A/N - Don't fall over, I'm back with the next chapter. I got busy with everything else in life and temporarily lost my inspiration to write. It's coming back. Here is the next chapter and please let me know what you think. As always, thank you to charakids for being a wonderful beta on this story. Standard disclaimers, I don't own Chuck, etc.

Since it has been so long since the last update, here is the end of the previous chapter so you won't have to look back (unless you want to of course).

Otto, Sylvia and Pietro sat at a table in a sidewalk café in Milan. Pietro was reading an article in the newspaper about the stolen money and plate from the Brussels mint. Pietro translated the article to his friends as he was the only one of the three who spoke Italian.

"Well, at least we know where the money came from and the plate." Sylvia said. "Why don't we just go to the police and turn it in?"

"And be arrested for stealing? No way." Otto said.

"Then what do you suggest?' Pietro asked.

"How about we return it to where I found it." Otto suggested.

"Yeah. We can find it again and notify the police right away this time." Sylvia said.

Pietro thought for a moment. "Why don't we just get rid of the stuff. Throw it into the lake or burn it."

"That might work but then the real bad guys may never be found. We need to take the money and plate back." Otto insisted.

Slowly the other two friends came around to Otto's way of thinking. Pietro pulled out his train timetable and consulted it. "We can take the overnight train to Zurich and be back in Zermatt by tomorrow afternoon." He looked at both of his friends for confirmation and got it. They finished their coffee and headed to the Milano Centrale Railway Station on Piazza Duca D'Aosta.

xxxxx

Claude Martin went back to his office in Brussels and sat down heavily behind his desk. He ran his fingers through his black hair before rubbing his eyes for a moment. A knock on the door frame caused him to look up. "What is it?"

"You asked us to look for any sign of the man from the Mint that didn't come back. We caught a lucky break. A man fitting his description was spotted in a security camera feed outside a bank in Geneva two hours ago. Swiss police are looking for him now. He's travelling under the name of Emmett Stone."

Chapter 18

The next morning Zermatt

Vivian MacArthur exited her room at her hotel and went into the dining room. After sitting down at one of the square tables she ordered coffee and casually nibbled on one of the pastries that had been in the basket in the center while she waited for Emmett to come down from his room. He arrived at her table a few minutes later after her coffee was delivered. He sat down heavily in a chair looking bleary eyed.

"It's about time you got down here. What happened to you?" Vivian demanded.

"There was a crying baby in the room next to mine that kept me up all night. I'll be OK after a liter of coffee." Emmett replied. He signaled for the waiter. "When are we going to head to the Matterhorn?"

"Right after breakfast. I have our backpacks ready to go. We need to get started soon as it's supposed to rain this afternoon."

"Are you sure about the forecast? I heard it was supposed to start raining before noon. Besides, it's been quite awhile since the bag was dropped off. What makes you think there are going to be any clues left? I'm sure it has rained several times since then and washed away anything left behind."

Vivian looked hard at Emmett before replying. "I'm not expecting to find any clues idiot. What I am expecting is that the culprits will return to the scene of the crime."

Emmett nodded. "Since there has been no sign of the plates or money, you just may be right."

"I'm counting on it." Vivian said before she stood and headed out the door.

xxxxx

Casey and Kathleen sat in front of the fireplace in the lobby area looking at one of the brochures for a helicopter ride. They looked up when the door to the lodge opened up and two young girls ran into the lobby laughing. Lisa and Molly ran up to Casey and Kathleen before coming to a halt right in front of them. Casey and Kathleen looked up at the girls expectantly.

"Uncle Casey and Aunt Kathleen, do you want to see something really cool?" Lisa asked as Molly nodded along.

Casey grunted. "What is it?" Kathleen asked.

"It's right outside." Molly responded.

Casey and Kathleen looked at each other and nodded. "OK, lead the way." Casey said.

The girls lead the way outside and down the steps and looked up into the eve to the right before pointing. "Look at the baby birds."

Sure enough, Casey and Kathleen saw a black grouse mother bird and five little heads popping up from the nest.

"That is cool," Casey said. "You don't see that every day."

"You sure don't," Kathleen added. "Thank you for showing it to us, girls."

Molly and Lisa giggled and said "You're welcome. Have you seen our mommies and daddies?"

Casey nodded. "They're in the kitchen making breakfast."

"Why aren't you helping Uncle Casey?"

Casey grunted and laughed. "Kathleen and I volunteered for KP."

"KP? What's that?"

"It stands for kitchen police in the military. We're going to clean up after breakfast. Do you want to help?

Molly and Lisa looked at each other and grinned. "Of course we'll help."

Casey looked at Kathleen and whispered in her ear, "I was afraid of that." Kathleen chuckled.

