And it Starts (Part 2)

Carlson Hotels,


If there's anything I learned from all my years of being me, it's that if there are too many things to do, you do the right thing and just handle one shit at a time. That's exactly what I'm gonna do now. And I know I have to do it fast, while everyone's still dumbstruck and shocked from Arthur Carlson's engagement announcement.

So I move closer to Eddie and whisper as firmly as I could, "You stay here. Don't go anywhere."

He looks at me like I've just sprouted two heads or something, but I just shrug 'cause right now there's only so much I can do. I know I said keeping an eye on the subject is our priority right now but that's my team out there. I can't just leave them knowing they're in trouble.

Whoever those men that Collins followed are, they're bad fucking news because all I can hear from my earpiece now is static. I squeeze Eddie's hand lightly for good measure, then I get to my feet and just walk away. No one seems to have noticed because all eyes are still on Arthur Carlson who's still talking about something or other. Well, some people did notice but it's just the people from our table. I ignore them and make my way hastily towards the doors.

When I'm finally outside and it's relatively more peaceful, I pull out my earpiece as well as the brooch-camera-mic and stuff it into the handbag that Mandy insisted I carry around because it "absolutely matches my dress perfectly". I also pull out my phone and turn on the tracker Smith installed in our comm. devices.

I must say, the handbag thing, kind of useful now.

A red dot starts glowing on the screen and I follow its path. It's a little while later, when I notice the chill in the air and my shivers, that I realize I'm walking around outside. The red dot stops by the pool area, and true enough, that's where I find them. Both of them.

There are two men with them, dressed casually as though they didn't belong here at all, much less like Arthur Carlson's guests. Whoever they are, I need to be careful. But as I'm planning how to sneak in there to help out Collins and James, the two men spots me and there's just no hiding now.

The weird thing is they're not doing anything at all. If they're Enoch, they why aren't they attacking me? Or James and Collins for that matter? So I approach them as casually as I can, trying to see who they really are. They don't look like Enoch. If they are, I'm pretty sure I'd immediately know.

"What's going on here?" I ask in my most authoritative tone.

"Ms. Rose," they say, and that's when I realize that they certainly are not Enoch. They're Arthur Carlson's security team. They're probably working undercover or something. "We saw these men hovering outside the hotel. They claim that they know you."

I look at James and Collins and nod. "Yes, I do. He's my English professor and this is Sam. He's a colleague. They just stepped out for a smoke." I said in my best innocent voice. "Is there a problem?"

The security team looks embarrassed. "We're so sorry. We were just being careful."

"It's all right." I nod like it's no big deal and with one last glance at me, they walk away. When they've finally rounded a corner, I turn to Collins and James. "So that's the big problem?" I say with just the slightest disbelief and probably a little bit of annoyance too.

James shrugs. "Hey, they're about to take us into custody."

"Ugh." I'm kinda, sorta exasperated now. "I had to leave the subject behind. Shit. I have to go back now. Clean up your mess and try not to be caught again. Damn it."

As I'm walking back to the hotel, I hear James and Collins say, "Sorry!" from behind me. I give them a dismissive wave because I can't deal with that right now. For a second there, I really thought they were in trouble, and okay, maybe I'm a little too proud to admit that I was kind of scared too.

Just as I'm making my way back to the ball room, however, I run into Arthur Carlson himself, followed closely by his son—and they look worried as fuck. I can only assume that they're worried about me because I'm guessing there aren't too many people inside who made a run for it after their surprise engagement was announced to the entire damn world.

Well, isn't that just convenient because this is exactly the second problem I'm planning to deal with.

"I wasn't planning to run away, if that's what you're thinking." I say, looking at them. "I want an explanation though. I mean, when the hell did Eddie and I get engaged exactly? Why can't I remember any of this?" I add with just the right amount of sarcasm because despite everything else, I'm still a snarky little bitch.

Arthur Carlson looks sorry enough that it seems he'd tell me whatever it is I want to know. "I'm sorry. I just didn't see any other choice."

"What the hell, dad?" Eddie says this time, looking scandalized. I'm betting he also has no idea what just happened. "What do you mean?"

I want to interrupt because this isn't exactly the kind of conversation you should have in a place where anyone could just about see you, (we're in the hotel lobby for fuck's sakes) but the expression on Eddie's face says that he's not going to back down and that he needs an answer right the fuck now.

