by Ardeliah (email@example.com)with thanks to her friend Moxie for help with the editing
"Good Morning!" Amanda called out cheerfully as she entered the Q Bureau and spied her husband sitting behind his desk going over the morning reports.
With a grin, Lee looked up and answered her with a "Good Morning," that was nearly as cheerful as hers. After a year of marriage hidden in the shadows, he looked forward to her arrival in the morning that signaled the beginning of their day. "The coffee is fresh and just how you like it," he announced as he got up to pour her a cup. "Did the boys get off to school ok? I hope they weren't too grumpy for you. I wasn't expecting the game to go into overtime last night or I would have had them home just before curfew."
Amanda smiled at her secret husband as she accepted the steaming cup of coffee. "They were fine, a little punchy. Jamie was still raving about the seats you managed to get them and how you had permission from the stadium for him to take pictures of the players during the game. Expect him to ask for your help developing the film tonight after supper."
She placed the cup down on her desk and reached for her husband to give him his good morning kiss. While toned down for the office it still conveyed all the passion and love that a year of marriage had yet to dampen.
With a final quick peck on the tip of her nose, Lee reached for her hand while checking the time on the clock on the wall. "The meeting is starting early this morning. Billy has a nice quiet new assignment for us that he says we can really sink our teeth into. Shall we?" Gesturing for her to precede him out of the room with his free hand.
"Of course!" she replied, her answering grin setting off the twinkle in her eyes as they headed down to the Bullpen for the morning meeting.
Leaving the elevator they spied Francine deep in conversation with the new blond sketch artist by the water cooler. As they passed, they could tell by the tones that hushed as they walked past that the conversation must be about them again. Before they had a chance to comment about it, Billy stepped out of the conference room and called for everyone to "Hurry it up people!" Mentally sighing and wondering what the latest gossip was this time they slipped in to the conference room and took their regular seats among the other agents as Francine hurried in closing the door behind her and giving them a small smirk.
Billy called for every one's attention as started going over the overnight traffic before handing out the weeks’ assignments. "...so the mess in Cairo is just about wrapped up. Fielder, I'll need you to brief the clean up crew as to what they will need to ensure the museum is completely back in order before they reopen the Jurassic exhibit again." Billy looked over to where Lee and Amanda were sitting as he continued. "As you know people, the Presidential Awards for Excellence are coming out this week. It will be the same as last year’s event. However, we get a new twist as the Department of Education has decided that the awards ceremony would be an excellent way of teaching the students of the nation about all the wonderful things Americans have accomplished and have decided they want a documentary shot to show them. The President thought it was an excellent idea as well. Seems he has been toying with the idea of making our cover stronger by having our Documentary Department make some more interesting films that might actually get watched by more than just the 3am crowd."
He waved his hands in a calming motion as the gathered agents groaned at the thought of actually having to do some 'work' in that area. "Before you get too upset by the notion of actually making documentaries, I'll have you know that our 'Covers' Department has been looking into hiring some new staff to work on the documentaries and has hit on the idea of using film school students to do most of the work, off site at least. So Lee, when you and Amanda are supervising the event, you will also have the pleasure of making sure they stick to what they are supposed to be doing and not off being 'star struck' at meeting so many important people in one shot. You have your assignments people, now hop to it." He dismissed them as he hoped that Lee would wait until he managed to get to his office and his coffee before it sunk in that his assignment was to cover the Presidential Awards.
Lee had been thinking of the game the night before with the Bullets and Celtics that he, Jamie and Phillip had enjoyed and almost missed that last bit. "Billy!" he hollered out as he saw him making his get away. The idea of trying to convince a bunch of film school students that he actually knew something about making documentaries was not how he wanted to spend his week. Jumping up to try and get past the crowd churning at the door making their respective escapes, he mouthed 'Meet you upstairs' to Amanda as he fought his way through.
Amanda sighed and smiled as she watched him battle the crowd while she gathered the folders in front of their seats with the more minute details of their assignment. She almost hadn't noticed Francine edging her way around the table towards her instead of the door. Hoping that she was after the last chocolate doughnut instead of wanting to share some gossip she really wasn't interested in, Amanda focused on making sure she had everything.
Francine's hand came into her range of vision as she snagged the last doughnut, but Francine remained close to Amanda as she leaned in close to whisper in her ear. "You'll never guess what Sandi told me about her date last night!" Her earlier smirk getting wider as she perched on the edge of the table on top of the folders Amanda had been organizing. "She had a great time at the basketball game last night with Luke from Accounting. Seems she saw Lee last night too. Said he was sitting there with two young boys and having the time of his life from what she could see."
Francine let her smugness at finding out this latest tidbit come through as she watched Amanda's face closely for signs she had annoyed her. Ever since they had claimed to break up last year she had been hoping for some really good dirt on the two of them. Satisfaction was close at hand, or so she thought, as she saw the tiniest flicker of panic in the corner of Amanda's eye.
'Great!' Amanda thought as she took another moment to yank the folder out from under Francine. Standing up she dusted off her skirt and set her smile in place as she worked on a very quick explanation before looking the smug agent in the eyes. "So Lee did go to the game last night. I was wondering if he had or not. He mentioned that one of his family had tickets to the game but couldn't go and their kids were so looking forward to it. He wanted to keep her happy as she usually gives him a lot of great input on his cases and he was worried that he wouldn't have all his paperwork done in time as I had to leave early and get to the boys school for a meeting with the fundraising committee and couldn't stay to help him finish it before I left. We're working on our annual games night and Tommy's dad, who usually gets the pool tables for us, is out with a broken leg and couldn't pick them up in his truck so we were having an emergency brainstorming session to see who else could do it." 'That should shut her up for a bit' she thought with a slight smile, 'and I didn't even really lie as the boys are his family and we did have that meeting last night.'
Francine's smug grin left her face as Amanda's explanation poured out of her like a faucet on full blast. Not quite sure whether to believe her, she decided that she needed to do some more investigating before confronting Lee. "Oh, is that all it was. Sandi said that Lee seemed to know the boys quite well and I was starting to think that maybe he had taken your boys to the game," she prodded hoping that Amanda would reveal more.
"The boys going to a game on a school night with Lee? What makes you think I would let them get out of doing their homework just for a basketball game? And with Lee? Really Francine.... I'm going to get started on these," she nodded at the folders now snugly in her arms. "If you see Lee let him know I'm in the Q would you?" With that she made a hasty exit away from Francine's clutches. Stopping only to take a deep relaxing breath once she had made the safety of the elevator.
"Billy!" Lee hollered again as he entered his boss’ office. "Did you really think you could land me and Amanda a babysitting gig on top of security for the Presidential Awards and I wouldn't complain about it?!" He shut the door behind him with less force than he wanted to, but strongly enough so his displeasure could be noted. "They are going to see right through us and then we will have a big problem. Why not let Beaman deal with the students? He is used to it after all." Dropping his large frame into the chair in front of Billy's desk he glared at his boss.
"Lee, don't worry about it you will do fine," Billy said cheerfully. "You and Amanda are listed as Director/Assistant for this one. No need for you to know all the technical details anyway. Besides, there is something I haven't told you yet about this assignment." Billy smiled to himself as he wondered how Scarecrow would take the news he was about to say. "The President has decided he also wants to acknowledge some of the work we do in secret to protect our country. Now he can't go out and name names or blow anyone's cover, but he thought the best way to make sure you knew you were appreciated was to have you and Amanda on this assignment so you could enjoy all the same benefits as the other Presidential Awards winners; the meal and the ball. It seems that his office has determined that you and Amanda are the best team he has working for him in counterintelligence." Billy beamed his pride as he watched the answering grin grow on Scarecrow's face. It wasn't often that he was able to share good news with his agents, let alone let them know that the President was singling them out for attention.
"As part of your 'award' you and Amanda will have your names on the credits for the documentary that will be shown in schools around the country, lending strength to your covers. He is also giving you and Amanda a two-week paid holiday at Camp David after the awards ceremony for yourselves and your families. His way of saying how much he appreciates what you are doing and making sure you are well rested and in tip-top shape for the coming year. He has already invited the Colonel and has his office drafting an invitation for Amanda's family worded so it doesn't give anything away and seems more like a prize awarded to the best filmmakers at IFF to keep her cover for her family."
Lee's excitement couldn't be contained anymore as Billy continued his explanation. Even the inclusion of his Uncle didn't bother him as the thought of two weeks vacation with his 'family' flooded his brain. Thoughts of taking the boys horseback riding with Amanda through the woods surrounding Camp David filled him with glee as he made plans to pick up allergy medication for her on his way to Amanda's for supper that night. It didn't even bother him anymore that he had to babysit civilian filmmakers. "That's great Billy! Does Francine know yet or is this need-to-know?"
"Need-to-know for now, at least until after the awards ceremony on Friday. But you can let Amanda in on the details. I'm sure you will want to tell her before you get over to the ballroom to check out what 'angles' you will need for your lighting. Don't forget this is still your assignment. Security will need to be maintained around the winners without them being aware of how closely guarded they will be. Having that many great minds in one place is a tempting prospect for our enemies out there." Billy stood up and Lee followed suit as Billy came out from behind his desk and grabbed Scarecrow's hand in a hearty handshake. "Congratulations Lee. Now go get back to work." Billy dismissed him with a grin and watched the spring in Lee's step as he left his office for the Q Bureau. Billy tossed his bottle of Tums inside his desk drawer as he settled back to work, happy that for once he didn't need them.
Lee's mind was filled with happy thoughts as he imagined all the fun the family would have at Camp David over the next two weeks once the awards were over. He practically bounced up the stairs behind Mrs. Marston with a cheery "Hello" as he anticipated telling Amanda all about it. He stopped in the doorway to the Q Bureau and watched as his wife diligently read through the paperwork dealing with the names of the Presidential Awards winners and potential threats to the event with a smile of pride on his face. He slowly made his way to the back of her chair and reached out to grab her from behind in a hug when she calmly said, "You know you will have to do better than that Stetson if you want to surprise me."
She turned in her chair and gave him a playful swat to his stomach as she watched him with amusement. "I'm a highly trained federal agent I'll have you know, trained by the best in the business."
"That you are Mrs. King," he replied, remembering that he had left the door open to try and surprise her. "That you are. And it seems that even the President thinks so too." With that he turned and closed and locked the door and sauntered over to his desk to await the questions he knew she was going to ask.
"Now what do you mean by that Scarecrow?" She asked with a confused look on her face. He had closed and locked the door after that President comment and now she wasn't sure if this was personal or highly classified.
"It means, Mrs. Stetson," he smiled at the confusion on her face, "that the President of the United States seems to think that we are the best counterintelligence agents he has on the payroll and we got this assignment as a reward so we can enjoy the perks of the gala dinner and ball with the other Presidential Awards recipients."
He watched the confusion turn to joy and pride for what the two of them had accomplished over the years as she slowly stood up and made her way to the front of Lee's desk where he was leaning back, enjoying filling her in on his meeting with Billy.
"Not only has the President decided to credit our real names on the documentary of the event for our covers, but he is giving us two weeks off afterwards with our families at Camp David under the guise of us winning the Best Documentary Filmmakers Award."
He reached out and pulled her into his arms for a celebratory hug as she drew near. "We get to enjoy all that Camp David has to offer with Phillip and Jamie and your mother, as well as my uncle. A real family vacation, even if no one knows how big the family really is."
"Lee! That's just... That's... Fantastic! Did the President really say we were the best team? The boys will be so excited, and Mother! Well we will find some way to calm her down after we tell her. Gosh I just can't believe it." Amanda rambled happily in the warmth of her husband’s arms.
Lee let out a cheerful chuckle at Amanda's ramble. "I just can't wait ‘til Francine gets to find out. This is all need-to-know until after the main awards are over. Ours is being cloaked in the not-so-popular list of America's greats so as not to draw extra attention." He tried to imagine how she would take the news. If Francine would finally faint or if she would stand there gasping like a fish trying to come up with a snappy comeback.
Amanda gave a little laugh as she too tried to picture Francine's reaction to the news. "That is all well and good Lee, but how about we try to keep up our 'Best Counterintelligence Agents Award’ by getting some work done. It wouldn't look good to receive our award just to let the ceremonies get crashed by some blood thirsty band of terrorists just because we were too busy celebrating how great we are."
She pulled away from Lee's embrace and reached for one of the folders on her desk. "How about I summarize the winners and their potential threats on our way over to the ballroom to check out the security?" She grabbed her purse out of the drawer and set it on her shoulder and waited patiently by the door for Lee to follow as she watched his smile turn to a pout.
"Fine," he said in a mock hurt voice. "But only if we get to plan some stuff to do with the boys at Camp David when you’re done," he answered as he ushered her out the door and locked it behind them.
"Of course. But you had better be paying attention. I don't want to have you ask me to repeat it all just because you were too busy daydreaming Scarecrow." She answered with her Mom tone of voice.
Lee just glared at her as she laughed and lead the way out into the parking lot, tossing their badges on Mrs. Marston's desk as they left.
Pierre Gatineau was not a happy man. He should have been. He could trace his family’s history back to the very first French settlers in Quebec. Those early settlers had started in the fur trading business and very quickly amassed a small fortune that the generations that followed had enlarged and expanded until he was, as the current generation, a very wealthy man.
He was currently sitting in the large family home on his own private island in the St. Lawrence just outside of Quebec City, enjoying his morning coffee and eating fresh croissants while reading the morning paper. Which for most people would have been fine. But Pierre Gatineau was not most people. He was a strong advocate for the secession of Quebec from the country of Canada and he was frustrated with the progress Parliament was making, or not making, with that becoming a reality.
A terse "Merde!" escaped through his lips as another speedboat passed by his family home blaring English rock music at a horribly loud volume. It was his deepest desire to see his beloved Quebec stay French at all costs, and the damned politicians weren't making that happen fast enough.
Over the past few years he and his fellow Francophones had been working towards that goal with little success in the political arena, and he was convinced it was time to take more drastic measures in making his dreams a reality. To that end he had spent the last few months gathering supplies and contacts to create a weapon that would guarantee the English letting go of Quebec and leaving them alone.
Everything was supposed to be in place. The dirty bomb should have been ready to plant in Ottawa and his private militia was even armed and in place to take over the key border areas between his country (he refused to think of Quebec as a province) and the rest of Canada to ensure that the English stayed out. Only to have François call him late last night and tell him that the nuclear material he had gathered in that million dollar deal was not potent enough to light a light bulb, let alone threaten the government of Canada.
He cursed again, this time aiming it at the slimy English scum who had sold him a dud. Taking only minor satisfaction in knowing that by lunchtime what was left of that scum would be chum for the polar bears next spring.
He took another sip of coffee and moved on to the international section of the paper. Trying to get some perspective of the world scene before working out what to do next with a not-so-dirty dirty bomb. His eyes came across the Presidential Awards for Excellence recipients for the current year with disinterest until he came to Dr. Terrence Stafford's name. It listed his success with supposedly spent nuclear material and reusing it to create other clean energy sources.
A happy grin appeared on his face as he thought of ways to get the cooperation of Dr. Stafford for his project.