Before the girls could say anything, a sound of shuffling feet could be heard approaching the lodge. Two men and a woman in their twenties were approaching the stairs. Casey and Kathleen watched them approach and whispered to Molly. "Go get your mom and dad." The girls ran inside.

Otto, Sylvia and Pietro approached the lodge after the lengthy walk from the train station. They wanted to stay close to the hiking trails that led to the Matterhorn and outside of town. They weren't sure if the lodge was open for guests but decided to take a chance. Sylvia, noticing the couple standing on the stairs said to Pietro and Otto "At least there is someone here. Hopefully we'll be able to get rooms."

When the three of them reached the bottom of the stairs Otto asked Casey and Kathleen "Guten tag. Wissen Sie, ob es irgendwelche freien Zimmer?"

Casey grunted and looked at Kathleen before responding. "Nein, ich Weiss nicht ob sie in mehr Gaste einnehmen."

Kathleen looked startled at her husband. "When did you learn to speak German?"

Casey grunted. "I was stationed at the US Embassy in Bern while in the Marine Corps for a year long before I met you. I picked up a few words in that time. I'm rusty though."

They looked back at the three strangers. Sylvia spoke up this time. "We speak English. Is there someone we can ask if there are any rooms available?"

Just then the doors to Lodge opened and Hans Brucher headed out to the top of the stairs and looked down at the three companions. "Can I help you?"

Pietro asked "We were wondering if you had any rooms available. It's just for two or three nights."

"The Lodge is undergoing renovations right now and the owners are here with friends. Our normal restaurant and other amenities are currently closed."

"That's OK," Otto responded. You are so close to the Matterhorn trail. We would really appreciate it if you could find us rooms. We only need two."

Hans looked at them and said, "Please come inside and I will discuss this matter with the owners."

Otto smiled and said "Danke."

Otto, Sylvia and Pietro looked around the lobby as they waited for Hans to return. Kathleen and Casey resumed looking at the travel brochures. A few minutes later Hans returned with Damian, Kasia, Chuck and Sarah.

Damian spoke up. "Thank you for your interest in our lodge but we are currently closed for renovations, with the exception of some friends. We don't have our usual staff right now to meet your basic hospitality needs, such as maid service or a kitchen staff."

Otto, Sylvia and Pietro looked at each other before Sylvia responded. "That is OK with us. Your location is perfect for our needs. We don't mind changing our own sheets." She smiled with amusement in her eyes. "We have to do that at home anyway."

Damian shrugged and looked at Kasia. He turned to look at Chuck and Sarah. "Is it OK with you if someone else is here?"

Sarah said "This is your place. If it's OK with you, it's OK with us." Chuck nodded in agreement.

Kasia and Damian whispered something to Hans who nodded. Hans spoke up. "There are two rooms available at the east end of the main lodge. Please come with me to register."

Otto smiled and nodded. The three friends headed to the registration desk.

Damian said "They're at the opposite end of everyone else."

Chuck nodded. "It's a good thing too. I doubt they're used to a bunch of kids running around."

A bright flash of lightning followed by loud thunder clap rattled the windows. Kasia grimaced. "Unfortunately for once the weather forecast was right. Thunder showers until mid-afternoon." As if on cue the rain started pelting down and everyone was glad to be inside. "Breakfast should be ready by now. Let's go eat." The four friends headed to the Swiss banquet room. It was called that because it was decorated with pictures of famous members of Swiss Olympic team members, mostly skiers and ski jumpers.

Once they reached the room, a long table was set with plates of pastries, fruit, scrambled eggs, sausages and assorted jams and jellies. The adults sat on one area of the table and the children the other. Everyone enjoyed the feast and discussed what to do until the rain stopped. Casey and Kathleen offered to watch all nine children along with Hans Brucher so the adults could enjoy a little alone time, bringing a smile to their faces. As a thank you, all of the adults quickly cleaned up the kitchen so they could retire to their rooms.

A couple of hours later, Chuck and Sarah were cuddling in bed after thoroughly enjoying their alone time when they heard a loud noise. Sarah lifted her head from Chuck's shoulder and asked "What was that?"

Chuck said "It's probably just the thunder," and kissed his wife on top of the head.

Sarah nodded and put her head back down on Chuck's shoulder. A minute or so later another loud bang could be heard. "That didn't sound like thunder." Both sat up in bed, the sheet falling away from their naked bodies. The sound was heard again causing them to jump out of bed and throw on some clothes before heading out into the hallway.

Chuck and Sarah weren't the only ones to be woken up by the noise and the other three couples soon joined them in the hallway. All turned to Kasia and Damian. "What's making all that racket?" Devon asked, which was the question on everyone's mind.

"Let's go find out," was the only answer Damian could give as they all headed down the stairs to the lobby.

