Rachel Weisz as Caroline Santiago

Center Stage

23 min read
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Category: Humor/Action.
  • Summary: A notorious freelance agent returns to the Agency’s stratosphere, which causes people to question her allegiance.
  • Timeline: Mid-season 2.
  • Disclaimer: The Invisible Man characters belong to their respective entities. Made-ups are mine and mine alone.

It was a typical day at the Agency. Darien Fawkes had just gotten his shot of counteragent and Alex Monroe was already in the Official’s office waiting for Darien and Bobby Hobbes to get news about their new assignment.

“So what’s the deal, boss?” Hobbes asked the Official.

“Eberts!” Charlie barked.

“An ex-CIA agent has returned to the United States from Asia and our underground sources say she’s in talks with Chrysalis already. We must prevent her from creating any commitments with Chrysalis. She would be vital to us, as evidenced by her skills that are unsurpassed by anyone we‘ve ever encountered before. Caroline can be a valuable ally or one of our deadliest enemies,” Eberts reported in his uptight manner, handing Darien and Bobby a manila folder. A beautiful, no-nonsense woman stared at them from the black and white photo attached to the file.

“Hey, who’s the babe?” Darien said to Bobby, who laughed agreeably.

“‘Caroline Santiago,” Alex read from the folder handed to her from Hobbes. Her face paled uncomfortably, though no one noticed.

“Why was she out of the U.S.?” Bobby asked Eberts.

“She has been in hiding for three years,” The Official replied. “Bring her back here. Is that too much to ask?”

Without another word, the three agents left the room with only an address in Santa Monica. Golda and Alex‘s Batmobile pulled up to the curb at the address Eberts had given them. A dark, sinister exterior gave way to the fact that it was a nightclub.

“Are you sure this is the right address? I mean, this is a club,” Darien said.

“Oh yeah, you’re quick there, Sherlock,” Hobbes said sarcastically, politely opening the door for Alex and Darien. A strong smell of cappuccino and other coffee smells drenched them as they entered the small hallway.

“Yeah whatever,” Darien said. “Do you think anybody would be here at this time?”

Strains of an unfamiliar pop song wafted from a nearby room.

“Guess so,” Alex said. A few feet deeper into the building, they followed the music. Alex, Bobby, and Darien passed through a crushed velvet curtain that had muffled the music slightly.

A fully-functioning bar had coffee materials and a small smattering of people were drinking coffee, bopping their heads to the music. It turned out to be a double occupancy building. It was a coffee shop by day, nightclub by night.

Alex spied the beaded off backstage area and tried to get backstage by flashing her badge and talking big, but a huge African-American man blocked her way and refused to let her pass. Darien and Bobby took a seat near the stage.

“What are we doing?” Darien asked Bobby.

“We’re doing the anti-Monroe, my friend. She always the one to shoot first and ask questions later. Let’s just enjoy the show and maybe this Caroline chick will magically appear,” Bobby explained.

A huge banner proclaiming a talent showcase hung on the wall to the left of the room and the singer of the pretty, flowery pop song they had heard as they were entering was finishing up.

“How was Justin Frank? Great stuff. I see a record deal in the future for ya. And an extra special treat for us, a dear old friend of mine has agreed to grace us with her presence today. Give it up for Caroline Santiago!” the emcee announced. Hobbes gave Darien a knowing look, as Caroline took the stage.

She was a diva if you ever saw one. Dressed in a traditional navy blue Chinese cheongsam, Caroline looked up and nodded her head. The jazzy “At Last” began to play.

At last/my love has come along/my lonely days are over/and life is like a song/oh yeah, yeah, at last,” Caroline sang.

You could hear the emotion in her voice when she sang. Alex finally stopped her argument with the guy and sat down with Darien and Bobby.

I found a dream that I could speak to/A dream that I can call my own/I found a thrill to press my cheek to/A thrill that I’ve never known/oh yeah, yeah.”

Darien looked at the other people in the small audience. They were as captivated by Caroline as he was.

You smiled you smiled/oh and then the spell was cast/and here we are, in heaven/for you are mine/at last.

