Disclaimer: 'Chuck' and all its affiliated characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. This fiction is written for entertainment only.
No profit was made. Just FYI.
[Six Weeks Ago]
San Bernardino County
"What do we do?" Ellie asked.
"We aren't doing anything." Chuck stated, glancing out the motel window. "I'm going to surrender."
"What!?" Ellie and Morgan cried in unison.
"It's the only way this can go, trust me." Chuck insisted. "I'm the one they're after and it was only a matter of time before some Black Ops team caught up with me. If I publicly turn myself over to the LAPD, they'll probably let the rest of you go."
Ellie turned to Sarah in disbelief. "Tell me he's not serious."
"He's right." Sarah agreed, reluctantly. "They can't kill you or even vanish you with that many cops and reporters as witnesses. And they definitely can't charge you with anything without exposing themselves."
"Sorry to rescue and run, Ellie." Chuck smiled ruefully, giving his sister one last hug and heading toward the door.
Grabbing his jacket off the chair, he paused to take Sarah's hand. "I'm sorry I have to go"
"That's okay." She smiled sadly. "Say what you will about our relationship, at least it's consistent."
"I'll give you that." He chuckled, leaning in to rest his forehead against hers. "If I ever see a phone again, I promise I'll call."
"You better. Otherwise I'll just have to come rescue you."
Grabbing his jacket off the chair, he gave Sarah one last kiss and walked to the door. Opening it slowly, so as not to startle any of the nice armed officers, he stepped out with arms held high and his jacket held in one hand. Unable to see much past the blinding glare of police spotlights, he slowly and deliberately turned in a slow circle, making sure it was totally obvious that he was unarmed.
He took a deep breath as he turned to glance as the approaching SWAT officers. "I surrend..."
Then a white-hot lance of pain blazed a path through his skull and sent him plunging into darkness.
Cedars-Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles
Paul Cooper, the overnight morgue assistant, was only half an hour into his shift when the phone rang. For a moment, he seriously considered letting it ring before his fear of the Chief Coroner's wrath won out.
"Cedars-Sinai Morgue, Paul speaking." He droned. "How can I help you?"
"Coop!" The caller barked. "It's Devon Woodcombe."
"Hey. What's up, doc?"
"Things are most intensely not awesome, Cooper."
"Shitty." The young man replied, taking a moment to pick at a mustard stain on his shirt. "What can I do for ya?"
"You got any JD's in the locker right now?"
Cooper laughed. "Bro, I got 'em coming out my ears."
"Alright, listen closely." Devon continued. "Do you know how to get to Wrightwood?"
"Uh...I dunno, man."
"Doesn't matter. Do you remember the time you got high at work and sent out all those death certificates for people who were still alive? Remember how I took the heat for it?"
"Hells yeah, bro." Cooper grinned. "You totally saved my ass."
"Good." Devon stated. "Because I'm calling in a favor."
Tucking his phone away as he approached the small San Bernardino County ambulance station, Devon took a moment to size up the security – or lack thereof.
The largest obstacle was the chain link fence surrounding the unremarkable, single-story structure. For a guy whose average weekend included scaling rock faces, that really wasn't much of a hindrance. He took a moment to make sure there were no obvious witnesses, then he was over the fence in a matter of seconds and sprinting between the parked ambulances toward the station building.
A paramedic he knew once told him that ambulances were commonly left with their keys in the ignition. That was so that when a call came in, nobody was left scrambling for a lost keyring when they should already be on the road. He'd also learned that county ambulance services had a vicious rate of employee turnover. Plenty of folks became paramedics because they wanted to help people, but most were ill-prepared for the harsh realities of the job. All too often, saving lives took a back seat to picking up a junkie that'd died two days earlier or scraping some idiot motorcyclist's brains off the pavement because he couldn't have been bothered to wear a helmet. Some of the busier stations, if they were in a rough neighborhood or close to a particularly nasty stretch of highway, had an average burnout time of three months. Unfortunately for the county, it meant that experienced medics were in short supply.
Fortunately for Devon, that meant that new faces weren't unusual.
He was surprised to find the side door unlocked, though judging by the cigarette butts strewn about and fire extinguisher being used to prop the door open, security wasn't really going to be an issue. He slipped inside and made his way to the locker room. Mentally going over his checklist, he gathered up enough pieces for two passable paramedic uniforms. On his way out, he quickly scrawled an illegible name on the vehicle sign-out sheet.