Snapping his paper down onto the table he strode across to his home office and dialed François. He drummed his fingers impatiently on the table as he waited for him to answer.
"François! ...I don't care how tired you are, I want you to get here immediately... Get your damned breakfast later. This is important. Wake Giselle and Martin up and get a move on. I have a plan and we need to get moving if we still want to make our timetable." He slammed the phone down and called his secretary next. "Justine? I want you to get a hold of Elliot at Student Films and arrange for one of his documentary teams to have access to the Americans’ Presidential Awards for Excellence for a crew of 4. I'll let him know who will be going later. Just tell him to get that clearance ready."
He put the phone down with slightly less anger this time as he pondered the best way to convince Dr. Stafford to make a side trip to Quebec for his project. It was doubtful that the brash American would have any grasp of the French language so he would have to speak in English, but it was worth it if he could get what he wanted. At least with a film crew on site for the awards he would be in a position to take advantage of the situation.
He smiled as he thought of how he was in a position to make his family’s empire work for the solution, and went back to finish his breakfast before the others arrived.
After having spent most of Monday going over every inch of the East Room that was to be used for the Presidential Awards Ceremony and Ball on Friday night, Lee and Amanda had spent the rest of the day and most of the evening going over their notes and paperwork in the Q Bureau. They were too tired at the end of the day to do much more than kiss each other goodnight before returning to their separate homes to crawl in bed to sleep for a few hours before going at it again bright and early Tuesday morning.
A bright bouquet of garden flowers preceded Amanda's entrance to the Q Bureau and Lee smiled as she dumped the previous arrangement in the garbage and substituted the fresh ones. Their intoxicating scent only increasing his need for his good morning kiss, Lee hurriedly made his way to his wife's side and swept her into his arms. Devouring his wife's lips like a hungry man who hadn't eaten his breakfast.
Amanda smiled as she gently pushed away from her husband. "Someone is in a good mood this morning. I hope I'm at least part of the reason for that."
"Amanda, why wouldn't I be in a good mood? Everything about this assignment is perfect. The arrangements are going as smooth as silk with not a single hiccup in sight. I get to spend the following two weeks with you and our families at Camp David just relaxing and practicing my 'normal' skills and Francine is over at the State Department with Dr. Smyth working on the paperwork following that Cairo mess so we won't even have to put up with either of them today." He grinned a Cheshire grin at his wife. "What say we play hooky today? No one would notice." He leaned in to steal another kiss from his wife.
"Not so fast Buster!" she stopped his attempt with a finger to his lips. "If we are the best team, don't you think we should keep our reputations and make sure that this event is covered from every angle?" She ignored the kiss he was giving her finger and continued on as if she hadn't noticed. "I thought we should spend the day getting in touch with your family to see if they had heard anything. Just so there are no surprises."
She crossed her arms and gave him a stern look.
"You’re right," he agreed reluctantly. "But if we are going to be out of the office all day running around town I reserve the right to pick out our lunch spot. I hear there is a new place just a few blocks over from Emilio's that is giving them a run for their money. They promise a relaxing atmosphere with a continental menu."
"You’re on, Scarecrow," she agreed as they made their way out of the Q Bureau. "Just promise me that the only dessert you will try to tempt me with will actually be on their menu. That last dessert you offered me at your apartment made us late for our meetings for the rest of the day."
"Aw... But it was a very 'filling' dessert don't you think?" he pouted with a grin. Laughing as he watched the blush creep up his wife's face at the mention of their lunch the previous week. "You did say you wouldn't mind having that dessert again." He winked.
"Work Stetson! Work!" was all she would say as she handed her badge to a very curious Mrs. Marston on her way out the front door. She could hear her husband’s laughter follow her to the car. They spent the morning consulting with Lee's more respectable family members. Rhonda and TP had nothing for them so after a nice lunch at Chez Aubergine they headed out to speak with Lee's least favorite snitches. It took them two hours to track down Augie. They finally found him literally crawling in the dumpsters behind the Aerospace Museum. Something about catching rats and selling them to science labs for research being a gold mine was all he had to tell them.
Lee had protested the need for Augie's input and would have ranted about the waste of time, but seeing Augie's face as that rat bit his finger and hung on for dear life as he thrashed around in the trash, trying desperately to knock it out or get it off had made his day. Amanda had fussed over him and helped him to clean up the wound, but she could have done nothing for all the good it did. As they were leaving Augie quickly dove into the next dumpster to check his next set of traps.
They managed to make it back to the agency still in good spirits to check on the flash traffic to see if there was anything they should be concerned about. Francine was already there looking the worse for wear after spending a day with Dr. Smyth and was in fine form. Raising her eyebrows at the two she couldn't resist a dig at their expense. "My, my you two look happy today. What fun were you having? Goofing off all day browsing with your coupons or just shopping for discounts at the Buy More?"
Lee was in too good a mood to let that pass by completely unnoticed but Amanda took pity on Francine and beat him to the punch. "Why yes we did Francine. I was thinking I should do up a batch of my chocolate chip cookies for you but by the look of you I'd say a dose of triple chocolate brownies is what you need instead." Motioning for Lee to grab the sheets they needed she smiled sweetly at Francine and took Lee's free hand. "I'll have them on your desk in the morning before our meeting with the Secret Service, Francine. Come on Lee, you can read those later. I have some baking to do tonight." She practically dragged Lee from the room as Francine just stared at them as they left.
She watched as Lee allowed her to drag him to the elevator and watched as Amanda whispered something to Lee. The smile on his face was even more proof that those two were hiding something. She was glad she had convinced Sandi to make a sketch of the kids she had seen Lee with the other night. She couldn't wait to confront them with that.
Amanda and Lee were seated in the office of Agent Johnson of the Secret Service going over security plans for Friday night. They had spent the past two hours discussing the arrangements for the President and his staff, but still had to deal with those for the guests.
"The limo drivers that will be bringing the guests from their hotel to the White House are ones we have used before so we have no concerns there." Agent Johnson read from his folder while waving his hand distractedly in the air. "The staff at the hotel are all vetted and we have two teams of agents stationed around the exits checking IDs. None of the background searches we have done so far have brought to light any potential problems but that doesn't mean that any won't show up between now and then."
"All the sub-contracted staff have been checked as well, haven't they?" Lee asked as he glanced up from where he was reviewing the same content as Johnson. "We don't need some nightshift floor cleaner sneaking in to the hotel and stirring up trouble."
Amanda smiled to herself at Lee's last comment as she continued to make notes on the traffic flow for the limos and their parking.
"Sub-contracted staff and all of their relatives and regular staff relatives are being vetted as we speak Mr. Stetson. When it comes to Presidential security we don't have the same budget constraints as you other agencies." Johnson replied with a tolerant grin. "That about wraps that up for now, unless you have any other concerns you should head over to the Press Secretary’s office soon. All the reporters and film crew are receiving their briefing on what they are and are not allowed to film for the gala in half an hour. Since you are at tending as 'filmmakers' you really shouldn't miss it."
Lee's smile resembled more of a grimace but he took his cue with grace. Rising from his seat and tucking his folder under his arm he reached a hand out to help Amanda up from her seat.
"I know you aren't looking forward to this part," she addressed Lee, "But I am. Some of the courses I took last year did deal with actual documentary making. I can't wait to see how much of it, if any, I'll get to use." Her enthusiasm showed on her face as she gathered the remaining papers from the table in front of her.
"I guess we are about to find out." His hand found the small of her back as they left the room. "We'll call you if we find any concerns among the reporters and crew," he called out to Agent Johnson over his shoulder.
The Press Room was abuzz with activity. Camera crews setting up and going over the equipment for the press conference/meet and greet on Thursday. Pierre surveyed the scene with a critical eye as his documentary 'crew' went over their supplies. François was doing an excellent impression of a cameraman as he hefted the medium-sized camera on his shoulder and panned the room. He was dressed as most of the other cameramen were in a khaki vest with a multitude of pockets. It was just that his pockets held a few extra items, such as extra ammo rounds and a few lengths of det cord disguised as regular camera gear. He had been in the Canadian Special Forces and knew a thing or two about blending in in a hostile environment.
François was convinced that the only reason he had been dishonorably discharged from the military was because he was the only Francophone in the squad. The fact that he refused to speak English unless ordered by his commanding officer never even entered into his reasoning. That and the beating he gave a fellow soldier after hearing him make a political joke he disagreed with.
Pierre passed his eyes over to the other two members of his crew. Gisele and Martin certainly looked the odd pair. Gisele with the kind of looks the camera loved; straight, dark, shoulder-length hair and trustworthy eyes, while Martin looked more like he should be huddled over a computer monitor playing with his keyboard; a computer geek all the way. A strange pair yes, but undoubtedly the best mercenary team that he could have hired for the job and the only team that spoke French. Their politics were none of his concern as long as they did the job he was paying them for.
'And that job should be a lot easier now that we are in reach of the prize.' Pierre thought to himself as the Press Secretary took the podium at the front of the room and started briefing everyone on prime camera angles and lighting. He noted that Martin was recording this info for later as well as taking discreet video and pictures for them to review later of the room and the crowd. Mid-Monday morning when everyone had finally reached his home, they had sat around for hours trying to come up with the best way to get their hands on Dr. Stafford’s work. It did seem easier just to get him to 'fix' their nuclear materials than to go through the hassle to obtain more. Not to mention a lot less costly.
Together they had agreed that the opportunity Dr. Stafford offered with his work would be their best chance of success. Even if he said that their materials couldn't be fixed in time for their plans to go through on schedule, he was bound to know where they could get their hands on the materials he had been working with in his lab. The research Pierre had had his secretary Justine come up with on the good doctor stated that he had no family so no one should miss him if he decided not to stay for the ball and instead took an unplanned side trip to Quebec.
He returned his attention to the Press Secretary as he droned on about sounds and microphone positioning to get the best quality recordings in the room and just as quickly ignored his speech to focus on the real documentary makers in the room. There were others that looked just as bored; they had already heard this information on previous trips, and others still that were hanging on his every word like it was gospel. One such group looked barely out of school themselves.
He was distracted from his musings by the Press Secretary’s assistant pressing an important looking folder into his hands. He noted that every group seemed to be getting one. Opening it, his eyes narrowed as he saw it was an official access schedule for the crews. It seems that priority was being given to some groups and his was not getting the level of priority he needed to have access to Dr. Stafford.
'MERDE!' he cursed to himself as he saw that they were only going to be positioned outside the staging areas for the awards winners. He needed to have at least 2 minutes alone with the winners one-on-one in order to have the chance to get his hands on the doctor. François had a nifty, tiny explosive device that could be easily attached to a person’s skin that was capable of being remotely detonated. He had planned to shake the doctor’s hand and attach it to his exposed flesh at either the wrist or the neck and then Stafford would have to do whatever he asked of him. Without that 2-minute window, all his hard work was going to be for nothing!
A change in the background noise drew his attention once again to the podium. It seemed like the Press Secretary was finally done with his speech and everyone was relaxing and conversing amongst themselves. The eager beaver youngsters were clamoring for the attention of the man who looked like he was in charge of their group much to the amusement of the woman beside him. He allowed himself the distraction of the man’s suffering to calm his anger. Only to pay closer attention to the pair when he realized that the Press Secretary himself was waving them over to the private exit behind the podium. 'Interesting,' he mused, 'It seems they have the access that I require.'
Looking at the IFF symbol on the side of the camera equipment the youngsters were using, he looked them up in the folder. 'Lee Stetson - Director and Amanda King - Assistant to the Director. Unrestricted access to the winners and they are being allowed to set up for personal one-on-one time with the award winners when they come 'off stage' from accepting their awards!' "Perfect," he murmured quietly to himself as he watched as the pair disappeared behind closed doors with the Press Secretary.
Nodding François over with a minimal jerk of his head he pointed out the names in the folder to him. "These two. I need you to follow them and find out everything you can about who they are and where they go. I have need of their services whether they wish to help or not."
François merely nodded his compliance and quietly made his way out of the room. He was good at his job and would be waiting when the pair emerged from the White House later on that afternoon.
Pierre smiled to himself and made his way toward his two remaining 'crew' members and began the tedious task of looking busy. Things were starting to look up again.
Lee and Amanda made their way out of the White House towards the wagoneereer parked at the back of the lot. It had been a long afternoon for Lee, and the adoring looks of the student crew Beaman had lined up to film the event were getting on his nerves. From the moment they had met up with the group in the Press Room they hadn't let up. Asking all kinds of questions about his previous documentaries to silly questions he had no idea how to answer like the most challenging documentary he had ever made. Amanda hadn't made it any easier by refusing to act as a buffer between him and them, quietly stating that she was supposed to be his assistant on this one and they wouldn't want to hear her answer for him anyway. It wouldn't have been so bad if she could have kept that stupid grin off her face.
Once they were in the car and headed back to IFF he finally started to relax again. He noticed the grin was still on Amanda's face. "Mrs. Stetson," he growled, "You weren't fulfilling your 'assistant' duties back there very well. What exactly are you going to be doing on this assignment if you are going to leave me to fend off those kids?!"
Amanda couldn't hold in her amusement any longer. Watching Lee try to deal with those star struck kids this afternoon had tickled her funny bone and the frustrated growl her husband had just let out had broken the dam. "Oh Sweetheart," she tried to explain while laughing, "I did try to intervene a time or two after you asked, but none of them wanted to talk to me. They just kept insisting they wanted to learn directly from such a famed director." As Lee's scowl of displeasure grew she had to try and soften it before they got back to the office and he let loose on Billy. "Besides, what I was doing was what I always do -- watching your rear. And what a cute little rear it is."
As his scowl changed to a shocked smile she started to laugh so hard she was gasping for air.
She was still chuckling to herself when they got back to the Agency in time to meet up with Billy before heading home to Amanda's. Billy noted the amusement on her face and the slight scowl on Scarecrow’s and couldn't wait to hear what was going on.
"Scarecrow. Amanda. Let's get this over with so we can all go home for the night." He ushered them into his office and closed the door. "Now, what is the situation?"
Lee opened his mouth to complain about the students but Amanda beat him to it. "You'll have to excuse him sir, his hand is a little sore from signing autographs for the student filmmakers this afternoon." She giggled some more at the expression on Lee's face and Billy couldn't help but join in. He knew Scarecrow was not amused at having to deal with real filmmakers, and student ones at that.
Lee had no more than started to whine out "Bil..." when he took pity on him. "Not to worry Lee. I had a feeling this might be a hassle for you so I'm assigning Leatherneck to act as a buffer between you and the students. He has more up-to-date knowledge of the equipment and can do his best to keep them out of your hair while you work." He noted the look of relief that passed over Scarecrow's face. "Now what can you tell me about the arrangements for the Presidential Awards? Is everything under control?"