So who am I to complain, really? The lobby may be buzzing with some activity because it's a hotel after all, but mostly other people are keeping to themselves. And I really, really just want to resolve this shit before it goes out of hand.

"Dad?" Eddie says, still waiting for an answer.

Arthur looks like he's having some trouble putting his thoughts into actual, coherent words and I kind of can sympathize with him. But my desire to know what's going on in his big-and-rather-cunning-businessman mind is winning against my sympathy.

"Well, it's the only option I had." He finally says, which okay, didn't really help much. "I want you two to get married—or at least think about it for the time being. Date or something. What's the worst that could happen?" He adds resignedly.

Let's not tempt fate, Arthur. Let's just not. "Date or something?" I say incredulously.

Arthur Carlson looks at me, sighing. "I told your father I'd take care of you. Before he… That was the last thing he asked of me, and I guess I've done a pretty shit job of that over the past sixteen or so years. This is the only way I could think to make up for it."

"By getting us engaged?" Eddie says, eyebrows shooting up so high, I'm afraid it's going to disappear into his hairline.

Okay, so objectively, it's not exactly a generally craptastic idea. From Arthur Carlson's point of view, it actually kind of makes sense. His best friend asks him to take care of daughter, he finds said daughter and wants to make up for lost years. What's the most fantastic way to make it up to her than to marry her to the heir of one of the richest people in the world?

Yeah. I could see the point, the appeal too, really. It's basic logic.

Too bad that's not exactly what I came here to do. And besides, I'm pretty sure it's not quite over between Eddie and his on-again, off-again girlfriend. Jill kind of made it clear to me just awhile ago. She's pretty possessive, I'd give her that. And territorial too. Cute.

"I had to do something." Arthur says and he looks like he's given up in the face of his son's infuriation or something.

It's about time I intervene anyway so I do just that. Except that I veer away from the topic of engagement completely and focus on what Arthur said just a few moments ago. I've been meaning to ask him about it but somehow it just keeps slipping my mind because of the other things I've needed to deal with since we last talked.

"You said something," I say suddenly and that effectively cuts off the glaring competition between Eddie and his father, "something about my dad. Eddie told me before that my father called you and told you to take me and leave, right?"

Arthur chances a glance at his son before turning back to me. "Yes," he says, nodding. He looks confused and I don't really blame him, but he said something about my father asking him to take care of me as his dying wish and I just couldn't resist.

"So where was he?" I ask, sounding urgent now. "Eddie said you received a phone call and then my father never showed. Where was he? How come he wasn't around or something? Please. I just… I really need to know."

There must be something in my expression then because Eddie suddenly takes my hand, squeezing it reassuringly. He looks kind of sorry. I lean into him a little because I have a feeling I need to brace myself for whatever Arthur Carlson's response would be.

He doesn't say anything for a while, probably trying to decide whether he should tell me or not. Finally he says, "The last I heard, he was in Switzerland. He was… He was involved in something… something. He got involved with the CIA about something I really have no idea about. And I figured things just went bad and…" He trails off, looking guilty as hell.

Switzerland. CIA. My father was involved with the CIA and he was in Switzerland when… Holy. Fuck.

"I didn't want you to know this. There's no reason for you to know because it's over now. It was just a freakin' nightmare, everything that happened that whole year." Arthur continues. "There's no reason for you to get involved in it. I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I really am. But it's for your own good."

My father was involved with the CIA at the time of his murder. And it was in Switzerland where Enoch was— Could it possible that my dad knew something about that organization? Was he helping the CIA? It couldn't be a fucking coincidence that he got killed there and I got taken…

What the hell, dad? What were you doing getting involved with the CIA… and possibly Enoch? And holy shit, did George West know about this? If he did, then it's not a coincidence that I ended up with the CIA, is it?

It feels like someone just pulled a rug underneath me and I'm spinning and falling and just drowning in information. My mind's working overtime, doing its best to connect all the fucking dots because holy hell, this is big. It crosses my mind then that I'm not actually wearing my earpiece and the mic anymore and I can't decide whether I'm glad or disappointed that James can't hear what's going on right now.

"Emily, you okay?" Eddie nudges me gently.

"Yeah," I manage to say, a little breathless.

"I'm really sorry." Arthur says and he looks it too.