Who knew? He thought as he hurried out to the vehicle compound. Doctor's handwriting has an upside.
He chose the ambulance nearest to the compound's exit ramp. Climbing in, he put it in neutral and released the parking brake. Slowly but surely, the heavy vehicle began to roll toward the exit. He started the engine just as he was reaching the street and headed east for three blocks. Pulling up to a darkened alleyway, he didn't have to wait long before the passenger door swung open and his partner in crime jumped in.
"It's about goddamn time." Bryce grumbled as Devon smoothly pulled back into traffic.
"Where the fuck is he?" Cooper muttered to himself, once more glancing into the trunk of his rusted Civic. Just as they had been a moment before, the three bodies he'd 'liberated' from the hospital morgue were still laying there. He pulled a pack of cigarettes from his coat, puzzling over Doc Woodcombe's unusual request.
It wasn't the corpses, per se – this wasn't the first time that a doctor had called him up in the middle of the night and asked for an unidentified body to be taken to a third location. Some of the less reputable medical schools in California paid decent money for cadavers, so it wasn't uncommon for the occasional John Doe to go missing from the morgue. It was usually matched by a few hundred dollars appearing in Cooper's locker.
What was unusual was that Doc Woodcombe hadn't been vague about what he wanted. He hadn't danced around the issue at all. Without any preamble, he said he wanted three bodies, all male, taken to a very specific location. He even gave approximate dimensions for height & weight.
Every time he heard the distinctive wail of police sirens, Cooper's heart began to race. If the sirens started getting closer Cooper would start getting nervous, as only a man sitting on a lonely back road with a trunk full of dead bodies can be. He was just about to call it quits when the roar of an engine caught his attention and an ambulance came speeding around the corner, coming to a halt right in front of him. A man he didn't recognize emerged from behind the wheel, shoving Cooper to one side as he rushed toward the young man's car. "Move!"
He started hauling the first body out of his trunk and toward the waiting ambulance, then another. Cooper moved to help him with the third when the ambulance's side door opened to reveal Devon, his shirt stained with blood.
"Hey, whoa now." Cooper muttered, backing away. "I don't know what kinda fucked up shit is happening here, but I'm out. You and me are even, Woodcombe."
The stranger gave him a sharp look, reaching under his jacket and producing what even Cooper recognized as a silenced pistol.
"Whoa, dude." He said shakily, raising his hands. "I didn't see nothing, I swear."
"Bryce!" Woodcombe barked. "Let him go."
Cooper was smart enough to get while the getting was good. Taking advantage of the scary man's momentary distraction, he bolted back to his Civic and practically leaped in.
"Oh god, oh god..." He prayed as he fumbled with the ignition. He nearly wept with joy when the engine finally turned over, not looking back as he sped away. Ignoring the sound of the car's half-rusted undercarriage striking a particularly large rock on the roadside, he slammed the gas pedal down and made for the main road.
Glancing in his rear-view mirror, Cooper watched the lights of the ambulance fade into the distance and swore to any deity that might have been listening that his body-snatching days were over.
"It would have been better to kill him." Bryce noted, holstering his weapon as he watched the Civic make its escape. Devon didn't bother to respond, climbing back into the ambulance to check on his patient.
The round had struck the mid-frontal bone and ground a bloody furrow that stretched almost the full length of Chuck's head. By virtue of some ballistic factor Devon wouldn't pretend to understand, the round hadn't penetrated the skull. Unfortunately, it still would have felt like being hit with a sledgehammer.
He'd read case studies about people who'd survived being shot in the head, but even the most positive recoveries still presented a grim picture for Chuck's future. The ambulance's equipment was limited; there was no way to tell the condition of Chuck's brain. The younger man's heartbeat was steady, but if his brain was swelling inside his skull there was no way of telling how long that would continue to be the case. For the hundredth time in the last ten minutes, he wished Ellie was there.
"We weren't followed, but we've only got about six minutes before someone realizes we're unaccounted for." Bryce commented, leaning in. "How's he doing?"
"Probably as well as he's going to." Devon answered, his hands suturing methodically.
"That the best you can do?"
"Excuse me? The best I can do?!" Devon snapped indignantly. "How about we talk about your damn aim?!"
"What are you..."