Lee's relief at not having to deal with the students any longer cheered him up and he relaxed more into the chair before speaking. "Everything is right on schedule. The Secret Service has done an excellent job at covering the winners at their hotel and security around the transportation arrangements and the ball after the ceremony is up to snuff. The only spot we could see a problem with was the time between when the winners come back from accepting their awards in the State Dining Room ‘til they rejoin the crowds in the East Room for the ball. It seems the Press Secretary had agreed to allow some of the filmmakers private access to the winners for 'sound bites' on how they feel about winning. Some in the Red Room, Green Room and Blue Room. We got him to agree to allow everyone who has access to the winners for one-on-one spots access, but in one room, the Blue Room. From there they will then leave through the Green Room for their reintroductions at the ball. That way we can all be in sight of each other at the same time and everyone can get their sound bites."
He glanced over at Amanda as he continued, "Amanda even came up with the idea of having us in the room with them so we could get the winners to give a special message to the students who will see our documentary on the importance of staying in school and keeping your grades up to be a success in life." He could see the smile on her face as he gave her credit for that idea. Leave it to his wife to think of a way to combine national security issues with staying in school.
Billy nodded in agreement as he watched the interaction between his two best agents. He always felt a rush of pride in the two, especially when they let their guards down in front of him for those brief moments and he could see how deep their 'interaction' really was. "Sounds like you two have it all under control. Just stop in and let Leatherneck know what time to meet you at the White House tomorrow for the official announcement of the winners’ names and the meet and greet before you leave. Now get out of here and enjoy your evening."
Lee stood and offered Amanda his hand to help her out of her chair. "I'm sure we will enjoy it Billy" he replied with a wink as the two agents made their way out of the office and through the Bullpen towards the elevators. Lee's hand making its way to the small of Amanda's back did not go unnoticed by Francine who was at her desk in the Bullpen working on the final reports out of Cairo. She was determined to find out more about what was going on with those two no matter what. Sandi was meeting her at Randy's in half an hour with the sketch. 'Those two won't know what hit them when I'm through.'
The last of the evening sun had faded and sounds of crickets could be heard as François adjusted his position in the backseat of his car. He had been there for hours just listening with the parabolic mic to the sounds coming from the house down the street. He was fortunate to have the use of a car with partially tinted windows; it saved him from being observed by many of the neighbors and children as they passed by his location. After following the director and his assistant back to their offices at IFF he had waited around only a little while before he observed them leaving again for the evening.
He chose to follow the woman, as it had been his experience that they were the easiest to follow. Not that it had been with this one. He had actually lost her twice before finally lucking out and catching a glimpse of her taillights in the distance. If he didn't know any better he could have sworn she knew he was there and was purposely trying to avoid him. But after listening to the conversations in the home for the last few hours that thought didn't even seem a remote possibility. "How those women can yammer on about flowers and the neighbors for so long without falling asleep or breathing I'll never know," he muttered to himself as he tried to find a position that was less cramped.
At least when he listened in on the director talking to the boys he was less bored. They were talking hockey and if there was one thing he knew more about than explosives it was hockey. He had had to stop himself from speaking out loud a few times to interject his own view about the sport. It wasn't as if they could hear him or even knew he was there.
He knew Pierre was going to be interested in the intel he had gathered this evening. That the director and his assistant had a closer relationship than just at work wasn't that big a deal normally, it was something that he and his boss could potentially use to their advantage. He was reminded of a quote by Sun Tzu about knowing your enemies. In his mind, anyone who wasn't actively helping his cause was his enemy.
He glanced at his watch and noted how late it was getting. He was hoping the man would leave soon so he could report where he lived as well, but since Pierre liked regular check ins it didn't look like it was going to happen tonight. He moved to the front seat and was about to start the car when he heard the assistant state that they were going outside for an evening stroll around the block. He observed them as they walked around to the sidewalk and proceed at a leisurely pace. Stopping occasionally to kiss.
"This is definitely something we could use," he murmured as he started his car and headed back to the hotel.
Pierre paced the living room of his penthouse hotel suite with crisp precision. He had Gisele and Martin doing cursory background checks on the two from IFF. He wanted their names and addresses and anything else he could get on them. He had gotten the names of several other documentary film operations from Elliot and had them call around to those places under the guise of finding out what their work was like and them personally. So far all he knew is that they were well respected in the community and had been credited with several well received, if boring, documentaries on obscure subjects. Really, why would anyone in their right mind want to watch a film about vampire bats?
He was rounding the couch for the umpteenth time when François gave his knock on the door. Calling out a curt "Enter" he pivoted on the spot and met him halfway. After a quick handshake he moved to the table where the others were and poured himself a coffee from the service that had been set up. He then turned his attention back to François and awaited his report.
François waited and when his boss nodded he was ready began, "After 45 minutes, that Director and his assistant left the White House and went straight back to the IFF offices in Georgetown. Nearly an hour later the two emerged again and went to separate vehicles. I followed the assistant to a house in the burbs; a quaint little, white picket fence type of place. Seems she has a live-in mother and two sons." He could see his boss’ eyebrows lift over that tidbit.
"Nearly an hour after that, the director showed up on her front doorstep. The group then had a cookout in the backyard: hamburgers, hot dogs, salad and lemonade. They played a short game of tag football and then the women proceeded to tidy things up while the boys went into the garage. I could hear them talking hockey and tidying up. Then the two met up again for what looked like a romantic walk around the block and I left then to report."
"Interesting. Sounds like they do much more than just work together. I think we can work with that." Pierre gestured for François to sit and join him and the others seated around the table. He slapped his hand down on the smooth surface to get Giselle and Martin's undivided attention and continued. "I think this will help us out nicely. These two," he gestured at the mercenary couple across from them, "have managed to determine that they are just a director and assistant, with a nice resume. They have also been seen at quite a few social gatherings together over the past year. Since Mr. Big Shot Director seems sweet on his assistant it shouldn't be too hard to get him to 'shoot some extra footage' for us."
Pierre watched as his double meaning became clear. "Tomorrow after the press conference I want Martin and Giselle to be ready with a van. Go rent something with tinted windows. François, you and I shall meet up with them at her home tomorrow night. If they are as close as they seem to be, that is the most likely place they will be. We snatch the woman and maybe a kid or two and he will be more than willing to get the patch onto the good doctor, then we can all meet back here after the reception."
He turned to François, "I want you to spend the night getting that corner bedroom ready for some unwilling overnight guests. I want them secure, but I'm not too worried about their 'comfort'."
Giselle nodded. "How long will we be keeping them? And are we going to bother returning them? If disposal is needed Martin and I will need to renegotiate our fee. Hiding bodies from being found requires different handling than blowing up offices."
"Once we have the information from Dr. Stafford that we need, you can get rid of them at your leisure. I'm not concerned if the bodies are found, I only need to have them not be found until the end of next week." Pierre clarified for the woman. "What you do to them and how you do it is of no concern of mine."
He watched the gleam in the pairs’ eyes and remembered their 'resume' listed that they enjoyed that part of their jobs a bit too much. "Just be sure not to let it get traced back to me," he added, making sure they understood from his look that there would be consequences if that happened.
Martin's smile remained in place at the thought of having some 'fun'. But Giselle confirmed they understood. "Not a problem, monsieur. We have been doing this for a while now. They will most likely be caught in a freak explosion." She turned to smile at her partner. She enjoyed their work almost as much as he did.
Pierre dismissed them with a wave of his hand and went up the stairs to his rooms to relax and enjoy the rest of his evening. 'The plan should be complete and I shall finally have my weapon to get those blasted English out of my country!' he thought smugly as he closed the doors and ignored the noise of the others preparing for the next day’s work.
Lee approached the Press Room slowly following his wife. He was not looking forward to another two hours with the student filmmakers and was silently hoping that Leatherneck had already arrived to run interference.
Amanda chuckled quietly as she looked up to see the faint look of worry on his face. "Don't worry Lee," she whispered, "Leatherneck promised he would be here a half an hour early to get things set up and ensure that the crew would behave." She reached for his hand and pulled him along into the room. "Now if you behave I'll pack us a nice picnic snack for tonight while we watch Phillip’s game. His team has been doing really well this season."
Lee opened his mouth to retort that he wasn't worried about them but snapped it shut when he realized that protesting was useless. Besides Agent Johnson was visible across the room giving him the signal that all was clear. He relaxed and let his wife drag him across to where the IFF set up was located.
Sure enough, Leatherneck was there and it appeared he had his own fan club as well. The 'crew' was efficiently working the portable soundboard and cameras and mics and hadn't even noticed his approach yet.
"Hi there, Mr. Stetson," Leatherneck called out as he approached. "We have everything set up for the final check if you care to examine anything." He had a broad grin on his face as if he knew something the rest of the class didn't.
Putting on his game face, Lee smiled and nodded as he gave them a dismissive wave of approval and leaned over like he was deep in conversation with Amanda. He hoped he could completely avoid talking to any of the crew and directed Amanda over to their seats in front of the raised platform where the Press Secretary was clearing up final details with his staff.
Pierre was also seated among the other reporters and film crews with François at his side. He noted the approach of the director, 'Mr. Stetson' he reminded himself, and his assistant, Mrs. King. They looked all business today but from what he had learned last night they were putting on a good professional face for the crowd.
The Press Secretary called for every one’s attention and began his prepared speech. Fortunately it was short and then he began to call forth the Award winners from the room behind him. One at a time they came out to be formally introduced to the awaiting crowd, sitting down at seats marked with their names and a long row of assorted microphones when done.
Once all 12 of the winners had been introduced to the crowd, the Press Secretary started fielding a few individual questions and directing them to each candidate so that they all got a chance to answer.
Lee leaned over to Amanda, "Do you have the prepared sheet of questions handy? I can't find my copy."
"Right here," she handed a sheet to him from the folder sitting in her lap. "The Production Department just said to remain sitting and keep your voice even so that they can edit the tone to make you sound older. They also said they could change the perspective so if you did get caught on film by our cameras, they could make it appear as if someone else was speaking."
One of the minor fears she had had about this assignment was if their faces accidentally got caught on film. It wouldn't be very good to have Scarecrow's face all over the evening news or on a documentary destined for thousands of schools. Leatherneck had helped her pick these seats out last night just for that reason. He had worked out the camera angles and even promised to do a sweep of the room to be sure that none of them would pick them up where they were seated.
Lee got his questions answered quickly, they weren't very important; just fluff for filler in the documentary that the Production Department was going to put out and returned the sheet to Amanda.
The rest of the session passed without incident and the pair made their way back over to Leatherneck as the winners filed out of the room the same way they had entered. Agent Johnson gave Lee a subtle thumbs up to indicate that there had been no problems.
"Mr. Stetson?" One of the students tugged on his sleeve to get his attention. Lee turned his attention back to the young man beside him and plastered on a large fake grin.
"Mr. Stetson, I don't want to be a bother but I was wondering if you had time to go over the camera angles you used in that documentary on that documentary you did a few years back on crop rotation. I'm working on a paper about the use of natural lighting and on outdoor filming and would really love to hear about your thought processes in choosing the angles that you did."
Before Lee had a chance to reply Leatherneck called out "Patrick, I need your help over here with the film. Don't bother Mr. Stetson right now, he needs to get back to the office and get busy going over the angles he wants for tomorrow night." Lee smiled his gratitude to his friend and tried to ignore the amused twinkle in Leatherneck’s eyes as Patrick hastily excused himself and went back to work.
The chuckle beside him didn't help matters, as Amanda couldn't hide her amusement either. "One more night and you won't have to see them again. Think you can last that long Scarecrow?"
Lee gave a sigh as he knew his wife was going to have fun ribbing him until this assignment was over. He lightly gripped her elbow and escorted her out of the room past the other film crews making their way towards the exit. "Of course I can, Amanda. I just wish they would stop looking at me like that."
Pierre nudged François as they stood and followed the pair out of the building.
Entering the Bullpen, Lee caught Billy’s eye and nodded towards his office. Billy acknowledged with his own nod as Lee turned to Amanda. "Do you think you could grab me a coffee? We have a few things to go over with Billy and I could use some." He gave her a flash of the 'Stetson' smile and wiggled his eyebrows enticingly.
"Coffee? Coffee? You want me to fetch you coffee like a real assistant? You trust me not to drug it and then deliver you to the film school so you can give a guest lecture?" She smiled as Lee's face took on a look of mock horror.
"Maybe I would and maybe I wouldn't," she replied, as she held her purse up and gave it a little shake like she had a supply of knockout drops in her purse ready to do just that.
"How about I get the coffee and you get started with Billy? I wouldn't want to get on your bad side Mrs. King," Lee hastily suggested, wondering if she really would. "I'll be right in."
Lee shook his head in amusement as he watched Amanda greet Billy and precede him into the office. "Scarecrow! Make that 3 coffees!" he heard Billy call out with amusement as he set the mugs out on the counter.
Francine watched as Scarecrow started making coffee and Amanda and Billy disappeared into the office before grabbing the folder with the sketch from her desk and heading over for a little Class 'C' Interrogation of her own. Sandi had a very good eye for detail and the sketch almost looked like a photograph of Lee and two boys enjoying themselves. She was convinced it was Phillip and Jamie King and she was going to get him to admit it.
"Hey Lee, want to pour me a cup as well?" Francine asked in her sweet, I-want-to-talk-to-you voice.
Lee stifled a sigh as he placed a fourth mug into the line up he already had in front of him. "What do you want Francine? In case you didn't notice, I'm a little busy right now and Billy is waiting for me."
"I just wanted to show you this sketch I got my hands on. It is very enlightening," she purred as she slowly pulled open the folder to reveal the treasure she had inside.
Lee looked up and sucked in a breath at what he saw. An 8x10 sketch of Phillip, Jamie and himself caught mid-cheer at the game Sunday night done in charcoal and pencil was inside. He let a smile cross his face as he remembered how much fun he had had that night. How Francine had managed to get it he wasn't sure. He remembered Amanda mentioning briefly that someone had seen him out with the boys but he had not paid that much attention. Now he wished he had.
"Nice likeness, Francine."
"Nice likeness?! I show you proof that I know you have been hanging out with Amanda's boys and that is all you can say?" Francine kept her face neutral but underneath she was seething. 'Who does he think he’s kidding?!'
"Amanda's boys?" Lee leaned closer as if studying the faces. "I didn't take Amanda's boys anywhere? Those are Carlotta's boys. You know, a member of Barnstorm? She had to pull an unexpected double shift and had no one to take the boys." He turned his attention back to the coffee, stirring the brown liquid with one of the many plastic stir sticks from the counter. "After that info she gave me two weeks ago about that flap in Cairo, I thought I owed her at least one favor. I already had the tickets so I thought, why not?"
He kept his face neutral as he arranged the mugs so he could grasp all three handles without spilling them. He desperately hoped the story he was telling matched up with the basics Amanda was sure to have said to Francine. 'I'll have to remember to let her know what I said to Francine so we can keep our stories straight.' He extended his hand and grabbed the folder from Francine and held it at arms length as he examined it again. "It really is a good likeness. I think Carlotta would love to have this. I think I'll get it framed for her so she can hang it on her wall." 'MY wall!' he smiled as he tucked the folder under his arm and swept off towards Billy's office with three cups of coffee in his hands.