Eddie drapes an arm over my shoulders then tells his father, "We should probably talk about this later." Arthur seems to have agreed because the next thing I know, I'm being herded away from the lobby and towards—to my slight surprise—the elevators.

"Where are we going?" I ask him. At least my mind's still functioning enough for that.

"My office," he answers as the elevator doors close. "I didn't think you'd want to go back to the party. People are asking a lot of questions regarding the—the engagement thing." He sounds embarrassed for some reason and it makes me want to laugh hysterically. And that just confirms my suspicion that I'm probably going a little crazy after what Arthur Carlson just told me.

But of course, the engagement. Somehow, it doesn't seem so very important to me now. It's just another role to play. It's not that different from whatever the hell I'm doing now. I shake my head and I feel myself slowly returning to normal, filing away the information I gleaned to be examined and scrutinized the fuck out of with James later.

It occurs to me later, while I'm sitting on the couch in Eddie's office's sitting room, that this is my chance to actually have a look around the place because it's the only place we're not able to bug. It's an opportunity and I'm not going to waste it, so I get to my feet and start having a look around.

It's not a huge office but it's not cramped either. The sitting area looks comfortable enough—too comfortable actually, more homey—and I figure it's kind of necessary since it's a hotel and all. There's a bookshelf mounted on the wall and it's filled with books regarding hotel management, business and such. The coffee table's overflowing with magazines about hotels too. Typical.

After a while, I start to wonder what's taking Eddie so long since he disappeared to the inner office awhile ago saying he needed a drink. So I go to the inner office to check on him and I see him standing by the mini-bar where there are bottles of whiskey, scotch and probably all kinds of alcoholic beverages known to man.

"I'm sorry to barge in. I was just wondering what's—" I stop. I didn't really know what to say.

He's nursing a glass of scotch when he turns to me. He's holding something in his other hand and I have to take a step closer to see what it is. It's a photograph. He smiles when he sees me looking and hands it over to.

It's a picture from what appears to be a birthday party. It's me and Eddie when we were younger and when we used to celebrate our birthdays together. Apparently, he wasn't lying when he said that. I smile because it's cute. But there's no way in hell I could actually remember this moment. I looked much too young in the picture.

"You were four then, if I remember correctly." He answers my unspoken question, and whoa, mind-reading powers. Awesome. "I keep that in my desk, you know. I look at it when I'm having a bad time or something."

"Creepy," I say jokingly, just to lighten the mood and it works because he laughs when I give him back the photo. "But it's cute so I guess that makes up for it." I add, smiling. He's obviously trying to make me feel better and what do you know, it's kind of working.

"You want a drink?" He asks.

"Sure. I'll have what you're having," I say and somehow he finds it highly amusing that he's the one serving the drinks now when I'm the bartender in this scenario because he's still laughing when he hands me a glass of scotch. "Thanks." I say, sipping my drink. The alcoholic kick instantly warms me. Oh god I love alcohol.

He clicks his glass with mine and says, "Cheers. Happy birthday to us."

For a while, we're quiet, just drinking and thinking too much to even bother about talking. It takes a while for it to occur to me that it's dark and the lights in the Eddie's office haven't actually been turned on. The only light is coming from outside through the windows. It's kind of weird but also kind of nice.

"So are we going to talk about it?" Eddie suddenly asks, breaking the quiet spell. Damn it. I was enjoying that.

"Talk about what?" I ask apprehensively because my instincts are telling me to run away now and I don't know why. It's probably telling me to run the fuck away from this conversation which is, yeah, okay I might have to do that soon.

"Date or something." He says and it takes me a while to realize he's quoting his dad.

I take a deep breath because my heart's beating a million miles an hour and I'm not sure if it's just because of this fucking conversation or something else. I settle on laughing, because I can also be stupid like that. "Well, you wouldn't want that, would you?" I say lightheartedly. "C'mon, dude. Date or something. It's hilarious. Don't deny it."

For some reason though, Eddie's not laughing. "Maybe he has a point."

I suppress my groan of exasperation because, no. I can't be dealing with his issues right now too. "Seriously?" I say, just barely resisting the urge to roll my eyes. "So what are you saying? You want to take me out? You want me to be your trophy fiancée or something?" I tease, draining my scotch.

"No," he huffs, like I'm the one getting the wrong idea here. Moron. "Just… Go out with me. Maybe one date. Maybe more. We'll decide later. Can't we try? It's not like there's anything stopping us, right?"