Cheers and applause burst from the audience approvingly as Caroline politely took her bow and exited stage right. Alex saw the opportunity and walked quickly after her.

“Alex Monroe, federal agent,” she said, flashing her badge.

Caroline peeked at it swiftly, as the bodyguard stationed there protested.

“Don’t worry, Peter. Follow me,” Caroline said to the threesome, opening the beaded curtain to allow the three to enter the seedy-looking backstage area. They walked down a long hall until they went to the third door on the left. Caroline opened it for them and they followed her inside.

“Miss Santiago, I’m Special Agent Hobbes, and these are my associates Special Agent Fawkes and Special Agent Monroe,” Bobby introduced them.

But Caroline and Alex were locked in a death stare and didn’t even know that Hobbes had spoken.

“Monroe. How nice to see you again,” Caroline squeaked out. Darien and Hobbes shared a glance with each other, as Monroe set her poker face.

“Word on the street says you’re on the make with Chrysalis,” Alex replied not answering her comment.

Darien settled himself at the vanity chair, and Bobby sat on a leather chair. Each man was waiting for the fireworks. The tension in the air was as thick as the smog over Los Angeles. Only Alex remained standing, with her arms crossed.

“Yes, I have been contacted, but I have no desire to be employed by them. I’m surprised they had the nerve to approach me after all this time,” Caroline replied mysteriously. Alex shared a look with Bobby after Caroline spoke.

“We came here to see if you’d like to meet our boss and work with us, for our agency,” Darien told her.

Caroline gave him an odd look. “My affiliation is with no one. I work only for myself,” Caroline told them, packing her things into a shoulder bag.

“You mean to tell us that you’re a hitman?” Darien said astonished.

“Aren’t you sharp? I prefer the term ‘hitwoman’. A soldier of fortune, an assassin, whatever,” she said, tossing a used tissue in the small trashcan near the vanity.

“But you didn’t come all the way from wherever you came from for nothing,” she supposed aloud. “If I do somehow change my mind and decide to work with your ‘agency,’ do I get one of those groovy badges y‘all flashed at me?” Caroline asked tartly. She picked up her bag and motioned for them to follow her.

Alex rolled her in eyes in disgust. She led the way to the street where their cars were parked and they arrived at the Agency in no time.

“So you can turn invisible?” Caroline whispered to Darien as they walked up the hallway to the main office.

“Hobbes tell you that?” Fawkes asked.

“Yeah, just now. Show me!” Caroline demanded sweetly.

Darien quicksilvered his right hand and Caroline giggled. “That’s so cool!” she said. The four agents entered the room and Caroline gasped.

“Albert!” she cried aloud.

A stunned silence followed as Charlie, Bobby, Alex, Darien, and Claire, who was waiting to meet the new girl, just stared at each other as Caroline threw her arms around the bashful Eberts, who graciously accepted her hug.

“I haven’t heard from you in so long! What have you been up to?” she asked him gaily.

“Not much. How have you been?” he replied bashfully.

“I’m good, just got back, but I bet you knew that already!” she joked, getting a rare laugh from him. Eberts motioned for Caroline to sit down and stood at attention when Charlie spoke up.

“Miss Santiago, I’m the Official,” he said.

“Nice to meet you, sir,” she said politely. Claire leaned over and offered her hand.

“I’m Claire, Darien’s physician.” Caroline shook it and took the empty seat between Bobby and Claire, who sat down again.

“Are you working for Chrysalis?” the Official asked point-blank.

“If I may be permitted to speak, she’s a mercenary, sir,” Hobbes offered.

“Stifle! Are you?” the Official asked again.

“My loyalty is to the United States, but in terms of agencies within it, no,” Caroline said.

“We’d like to offer you a position with our agency if you’re interested,” Eberts said.

Caroline glanced at her old friend. “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to turn you down,” Caroline replied after a short silence.

“If that’s the way you feel,” the Official said to her.

“I do. Thanks at any rate,” she said gratefully, getting up to go.

“How much do you know?” the Official asked her, right before she opened the door.