Francine narrowed her eyes as she watched Lee make his escape into Billy's office. She KNEW that those were not Carlotta's boys, she had talked to her briefly to double check a detail she had passed on through Lee and she had distinctly mentioned that her DAUGHTERS were going to be spending the weekend at her sister’s. Her face quickly reacquired her more familiar smirk as she remembered the other sketch she had in her desk. Sandi had been so eager to help when Francine told her she wanted to surprise Lee with this 'gift' that she had worked on two different poses. The one she still had was even better as it had Lee with his arms around the boys and they were looking into each other’s faces with smiles of joy.
She picked up her coffee cup and made her way back to her desk practically beaming as she plotted the best way to put it to good use.
François and Pierre sat in their car watching the IFF building front from the parking lot down the street. They had papers in their lap and looked like two businessmen simply going over some details before leaving for a meeting. Their prey had been inside for several hours now and it was getting harder and harder to pretend enthusiasm over the nonsense pages and their thermos of coffee had been emptied long ago.
Pierre grabbed the pages and started stuffing them into his briefcase when the pair appeared on the steps outside the doors to IFF in preparation for the rest of the evening's events.
François started the car and they pulled away from the curb, taking their time as they followed Mrs. King through the winding streets leading to Arlington. They weren't sure how long they had before Stetson joined the family group, so they gathered their supplies and readied themselves to snatch the family group before he appeared.
As they waited for Giselle and Martin to show up with the van, the old woman and one of the boys emerged from the home. The boy had a baseball uniform on and a bat slung over one shoulder. They waved and called goodbyes over their shoulder as they got into a small bus that had pulled up in front of the home.
As the bus pulled away, the van with the mercenaries pulled to the curb behind them. Pierre nodded to the pair and he and François got out and made their way to the back of the home.
"Jamie!" Amanda called out, "Lee will be here any moment, Sweetheart, make sure you have all of the stuff you need to take pictures tonight in your bag and ready to go!" She was wrapping up several sandwiches and placing them in the cooler as she moved around her kitchen. Unaware she was being watched from her backyard. She made her way to the backdoor with the cooler intending to place it in the back of her wagoneereer so they would be ready when Lee got there, when the two men stepped forward.
Amanda froze at the sight of the two men with guns now facing her in her own backyard. She gave a quick listen to see if she could hear the distinctive sound of Lee's car approaching. Hearing nothing she brought her full focus on the taller man. "What do you want?" she questioned, surprised her voice sounded as calm as she didn't feel.
"Mrs. King," the tall man acknowledged her with a slight wave of his gun, "I would like to have the company of you and your son for the evening. If you could call him down it would save my companion the trouble of going inside to fetch him."
She could feel the panic rising inside her as she realized they didn't just want her but her son as well. "Wha...What do you need my son for? He hasn't done anything. He’s just a boy."
Pierre smiled and nodded to François. "That may be, but you will be so much more likely to cooperate if we have him along as well. I have something I need your director to do for me tomorrow and as you are all so close I thought he would be more receptive to my request with you enjoying our hospitality. We were hoping to have you all, but we will take what we can get."
As François started to move to the back door, Amanda dropped the cooler on the ground and held her hands up. "WAIT! I'll get him." She kept her hands up and in sight of the men as she backed closer to the door and called for Jamie over her shoulder. "Jamie? Jamie, Sweetheart, can you come down here for a moment please?" She hoped that her voice wasn't betraying any of the fear she was feeling at this moment.
"What is it, Mom?" Jamie called as he entered the kitchen with his bag mostly packed. Not seeing her he noticed the open backdoor and figured Lee was here and they were putting the cooler into the car. He set his bag and camera on the center island and headed outside. "Mom?"
François grabbed the young man's arm and hauled him out of the house as soon as he stepped out side. Jamie started to pull away until he noticed the guns in the men’s hands. "Mom?" he said more quietly this time. His mother stood there, her hands tied behind her back with a look he couldn't quite identify on her face. The man holding his arm quickly spun him around to face him and tied his hands as well.
"Mrs. King, Mr. King," Pierre addressed the frightened pair. "If you would be so kind as to follow my friend here, we have a van waiting out front." He pointed the direction out with the muzzle of his gun and a very deadly look on his face. Jamie swallowed and looked at his mother. With the nod of her head he turned and followed the man out to the waiting van. He wished his hands were tied in front of him so he could catch himself if he fell. He briefly thought of trying to shove the man with his shoulder and running, but hands quickly reached out from inside the van and pulled him and his Mom inside.
Pierre watched the van leave and returned to the back of the house to leave the note sitting on top of the dropped cooler before returning to his own car before Mr. Stetson arrived.
Lee smiled as he pulled up in front of his family's home, a baseball glove sitting on the seat beside him. He couldn't wait to spend the evening enjoying a baseball game with his family. He left the glove in the backseat of Amanda's wagoneereer as he made his way around back to the kitchen, hoping to startle his wife and steal few kisses before they had to leave.
The hackles on the back of his neck sprang to attention as he saw the cooler lying on its side in the backyard, sandwiches and cookies spilling out onto the lawn. He knew his wife would never do such a thing. He reached for the gun he normally carried, but hesitated as he remembered he had left it at home. He didn't normally carry a weapon to hang out with his family; at least not his shoulder holster. After the first time Phillip gave him a hug and he had had to twist quickly so he wouldn't feel it under his suit jacket he had started to keep a smaller caliber pistol strapped to his ankle.
He slowly knelt keeping his eyes on the back of the house looking for any sort of movement from inside. Holding his gun at the ready he made his way into the kitchen. He saw Jamie’s camera on the counter and his heart dropped even more in his chest. Amanda in trouble was one thing, but if Jamie had still been home when whatever happened, happened....
Quickly he went through the house searching for his family. He observed that Phillip’s equipment was gone and the house was empty. Making his way back to the kitchen, he snatched up the phone and punched in the numbers he needed.
"Billy! Get a team over to Amanda's house now!" He stated quickly after identifying himself. "I think Amanda and her family are in trouble." He hung up the phone and took a steadying breath.
Having called for back up and determined that there was no one inside, he went out back to investigate the area around the cooler more closely. He noticed the note on top and gingerly reached for it, holding it by the edges to protect any prints.
By now you will know that we have your assistant and her family. They will be well taken care of as long as you follow instructions. In your capacity as director for IFF you have access to areas we need access to at the awards ceremony tomorrow night. Behave and follow instructions and we shall return them unharmed. Disobey and the consequences will be very grave.*
Lee read the note, puzzled by its contents. He was still staring at it when Billy Melrose and 3 more agents came around the corner into the backyard, guns drawn. Billy motioned for the agents to go inside and clear the scene again and look for clues as he went over to Lee.
"Lee! What's going on?" The older man looked at Lee with concern. He looked like he had just lost his best friend. Then again, knowing how close his team was, that was quite likely to be what happened.
Lee handed the note to Billy without a word and rubbed the bridge of his nose with his other hand. "I got here and the house was empty and that note was sitting on the cooler." He looked at his boss and friend and did his best to keep the worry and rising panic out of his voice as he asked, "Why would they take Jamie too and why do they care about my cover?"
Billy read the note with a growing frown on his face. He too was wondering why they would refer to Lee under his cover as an IFF director. He looked at Lee, trying to appear calm for the man before him. "Maybe..." he started, "Maybe because that is how they know of you. What if this has nothing to do with the Agency but about something you have done in the past under your cover?" He looked pensive as the wheels turned in his mind. "Maybe they have been at the White House looking for an angle into tomorrow’s activities and observed you and Amanda. They could be trying to gain access to the President through your access."
He watched the grim look on his agent’s face as Lee pondered that possibility.
"Damn it, Billy! There has been nothing, not a peep out of any of my contacts about any threats to the President or anyone else for that matter. Even the Secret Service said they had nothing on their radar. What the hell are they after?!" Lee ground out with force as he kicked one of the fallen sandwiches toward the neighbor’s yard.
"I don't know, but we will find out." Billy looked at the note again. "Lee, this says they have Amanda and one of her boys. But where are her mother and the other one?"
Lee stopped his foot mid-swing as he had taken aim at another sandwich. "Phillip’s baseball game is tonight. We were going to have a little picnic there after the game. He must already be there with Dotty." He looked at Billy, panic edging into his features. "I'm going over to the park and get them. I'll take them to the Plaza Hotel. I want you to get a team over there to watch them for me."
He called that last sentence out over his shoulder as he ran across the lawn to Amanda's car. He pulled out his keys and headed out the driveway before Billy could get a word in edgewise. Billy just shook his head at the disappearing agent and headed inside to send a team over to the Plaza to cover the room they had on reserve for just such emergencies.
Lee raced to the ball field with fear gripping his heart. Amanda and Jamie were being held captive by God-knows-who and the rest of his family was out in the open unaware of the danger lurking around them. He managed to avoid hitting anyone as he parked haphazardly in the lot, and was halfway out the door before the engine even died.
He moved quickly to the stands, scanning for Dotty and Phillip in the crowd. His heart slowed just a bit when he spotted them over behind the team bench. Dotty was apparently trying to help Phillip polish his bat while Phillip seemed to be protesting his grandmother’s attention.
"But Grandma, It's a baseball bat, it is supposed to be dirty and have scuff marks," he voiced with gentle frustration, having been on the receiving end of his grandmother’s fussiness for years. He spied Lee approaching and called out for his help. "Lee, tell her that baseball bats are supposed to look like that."
Lee swallowed hard as he reached the pair and quickly wrapped his arms around the two of them, hugging them hard to his chest. Phillip and Dotty let out matching 'umfs' as they found themselves in Lee's embrace.
"Lee..." Phillip began but found himself cut off by his grandmother who was concerned about this sudden hug attack by her daughter’s boyfriend. Not that she minded, but Lee was such a private person who hadn't given out many hugs without prompting so far. She pulled back and looked closely at his face before poking him in the chest.
"Lee. What's wrong? Where are Amanda and Jamie? I thought they were coming with you," she added quickly; worry building on her face.
Lee relaxed his tight hold on the pair as he moved his arms up to their shoulders and started towards the car, leaving them no choice but to walk with him. "Um... Amanda's... Let's just get to the car and I can explain everything on the way." He squeezed Phillip’s shoulder to reassure him as he tried to subtly increase their pace. "Sorry about the game but something has come up." Noting the panic in Dotty's eyes getting stronger he cut off another potential ramble, "No one is hurt," 'as far as I know' "but something is wrong and we need to get out of here now. Think you can hold your questions until we get to the car?"
He begged Dotty with his eyes to stay calm as he quickly threw a glance Phillip's way. He hoped she would take his hint and keep her thoughts to herself knowing Phillip could hear every word.
Dotty nodded and kept quiet as they piled into Amanda's car. She moved the glove on the seat to the back beside Phillip. Once they were strapped in, Lee pulled out of the lot at a much more calm pace than he had entered.
From the back, Phillip quietly stated, "Something happened to Mom and Jamie didn't it Lee." His eyes met Lee's in the rearview mirror. The two shared a knowing look as Dotty put her two cents worth in as well. "What has happened to my daughter and grandson Lee? Has there been another mix up like last year?"
Her tone and volume increased with each word as she recalled all the worry from that incident where her daughter and Lee had taken off with federal agents on their heels.
"Dotty..." Lee began, suddenly unsure of what he was going to tell them. He had been so focused on getting to them that he hadn't even bothered to think of what cover to use. Deciding to follow Amanda's example, he tried to stick to the truth as much as possible.
"Dotty, when I got to the house tonight it was empty and they were nowhere to be found." He ignored her gasp and refrained from meeting Phillip’s eyes in the mirror again and plowed on. "The cooler with our picnic was in the backyard and there was a note. It simply said that they had something they wanted me to do tomorrow at work and that they thought I would be more willing to do it if they had my assistant and her family with them."
He could hear Dotty's breathing increase when he said the word family. "Do you mean Lee that they were going to try and take all of us because of your work?"
Lee flinched when she said that. Convinced that his job had put them all in danger.
"Oh Lee, I didn't mean you. I meant your and Amanda's jobs at IFF." He could hear the concern in her voice and spared a glance at his mother-in-law, not seeing the condemnation he had expected. "Lee, I know this isn't your fault. You can't blame yourself when some idiot does something like this. I know I don't blame you and my daughter loves you too much to ever blame you either."
She glanced out the window at the streets passing by. "And just where are we going anyhow? Did you call the police? What do we do now? Do I have to file a missing person’s report?" She rambled on, twisting the handle of the seat belt strapped across her chest.
Lee reached a hand over to stop the fidgeting, and gave it a gentle squeeze. "We are going to meet up with some federal agents at the Plaza Hotel," he told her kindly. "I figured after all that mix up last year that that Mr. Melrose could work for us this time. He has arranged to protect you there while I go in and fill them in on all the projects we have been working on the last few months."
He pulled his hand away to steer the car into the underground parking at the hotel and led a quiet Phillip and Dotty to the elevator.
"We have no clue what they want exactly or why they chose us to do this to," he wrapped his arm around Dotty as the elevator slowly ascended. "But you can be sure I'll keep Mr. Melrose on his toes and we will get them back before you know it." He smiled at Dotty and turned them to face Phillip who was standing beside them quietly.
"You got any questions, Phillip?" Lee was worried about him. He was standing there so quietly in his baseball uniform. He hadn't said anything since he had stated that something was wrong. Lee was worried about how he was handling things. That maybe he did blame Lee for what was going on.
Phillip looked at Lee. At the man his mother had brought into their lives. He knew his Mom was much happier with Lee around and he was a cool guy, but he couldn't help but wonder at why this was happening again to his family. He saw the fear and worry in Lee’s eyes and something else. He knew that he could trust Lee because his mother did.
"Lee," he started, speaking quietly, "you will find them won't you? You'll make sure they get home?"
Lee stared into the eyes of his oldest stepson, feeling proud at how calmly he was handling the situation. "I promise." Lee said firmly. "I promise you, Phillip, and you Dotty, that I will bring them home safe and sound."
The elevator dinged then signaling their arrival at their floor. With his arm still firmly around Dotty's shoulders he reached his hand out and took hold of Phillip's shoulder as well and guided them down the hall to the room where Agent Munroe was standing guard. They nodded to each other as Lee guided his remaining family inside.
He saw Agent Walters coming out of one of the bedrooms, weapon in hand. He quickly holstered it when he saw the trio. He started to acknowledge Scarecrow but snapped his mouth shut when he saw the small shake of Scarecrow's head.
"Hello again, Agent Walters," Lee began. "This is Mrs. King’s mother, Dotty West, and her son Phillip King. Mr. Melrose asked me to make sure I got them here safely before joining him at our office to go over our work for the last few months, to see if there were any clues as to why this is happening."
Walters took his cue from Lee and addressed the pair. "Mrs. West, Mr. King. I want to assure you that we have everything under control and that you will be safe here. If there is anything you need just let me know and I'll have it brought here. There is a big screen TV in that bedroom over there if you wanted to watch anything." He directed that last statement at Phillip before moving over to the couch. "I'll just be over here if you have any questions."
Lee thanked him silently from over Dotty's shoulder. "Now Dotty, you and Phillip just stay here and listen to these agents. I'm heading into the office now and see what I can do. You have the number there if you need to reach me."
