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Chuck vs the Lost Memories

By Caprice Hokstad

Adventure / Action

Dresden

Gertrude Verbanski was very accustomed to getting what she wanted. Sometimes it took a while and sometimes she had to sacrifice, but it was always a matter of 'when' or 'how', not 'if'. Case in point: Colonel John Casey. She'd had her laser sights on him for years.

There had been no point in trying to compete with the Marines or the NSA. John was a true-blooded patriot. She could see in his eyes that he'd given up women before in order to put his country first. Gertrude knew she could never lure him away from that kind of commitment. However, when that idiot Decker put a target on his back, soiled his reputation, and got him thrown out of the NSA, well, things had started to get interesting.

It was too bad he'd gotten mixed up with Ward and June Bartowski and their quaint little Spy Kids operation they called Carmichael Industries. What a joke, with their CARE acronym and their homey little predilection to put their enemies to sleep with tranq darts instead of real guns. Please. If John had come straight from the NSA to Verbanski Corp, it could have saved them all a lot of time and trouble. Oh well, that was all water under the bridge now. Carmichael was kaput, and once John no longer felt obligated to his old spy buddies, he was a free agent.

So he showed up in Dresden, playing coy, like he was just taking a short leave of absence from Burbank. He didn't want to look desperate and Gertrude respected that. She'd learned from South Beach that he had too much pride to live off her fortune as a kept man, or accept some cushy figurehead position that kept him out of danger. So she offered him a real job as a sniper and she used his skills as much as she could. The hardest part was making each assignment appear more dangerous than it really was, so he had the illusion of being more indispensable than he actually was.

Verbanski Corporation was no cheap rip-off of the Moscow Circus. She didn't accept little three-man jobs. Those were the table scraps she discarded on the floor for the Carmichael pups and their ilk to scrounge up. Verbanski clients wanted impressive numbers of well-trained personnel, state-of-the-art weaponry, and plenty of redundant backups. That's what they demanded and that's what they paid premium prices to get.

Her employees took good care of her clients and they watched each other's backs. She had only lost four people in her whole history and she wanted to keep it that way. Otherwise, word got around that her operation was sloppy and soft, and that was one thing Verbanski would never be accused of. Besides, being over-prepared kept her accidental death & dismemberment premiums manageable.

Outside of business, there was no doubt John was indispensable. The man was quite honestly the sexiest thing alive. Thoughts of him consumed her. He was a man of few words, and she understood that, even liked that about him. It wouldn't have been an issue at all, except she soon discovered he had plenty of words for his daughter, Alex, back in Burbank. His phone didn't buzz in business meetings nor did he answer it in the middle of sex. In fact, more than half the time, he didn't answer her texts at all. Still, the level of attention he gave his absent daughter was not a level his present lover was comfortable with.

Now, Gertrude finally understood why their relationship had been so impossible back in California. Alex probably kept her dad on a short leash. Poor John felt guilty because he missed her whole childhood, so now she was using that leverage against him, to force him to make up for the time he'd missed.

But Alex was no longer a little girl, dammit. She was a fully grown woman. Granted, her intelligence was a bit questionable for having moved in with that bearded midget, Grimes, but she'd graduated from college. She had decent friends, a good job, an apartment, and a mother within driving distance. Why in hell did she need to keep texting her father on the other side of the globe two or three times a day? Why did she call him practically every other night?

John was never going to let the past go and give all his attention to Gertrude as long as this clingy daughter of his kept bugging him. Gertrude gave it a week to see if it would peter out, but it didn't. So she had a little informal chat with the electronic gadget experts at Verbanski Corp. She didn't name any names or give any details that would tip them off why she needed the information. She normally left this kind of work to her tech geeks, but John would never leave his phone where anyone else could get hold of it, so she would have to do it herself. Luckily, she was a damn good spy and this was such easy spywork, even that idiot Bartowski could have done it.

Gertrude waited until John was busy at the gun range. She opened his phone up and removed the processing microchip. She slaved the chip easily enough and programmed his phone so that any text originating from within twenty miles of Burbank would go through her phone first. If she approved the message, it would go through to his phone with no indication anyone else had seen it. She could even delay it so she could have her own phone put away by the time John's phone received the message.

Voice calls could be screened as well. She would wean him off of these much slower, making sure rejected calls ended up looking like spotty mobile service. Americans tended to assume eastern Europe was about twenty years behind and didn't have the tech to support advanced communications. Gertrude would bet money that Fraulein Alex would never give it a second thought when she got 'unable to connect' instead of Dad, on occasion.

The eventual goal was to make it so only John's outgoing calls would be successful. Alex would learn to wait for Dad to initiate calls and since John wasn't big on chit-chat, their contact would settle down to a more reasonable frequency—once every thirty to sixty days, perhaps. Flowers delivered on her birthday and a Christmas card with a hundred dollars and the girl should count herself damn lucky to have any contact at all. The trick was to gradually wean them away from each other, so John would never realize what a favor she was doing him. Gertrude was the queen of patience and she always got what she wanted. Eventually.

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