She paused at the door, her back to the crowd. “Enough,” Caroline replied, letting herself out.

Charlie slammed his fist against the desk. “If only she had accepted the offer,” he said half to himself, half to everyone in the room. Darien, Bobby, Claire, and Alex shared a look.

“Why is that, sir?” Claire asked.

“A powerful Chinese triad going by the name of Exeter International has been buying up the docks around town. There are reports that a fresh shipment of drugs has landed from China at the docks. Caroline is the only one with the extensive linguistic and milk run skills that would give us David Chang, the owner of Exeter and a chain of karaoke restaurants. He murdered her best friend in the time Miss Santiago was out of the country,” Eberts said austerely.

“Since when do we deal with drugs, Chief? I mean, how did we get stuck with this assignment, when the FBI or even local police guys should be taking it?” Darien asked.

“Drugs are weighed in kilos. We could always say that,” Hobbes said.

“Hey, that’s right,” Darien said. “Drugs can be a security issue too.”

Bobby laughed. “I’m quick and they’re dead, pal,” Hobbes joked sarcastically.

“Enough!” the Official barked.

Alex picked up Caroline’s file again from the Official‘s desk. “‘Languages Spoken: English, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Thai.’ If she can do anything with this assignment, it would be her,” Monroe said aloud, flipping through the rest of the file.

“Should we go after her again, sir?” Bobby asked.

“Tail her and see where she goes,” the Official replied.

Over the next few days, Alex, Darien, and Bobby staked out Caroline’s affluent apartment. “Nice crib,” Darien replied, eyeballing the rich-looking people driving in and out of the gated community from across the street.

“It’s all that hit money that’s paying for these digs, my friend,” Bobby replied.

“Shh!” Alex said, listening in on Caroline’s phone conversation.

“She’s leaving soon, shopping or something,” Monroe said to Hobbes and Darien. The three of them waited for the gate to open. Bobby used binoculars to see the drivers coming out and as promised, Caroline’s silver Mercedes Benz crept out and into traffic.

“Let’s go,” Darien said.

At the third stoplight, Caroline played strangers with a souped-up purple Honda. She flirted with the gas pedal while looking at the Honda‘s driver and passenger.

“What’s she doing?” Alex asked.

At the green light, the two dueling cars sped off at high speeds.

“In broad daylight. She’s a frickin’ psycho,” Bobby said, as she suddenly turned left out of sight. The van sped after the Mercedes, but they lost it in no time. Hobbes stopped the van and the three of them climbed out and looked up and down the street.

“Where could she be?” Darien asked Monroe and Bobby. Caroline crept up on the other side of the van and poked a gun into his neck. Fawkes froze and coughed pointedly.

“Let him go,” Bobby said pulling out his gun along with Alex.

“Why were you tailing me?” Caroline asked, lowering her gun. “I’m not here to fight. I want an explanation.” She looked at them with all the honesty she could muster before Bobby and Alex did the same.

“We just wanted to know what you were up to,” Darien told her.

“Yeah, and I’m Batman,” she said annoyed. “I know what you want from me. I came back to the States because I got a tip about Exeter and its drug smuggling. Can we get this done?” she asked, walking back to her car.

“So you’re working with us now?” Bobby asked.

“You could say that. Four heads are better than this pretty one you’re talking to,” was all she would say.

“She’s cute,” Hobbes said to Darien, climbing back into the van.

“Just follow her,” Alex said irritably.

They arrived at the docks quickly. The two cars parked far enough away, the four snuck in as quietly as they could.

“What’s your beef with Exeter?” Monroe whispered to her. Bobby crept forward and looked at the docks.

“What’s yours?” Caroline replied before continuing. “They killed my best friend because he screwed up a European smuggling ring of theirs. Yours?”

Hobbes waved them closer; Darien, then Alex, then Caroline.

“We finish an assignment and we get a new one,” Darien replied for Alex. Caroline took a tiny pair of binoculars out of her shirt.

“What else you got in there?” Bobby asked coyly.

“Live through this and I might show you,” Caroline whispered.