He gave the pair another hug, holding on like he never wanted to let go. Reluctantly he did though, smiling at Dotty and Phillip with more confidence than he felt.
Dotty was touched at how worried Lee was for her family. "You just go and get them back Lee. Phillip and I will be fine." She patted him on the cheek before moving off with Phillip to check out the big TV. She paused before leaving the room though and turned to Lee one more time. "And you be sure to tell that Mr. Melrose that I want him to find my daughter and grandson now. That little man owes this family after that fiasco last year."
With that the two left. Walters stifled his giggle at a warning look from Lee. "Don't worry Lee. We won't let anything happen to Mrs. King’s family. She'll never bake anymore brownies for the coffee corner if I did." Walters stated firmly. "Billy said that he would meet you at the office. He is calling in the Secret Service too, as this could be an attack on the President."
Lee nodded at Walters’ words and turned to leave. "Walters," he added quietly before leaving the room. "I wouldn't worry about whether or not Amanda will bake anymore treats for you guys if I were you." He looked Walters dead in the eye, "I'd be more worried about what I will do to you if anything happens to them."
With that Lee headed out the door leaving a worried agent sitting on the couch wondering just what Lee might do to him if something did go wrong.
Amanda was worried about Jamie. Ever since those hands had pulled them into the van he had been very quiet and kept looking at her, but didn't try to talk to her at all. It was good, that kept their attention away from him but it didn't stop her from worrying about her boy. 'First that man in the gym tries to harm them and I ran off last year to help Lee and now this. I hope he will be ok.'
She could feel the sharp sting of tears behind her eyes but refused to give in to them. She needed to keep her calm if she was going to find a way out of this that kept her son safe.
She had opened her mouth once in the van, intending to ask them what they wanted. But the woman had merely shook her head and cocked the gun she had pointed at them. She had kept her tongue after that, not wanting to aggravate their abductors.
They arrived at the underground parking entrance to the Plaza Hotel and were quickly dragged into the private elevator to the penthouse suite. Once they arrived at the top floor, Amanda and Jamie were shoved onto the couch and ignored, except for the occasional wave of the gun in their direction.
Amanda shifted uncomfortably on the couch, feeling the ropes that tied her arms together with her fingertips trying to see what kind of knots she was dealing with. It certainly seemed like one she could undo easily enough, she just needed them to stop paying such close attention so she could work.
The slamming of the front door startled her yet she managed to keep herself from jumping. The tall man from her backyard walked purposefully over to the wet bar and poured himself a drink. She waited patiently as he made his way over to the chair across from the couch they were sitting on.
Unable to hold her tongue any longer, shifting to face the man head on she prayed his attention would stay focused on her. "Just what is it you hope to gain by bringing us here?" she demanded in an even tone.
Pierre ignored the question and appraised the woman and the boy sitting in front of him. The kid was quiet, 'good I hate a whiny brat,' he thought, and then he gave his attention to the woman. She was returning his stare and not backing down an inch. 'Good.' He hated a woman with no nerve.
He took a sip from his glass and placed it on the table beside him, acting for all the world like this was just a pleasant visit. "Why Mrs. King, that sounded more like a demand of your host instead of a pleasant inquiry," he replied with a hint of rebuke in his voice. "You would be wise to remember your manners."
The steel in his eyes belied the soft tone of his voice. "If you must know, I need your director to do something for me tomorrow at the awards ceremony and I thought he might be more likely to do it if you were my guests."
He stood up and gestured for François, "If you would kindly step this way, I'll have my associate show you to your quarters for the night."
Amanda stood slowly, urging Jamie with her eyes to follow. He stood as well beside his mother as they followed the man into the bedroom in the corner. At one point it must have been a beautiful room, but no longer. The walls had been stripped of all adornments. All of the furniture was gone and even the hangers were missing from the closet. The only thing left were four single mattresses on the floor, each with one blanket sitting folded neatly in the center.
She took in the four mattresses and realized that they had intended to grab her mother and Phillip as well. She sent a silent thank you to who ever had been watching over her family that night that half of them were safe.
She turned to look at the men in the doorway, not sure what, if anything, she should say now. She needn't have worried. The tall one gestured to their mattresses and smiled. "The accommodations may not be the ones you would typically find in the penthouse. But I think you will find that they could get a whole lot worse if you don't behave yourselves."
The glint in his eyes stopped her from retorting. But the hopeful looks of the two who had been in the van scared her even more. They almost looked like they wanted her to try something. She nodded once to show she understood and stayed still until she heard the click of the lock once they had shut the door. Only then did she allow herself to drop to her knees in front of Jamie. Looking him over from head to toe. Even though they had been together the entire time she was worried that he might be hurt somewhere.
"Mom?" Jamie said her name so softly she almost hadn't heard him. She looked into his eyes and saw the worry. "It will be alright, Jamie. Don't you worry." She had never wanted to hug her son more but with the ropes tying their wrists that was going to be a problem. One she was determined to solve right now.
"Come over here, Sweetheart, and sit with your back to me and let's see if there is something we may be able to do about these ropes." He acquiesced without argument and soon the two were back to back, fumbling with the ropes. They were tightly tied but the knot was a fairly simple one and they had themselves untied in no time.
Dropping the ropes to one side, Amanda quickly turned and gripped Jamie in a tight hug. She rubbed his back as she held him close. "Oh Jamie, Sweetheart. Everything is going to be all right, I promise." She didn't even want to consider it not turning out that way. Lee was going to find them. 'LEE!' she thought with a gasp. He was going to show up at the house and they wouldn't be there. She just knew he was going to be so worried.
Jamie let the feeling of security in his mother's arms calm him as she gripped him as tight as she had that day in the gym a few years ago. He couldn't quite understand why there was another man in his life with a gun, as if it hadn't been enough to have that man hold one to his head before Lee showed up to... 'LEE!'
His mind swirled with images as he recalled again that day in the gym when that man had grabbed him off the trampoline. He remembered how he and Phillip had huddled underneath and watched as Lee ran over and attacked the man who had been holding the gun. He had been so scared when that other man dragged them out from their hiding place and rushed them across to their mother. Then their Dad was there too and everything was all right.
He looked at his Mom. She worked with Lee. She was his assistant at IFF. How could this be? If Lee had been the federal agent who saved them and now his Mom worked with him... What did they really do? Did they really make documentaries or was his Mom a... an agent????
"Mom?" he asked, his confusion showing in his voice. "Mom? What..." he started to ask but his mother cut him off again. Worry showing in her tone, "Jamie I don't want you to worry, I'm sure as soon as Lee gets to the house and sees that we aren't there that he will call the authorities and they will come and get us out of here." She took his hand and pulled him over to the mattress in the corner furthest from the door. She tugged on his hand to bring him down to sit with her and unfolded one of the blankets to wrap around them.
Jamie reached for his mother's hand as she began fussing with the blanket, trying to cocoon him inside. "Mom," he looked into her eyes, showing a resolve she had never seen before. "Do you think Lee will get here soon to rescue us?"
Amanda started as she saw the challenge in his eyes, daring her to contradict what he was saying. She opened her mouth to say that the police or someone would get there soon, but Jamie was keeping his eyes locked with hers and she couldn't do it. Somehow her baby had figured out that there was more to her job than what she had been telling him and she just couldn't lie to his face. Not when their lives were in such danger.
She let some of the tears flow now as she looked at her young man. She couldn't call him a boy anymore. Not with the determined way he was staring her down. She let her hand fall to Jamie's shoulder as she nodded her head in confirmation. "Yes, Sweetheart, I'm sure Lee is tearing through the city right now looking for us. He will find us and then we will go home with your grandmother and your brother."
Hearing the confidence she had in Lee to find them in her voice, Jamie let himself sink a little closer to his mother as she pulled him to her side. "I think when we do we are going to have a lot to talk about," he replied in a tired voice.
"Yes we will, Sweetheart. Yes we will. But for now I suggest that we get some rest. I'm sure that Lee will be here to get us as soon as he can and it would be best if we weren't tired when he gets here." Amanda felt pride in how well her son was handling his little revelation. It wasn't the way she would have liked to fill him in on her secret life, but now that he knew, or at least suspected, what she truly did for a living, she felt relieved. All of her secrets, the ones she could share anyway, were going to come out soon.
"When we get home we will have a family meeting and we'll answer all your questions then so that your Grandma and Phillip can hear the answers too. But for now I suggest we get some sleep."
She reached over for the other blankets and folded two of them into pillows and offered one to Jamie. Once he had curled up on the mattress under the window, she did the same, putting herself between him and the door.
"Try to rest now, Sweetheart," she whispered softly as she lay down. "We'll be home soon." With that she closed her eyes and prayed she had not just lied to her son.
Billy kept an eye on the Georgetown door monitor as he talked on the phone with the agents he had left behind at the King home. They were collecting prints and searching for any other clues as to who had taken Amanda and Jamie. He gave a small shudder at what his agent must be going through. It was one thing to be in a business where you could die just for coming into the office, quite another when it literally followed you home and put your children in danger.
He saw Francine enter the Bullpen and waved her in. He hoped she had copies of the cameras from the traffic lights around Arlington. The Secret Service and the Agency had a joint project they were working on to eventually cover all streets with cameras. They had used Arlington as a testing zone to avoid any eyes that might be watching them more closely in D.C. itself. If they could get Ernie to find a glimpse of Amanda or Jamie in the window of any of the cars they could be that much closer to finding them. He hung up the phone and rang the hotel to check on the remaining members of the King family. Agent Walters sounded nervous as he reported on the situation there.
Out of the corner of his eye he watched as Lee stormed his way into the building and nearly ripped his badge from Mrs. Marston in his haste to get to the elevator. 'This won't be pretty' he thought to himself as he stood and started closing the blinds in anticipation of Scarecrow's blow up. As he finished, he stuck his head out the door and gave a bellow.
He watched her head pop up from behind a stack of folders on her desk. "I need any reports you have on the Arlington mess in here now!"
Francine gave a quick nod and started gathering papers and folders from her desk as Billy headed back around his own. He sat and noted which ones he had out as well and reached for his bottle of Tums. He just knew Lee was going to give him a reason to need them.
He heard the sharp rap at the door as Francine swiftly made her way into the room. "Here are the preliminaries from Amanda's house. No prints were found that didn't belong to her family or Lee. The items in the backyard had nothing on them either." She was passing him sheets as she finished reading off them.
A disturbance could be heard from the hallway outside the Bullpen and they just knew it was Lee approaching. Francine quickly moved to behind the desk to stand by Billy. She didn't relish being within reach when he found out how little they had.
Lee burst into Billy's office with the power of a raging storm. The door that he had slammed open swung back just as quickly to slam shut. He looked from Francine to Billy and held his hand out. "What do we have?" he demanded. His tone, quiet and firm, did not match the frenzied look his face and hair showed.
Billy sighed. It was going to be a very long night. He handed over the reports he did have. "So far we have no usable prints anywhere. The team at the house has canvassed the neighborhood but no one noticed anything out of the ordinary. No reports of any strange vehicles or people hanging about where they shouldn't be." He paused for a moment as he watched Lee flip through the files with force as if the harder he handled the pages the more likely something was going to jump out at him.
"Agent Walters over at the Plaza reported that everything is under control. Though he did add that he sees where Amanda gets her 'gift of gab' from. He said if they didn't go to sleep soon he was tempted to order up some knockout drops otherwise he wouldn't be able to hear if the whole army was outside the door."
Lee gave a half smile for that one. If there was anything Dotty was good at, it was a good ramble. He quickly shook off that happy thought. "You mean to tell me we have nothing?!" He threw the papers onto Billy's desk and ran his hand through his hair.
"Not exactly nothing, Lee," Francine interrupted. "I have Ernie going through all the traffic cameras in the area looking for any sign of them. The only thing is without a direction to look in he has to look through all of them. And there are a lot of directions they could have gone in. And that is if they are visible in a window and that window isn’t tinted."
Lee just glared at Francine. He knew it was possible to avoid being seen in Amanda's neighborhood. They had proved that themselves with that Stemwinder fiasco. "That is a long shot Francine. Did we get anything off that note they left behind? What does Crypto have to say about it?"
Billy held back a flinch as his agent’s angry eyes turned his way again. "They have nothing either. The paper and ink are a generic brand available anywhere. Crypto is going over the wording of the note and all they can say for now is that it seems to have been written by a well educated man." He glanced at the monitor again and saw Agent Johnson of the Secret Service showing his credentials to Mrs. Marston.
Billy held up his hand to stave off Lee and dialed her extension, approving Johnson's entrance into the building. "Francine if you could go meet Agent Johnson at the elevator..." He waved her out of the room and almost smiled in amusement at how fast she moved. "I put in a call to the Secret Service. Since this most likely is some sort of attack on the President they need to be kept in the loop," he explained before Lee could jump on him again. "Besides, In order to pull off whatever you need to pull off tomorrow they need to be aware of all the details. It won't do any good to have you try and run around the White House without proper clearance and get yourself shot in the process."
Lee would have made a smart remark at that but he realized Billy was right. If whatever these jokers wanted him to do was supposed to happen at the White House, the Secret Service would need to be brought in. "Billy..." he began but was cut off by the entrance of Agent Johnson.
"Mr. Melrose, sir," Johnson greeted, extending his hand for a quick handshake. "I hear we have a situation. Miss Desmond has filled me on most of what is going on. You have an agent and their son missing."
"Not just an agent, Johnson. My partner and her son, Jamie, were taken from her home tonight." Lee interjected, his hackles rising at the casual way Johnson was referring to his wife being missing.
Johnson had the good grace to look appalled at that information. "Mrs. King?! But she doesn't even have that high a clearance. The only reason she could even enter my office was because she was escorted in with you, Stetson."
"The note makes that much more clear." Billy handed a copy of the note found at the King home to Johnson. "It seems they are holding her and her son as insurance against Lee's cooperation for something or someone they want access to at the awards ceremony tomorrow night."
Johnson took the note and read it over carefully. "Do we have any idea who wrote this and what their target is?"
"Not at this time. We are looking into the traffic cameras in the surrounding area to see if we can get a glimpse of who grabbed them and I have a team going through the flash traffic to see if something is there that was missed, but as of right now we have no clues at all. We were hoping that something might have crossed the Secret Service’s radar." Billy hoped that they did. He didn't want to face Scarecrow for much longer if they had no direction for him to focus his anger.
Johnson sighed. "There's been nothing on radar. It has been a quiet month for threats. Unless..." he trailed off as an idea popped into his mind. "Unless this is a group that hasn't been high enough on the radar to be considered a threat. I'll give a call into the office and have them start checking on the lower level groups and see if there are any rumblings. I can't promise anything but it's a start."
"That will have to do." Billy stood and pointed out Francine seated at her desk in the Bullpen from the doorway. "Agent Desmond will be happy to help you get things started on that. She can show you how to access the secure lines."
He was happy that Johnson took the cue and left the office so quickly. He didn't need Lee to lose his cool in front of the Secret Service and it looked like his breaking point had just been reached.
"Damn it, Billy!" Lee exploded as he brought his fist down on the back of the chair in front of Billy's desk. "We have to have something! Some clue! Amanda and Jamie need my help!"
