Truth, Lies, and the CIA Pt 2
This was ridiculous. She should’ve felt nervous. After all, she was quite probably entering some secret government undercover base—or maybe she was just going to some computer office. She had no idea, really. Chuck and Sarah had never made it clear where they worked, but she figured that Chuck’s new office, which had always seemed suspiciously and easily set up, was probably the headquarters for Operation Prometheus.
Operation Prometheus. Top secret, NSA-CIA black ops joint operation. Level six clearance, whatever the hell that meant.
Ellie grabbed her purse after she’d parked in the cracked, unkempt parking lot for Pacific Securities, LLC. She frowned. Shouldn’t the government take better care of their facilities? Or was this one of those ploys?
She sure as hell wouldn’t have expected this to be the site of a top secret government base, so maybe they had a point.
Still strangely not nervous, she nonetheless took a moment outside the front door of the unassuming building where her brother and his cabal worked. She straightened her jacket. She’d worn what she considered medium clothing: not quite casual, not quite wear-to-the-office. It probably wasn’t a big deal, as there wasn’t really a set wardrobe for this type of thing, this type of joining the government and maybe selling your soul to get what you want thing. Sarah always wore nice-ish clothes to work, but that was only cover for being a secretary, so Ellie didn’t know if that applied.
Whatever. Bartowskis always thought about these things way too much.
When she pushed on the door, it opened easily. She hadn’t expected that. But then, if Chuck’s office was a front, people should probably be able to just walk in if they wanted to hire Pacific.
The door chimed as she pushed it open. Just like a regular business.
What wasn’t like a regular business was the woman sitting behind the desk to the left of the door. Sure, it was a typical spot for a secretary. But the woman wearing the ivory blouse and pencil skirt definitely wasn’t your typical secretary.
Sarah didn’t jump when she came in. Cameras in the parking lot? Probably, Ellie thought, though she didn’t see any monitors in the room anywhere. Of course, it could be old-fashioned surveillance. There was a window right next to Sarah’s desk, after all.
Wow, and the paranoia was already kicking in. Maybe this job was a perfect fit for her.
“Ellie!” Sarah’s smile seemed rather forced. “Hi! I didn’t think you were going to come until later?”
Wasn’t she supposed to be able to lie better? Ellie squinted at her. If she looked very, very closely, she could see the rest of the ravages from their talk the night before: very faint dark circles under Sarah’s eyes, just the tiniest bit of slackening around her mouth, tension through her shoulders and neck. She wouldn’t have caught it if she weren’t a doctor.
She’d give Sarah one thing: she was freaking fantastic with makeup.
“I have to work later.” Ellie glanced around the office and dismissed it as boring. “Is my brother here?”
Weren’t they on the first floor?
“Sleeping,” Sarah went on. “Casey made him go down for a nap about two hours ago. He was running himself kind of ragged.”
She’d yet to meet Ellie’s eyes, Ellie noted. Normally, Ellie figured she’d probably play the game, make small talk, attempt to soothe, slip into caring doctor mode. Except she’d had less than an hour of sleep—she could function on less, no problem; med school had taken care of that early on—and dodging and evasion were more Sarah’s game than hers.
“I’m not going to tell you if I’m taking the job or not until I tell both you and Chuck at the same time,” she said, getting right to the point.
“Great.” Sarah took her time closing files on her desk. She made sure to straighten the sides of the papers against the edge of the desk. As she rose, she smoothed both hands down her blouse and skirt.
Ellie was ninety percent sure it wasn’t an act.
The other ten percent scared her.
“I’ll go wake him up,” Sarah said.
“No, not yet.” Ellie set her purse down beside the desk. “I think we need to talk first.”
She half-expected to see Sarah pause, or freeze, or give some sort of reaction, but Ellie only received a nod. “All right. But not here.” Sarah pushed open the door behind her desk, gesturing for Ellie to come with her
“Is this the entrance to some secret base?” Ellie asked, half curious and half fearful.
“Uh, no, it’s the kitchen.” Sarah nudged the door open wider. Beyond it, Ellie could indeed see what looked to be an average, unassuming break room that could have been in any office building on the planet. A small table and a couple of chairs had been wedged into the middle, a minuscule excuse for a sink sat between the thin lip of a counter and an aging box of a refrigerator. Somebody had stuck a Bender and a Fry magnet on it.
Chuck’s work, Ellie figured. She followed Sarah into the break room and took one of the chairs at the table.
“Coffee?” Sarah asked.
“Please.” She was going to have to start mainlining the stuff once she got to work, and Devon would probably scold her.
Of course, he’d have all of ten minutes to give her slightly disapproving looks before she turned his life upside down with the news that he had been offered a job with the freaking CIA and NSA.
He’d probably think it was awesome.
Sarah set a mug in front of her and sat down with her own steaming mug, this one of tea rather than coffee. Apparently, that wasn’t just part of her out of work actress gig. Ellie was almost tempted to ask her about it, but there were other much more important things to discuss.
“Last night,” she said, once again striking straight for the heart of the matter (didn’t one have to be a superior marksman to be a CIA agent? Sarah should appreciate that much, at least), “what you said, about a perfect world…you meant that, didn’t you?”
“Ellie, I…” Sarah kept her eyes on her tea. “I don’t want to have to lie to you.”
“Well, that’s a good thing. I’ve decided to trust you,” Ellie said.
She could see that one hit and explode through Sarah. Either the agent needed a course on having a poker face, or she was paying Ellie a compliment by letting her see actual reactions. Or maybe it was all an act. Ellie wasn’t sure. “Say what?” Sarah asked, blinking at her.
Ellie waved a hand at that. “Mind you, I’m not entirely sure all of this isn’t some horribly manipulative act just to maneuver Chuck and me to exactly where you want us so that the government can continue to do awful things to us, but enough of me believes you that it makes no never mind.”
Sarah blinked again. “Why?”
“Why trust me?” Sarah stared hard at her. “There’s so many reasons not to. Not that I want you to stop, but…” She shrugged.
She also needed a lesson, Ellie saw, in asking the hard-hitting questions. That one was easy enough to answer. “Because if I don’t make a conscious effort to trust you, I’m going to go crazy. I don’t deal well with crazy.”
“That’s it? You don’t deal well with crazy?”
“I don’t. Ask Chuck about it sometime.” Ellie shrugged and probably confused the hell out of Sarah by giving her a bright smile. She might feel exhaustion dragging at every single one of her limbs, but the instant she’d made a conscious decision to join Prometheus, to enter her brother’s crazy world, everything had felt...lighter. That alone was enough to tell her she’d made the right choice.
And since she was already here, she might as well have her fun.
“Chuck’s another reason I decided to trust you,” she went on cheerfully. “He trusts you, so I will. Of course, I’ll be watching you like a freaking hawk and if something happens to my brother, either by somebody else or by you, I will cut you so fast, not even the best surgeons in the country would have a hope of saving you, got it?”
She didn’t expect a smile in response to that, but Sarah grinned. “You any good with a knife?”
“No.” Ellie grinned back. “But I am damned freaking deadly with a scalpel.”
“Got it.” Sarah leaned back and shook her head. “You two really are a lot alike. I don’t know how you can be so trusting, uh, cutting people aside.”
Ellie’s grin faded. “People are either going to betray you or they’re going to stand by you. You can’t control what they do. But I’ve always had Chuck, and at the end of the day, I trust him. And he trusts you.”
“And that’s it?”
“Sure. We save the hard stuff for our occupations, and we keep it simple outside of that. Or we did until my brother joined the CIA.”