Oh god there is. There's a giant reason why I'm not supposed to do that, but you're not supposed to find out about that either so I guess we're at a fucking impasse here. "You have a girlfriend." I say. It's true anyway.

"Had," he says firmly. "It's over between me and Jill. We're just friends now. And you don't have a boyfriend. So what's stopping us?"

That's not what Jill told me. "You can't rationalize dating." I say like I have any idea at all what the fuck dating entails. It's not like I've ever gone out with anyone for real in my entire life before. "You can't just weigh the pros and cons and decide whether you should date a person based on that."

He nods, and thank fuck because he looks like he understands. "Yeah, you're probably right." We fall silent again, and in my mind I'm dancing around and yelling crisis averted at the top of my lungs. But Eddie just has to break my fucking moment because he says, "How about this then?" He steps closer to me and I'm suddenly hyperaware of just how close we are, like I-can-feel-the-heat-coming-off-of-him close.

"What?" I ask trying to take a step back to put some space between us, but he holds me in place by placing his hands on my waist gently. That just makes me freeze up entirely.

His gaze drops to my lips then, and I kinda, sorta figured where this is going. But it still takes me by surprise when he says, whispers actually, "I want to kiss you."

It's not a question and he's pretty fucking clear on that fact as well because he doesn't wait for me to say anything at all before he's pressing his lips to mine. And he's kissing me. I don't respond because I know I'm not supposed to but his lips are freakin' insistent and before long I find myself kissing him back. It's instinctive, like trying your darndest to swim because you're drowning. At least that's what I keep telling myself just to make some fucking sense out of this shit.

When he pulls back, it's because he needs to breathe. And I find myself catching my breath as well. He's smiling smugly, like he's figured out the answer to the meaning of life. "See? Now that wasn't too bad." He says gently, almost sweetly.

Kill me now.

And that's just about when my lesson about not tempting fate catches up with me because it's there. I felt it before I even heard the tiny laughter, so soft at first, then gradually getting louder and louder. Somehow, the kiss-thing feels so irrelevant now because there's someone in the fucking room with us.

My body tenses up, preparing for the inevitable fight and my hands inch closer to the knives strapped to my thighs as I turn to face the music. I barely register the shock and fear on Eddie's face as he says, "Who's there?"

There's someone standing on the other side of the room hidden by the shadows, and I curse myself for not turning on the freaking lights even if I found it kind of cool awhile ago. It's a man. I can see it from his silhouette and he's still laughing. His laughter sounds vaguely familiar, like I've heard it somewhere before.

And when he steps out of the shadows and into the light, I barely manage to stop myself from shaking uncontrollably. Holy shit. This is it. The threat I didn't know I'd been anticipating. I knew this was gonna happen eventually. And now he's caught me when I'm most unprepared.


He's clapping now. Mocking me. Then he stops and smiles at me. "Hey, Julia, long time no see. I heard you're not dead."

I don't answer because I'm still stupidly clinging on to the hope that I can still salvage my cover. But it all goes to shit when Eddie says, "Who are you? What are you doing in my office? How the fuck did you get in here?"

John holds up a hand to silence Eddie, like he's got all the time in the world. But, fuck, perhaps he does. "I'll deal with you later, Mr. Carlson. Can't you see I'm catching up with an old friend? And looks like you're getting quite comfortable there, Julia. Although you're getting a bit rusty, aren't you? I've been following you around for months and you had no fucking clue. And it took you so long to notice I was here. That's what you get for working for the enemy."

That explains everything. Why sometimes I feel weird. Or why sometimes I feel like someone's following Eddie when in fact John was following me. Shit. Shit. I should've been more careful. I should've been—

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Eddie says, confused and frightened.

"He doesn't know, does he?" John says with glee. "He thinks you're Emily. That's cute. Really. And it looks like you're acting the part pretty well too. You know you're really good at that. I've always loved that about you. You've always been an obedient little—"

I finally find my voice. "Shut up!"

Eddie's hand slips from my waist then and he unconsciously takes a little step back. He looks like he's about to faint. "Y-You're not Emily?"

"No, she most definitely isn't. Emily Rose is dead. Too bad. Sorry to burst your bubble, Mr. Carlson." John answers for me. "The bright side is, she's just as pretty. You can pretend while you're fucking her. It wouldn't make that much of a difference really."