"I just can't sit here and do nothing!" Lee continued on as if he hadn't even heard his boss.
"I just can't leave them out there on their own!"
"SCARECROW!" Billy bellowed his codename, hoping that would get through.
Lee looked up at his boss as if he had forgotten he was there. "Sit down, Lee!" Billy ordered, pointing at the chair Scarecrow had hit a moment before.
The Scarecrow just looked at Billy dumbfounded for a moment before sitting in the chair indicated.
Billy reached for his Tums and ate two before looking at Lee again and continuing. "Lee," he said quieter now. "We are doing everything we can. I have teams in place for a rescue the moment we get a line on their location. You can see that I have the Secret Service moving on this too. They will be ready tomorrow to back up with whatever you need." He watched the man before him start to calm down from the boiling point. "Right now what you need to do is get some rest."
Billy held up a hand to stave off the inevitable protest. "I mean it. Whatever is going to happen tomorrow, we need you at your best. Amanda and her son need you at your full strength."
'MY son.' Lee thought, the words sinking in. With a sigh he relaxed completely into the chair. "I hear you, Billy. I don't have to like it though."
Lee kicked his shoe into the corner of Billy's desk as a quasi smile appeared on his face. "I think I'll check on Mrs. West and Phillip before I go home though." The smile got wider as he remembered the message he had been instructed to pass on. "Mrs. West also wanted me to pass on that you are to, and I quote, ‘find my daughter and grandson now’ and that ‘That little man owes this family after that fiasco last year.’"
He laughed as he saw Billy did flinch at Dotty's words. "That woman really doesn't like me." Billy mumbled as he sat back down behind his desk.
"I don't know why, you are always so pleasant to be around, Billy." Lee gave a half-hearted chuckle at that and stood. "I want you to call me if anything shows up anywhere." He added that bit as his glare returned to focus on his boss. "I'll be at the Plaza if you need me."
And with that Lee left the office, with less intensity than he had entered.
Billy watched as he crossed the Bullpen, pausing to say something to Francine, 'probably demanding 15-minute updates for the night.' Billy shook his head and returned his attention to the work still in front of him. Hoping that this situation resolved itself without any casualties. He didn't even want to think of what Lee would be like if something happened to Amanda or her son.
It was a quieter, more subdued Lee Stetson that knocked on the door at the Plaza Hotel. As badly as he wanted to go out and start beating in the heads of every snitch in the city, he knew that he was needed here more. The shock was bound to have worn off and he was sure that Phillip and Dotty would need someone to talk to.
Agent Walters opened the door, acknowledging the agent stationed in the hall with a nod before opening it wide enough for Scarecrow to get through. "All's quiet here, Scarecrow." he whispered as he pointed towards one of the bedrooms. "Mrs. West went in there half an hour ago and I haven't heard a peep since." The relief he felt at that was almost tangible in his words. "The boy, however, I think is still up. I can hear the TV is still on." He pointed to the room opposite.
Walters started towards the kitchenette expecting Scarecrow to want a cup of coffee and was surprised when he realized the agent wasn't behind him but at the door to the room the boy was in.
"I think I'll check in on Phillip, Walters," Lee whispered back. He had no desire to wake an upset Dotty. Phillip would be enough to handle without her rambles.
Lee turned the knob and quietly slipped into the bedroom Phillip was in. His son was lying on the bed on his side, still in his uniform for the game that he had missed tonight. The TV was set at a low volume to one of the 24-hour sports stations, scores from the day’s games scrolling across the bottom of the screen.
He took a moment to watch his son. He looked so small lying there but Lee knew he was well on his way towards growing into a man. Phillip had grown so much since he had started peering in that kitchen window. He could still picture Phillip in the backseat of Amanda's car throwing trash at his brother.
He was lost in his memories, thinking of all the times he had seen the boys and almost didn't hear Phillip.
"Lee, is that you?"
Phillip turned over in the large bed and watched his mother’s boyfriend as he stood there staring into the distance. He had only been able to handle his grandmother’s mothering for so long before he excused himself to this room, saying he was tired. He had managed to convince her he didn't need her to tuck him in. He really didn't want her to treat him like a baby with that federal agent right there.
"Is there any news on Mom and Jamie?"
Lee made his way over to the bed and sat down beside Phillip. "No, there isn't any news yet. But they assured me that they won't stop looking until they find them." He reached to tousle Phillip’s hair but stopped and rested his hand on Phillip's shoulder instead. "I made sure they had the number here so they could reach us as soon as they hear anything. You don't mind if I stay, do you?"
He peered into Phillip’s eyes trying to see what his answer would be.
Phillip gave a shrug and leaned back onto the pillows again, letting Lee's hand fall onto the bed. "I don't mind. There aren't any more rooms though, you would have to stay out on the couch." Not that he really wanted Lee to leave. He would prefer if he stayed in the room with him. Not that he really needed him there, but it would be nice to know someone was there with him.
Lee watched as Phillip leaned back and tried to look like it wouldn't bother him one way or the other where Lee slept. He smiled as he recognized the same moves he used to pull on his uncle though his uncle never noticed.
He stood up and moved around the bed, coming up on the opposite side. "Actually, if I sleep on that couch my back will turn into one twisted, knotted mess," he casually explained as he sat down and pulled off his shoes. He quickly moved his gun from his ankle holster and tucked it inside his shoes. Laying his socks over top of them so that it couldn't be seen by a casual observer, and shoving everything under the head of the bed where he could reach it quickly if he needed it. Then he tossed his jacket over the chair by the bed.
Phillip was glad he had decided to stay here with him and scooted over to make sure there was plenty of room for Lee's larger frame to lie on the bed with him.
Lee leaned back on the bed like Phillip had and put his hands behind his head as he stared up at the ceiling. The only light was coming from the TV, but Phillip had muted that when he started talking. The two men lay there in silence for a while just staring at the glow from the lights below reflected on the ceiling.
"Lee?" Phillip's voice echoed in the now quiet room. "Do you think Mom and Jamie are ok?"
Lee listened as Phillip's quiet voice broke the silence. He could hear the little boy in the dark worrying about his mother and it nearly broke his heart. He cleared his throat as he tried to come up with the words to reassure him. "I'm sure they will be fine, Phillip. We can't go thinking negative thoughts. That won't do them or us any good."
Lee shifted so he was lying on his side looking down on Phillip. "I promise I won't let anything happen to them or you." He reached down for the quilt at the end of the bed and spread it over the two of them. "How about we just get some sleep now and see what the morning brings? Ok?"
Phillip nodded and yawned at the same time and pulled the quilt up closer around him. "Ok Lee..." he breathed out as he let himself drift off to sleep. Feeling safer knowing that Lee was watching over him.
Lee watched as Phillip drifted off to sleep and for a long while afterwards. 'Your boy is all right Amanda. I swear I won't let anything happen to him and I'll be there to get you soon.' Lee promised as he finally let himself relax enough to sleep.
Dotty had tried to sleep, she really had. But every time she had lain down on the bed she popped right back up again and fussed over details in her room. Moving the vase of flowers from the center of the dresser to the side and back again. She was just so worried about her family. 'Maybe a nice cup of tea will help' she thought as she exited her room to seek out what was in the cupboards of the kitchenette.
Agent Walters had just poured himself a cup of coffee and saw Mrs. West leave her room. 'Oh Lord! Not again!' That panicked thought raced through his brain. Picking up the cup, he headed for the door of the hotel room. He knew he wasn't shirking his duties as the Scarecrow was in the other room, but there was no way he could handle another verbal barrage from that woman.
"I was just going to take this out and see if there was any news, Mrs. West." He tossed over his shoulder as he left the room as fast as he could without running.
Dotty just shook her head. She knew she was pestering the man with questions, but really they should have something to tell her. Anything that they could let her know would help her relax. She started to root through the cupboards, looking for that package of tea she could have sworn she saw earlier and then stopped.
"Just what I don't need," she sighed and closed the doors. She just wanted something to settle her thoughts so she wouldn't worry.
Glancing over at the door to the room Phillip had chosen to sleep in she thought, 'Just one peek'. She could see a light flickering and knew he had fallen asleep with the TV on too. She knew he was old enough that he didn't want too much attention from his grandmother, but she was a grandmother and she worried.
She tiptoed across the room, trying not even to breathe too hard. She really didn't want to wake him if he had fallen asleep. But if he had kicked off the covers she didn't want him to catch cold. And what if he woke up in a strange place and got scared? Maybe she would sit by his bed and watch him for a while.
She opened the door and slipped inside, letting her eyes adjust to the semi-dark room. Light from the streets below was flickering on the ceiling. A burst of panic started to rise in her chest as she saw that Phillip was not alone. She nearly opened her mouth to scream when she realized who was with him.
'Oh that dear, sweet man!' she thought, as she felt tears well up in her eyes at the sight of her daughter’s boyfriend curled up in bed beside her grandson.
She stood and watched them a few moments, deciding not to go near the bed for fear of waking them and disturbing the great male ego that states they don't need comfort from anyone. She knew that even in their sleep they were drawing comfort from each other.
Silently she slipped back out of the room and headed back to her own to try and get some rest herself.
Lee's morning started early. He had been lying awake in the bed beside Phillip for at least an hour before he got up. He hadn't wanted to startle the boy in the dark and had waited for the sun streaming in the window to brighten the whole room first. He was also listening for any telltale signs that Dotty was awake. He was glad he had missed her last night and was hoping for a clean get away this morning. He really didn't want to face her until he could tell her some news. And right now all he didn't have any.
Lee let out a little sigh as he closed the bedroom door behind him. He was carrying his things in one hand, he wanted to be sure he was out where Phillip couldn't hear him before he checked his weapon. He gave a nod to Agent Murphy where he sat on the sofa and headed towards the kitchenette.
"Scarecrow," he heard quietly behind him. "I managed to relieve Agent Walters with no problem just over an hour ago. He and his partner were heading back to the Agency to give Mr. Melrose their report before heading home. He also said he was going to put in for hazard pay."
Lee gave a soft chuckle at that statement. He knew how overwhelming Dotty could be when she was worked up. But the next portion froze him in his tracks.
Murphy continued on as he led the way into the kitchenette, "I guess you were too much for him to handle ma'am. Agent Walters doesn't generally work in the field much, he prefers to push paper around the office instead. But when he had heard it was Mrs. King who was missing, and her little boy, he volunteered. I don't think he will be doing that again. I don't think there is an agent who hasn't volunteered. Mrs. King is the best liked agent we have ever had in D.C."
Lee looked over Murphy's shoulders and saw Dotty standing near the table. She was just getting ready to put down a second plate covered with eggs, toast and bacon when Murphy had made his statement. She just stood there, eyes wide, staring at Lee. Her jaw was moving like she was trying to speak.
Murphy noticed the odd silence coming from the chatty Mrs. West and realized he had stepped in something big and smelly. He had assumed since Scarecrow was in with the King boy that the family knew what Mrs. King did for a living. Now he realized that they only knew Scarecrow as a family friend. 'Oh Shit!' he thought, as he pondered the best way to escape what was sure to be a frightening conversation.
"Thanks for the breakfast, Mrs. West, but I haven't washed up yet. I'll just head to the bathroom and clean up." With that he beat a hasty retreat to the nearest bathroom not caring if anyone had heard a word he said. He just knew he wanted to be out of the line of fire of Mrs. West's tongue.
Lee quickly came out of his shock, not caring where Murphy was. Other than making a note to give him some nasty assignment soon for landing him in this predicament. He placed his shoes on the couch and stuffed his gun underneath.
"Here, Dotty, let me take that." Lee gently took the plate from her hands and helped her to sit down. He quickly grabbed 2 cups of coffee for them as he could see the focus coming back into her eyes. He knew as soon as she regained her equilibrium he was going to get it with both barrels.
Dotty watched Lee grab the coffee off the counter with a wary look on his face. He looked like Jamie had last week when she found out he had used her good pantyhose as a strainer for his latest science project. The thoughts in her brain scrambled around as she tried to make sense of them.
'That man knows my little girl, he works with her in the their office and he called Lee, Scarecrow, but that sounds like something you would call a secret agent or a spy...' she switched to speaking without even losing her train of thought "...but if Lee is a spy that means my baby is a spy, and that man called my Amanda an agent."
Dotty's eyes narrowed as she finally focused her attention on the man now sitting next to her with his hands wrapped firmly around the cup of coffee as if hanging on for dear life. "Lee Stetson," she demanded in a very firm, very controlled voice. "You will tell me and tell me right now exactly what is going on with my baby and why these federal agents who are guarding us seem to think that she is one of them and why that man just called you a scarecrow."
Lee had held an irrational hope for about five seconds that Dotty was just worried about Amanda and hadn't heard all of what Murphy had said. But he knew he was not that lucky. He let go of his death grip on the coffee in front of him and reached for Dotty’s hands.
"Dotty," he began, "Dotty I know this is hard for you to understand, but you must remember that this is something that we couldn't tell you." He could see the bristling in her eyes at that and quickly continued, hoping to keep her sharp tongue at bay.
"Yes, Dotty, Amanda and I are federal agents. I'm not her boss; I'm her partner. Senior partner. I've been doing this for more years than she has. She wanted to tell you but couldn't. Not with national security at stake."
"Do you mean to tell me..." Dotty started off slowly, "...that my baby girl has been running around D.C., armed with a gun and shooting at bad guys for 'YEARS' and no one bothered to tell me? Was I considered such a security risk that she couldn't even let her own mother know that she had such a dangerous job?!" Dotty's voice had been getting stronger with each word and she was just hitting her stride. "She could have been killed! How could she do such a thing? What about her boys?! Did she not think they could be in danger?!"
A thought struck her then with such strength and horror that she let out a gasp. "OH MY GOSH! She was working when she got shot in California, wasn't she?! My baby got shot by a bad guy and no one told me! Lee Stets-"
Lee knew if he didn't stop her she would soon be shouting. "Dotty!" he said firmly and quietly, gripping her hands tighter hoping she would calm down. "Dotty," he said again softly, "It had nothing to do with not trusting you. We use our cover with IFF for the sake of our families. We can't have them gossiping about what we do all over town." He quickly realized his poor choice of words as Dotty’s eyes seemed to narrow and expand to full size at the same time.
"Not that we think you are a gossip! Not at all!" 'Oh God! I'm messing this up so badly.' "It is just safer for our families not to know anything about what we do so they can't accidentally say anything to the wrong person without knowing. If we tell you we are doing a documentary on iguanas and are heading out to get some night shots of their habitat, it is better than saying we are staking out an abandoned warehouse by the docks waiting for arms dealers to show up. Less worry for the families that way."
Lee just knew he was doing this all wrong. Amanda should be here with him; she was so much better at handling Dotty than he was. But if he didn't get this wrapped up, and soon, he would have Phillip to deal with as well because Dotty was getting louder and louder with each word.
"Not to mention Phillip and Jamie aren't old enough to know what we really do for a living. Most of what we do is dull boring paperwork. Yes, there is some danger but we are very good at our jobs. No, California was not work, it really was a 'wrong place at the wrong time' kind of thing." He could see she was slightly calmer but also that she was gearing up with another line of questioning.
