they sure they have the right mark?" It was more a rhetorical question than anything else since Arthur wouldn't have approached Eames about the job without confirmation. "And they are willing to pay us to get it." The team that had pioneered Inception was very expensive for mere information gathering.
"Full price," Arthur confirmed. "The location of a key and a trio of coins. Something of a family heritage. It should be a simple intelligence retrieval job." And yes, maybe the small team could use a simple job. "Here are the important people in his life."
Eames paged through the files on the girlfriend (could become fiancée at any time since Arthur had record of a ring bought but not worn), the police partner, the deceased aunt and then the boss. The decision was easy: he would be the partner. The mark obviously hadn't told his girlfriend everything and no one tells their boss all. The aunt was a possibility since they were tracing a family heritage, but that was always a little dicey, the person who told you the secret asking where you hid it. In Eames' experience, the conversation normally went along the lines of 'is it safe?', 'yes, no one will find it.' 'good, don't tell me where you hid it.'
It would only take Eames a couple days of following the cop around to be able to imitate him in a dream. Arthur would use that time to prepare the best plan. Ariadne would do the tourist thing and draw local landmarks, concentrating on Burkhardt's residential community and work. In the dream, they would lead Burkhardt to either the police station files or to a safe in his house. If they set up the dream correctly, the answer to the client's question would be there written on a piece of paper.
Less than a week's worth of study and they were ready. They would enter the cop's house after he and the girlfriend went to bed. Arthur would enter first, sedate the couple and then the rest of the team would join him. They would do the work in the mark's bedroom, leave no evidence and Burkhardt would never know.
As according to the plan, Arthur went into the mark's house alone. Eames waited impatiently at the back door with Ariadne. It was taking longer than expected. Eames was starting to get worried about the job. Finally Arthur appeared. "Help me get him upstairs."
"He woke up?" Eames was surprised. He knew that Arthur was equally soundless in the real world as in people's minds.
Arthur nodded. "He has superb night vision as well." That was akin to Arthur admitting to underestimating the mark. It was no surprise that Arthur had won the hand-to-hand combat. Ariadne acknowledged that she couldn't hide emptiness of his mind in the dark. She would have to fill the mind with architecture as far as the eye could see.
Arthur handed Eames the sedative for the girlfriend and yanked Burkhardt up and over his shoulder into a fireman's carry. Eames would have to subdue the girlfriend if she awoke or if Burkhardt woke her up before going exploring. Thankfully, she was still sleeping. Eames slid the needle into her vein to insure the state remained. By the time he finished, Ariadne had brought in chairs for all of them and Arthur had Burkhardt tied into the machine. He handed Ariadne and then Eames a needle. Together they joined the mark in dreaming.
Eames closed his eyes on the real world and opened them in Burkhardt's dreams. They were standing on the street outside of Burkhardt's precinct.
"Uh-oh," Ariadne muttered.
Eames turned to chide her on her attitude and noticed words like 'creative,' 'artsy' and 'world-builder' flowing from her fingertips. 'College drop-out' was written up her arm and 'adventurer' was written down her leg. Other true descriptors flickered in and out of existence. That was new and different. She looked up at Eames and winced. "You have 'liar' written across your forehead." He looked down and saw 'European' written into the line of his suit and 'one ex-wife and never again' wrapped around his left hand.
That would prove problematic.
They both looked at Arthur who had 'First One' written across his chest. 'Ex-military' was written across the back of his shoulders and 'loyal' was etched into his jaw. He was annoyed.
"You've seen this before," Eames surmised.
Arthur shook his head no. "Mal had, once. Someone wanted three coins and had kidnapped the mark for her and Cobb to dreamwalk. It took five attempts to get enough information, a possible city, to satisfy the customer and Mal never did identify the keeper of the coins. The subconscious was very aware and turned aggressive with little provocation. With fur, scales and feathers. Forging was impossible."
Nothing like being told something was impossible to get Eames working. He ignored the details of his place of birth and his martial status and concentrated on the one that would make the subconscious attack. He opened his eyes (when had he closed them?). "Now what does my forehead say?"
"Conman," Ariadne admitted.
An improvement but not as much as Eames had been hoping for.
"So the three coin treasure is connected to identifiers… and animals?" Ariadne asked. "How do animals fit into this? Should I make a zoo?"
"That won't be necessary or wise," Arthur answered as he looked around.
Burkhardt's dreamworld was populated by normal people intermingled with humanoids with fur and scales and feathers and fangs and beaks and claws, like something out a fairytale. Burkhardt obviously had some issues.
Burkhardt's boss approached the dreamwalkers. 'In charge' was written on one shoulder, 'expensive education' was curled around his head. 'Agenda good?, agenda good?, agenda good?' faded into his body. When Renard turned his back on Eames, he saw a huge question mark written on his back. Interesting.