A large group of Chinese men appeared to be running around a docked ship. They were going in and out of the ship like bees around honey. Fluent Chinese flowed freely as forklifts were being used to get large wooden crates out.

“They’re saying this fresh shipment almost didn’t make it because of the Coast Guard and another is saying the trip across was hell,” Caroline said, fiddling with an earplug in her right ear.

“That’s cool. Where did you get it?” Darien asked.

“On the back of a cereal box,” Caroline replied, not missing a beat.

One bossy looking fellow took a crowbar from a Chinese delivery man nearby and cracked open one box. He smiled approvingly and made a hand movement.

“See that guy right there?” Caroline said to Darien, handing him the binoculars. “That’s David Chang. He’s the one we’re after. That shipment is the drugs. If we get him, we get everything, the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle,” Caroline said seriously.

“Do your thing and follow him,” Bobby said to Darien.

“Fine,” he replied, quicksilvering and following David to an office on dry land.

“Yes, the new shipment came in. Perfect as usual… yes, I know Santiago is back in town… our goal, you idiot, is getting rid of her once and for all. She’s the one we wanted, not Lance Liang. I want her dead,” David said to someone on the phone. He hung up the phone a beautiful woman with Asian features came in and sat on David’s desk.

“Where are we going tonight?” she asked, her back to him.

“You have to ask? My new karaoke place in Chinatown,” he replied, moving in closer and pulling her towards him.

They began to make out and Darien left the room. Darien snuck back to the van where the Caroline, Bobby, and Alex were waiting.

“They’re going to be at one of his karaoke bars tonight,” he reported.

“I know where it is,” Bobby volunteered.

“I’m not even going to ask how you know,” Alex said.

Caroline sat in quiet contemplation. “I’m gonna call in some favors. Meet me back at the Agency, okay?”

“Why are you working with us?” Darien asked.

“Do you always ask this many questions?” Caroline replied, winking at him and getting into her car.

Darien and Bobby waited as she sped away. “She is cute,” Darien said to Bobby who nodded agreeably.

Late that afternoon, Caroline walked into Claire’s laboratory. Darien was chatting with Claire, and Alex and Bobby were hanging out.

“Hello?” she called, taking off a gray fedora. Her long, black hair was pinned back and she looked like she had stepped into the Rat Pack era and came back to 2001.

“Hip outfit,” Darien commented, as they gathered around her.

“Thanks. A bit of a gender reversal for tonight. Like I said I called in favors and we’re gonna do something that really stretches your comfort zone,” Caroline began slowly.

“What do you mean?” Monroe asked.

“Tonight a girl group is supposed to show up and perform a song or two for David’s triads,” Caroline explained, “they’re old friends of mine, and I asked if I could take over for them.”

“No problem. You, the Keep, and Alex will be the group,” Darien said practically.

“I wish it were that simple. They know who I am, so that’s one less. Claire will be doing backup duty tonight and yes, Alex will be in the group. That leaves two open spaces…” she trailed off.

All of a sudden, the light went on in Bobby’s head. “No, no way! I’m not doing it!”

Claire tried hard to suppress her giggles with Alex, as Caroline shook her head sorrowfully.

Darien took Caroline aside. “You mean dress up like girls?” he asked.

Caroline nodded her head. “I already ran this past the Official. He says it’s okay,” she added.

“I’m gonna have a talk with the Fat Man then!” Bobby said angrily.

Suddenly the door flew open and the Official stood flanked by Eberts. “Talk to me about what?”

Bobby walked up to him. “Sir, I don’t think this would be the most logical solution for this mission…” he began.

“End of discussion. You have less than two hours to change these men. Ladies, get to work,” the Official ordered them.

As the Official left, an agent was wheeling in a clothes rack of women’s clothes and another was holding a huge old school makeup box. In a flurry, the women chose the outfits and makeup to make Bobby and Darien modern-day drag queens. Scarily enough, they could pass as decent looking women.

They put a shorthaired brown wig on Bobby and dressed him in a form-fitting, long-sleeved blue shirt and long dark brown skirt. For Darien, they put a black-haired wig and in a long green a-line skirt with matching green three-quarter length shirt and sweater. As per the woman bit, they were resplendent in stuffed, push up bras and makeup that covered their masculine sides enough to fool anyone.