"Dotty. As much as I would love to explain more and you need to know more. I just can't tell you right now." The anger was rising again in Dotty's eyes at that last statement. "It isn't that I don't want to, but Amanda would want to be here for this conversation and even with telling you everything I really don't think she wants Phillip to find out this way and if we keep talking he will know everything!"
He dropped his voice to a whisper for that last bit and hoped Dotty would understand. He took one of his hands away from where Dotty had been clutching them and swallowed his now lukewarm coffee in almost one gulp.
Dotty finally released his other hand and nodded slowly. "I... I... Lee Stetson I don't know what I'm going to do to you but I think I understand a little."
Lee smiled gratefully at that, but it was too soon.
"I'll stop talking about this... for now. But you mark my words, young man. I expect you to find my daughter and my grandson today. I will even try to hold my tongue until Sunday night. No promises mind. I don't want to upset Phillip either."
Lee swallowed hard at the thought of that conversation but took the out while he could. He stood and pulled Dotty up with him into a comforting hug. "I promise I will find them today, Dotty, and they will be fine."
Just then the sounds of Phillip getting up in his room could be heard. Not wanting to be around when he came out in case Dotty couldn't keep her tongue still, he moved the two of them towards the hotel door. "I'll call you with an update as soon as I can, or Mr. Melrose will. But for now I have to go find your daughter." He grabbed his shoes, keeping his gun out of sight for now. He'd rather put them on in the hallway away from Dotty anyhow.
"Mr. Melrose!" Dotty exclaimed.
"Sunday night, Dotty, you promised," Lee admonished. He gave her one more quick hug and a kiss on her forehead as he slipped out the door, hoping that by the time he reached the office Dotty would have calmed down and Billy might have something for him.
Dotty stared at the door where Lee had just left wishing there was time now for her to find out the answers to the questions still forming in her mind. But she knew he was right and now was not the time or the place for them. 'Lee Stetson you are going to wish you hadn't given me this chance to think,' she promised as she turned back to the kitchenette to fix her grandson his breakfast and reheat hers and Agent Murphy's.
The day was not starting well for Billy Melrose, not that the day before had really ended either. He still had no new information for Scarecrow and he knew that would not go over well. The forensics crew he had sent to Amanda's hadn't found anything new, and the canvass of the neighborhood and people at her son's baseball game hadn't turned up anything either.
The only clue that might pan out into something still wasn't workable. One of the traffic cameras had caught an image of a van with what could be Amanda in the back, but the angle was all wrong. The image was actually caught a block away as the vehicle was stopped at another set of lights. The van had tinted side windows so when it turned the corner, they couldn't look in that way. But from a distance they could get a partial view in the front window. It also made the plates harder to read from that distance. He had a team working on cleaning up the image but it had been hours now and they were no closer now than they were then.
With a sigh he reached for the phone to call Lee and let him know that where they stood, now they had no choice but to follow the instructions of the kidnappers. They would have to lay down extra security and hope they could catch them in a mistake so they could get his agent and her son back.
Before he could start to dial, Lee walked in.
"Scarecrow, I'm sorry but there is nothing new to report." He said quickly before Lee could lay in to him about their progress. "I still have people working on the video from the traffic cameras, but as of five minutes ago, there was nothing to report."
Lee sat down as he listened to Billy update him. He hated feeling helpless and after being blindsided by Dotty this morning he really didn't think he could handle this continued lack of good news.
"Damn it, Billy! There has to be something somewhere that we missed. Maybe if I-"
"Now you hold it right there, Scarecrow." Billy interrupted. "Everything that can be done is being done. I even have feelers out on the street with some of your Barnstormers and I have everyone checking their own sources as well. There is just nothing to do right now but plan and wait. If we find out nothing more we will just have to continue this evening as before. We'll send you over to the White House to cover the event for the documentary with a few dozen extra security agents from here and the Secret Service in the background in case you need them. I'll have Fielding get pictures of you and Amanda to them so they know who to look for and he'll make sure you have a folder of all their faces so you know who to look out for if you need them."
He looked down at the papers on his desk with the memo Agent Johnson had sent over earlier with the details of the President’s extra security arrangements. "Johnson has the White House and the winners buttoned up even tighter than before. The President will now be at a separate table and make his announcement of the winners from a separate dais to avoid even being in arms reach of anyone but his security staff. The winners have had their security presence doubled and almost all of their one-on-one interviews cancelled except for the ones who have had a level 2 security screening. There is just nothing more to be done until we have more information."
Lee knew in his head that all could be done was being done, but every fibre of his being screamed to be out there literally breaking down doors to find his wife and son. But he knew if he tried Billy would lock him down in a holding cell until this was over. Sighing, he leaned back in his seat and rubbed his hand over his face. "All right Billy, I understand but that doesn't mean I have to like it," he griped.
Billy's eyebrows rose as high as they could without separating from his face at Scarecrow's uncharacteristic calmness. He was sure he was going to have to sedate him. He had even discussed that possibility with Dr. McJohn earlier.
Lee noted the relieved look on Billy’s face and frowned. 'He probably had a spot in lockdown ready for me, hoping I would lose my cool so he could lock me up and not have to worry about me barging off on my own,' he thought with a scowl. Hoping to turn the tables and make Billy worry was the only chance he had at wiping the beginnings of a smile of his friend’s face.
"Oh Billy," he started as he remembered how much fun he had had talking with Dotty that morning. "How long has Agent Murphy been around anyhow? I know it has been a few years, but I think he might need a few refresher courses on keeping his lips zipped."
The smile turning to a puzzled frown was a good start but Lee wanted to go in for the kill. "It seems Murphy’s lips were well greased this morning. He let the cat out of the bag and now Amanda's mother knows she is a federal agent. I think once she calms down and finishes her interrogation of Amanda, she is going to want to have a talk with you."
The groan Billy emitted and the look of horror on his face proclaimed his success. If Lee was going to have to have a one-on-one talk with Dotty it was only fair that he made sure his boss and good friend got a turn too. He'd have to make sure he gave Dotty Billy's home number too for good measure.
Before Billy could say a word, Francine came rushing into the office. "Billy!" she exclaimed, waving a handful of papers in the air. "I think we finally have a lead. Oh, Hi Lee," she added as she noticed him sitting there as well.
"The boys in the video room finally got some usable footage out of that mess we got from the camera. It IS Amanda in the back of that van. Ernie confirms it and we got the plates! I'm having them run as we speak." She placed the paperwork on the desk in front of him with a flourish. "Well technically it was that new hire Miss Moxie who got the video cleaned up and so clear. She really is good with a video." She couldn't resist adding that little dig at the men down in the Video Department.
She smiled triumphantly at Billy and Lee. She loved being the one to deliver the good news. But she wasn't expecting the whoop of joy from Scarecrow at those words. Let alone the hug the agent jumped up to give her.
"That's fantastic, Francine!" Lee proclaimed as he tried not to squeeze the life out of her.
"Agreed," Billy stated, a genuine grin appearing on his face for the first time in the last twenty-four hours. "We should have something from those plates in the next half hour."
Lee nodded eagerly and grabbed for the blow ups of the captured video showing Amanda in the back of the van, her head bent as if talking to someone out of sight behind the passenger seat. 'I'll find you!' he swore this promise anew with his heart. 'I'll find you and our son too.'
Pierre had just finished his fancy breakfast in his room when François knocked on his door. "Everything is all set Mr. Gatineau. We even double checked the camera equipment in case they want to check it out when we do our final set up this afternoon."
Pierre nodded in satisfaction. Everything was on track now. All he had to do was make sure his guests were comfortable. Not that they would be for long. He just needed a picture of them to convince Mr. Stetson that they were fine. Once they had Dr. Stafford in hand he would call and let Martin know he could dispose of them. On second thought, he would take Martin with them and leave Giselle behind to watch them. Martin had looked a bit too excited when he had told him that he was going to give the captives to him and Giselle to dispose of when they were finished.
"Tell Martin to be ready to leave for the White House at 3:30 this afternoon. We have to be set up and in place by five and with all the security checks we had to go through yesterday I want to be sure we have everything ready for the main event. Giselle will be staying here to keep an eye on our guests." He dismissed François with a wave of his hand and went to his luggage to get out the Polaroid camera he had picked up last night.
'Time to get a shot of our guests,' he thought to himself with a smirk as he loaded the film and went to check on his guests.
Amanda really had tried her best to sleep. And she had gotten a few hours sleep, but as soon as the sun started to rise her mind had started planning and thinking. Easing quietly out of Jamie's grip, he had snuggled close and had hugged her through the night. Not something he liked to do much of anymore, he was changing into a teenager after all. She had picked up their discarded ropes from the night before and arranged them into knotted loops that would be much easier to get in and out of. The men hadn't bothered them during the night, but they might be in to check on them soon and she didn't want them to know that they were able to get out of them.
"Jamie," she whispered quietly, trying to wake her sleeping son. "Jamie, I need you to wake up now, Sweetheart." She stroked the hair out of his face from where it had fallen during the night. He looked so peaceful and it broke her heart that he was caught up in this mess, but the agent in her knew it had to be done.
"Mom?" Jamie questioned as he sat up and stretched. "What's going on?" he whispered back. Nervously looking at the door as if expecting the bad guys to burst through at any moment.
"Nothing right now, Sweetheart, but we need to go over a few things before anything happens." She was so proud of how calmly he was handling things. "These are our ropes from where we were tied up last night," she explained as she handed Jamie the ones he had and showed him how to slip in and out of them. "They aren't nearly as tight as they were last night but I need you to keep your hands in them for now ok? We don't want them to know we can get out of them. If they think we can they might move us somewhere else or do something else." She really hoped that they would just leave them tied up in the room and not try to knock them out with a sleeping agent or worse.
Jamie nodded as he grasped what she wasn't saying and put the ropes on easily over his wrists. Amanda had put hers on as well and was straightening the blankets out around them with the ropes on so that it wouldn't look like they had been arranged by someone with two working hands when the door burst open with a clatter.
"Mrs. King, Mr. King." Pierre greeted them like they were treasured friends. "I do so hope you enjoyed your stay last night. I'm afraid you will be enjoying my hospitality for a few hours longer."
He grinned as they both pulled back against the wall under the window. He aimed the camera and quickly snapped several pictures of the disheveled pair. He gestured to François who was standing just outside the door and had him bring in the tray. "I'm afraid I only got enough breakfast for myself. But if you like you can have what is left."
François was taking the food bits and piling them on one of the undisturbed mattresses. An apple and two bananas with three pieces of cold buttered toast now teetered on the corner. He then stood and pulled Jamie up by his arm. He shoved him against the wall and held him there with one arm while the other hand pulled out a rather ugly looking knife.
Amanda gasped and started to rise to her feet, but stilled as François merely sliced through the ropes holding Jamie restrained.
Pierre grinned as the boy quickly crossed the room to sit by his mother. The pair looked sufficiently afraid. "The boy will get the chance to feed his mommy," he sneered. "Now you two behave and you can go home tonight," he lied to them. He waved François out of the room and waved one last time at the pair before locking them in again.
Amanda waited until after she heard the lock click and footsteps walking away from the door before discarding her ropes and grabbing Jamie up in a big hug. "Oh, Sweetheart!" she whispered. "I'm so proud of you." She was too. She knew her son had to be as terrified as she was but he had kept calm and hadn't given them any reason to be more cruel than they needed to be. That would go a long way to letting them think they weren't a threat.
"Why are you proud, Mom? I didn't do anything." Jamie had actually been feeling pretty low. He had been thinking that he should have been able to do something. He felt it was his duty as the only 'man' present to do something, anything, to help them but he just hadn't seen anything he could do. The man had grabbed him and cut his bonds too quickly for him to even start to think of something.
"Jamie," she admonished. She could tell where his thoughts were heading just by the look in his eyes. "Of course we should be trying to escape." Jamie’s head shot up in surprise, as he didn't think his Mom could tell what he was thinking. "But right now there are four of them and two of us. The odds of us getting past them without getting hurt would be very slim. Besides, they are armed and we aren't."
She gestured around the empty room emphasizing the barrenness of their surroundings. "I don't think we can get the drop on them with an apple or a mattress." She smiled as she said it, hoping to lift his spirits. "Besides, Lee will be here soon."
Jamie just shook his head. How could his Mom really think Lee would be able to find them? He had been sure that they would be rescued before morning but now with the sun rising in the sky he wasn't so sure.
Amanda gently gripped Jamie's chin and turned him to look her directly in her eyes. "Lee will be here," she repeated firmly, leaving no room for doubt that she believed it. "But we won't be much help if we don't keep our strength up." She reached over and claimed a banana from the small pile.
"This is my breakfast," she indicated, waving it in the air. "That is yours," she said pointing at the remaining food bits. "I don't want to see you leave one crumb unfinished young man. It is our duty to escape, but we have a better chance of doing that with a full belly."
With that she opened her banana and started to eat it slowly like it was the best food she had ever eaten.
Jamie watched her in shock for a few moments and then slowly reached out for the toast. He had never seen his mother act like this before and it was making him feel better. 'If Mom isn't worried, I guess I shouldn't worry either,' he thought as he began to munch on the cold toast.
It was 9:30am and Billy, Lee and Francine were in the Conference Room going over the pictures of the agents that were going to be in place at the White House that night with Fielding and Agent Johnson. They had maps of the White House floor plan stretched out across the table with placeholders holding up the photos of each agent and the places they were going to be stationed at when a breathless Beaman burst in through the door.
"We got them!" He yelled as he handed the paperwork to Billy.
Lee snatched the papers away before Billy could close his fist around them.
"The car is a rental rented by a French-Canadian corporation. We traced the credit card back to the business account of one Pierre Gatineau." Beaman explained as he took sips of water he had poured from a pitcher on the table by the wall. "Research had little on him but I gave a quick call to CSIS, the Canadian intelligence agency," he explained. "Seems he has a very strong desire to make the Province of Quebec a country. They have had their eyes on him for a while."
Beaman shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot as he spoke. The intensity of the looks the agents were giving him was making him uncomfortable. "They have been trying to get something on him for the past few years. In the last six months they have heard that he is planning something big, some sort of attack on their Parliament and then just last night they found the body of a small time arms dealer chopped to bits on one of the remote properties this guy’s family owns."
At the mention of an arms dealer everyone seemed to grow more tense. "They got his partner who spilled his guts. Seems they had a contract for some big shot to get nuclear material for a bomb, but they couldn't deliver so they used some substandard stuff instead, planning to be out of the country by the time they figured it out. Guess they were wrong."
"Nuclear material?!" Agent Johnson exclaimed. "How the hell does that work? How do they expect to get nuclear material by kidnapping a federal agent?" He looked around at the similarly confused looks the other agents in the room shared. "Does he think he can get some from the President somehow?"
No one spoke for a moment trying to work out what angle these guys were trying to come from. Lee dropped the papers he had been holding and quickly turned to get one of the folders on the table behind him that had the bios of the winners in it.