"Trespassers will be arrested," the Renard of Burkhardt's subconscious told them. "Leave."
Eames wanted to sigh at the stereotypical cop response. Aside from a kinky subconscious, Burkhardt was a boring law-abiding type.
Burkhardt's aunt, Marie Kessler, appeared behind Arthur. Her head was shaved and she was bent over with pain and age. 'Agape' was written on her chest and 'keeper of secrets' was written over 'truth teller' on her bald head. "Threats will be eliminated," she said as she twisted her cane and unsheathed a knife. Arthur had enough of a warning to dodge the first blow, but the aunt had enough surprise on her side that she stabbed Arthur in the back, aiming upward and hit the heart on the first try.
She stepped back. Arthur fell, died and disappeared.
Okay. That was a lot bad ass and completely not what was expected from the law abiding first impression. It was interesting that the subconscious went straight for Arthur without giving him anytime to implement a time stalling protection.
Both portions of Burkhardt's subconscious stepped back and the man himself appeared in their midst. Burkhardt was holding a gun in his right hand, with his detective shield on his right hip. The man's police partner was armed and standing on his right and two steps back. Burkhardt's fiancée was standing further back but in the space between the two men, protective but observing like her life depended on it. She was also holding a gun like she knew how to use it. In Burkhardt's left hand was a sketchpad, an old book and an artist's pencil. A tall man with fur and claws mirrored the police partner on his left and a woman, also with fur and claws mirrored the fiancée's position. The aunt stepped to the side with the fur and the police captain stepped to the side with the guns. Eames knew that technically all of them were armed.
Eames didn't need any more clues into the dichotomy that was the mark and mentally cursed Arthur for missing half of the detective's life. He raised his hands to indicate that he wasn't a threat. "I'm not here to hurt anyone; I'm just looking for some information."
"Three gold coins. Where are they?"
The captain looked avaricious. The police partner looked alarmed. "Those things are poisonous," he announced. "They have a very interesting history," the furry guy said. "The world is safer with them locked up," the furry girl added.
Everyone looked to the aunt, because she was the secret keeper. It was even written on her skin. Unfortunately, the location of the coins was not.
"And a key," Ariadne added.
The aunt held up a necklace but didn't let them see the charm. "I have it," she said. "And no one will be able to find it."
A clue, but nothing that would satisfy a client.
"I grow tired at your interference," the captain proclaimed. He drew his weapon and shot Eames while the aunt stabbed Ariadne.
Eames woke up cursing quietly. Arthur already had the equipment packed up and ready to go. They evacuated the Burkhardt residence as silently as possible. They would debrief at their hotel and try again later. Eames knew that he wasn't the only one intrigued by the challenge. It wasn't like Burkhardt would remember anything of the night. He probably wouldn't even remember hearing Arthur and getting out of bed.
"If we're going to try again, we need to know all of the main characters." Eames told Arthur as soon as they returned to their hotel room. "And find a way to get past Burkhardt's chorus to the man himself. He never spoke the entire time we were under. He just watched."
Arthur pointed at a large pile of folders. The contents would include every person Burkhardt had crossed in the last month.
It took Eames three minutes to find a less-furry version of the couple that had stood by Burkhardt's side. He held up the pictures for Arthur. "These two are much more important than pervious thought."
Arthur knew them by sight. "The second couple you saw was Burkhardt's CI and the CI's girlfriend. The CI is a clockmaker and the girlfriend runs a tea shoppe downtown. Judging by the phone calls, Burkhardt gets a lot of information from them," he explained.
"I wonder why Burkhardt's subconscious makes them fuzzy?" Eames mused.
"Guys," Ariadne called from the living area. "We have a problem."
Arthur and Eames rushed the room to see an artist's rendition of their faces on the TV. The news crew wasn't connecting them to any crime, but announced that they were 'persons of interest' to the police. How the hell had Burkhardt remembered enough to tell a police artist? And how had Burkhardt convinced anyone to pull strings to get their face on the TV?
In less then ten minutes, the team had packed and were checked out of their hotel. They were scheduled for a plane ride to Europe. They would have appointments with plastic surgeons before landing. Arthur would have to explain to the client that the contract had not and would not be fulfilled. Eames didn't envy him that job. Out the window of the taxi, Eames thought he saw Burkhardt's CI, the complete fuzzy version, but that was impossible, right?
Arthur never mentioned Burkhardt to Eames again, but a warning spread throughout the dreaming community like wildfire: any attempt to highjack the dream of one of Burkhardt's tribe would result in the execution of the team attempting it and the exposure of every point man, forger, extractor, chemist and architect in the market. For a community that depended on anonymity, the warning was dire and effective.
Eames thought that the threat (promise) sounded like a bit of both Aunt Marie and Captain Renard and he once again wondered what was so important and different about a middle class Portland police detective.