After they were done, Bobby was looking at himself critically in the mirror. “Does this skirt make my butt look big?” he asked Darien.

“Yes! … does this wig look okay? It feels a little lopsided,” he asked Bobby, in their typical Three Stooges bit.

“You know I think it does,” Bobby told him.

“Well, you don’t belong in a skirt,” Darien shot back.

“Oh, I don’t belong in a skirt? Nobody asked you,” Hobbes replied.

“You just did!” Darien retorted.

“You have your assignments right?” Caroline asked loudly at the assembled agents including Claire and Monroe as feminine as she could possibly look.

Darien and Bobby listened to her as she clapped her hands. “Let’s get this show on the road,” Monroe said.

Darien and Bobby filed out after Caroline and a few of the male agents were laughing at the two as they walked past.

“Hey pally, it takes a real man to wear a skirt and Bobby Hobbes is as manly as you can get!” Bobby yelled at them.

“Oh God, walk like a girl Hobbes, what’s wrong with you?” Darien gawked.

“How does a lady walk, my friend? I haven’t had no experience in heels and a skirt,” Bobby reminded him.

“Look at Caroline,” Darien advised. Caroline had a light, fast, cat-like slink. Hobbes tried his best to imitate her but failed.

“Look at Claire,” Darien advised.

Hobbes tried again, and couldn’t cut it. “You do it!” Bobby challenged him.

“Okay, I will,” he replied.

He did better than Bobby, who asked, “Where did you learn this from?”

Darien glared at him and said, “Don’t ask.”

At the karaoke bar in Chinatown, Claire and Caroline were at the backdoor with the trio. “Did I mention I can’t sing?” Hobbes said as the door swung open. An average-height Asian guy eyed the five of them.

“Sorry, we’re so late. I’m Michael Jones, and these are my girls, Rain,” Caroline said in a deep voice that passed as a guy.

“Dinner starts soon so you better get ready,” he replied, holding the door open for them.

Claire and Caroline walked around and entered through the front and sat down to watch the performance. The stage was set up so you could see the lyrics on the two big screens set up on either side of the stage. David and his lady of the night had begun to eat the Chinese food brought to them. His triad associates also began to eat.

Caroline motioned to David and Claire nodded. A waiter served them water. Alex, Darien, and Bobby climbed onstage. Bobby pulled on his pantyhose and Darien readjusted his bra. The trio of 2/3 ugly women began to sing “Buttercup”.

“Why do you build me up, buttercup, baby just to let me down?”

They weren’t as bad as you’d expect them to be. Regardless, David began to laugh quietly with his gang, as Darien and Bobby became comfortable with their feminine sides. They became so comfortable that Bobby’s shirt was slowly untucking itself and Darien’s wig was slipping off of his head.

Alarmed, Claire and Caroline were trying to signal to them that they were screwed, when one of David’s cronies stood up and yelled over the din of the restaurant, “Hey those aren’t women!”

Hobbes broke character, pulled a gun out from under his skirt and yelled, “Federal agents! Everybody get down!”

Of course when people are told that, they panic and run for the doors. Around the frenzy, David held his ground and didn‘t move.

“Do as he says, David!” Caroline yelled, pulling her sidearm out and aiming at him.

David’s arms were hanging tensely at his sides, staring hard at her.

“Oh Caroline, I thought you were better than this, disgracing dinner and bringing federal agents into my business. Nice touch by the way,” he said, his sneer giving way to his politely delivered words.

“Drop it!” Claire yelled at one of David’s thugs, who was holding an AK-47.

David flicked a finger, and the guy dropped it, but David caught it and began to shoot at Claire and Caroline. Darien quicksilvered and Monroe and Hobbes ran for cover. Claire took refuge behind a huge mahogany table. Monroe dove behind the bar and Hobbes followed a few of the guys into the kitchen. Caroline ran for the stairs.