"I very specifically told you to shoot him in the chest. The chest!" He angrily jabbed a finger into Bryce's sternum. "Because I assumed, like an IDIOT, that a big shot secret agent like you would know the difference between the chest and THE FUCKING HEAD!"
"It was a 200-metre shot with a goddamn MP5 firing fucking Glaser rounds! We're lucky I hit him at all!" Bryce growled, slapping Devon's hand aside.
"Yeah, I bet Chuck's feeling real lucky right now!"
"Look, it's not something we can change. Can you do anything more to help him or not?"
Devon glared, then returned to his suturing. "I doubt it. He's stable right now but I'm a fucking cardiologist, man. The head is Ellie's territory. He could wake up in five minutes, he might never wake up at all."
"Well, we don't have any more time to waste. Get Chuck's head bandaged up and take his clothes off."
"Oh, man." Devon muttered, shaking his head. "This is screwed up on so many levels."
Climbing out of the vehicle, Bryce tugged the corpse from its body bag and began awkwardly pulling one of the paramedic uniforms onto it. Once it was more-or-less dressed, he dragged it to the ambulance's open door and unceremoniously dumped it on the floor. Rushing through the same process with the second corpse, he dumped it on top of the first.
"Here." Devon held out Chuck's bloody clothes. Bryce glanced past him to see his wounded friend wrapped in a foil blanket. "How long do we have?"
"Four minutes...maybe less." Bryce began hastily dressing the last body. Retrieving his sub-machine gun from the ambulance, Bryce gave Devon a mildly apologetic look. "I'm gonna need you to hold the last body up."
"The bullet has to hit a certain way and we don't have time for a lesson in ballistics. We're on the clock here, and I really need you to act like a professional." Bryce raised the weapon to his shoulder. "Now hold up that unidentified corpse so I can shoot it in the head."
"You sure you can recognize the head?" Devon sniped as he positioned the cadaver, squeezing his eyes shut. "You haven't displayed the best track record at telling the differen..."
The sharp report of Bryce's MP5 cut off the doctor's comment. Devon dearly wanted to just drop the corpse, but with Bryce's help the two of them lifted the last body into the waiting vehicle.
"Well, that was horrifying." Devon muttered, wiping away the blood spattered over his face.
"One last thing to do." Bryce muttered as he took hold of Chuck's arm and began binding the man's bicep with a length of nylon webbing, tying it off when he was satisfied with the makeshift tourniquet. Grimacing, he pulled a switchblade from his pocket and prepared to dig the blade into Chuck's left arm, just below the elbow.
"Dude!" Devon shouted, grabbing the other man's wrist before the knife broke skin. Staring at the spy in disbelief, he gestured to himself. "Surgeon."
"Oh." Bryce paused. "Right."
"What the hell is up with you?" Devon anxiously dug through the ambulance's cabinets, retrieving a small scalpel and other supplies.
"I..." The spy closed his eyes and heaved a deep breath. "I messed up that shot pretty badly. Chuck might die because of it, and it's got me a little off my game."
"Well you'd best get on your game." Devon advised as he made a tiny incision in Chuck's arm, catching the slight trickle of blood with a piece of gauze. "Because last I checked we were playing for keeps."
With a cool, practiced motion, Devon inserted a pair of forceps and removed a tiny metallic device from just under Chuck's skin. Acting quickly, he cut into the same spot on the cadaver's arm and inserted the tiny piece of metal. He turned his attention back to Chuck and expertly closed the eight-millimetre opening with two small stitches.
"And that's how it's done." Leaning back, he pulled off his gloves and wiped his brow. "Get us the hell out of here."
Sitting at the base of Mount Williamson, this particular stretch of the Angeles Crest Highway was at least 20 miles from the nearest sign of civilization and far from prying eyes. On one side of the road, the highway surface gave way to a small gully. Though it was a relatively gentle slope and only about 100 feet to the bottom, it would serve their purposes nicely.
On the other side was a small widening of the dirt shoulder, mostly concealed by brush and just barely large enough for the station wagon that had been left there.
"Alright, I give up." Devon admitted as he watched the other man pull away the camouflage netting to reveal a worn-looking station wagon. "How the hell did you manage to get this thing up here? You were only on your own for, like, an hour."
"Then how did..."
"I know a guy; he owed me a favor." Bryce answered succinctly. Opening the rear door, he shoved some things around and emerged with a car jack. "Grab whatever we'll need right away and get Chuck loaded into the car. I'll get the ambulance ready to go."