If John thinks Emily Rose is dead then he doesn't know who I really am. "You're here to kill him, right?" I say in a low voice.

John shakes his head. "Not exactly. But, well, I can do that too. You know how we are with cleaning up loose ends." He says matter-of-factly.

"Who is he? Why did he call you Julia? And what do you mean kill me?" Eddie says and he looks so pale, it's a wonder he hasn't fainted yet.

I take that one moment while John's distracted with Eddie's distress to grab at the knife strapped to my left thigh and throw it straight at John. He still saw it coming, but it's enough as it hits him squarely on the left shoulder. He staggers backwards but doesn't fall. Of course. I expected that. It'll take a lot to bring him down. He's Enoch after all.

But I take that opportunity as well to grab Eddie's arm and just sprint for the door. John manages to snag my arm on the way there, but I duck quickly, twist around, delivering a strong punch to his right jaw. He falls back, losing his balance and simultaneously releasing his hold on me. He's probably seeing double right now. That was a pretty solid punch.

I twist the knob on the door, pulling it open almost violently in my haste to run away with Eddie. Right now, my priority is to protect the subject and not to exact revenge on one of the people who made my life hell.

I only vaguely hear John shouting, "The raven will find you!" as I make a break for it.

"Wait, wait!" Eddie yells as he tries to wriggle out of my grasp.

I just hold on tighter though because if I know John at all, it's that he doesn't have any weapons with him because he doesn't like dirtying his hands with other peoples' blood. He has people who do that for him and we maybe only have a couple of minutes before we're cornered. So I run, not paying any mind to Eddie's protests.

I take the fire exit route because I know this will be where Collins is stationed. I mentally curse again for taking off the fucking comm. How stupid of a move could that be? Eddie could have died with just that one simple mistake. He could still die anyway. And that just makes me run faster.

Eddie's struggling to keep up with me mostly because he doesn't want to. "What the fuck is going on? Would you stop and talk to me?!" He yells as we navigate our way through the fire exit route which I've memorized about two days before the party.

"Can't talk now!" I yell back. "We have to get the fuck away from here. I promise I'll explain everything, okay? Just… trust me on this." I finish quietly, and I'm not sure he heard that statement since I'm running and I'm kind of out of breath.

But then we're finally out of in the grounds and I have never been happier to see Collins standing there like he wants to beat the nearest breathing human being that will come across him. "Why the fuck did you take off your comm.?" He says angrily before he realizes that Eddie's with me. "Holy shit! What happened?" He almost yells.

"Call James back. We need to get to base-ops right now. It's them, Collins. It's John. He was in Eddie Carlson's office. They're coming." I explain rather hysterically as Collins orders James to pull back from position, telling him as well that we needed to get back to base-ops as soon as possible.

"Would someone explain to me what's going on?" Eddie says and he sounds exhausted now. The anger, annoyance, confusion and fear are still there however, and that's the moment when it hits me that it's all over. I'm not Emily anymore. I'm back to being Agent Mary West full-time. And Eddie needs someone to explain to him—

Turns out, that someone is Collins. He pulls something out from his pocket—his CIA ID—and flashes it to Eddie. "Mr. Carlson, I'm Agent Tony Collins. We're from the CIA and we're here to protect you. We'll explain everything when we get you to a safe place. Right now, there is a threat to your life. Our priority is to get you to safety."

"What? But you're an English professor at St. George's! I've seen you around!" He looks and sounds absolutely freaked now. Can't exactly blame him. "And you are?" He says, turning to me. "I'm guessing you're not Emily?"

Yeah. John kind of ruined that now. "No," I say because he wouldn't believe me otherwise. "I'm Agent Mary West and—" But before I could say anything else, Eddie's car suddenly skids and stops in front of us. Collins is preparing to shoot whoever's driving but when the window lowers down, it's only James.

"C'mon!" He says, all business-like and his tone snaps me back into action. The confusion and fear I felt from seeing John vanishes, replaced by a cold, calculating feeling that I always reserve for missions. Already my mind's making up a list of what I'm supposed to do once we get the subject to relative safety.

Collins herds me and Eddie in the backseat while he takes the passenger side. Once the doors have closed, James just floors it out of there, and I think this is it. My cover's blown and everything's a mess, yet somehow I'm strangely calm because this is a territory I'm familiar with. I don't have to pretend anymore.

This is it.