Once they reached the lobby, everyone else at the lodge was in the lobby looking up through one of the high windows. A large branch from one of the tall trees was struck by lightning and had cracked to the point it was hanging downward. When a strong gust of wind blew, the branch banged into the side of the lodge causing the loud noise.

"We better cut that branch down," Chuck said, "before it swings too far and breaks a window. Do you have a chainsaw?"

Damian answered "Yes we do, but you're not going out there in this weather to cut that branch down. If anyone is going out there I am."

"You can't do it by yourself Damian," Chuck responded. "From the looks of things, we're going to halve to climb on the roof."

Crash spoke up. "From the size of that branch it might take all of us guys to get that branch down."

"And we better get moving fast. It looks like the storm is getting worse." Devon added.

Damian nodded. "OK gentlemen. I'll go get the chainsaw. Why don't you all come up with a plan." He headed to the storage room.

Devon and Chuck stepped out onto the porch and got as close to the tree as possible without getting wet from the rain. Fortunately the large branch was not resting on the roof but the break was about fifteen feet off the ground and the tip of the branch hung about eight feet further down. There was another even larger branch extending to the roof adjacent to the broken branch. Devon turned to Chuck and said "That other branch is plenty strong enough to hold me. I could reach it from the roof and shinny over to the break and cut the branch down with a chain saw."

"Are you crazy?" Chuck responded. "Are you after an adrenaline fix or something? That's totally unsafe with the branch so wet from the rain not to mention the lightning."

A few moments later Damian came out with the chain saw. "Any ideas gentlemen?"

"Other than a suicide mission, no viable ideas have come to mind." Chuck answered.

"I can do it Chuck."

"Ellie would kill you and me first."

Crash and Casey decided to join the men. "What's your idea Devon?"

"Climb out on the adjacent branch and cut the broken one down at the break."

Damian nixed that idea immediately. "No way will I let you do that. It's not worth the risk."

"Do you have a tractor?" Casey asked. "We could hook a chain to the end and pull the branch down."

"That might work if it doesn't fling back into the lodge when it breaks off," Crash said.

While they were contemplating the alternatives Chuck noticed two forms hurrying toward the lodge and pointed them out. As they got closer he could tell it was a man and a woman carrying backpacks.

"It looks like they got caught in the rain." Damian said. A crack of thunder shook the lodge followed by another bolt of lightning. "That was close."

The two hikers hurried closer to the lodge and were now beneath the tree. A lightning bolt hit the tree knocking the tree branch off and sent a high voltage shock into the two hikers, knocking them to the ground. Fortunately the lightning rod on the lodge diffused the electrical charge enough so not to kill the hikers. The hikers were knocked out and Devon, Crash and Chuck went down to carry them inside the lodge where they were situated on the floor with blankets and pillows by the fireplace. Fortunately there were three doctors already on site in the form of Devon, Ellie and Sarah as Kasia heard there was a mudslide and victims were being attended to by all the other doctors in the village. Fortunately the two hikers were breathing and alive.

The storm brought Otto, Sylvia and Pietro out of their rooms and down to the lobby. They saw the two people lying by the fireplace and asked "What happened to them?"

"Lightning strike," Damian answered. "Fortunately they're still alive."

"Who are they?" Carina asked as she held Blake in her arms.

"We have no idea." Sarah answered. "I suppose we could look for some ID in their backpacks."

"Why don't we wait for them to wake up?" Kathleen asked. "I don't think I would want strangers looking through my stuff."

Casey nodded." It's only been a few minutes. They'll wake up soon."

"Why don't we bring their backpacks closer to the fireplace so they'll dry off." Chuck said.

Charlie ran to the door where the two backpacks sat after the two hikers were brought in. They were pretty heavy so Charlie half drug, half carried them to his father. When Chuck picked up the two backpacks to set them on the hearth, one of the zippers broke and out tumbled something heavy and metallic. All of the parents looked at the object in horror. It was a 9mm Heck& Koch USP with a silencer attached.

After looking at the object for what seemed like an eternity when in actuality was only a minute, Sarah picked up the pistol and checked to see if it was loaded. It was. Thankfully the safety was on. "I don't care now about privacy. I'm looking through their backpacks for ID and for anything else dangerous."

"Wait Sarah," Damian said. "One of them may be with the police. That is a standard issue firearm for the Zurich police department."

"Then there may be a badge in this backpack. Why don't we make sure?"

"Do the police usually keep a silencer attached to their pistol?" Carina asked.

Everyone looked around at each other knowing the answer. "No they don't. Chuck answered. "I'm looking through this backpack."

"And I'm looking through this one," Crash announced as he picked up the other one.