Devon scoured the ambulance's cabinets and stuffed whatever crucial medical supplies he could find into an empty jump-bag, then carefully lifted the unconscious man from the gurney. Carrying Chuck as gently as he could, he was pleasantly surprised to find a medical spine-board in the back of the waiting car.
Once he was certain that the unconscious man had been properly secured, Devon returned to the waiting ambulance to find that Bryce had already used the jack to lift the rear tires off the ground. The other man was almost finished securing the last decoy body, clipping the 'driver's' seatbelt in place. Reaching over to the ignition and pressing the brake with one hand, he turned the key and the ambulance roared to life. Bryce put the vehicle into gear, jammed the corpse's foot against the accelerator, and stepped back as the rear tires began to spin.
"The bodies are in place and the charge is rigged." He glanced at Devon over his shoulder. "You just need to send it on its way."
"I don't think...
"Trust me." Bryce insisted. "It's been a stressful night; you need this."
Devon knelt down hesitantly, grabbing hold of the jack-handle. He took a breath and twisted it, releasing the mechanism that held the vehicle off the ground. The ambulance took off the instant its spinning wheels connected with the pavement. A second later, its course carried it off the edge of the paved highway road and careening down the bank. One of the front wheels caught on the piece of debris about twenty feet down, twisting the vehicle to one side and sending it rolling the rest of the way to the bottom of the embankment. Just as it came to a rest, a tiny charge Bryce had rigged between the oxygen tanks detonated and the entire vehicle was consumed in flames.
Just for a minute, the pair of them paused. The night wasn't over yet and they'd be moving again soon enough, guided by the plans of a man to whom they owed so much, and whose fate was still uncertain.
For now, though, they lingered on the edge of that remote highway deep in the San Gabriel mountains, watching an ambulance burn.
"Have you considered the distinct possibility that he might just kill you on sight?"
"Of course I have." Chuck muttered quietly as he followed the narrow pathway to that snaked its way behind the base housing.
"Well, just don't get too close. And keep your holster unsnapped."
"I'm not an idiot." Chuck insisted, albeit a little hesitantly.
"Could've fooled me. Seriously though, are we sure this is a good idea? He doesn't really seem like the type to bring down a government program."
"An illegal and viciously unconstitutional government program. And if there's one thing Casey believes in, it's the US Constitution." Pausing, Chuck let out a faint, rueful laugh. "Though I'll admit that his terrifying love for the Second Amendment has me a little worried."
"Thanks. That's very encouraging." His companion drawled. "Look, I know guys like this. You're not gonna be able to con him."
"I wasn't planning on conning him. I'm just gonna put on a bit of a show."
"Just relax. It'll be fine." Chuck glanced around the corner, spotting Casey relaxing in an old patio chair and nursing a beer. "Head back to the car. I'll give you a call when it's safe."
"And if you don't call."
Chuck laughed nervously. "Well, then I guess it wasn't safe."
Mustering up as much false bravery as he could manage, Chuck eased himself around the corner. At this distance, the older man didn't appear particularly threatening. Even so – and despite all that had changed since they'd last seen each other - he knew better than to sneak up on the former NSA agent. Chuck intentionally dragged his feet along the gravel path to catch Casey's attention; the reaction, though subtle, was still immediate.
Finishing his beer, Casey calmly place the empty bottle on the small table beside him and rose from his seat with an air of relaxation that Chuck was all too familiar with; the calm before the storm. He drew a deep breath, no doubt preparing to unleash verbal hell on whoever had come to bother him. Then their eyes met and whatever Casey had planned to say came out as a choked gasp.
Chuck hadn't been sure how he'd feel when this moment came. He'd expected the nervousness, of course, and the tense fear of being so close to a dangerous predator. What he hadn't anticipated was the surge of guilt that brought him to a jarring halt in mid-step. He abruptly understood, with startling clarity, what the consequences of his escape had been for Casey. He had ruined the man's life. In a single moment, Chuck had taken Casey's twenty-five years of dedicated service to the US government and smashed it all to pieces. All the man had left to cling to were the stagnated remains of his once-proud career.
Chuck suddenly wanted to apologize, to convince Casey that he wasn't supposed to have suffered the repercussions of Chuck's escape. He wanted to promise that he'd make amends and somehow find a way to fix what he'd broken.
Instead, he said the only thing that made sense.
"Hey Casey, how've you been?"
End Part 2