Darien kicked one of several triad members going after Caroline. The man stood up warily, the wind knocked out of him and began punching the air until he was down for the count. It was easy to knock the senses out of someone whom you couldn’t defend yourself against.

A high-energy shootout ensued; the agents doing so much better than the triads. A half-hour later, Darien, Monroe, Claire, and Bobby were chasing after the few baddies left. Caroline was hiding around the corner from the main room, waiting to see David’s next move.

David was standing alone in the middle of the room, his Armani suit dirtied. “Come out and fight me like a man, Caroline! Lance wasn‘t good enough to be called a man, was he?” David yelled.

Caroline appeared from around the corner.

“I knew you’d find me. That’s why I came here. You’d find me and we’d be able to finish this dance we started,” he taunted, “throw down your gun and fight me,” he said angrily.

Caroline threw down her weapon and stood in a jujutsu stance. “Let’s dance,” she said.

A complicated martial arts hand-to-hand combat kept the two of them busy, each getting sizeable hits off of each other. Finally, Caroline had enough. She tripped David and held his neck between her legs.

“Finish me off! Snap my neck!! This the moment you’ve waited for; revenge for Lance,” he teased madly, struggling against her strong legs.

“No, I think deporting you to China and facing the government would be so much better,” she said tiredly.

Darien threw her a pair of handcuffs, which she caught and cuffed David with. “You call that a dance, David? Cause I‘ve seen three-year-olds fight better than you,” she said, snapping the cuffs on as emergency lights from the outside began to flash inside.

Darien and Bobby followed Claire, Alex, and Caroline back to the van, looking like extremely bedraggled drag queens. “You know that skirt is so adorable on you, Bobby,” Claire said.

“Oh yeah? I’ve got more like this at home,” he said coyly.

“Dare I even ask?” Darien began, before being cut short with a look by Bobby. Alex‘s phone rang.

“Thanks,” she said, cutting the conversation short. “They intercepted the drugs before they could be sold on the street. Guess how much it would’ve been?” Monroe asked them.

“How much?” Hobbes asked, taking the bait.

“It had a street value of over half a million,” she said.

Caroline whistled through her lips. “You know in Asia, selling drugs is much worse than murder, because when you sell drugs you kill many people, not just one,” she offered.

“You don’t say?” Bobby said.

“So enlightening, aren’t you Agent Hobbes?” Alex asked.

“Well, you know, I try,” he said bashfully. The five of them shared a group laugh.

“So are you still interested in working for the Agency, Caroline?” Claire asked her, as they got to their cars.

Caroline laughed and tucked a wild piece of hair behind her left ear.

“Relentless, aren’t you? No, I’m really happy just being by myself. It’s fulfilling being your own boss, considering what I do and all. But if you ever need a lady of my extensive abilities, Albert knows where to find me,” she replied.

“How do you know Eberts?” Hobbes asked.

“That’s for me to know and for you to find out,” Caroline said.

“I think the real question is how do you know Monroe?” Darien asked.

Both Monroe and Caroline refused to look at the other.

Caroline broke the uncomfortable atmosphere by sticking her hand out, offering it to each of the agents and Claire who shook it.

“I need a hot bath so bad right now,” Claire said aloud, dusting herself off.

Caroline laughed. “I do too. You guys take care, okay?” she added. She went to her Benz and threw her fedora and jacket on the passenger seat beside her and climbed in.

Darien pulled something from inside the Van. “Hey, Caroline,” he said, walking to the driver‘s side.

“Yeah?” she asked, rolling down her window automatically. He handed her a Bureau of Weights and Measures badge.

“You know if you ever decide to work with us again, you’ll need an ID,” Darien said to her.

She looked at the brand-new, shiny leather case and flipped it open to see her headshot. “Thanks,” she said. She waved one last time at the tired agents behind her. Caroline started the car and raced off into the night. Darien waved until she was out of sight.

“Can you guys stay in those outfits long enough for me to take pictures of you?” Claire asked. The back doors of the van opened and Claire and Alex climbed in.

“No!” Bobby and Darien said in unison, as they hopped into the front seats and back to the Agency.

love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean

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