Just then a huge bolt of lightning struck just outside the lodge, accompanied by very loud thunder. The sky so dark due to the storm that it seemed like it was midnight, not an hour before sunset. The lights inside the lodge flickered a few times before going out. It was suddenly very dark.

xxxxx

Brussels Belgium

A meeting of the board of the IMF was called to order. Outside of the building hundreds of protesters shouted anti-European Union slogans and waved their signs at passersby and the ever present cameras hoping to make the news. Filtering through the crowd was a lone man shouting encouragement to the protesters to yell louder and louder. Looking across the street he saw the line of riot police protecting the entrance of the building. Earlier he would have had the group try to storm the building entrance for more camera footage but this time they would stay peaceful for he knew that soon they would be reeking havoc on the financial stability of Europe's markets. Tommy Delgado looked at his phone for a message from his boss and was disappointed that there wasn't one. It was taking longer to recover the plates than he had hoped. He knew in his heart that she would succeed for their cause was right.

xxxxx

Langston Graham got up from his chair behind his desk and looked out the window over the Washington DC skyline. He continued his internal debate over what he should do next, if anything. His counterpart at MI6 had contacted him about the missing plates and asked that he monitor information coming in to see if there was any unusual financial activity in the United States that might indicate that the plates were being used there. Stephen Bartowski's computer program could be used for such a task but he was uncertain if this task should be his top priority considering what was going on in the Middle East and other hot spots around the world. The sound of his phone ringing ended his musings and he picked up the handset. "Graham." He answered.

"You better get down to the situation room right away," his deputy chief said. "There's a problem with our operation in Buenos Aires."

"I'll be right there." Graham replied. The IMF can wait he decided, as headed out his door.

xxxxx

The only light at the moment was being provided by the lightning bolts flashing across the sky. The rain seemed to pelt down even harder than before as the parents of nine frightened children pulled them close.

"Let's light the fire in the fireplace," Kasia said to her husband. "It will give us a little light and warm up the place. It's become rather cold in here."

"Good idea, sweetheart." I'll get some matches."

A flash of lightning revealed that there was a large log already in the fireplace and a stack of wood nearby, mainly of smaller logs and some kindling. Chuck and Crash felt around in the dark between flashes and added some smaller logs to the fireplace. Damian returned a few minutes later with a lit candle and a packet of long matches. A few minutes later a roaring fire illuminated the area around the fireplace and provided warmth from the storm's chill.

"Do you have any more candles or any flashlights?" Sarah asked.

"We have plenty of candles in the dining room. "Kasia responded.

Hans Brucker said "There is a flashlight behind the reception desk. I'll go get it."

The storm and loss of electricity made everyone forget about the two hikers with the gun. A groan from the woman reminded everyone of their presence. Hans returned with the flashlight and handed it to Damian who then passed it to Devon. Devon squatted down next to the woman and shined the light into her face. She immediately raised her hand to block the light. "Hey, stop that!" She protested in an English accent."

Devon aimed the light away from her eyes and said "That's a good sign. Her eyes are responding to the light."

"What's going on? Where am I?" The woman asked in a panicked voice.

"Ssshhh." Devon said. "Calm down. I'm a doctor. In fact one of three doctors here. You were struck by lightning a short while ago. Do you remember anything?"

The woman just shook her head.

"What is your name?"

She looked at Devon and then around at some of the others standing nearby. She looked over to her right and saw the other hiker on the floor who hadn't started stirring yet.

"Who's he?"

"You don't know?"

"I don't think so. Should I know him?"

"You were hiking together when you both were stuck by lightning. Are you sure you don't know who he is?"

"How can I? I don't even know who I am."

Ellie helped the woman over to a chair and had her sit down before situating the blanket back around her body. "Hopefully he'll be able to help you remember."

The woman nodded. A minute or two later the other hiker began to stir and tried to sit up. He groaned and lay back down. Devon kneeled down and said "You were struck by lightning. Lie still for a minute."

The man nodded and waited a bit longer before sitting up. He spotted his boss sitting in the chair and looked at her for a sign as to what they should say or do. Instead of help he just received a blank stare of nonrecognition. She's just trying to hide what we're doing here. I'll play along. He thought.

Devon asked "Do you remember her? Is she your friend?"

The man just shook his head. "We met on the trail to the Matterhorn. I'm not sure what her name is. We decided to come here at the same time to get out of the storm."

Devon shined the light over to one of the backpacks. "Is this one yours?

"No. Mine is the blue one. Why do you ask?"

Chuck held up the pistol. "We were wondering why one of you would carrying a silencer equipped pistol?

The man looked alarmed for a brief moment before recovering. "I've never seen that before in my life."

Chuck showed the gun to the woman. All he got was a blank stare. He looked back at the man. "Did she happen to mention if she was with the police?"

The man contemplated the question before answering. He thought it best to play dumb. "She didn't mention anything like that although that type of gun is used by the police in this country.

Chuck nodded. "What is your name?"

"Emmett. Emmett Stone."

to be continued...