"I think I have an idea of what they are up to, Billy!" he spoke excitedly as he started tossing pages out of the folder. Finding the one he was looking for he pulled Dr. Stafford’s sheet out and held it up. "Dr. Brian Stafford - nuclear physicist. Says here he is getting the award for 'determining a clean way of reusing expended nuclear materials to create clean energy'."
He let the paper fall onto the table where Billy grabbed it before Francine could and paced around the room still talking. "Maybe since he got a bill of goods when he bought those materials from that arms dealer he thought that he could get his hands on Stafford's work and fix it somehow. Maybe he even plans on kidnapping the doctor!"
Agent Johnson relaxed a little. "If that is the case, then at least that means the President is out of harms way. But what does this have to do with you or Mrs. King?"
"That is the easy part to work out." Lee stopped and faced the other agents. "Amanda and I are on the approved list to interview the recipients after they have collected their plaques. Only a handful of reporters are being allowed into the room and it is the only time over the course of the ceremonies where people who aren't on the security staff are going to have access!"
He slammed his fist onto the table, making some of the placeholders jump. "Billy this means he doesn't know Amanda's an agent! He must think she is what her cover says she is."
Billy nodded his agreement. "I agree Scarecrow. It makes more sense than if he had worked out she was a federal agent with access." He turned to Beaman. "Get everyone out there looking for the current whereabouts of Pierre Gatineau. And if CSIS has any information on the three that are working for him I want it now!"
Beaman jumped, and headed out the door but was nearly knocked over when one of his students burst into the room. "Mr. Beaman, sir!" the young woman shouted, "I found him! That man we identified earlier. He has the penthouse suite rented at the Plaza Hotel!"
Lee's face turned white at her words. "Do you mean that Pierre Gatineau is at the Plaza Hotel right now?!" he demanded of the young woman.
She nodded and bounced on the spot, "Yes sir! I thought I would check and see if he had anywhere in town to stay since he was from Canada and I-"
Lee cut her off as he gripped the back of the chair he was standing behind so tightly he thought he would snap the seat back. "Billy! That is where Mrs. West and Phillip are!" The thought that all of his family was in reach of this lunatic Canadian was unbearable.
He needn't have said anything though. As soon as the woman had blurted out the man's location, Billy had picked up the phone and was ordering extra security for the room they had there. Francine had even grabbed and extension and was putting a strike team on alert and ordered a surveillance team to the nearby office buildings to see if they could get a view inside the penthouse.
Billy hung up and observed the grip Lee had on the chair. "Francine, I want you to get over to the Plaza and coordinate the surveillance teams. Beaman, get back to research and take this young lady with you and find out everything there is to know about Pierre Gatineau and his known associates."
Agent Johnson interjected. "I'm going to head back to my office and see if we have anything on this Gatineau character." He gathered his papers as he spoke.
Billy just waved him off. "Fine. Fine. Fielding go with him. I want you to personally hand out copies of this picture of Gatineau to every agent on site and when we get pictures of his associates make sure they get those as well."
"Billy-" Lee started to say, but got cut off. "Lee, you are with me. I want to go over the layout of the hotel with you before we join Francine on site. You have your orders people!" Billy barked as he headed out of the door.
Lee pushed his way out of the room, nearly knocking Beaman over in his haste. He caught up with Billy in his office just as he got off the phone from ordering up a copy of the blueprints. "You are not leaving me out of this, Billy!" he growled out. "If Amanda and Jamie are there I want to be the one to get them!" He had no plans to stay on the sidelines on this one.
Billy sat down and eyed the agent in front of him carefully. He knew Lee had been changing over the last few years, for the better. But the man in front of him still managed to surprise him. He expected Lee to run straight to the hotel and start kicking in doors until he found them but yet he was still here. Obviously still upset, but in control. 'Amanda you have done good' he thought with pride at the agent in front of him.
"I agree, Lee. Amanda would be able to work with anyone we sent in but Jamie King will most likely feel more comfortable if he sees a friendly face coming in to get him." Billy smiled at Lee's surprise at his agreement. "But we need to time this just right. If we can't get them out before you are due at the White House you will have to let Francine and I handle it."
"That shouldn't be a problem," Lee admitted with a happy sigh. "The crews have to be in place by five so that gives us over seven hours to get them out. No doubt Gatineau doesn't have the same clearance as I do so he would have to be there at least an hour maybe even two before then. That should give us plenty of time to get Amanda and Jamie out of there before we go pick up Gatineau and his trash."
Billy watched as Lee sank into the seat across from him. "We will get them, Lee. As soon as the plans get here we can go over our plan of attack." He smiled encouragingly at the agent across from him. He had known that Lee and Amanda had a special relationship but to see how much he cared about her sons as well warmed his heart. 'He seems to care about them as much as I care about my girls. Especially if what Walters told me about Lee going in to check on Phillip last night and not coming out again is true.' And he didn't doubt Walters’ word; he was a good agent.
As he observed Lee a thought started to niggle at the back of his brain. He knew the pair was close, that was obvious even to a blind man. But as Lee sat and didn't pace, he was starting to fiddle with his hands. The motions he was making....
"Lee," he smiled at the agent in front of him as the thought took on a form he found incredibly pleasing. "Lee, how long have you and Amanda been married?"
Lee froze as he slowly turned his face up to look Billy in the eye. He had been going over what he could tell Dotty when he called to update her and hadn't been expecting anything like what Billy had just said to him. He opened his mouth to say something and then closed it again a few times before he could bring himself to mutter out "What?"
Billy laughed at his agent sitting in front of him looking like he had got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. 'Actually, I did catch him with his hand in the cookie jar!' he thought smugly. If there had been any doubt that his guess was wrong, Scarecrow had just dispelled it with that wonderfully confused 'what?'
"Lee," he began patiently, "you are sitting here in my office with me to plan a rescue instead of being out there 'busting heads'. You are very calm and working out the details before rushing in. This tells me that this is very important to you. Walters told me in his report this morning that you spent the night in Phillip’s room and you are sitting there fussing with your ring finger like there should be something there. Is that enough?"
Lee tried his best to keep his face clear of expression but as Billy laid out what he had observed he knew the jig was up. "February 13th last year" was all he said.
Billy's eyebrows raised. He hadn't thought it had been that long. "Why all the secrecy, Lee? Did you really think you could keep your marriage a national secret?"
Lee sighed. At least he had been able to put Dotty off for a few days; his boss had the ability to drag him to interrogation if he wanted. "There were several reasons Billy," he explained as he ran his fingers through his hair and tried to think of what Amanda's reaction was going to be when he had to tell her that so many of their secrets were seeing the light of day. "I had only just met the boys officially and didn't think they would be ok with it so soon. And then there are our jobs. Dr. Smyth hates my guts and he would be more than happy to split us up as partners and that is just something we won't stand for. Not to mention every enemy agent out there would love to have leverage over me. And the boys fit that bill."
Billy nodded as Lee listed their excuses for having a secret marriage. "But you know your relationship was fine with me. I've said it several times now. The boys obviously know you now," he was countering every point with a tap of his finger on the desk in front of him. "Enemy agents can be just as good as we are at finding out details like that but you know we take care of our own. At the first sign of trouble we would have you in a safe house and under protection. As for Dr. Smyth," he paused here and gave Lee a smile that was strong as steel. "You let me take care of Dr. Smyth."
He held up his hand to stave off Lee's worried protests. "I will take care of Dr. Smyth. I have a few contacts and some things I can do to keep you and Amanda partners as long as you like." At that moment an agent knocked on the door with an armload of rolled up blueprints.
"We will discuss this later, Scarecrow. Right now we have work to do." With that he stood up and went to let the agent in.
Lee held his tongue as his boss let the agent with the blueprints in. "Ok, Billy, but we are not done talking about this." The tone of his voice was tense as he cleared a spot for the papers on Billy’s desk and the two started to formulate a plan.
It was 2:30 in the afternoon and Lee and Billy had met up with Francine in the rooms next to the suite that Amanda's family was in.
"So we have three men and one woman. Pierre Gatineau and his employee, François Beck, seem to be running the show." Francine was explaining to the pair and the tactical team that had assembled. "The other two we believe are Martin and Giselle Lafayette, a mercenary team for hire that usually work in Europe. Pierre and François may be working for a cause but these other two..." she trailed off knowing Lee was not going to like what she had found.
"Giselle and Martin are known to enjoy their work a bit too much. Seems when they have a hit to perform they like to snatch the target and work them over before they actually get down to killing them." She shuddered as she recalled the pictures in the folder on the corner of the table. She handed it to Lee knowing he would just take it from Billy if she passed it to him first.
Lee opened the folder and looked at the handiwork of the pair of mercenaries that now had his wife and son. It took every reserve he had not to get sick. They had obviously tortured these men and the women looked even more worked over. If they hadn't become mercenaries he had no doubt they would still be killing but as serial killers.
"What about any others? Are we sure it is just these four?" Billy asked trying to keep his eyes from straying to the pictures filled with gore Lee was holding beside him.
"Definitely just the four of them. All the staff we interviewed has only seen those four and the security tapes we pulled confirmed it." Francine confirmed with a nod. "We even talked to one of the room service waiters who only saw four people in the room when he delivered the breakfast tray this morning. Now he also mentioned something odd. He delivered Gatineau's breakfast to him in his room but he set up the breakfast for the other three at the table on the lower level. He noted that only two of them came to the table when he was done. One of them stayed in a chair on the other side of the room. When he went to take the man some coffee, the others stopped him and asked him to leave."
Francine picked up the plans for the main level of the penthouse and pointed out the room in question. "I'd say there are good odds that is the room that they are keeping them in."
Billy and Lee looked that the room she was pointing too and agreed with a nod. Lee reached over and pulled the main building schematic and compared it to the one on the table.
"Billy look at this," he pointed to the room’s location. "I don't believe this. If we're right, Amanda and Jamie are two floors above us. Directly over Dotty’s room!"
Billy took the plans from Scarecrow. "I'd say you're right, Lee." He looked at his agent. That crazy idea look was in his eyes. "What are you thinking Scarecrow?" he asked, his tone holding a hint of warning.
"We have to get into the room and get Amanda and Jamie out," he stated that fact like everyone in the room didn't already know that. "Even if we wait until they split, assuming they will be leaving someone behind to guard them, we will still have to get past him or her to get to them."
He watched as the others nodded, not quite getting to the point he hadn't made yet.
"If you look here on the roof access, there is a window cleaning rig on the roof we could use to gain access to the room from the outside. We could get them out before the guard even knows they are gone!" he stated triumphantly.
"But wouldn't they hear the sound of the motor as you lowered it down to the room?" Francine asked.
"Not if I don't use the platform. I can rappel down the side of the building with two extra ropes and harnesses and then continue down to Dotty’s room without anyone being the wiser."
Billy had to get a word in edgewise. "That may be fine for Amanda, we know she passed her course finally at Station One and can handle it, but what about Jamie? You can't be seriously thinking of taking him out the window and down the building." He had really thought that Scarecrow was being more cautious nowadays, but this sounded ridiculous!
Lee just grinned from ear to ear. "Billy," he explained patiently, "I know for a fact that just last fall Jamie, Phillip and the Junior Trailblazers went hiking and climbed and rappelled several cliff faces a lot less stable than the side of that building." Lee let himself think back to that weekend camping trip he had taken with Amanda and the boys. They had just thought the troop was short one chaperone and were really pleased when he agreed to go with them at the 'last minute' so they could complete their badges.
Francine stared at the grin on Scarecrow’s face more convinced than ever that it was Phillip and Jamie with Lee at that game the other day. 'How does he know that about Amanda's boys if he hasn't been hanging out with them!'
Billy stood and faced the assembled agents. "In that case we have a plan." He pointed to two members of the tactical team. "I want you to go and get the equipment we need for three people to rappel down the side of the hotel. I want you to double and triple check that equipment!" The two men quickly left to finish their task.
"Now all we have to do is wait. Any longer past 4:30 and you won't be able to make the White House on time. So you have until then. If they don't make a move then, I'll get Beaman and Fielding to go down the side of the building and get them." At the look on Lee's face he knew he was going to object. "Other than you Lee, those are the only two agents we can get here in time that have scores just below yours."
At Lee's frustrated look he added. "Honestly. They might not seem like it, but from the agents available their scores at Station One for the climbing exercise are fairly high."
He turned to Francine and smiled. "Now all we have to do is decide who is going to distract them from the other side."
Lee caught on to what Billy was suggesting right away. His irritation at being possibly replaced by Beaman and Fielding dissipating at what Billy had in mind.
"What do you mean, Billy?" Francine asked as she looked up at the pair of agents staring at her. From the looks on their faces they already had an idea and she knew she wouldn't like it.
"Well, Francine, if we wait until just after the others leave, if they do leave that is, we can send you in as the hotel maid and make enough of a noisy distraction that they will never even notice Lee going in the window," Billy explained with a smile.
Lee laughed at Francine's wail of complaint and stood up. "With that settled I'm going to go and update Dotty." His use of Mrs. West's first name did not go unnoticed by the pair; Billy, with a smug smile, and Francine, with a smirk. "Well we do need to warn her before I come bursting in the window with Amanda and Jamie don't you think?" ignoring their grins as he made a hasty exit.
Lee entered the room next door quietly, hoping not to disturb the occupants. There were now two agents outside the room and four spread out in the main room. He spied Dotty trying to get more information out of the one by the kitchenette while Phillip and Agent Walters were discussing the finer points of hockey while watching a replay of the game they had seen the other night. He managed to get Dotty's attention and waved her over to her room without Phillip spotting him.
He quickly moved to Dotty’s room and entered, not giving her a chance to speak with him. As he expected, only a few seconds later Dotty burst into the room. In a loud whisper she called out to him. "Lee, what is going on? Those agents out there won't tell me diddly!"
He almost laughed at how she must have been pestering the agents all day, but knew he would pay for it. "That is what I'm here to do, Dotty," he told her in a quiet voice. "I can't tell you much but I have something I need you to do."
He pulled her over to where the window was. He opened it wide and took out the screen, leaning out and looking up towards the roof. 'We can do this easy' he thought before Dotty tugged him back into the room.
"Lee Stetson! You tell me you have something for me to do and then stick your head out the window to admire the view! If you don't tell me something right now I'm going to box your ears, young man!" Dotty stood back a few steps and crossed her arms and tapped her foot. She was using every trick she knew to get Lee to talk.
"Dotty, you don't need to get yourself worked up." Lee tried to calm her fears. "It is a fairly simple thing I need you to do." He took hold of her arm and led her back to the window. "I merely need you to stay in this room and keep this window open, maybe even have a blanket or two ready."
At the questioning look in her eyes and the mouth he could see was ready to yell at him again he quickly continued. "I mean it. It is very important that you do this but I can't tell you why, not yet." He pleaded with her silently to listen to him. "I promise you, I will explain everything later."
"Very well, young man." Dotty was convinced he was giving her busy work to keep her out of the agents’ hair in the other room. "But if I find out that you are just trying to keep me out of the way, I will get you," she promised. She let out a harrumph and sat down on the side of the bed with her eyes on the window.
"I promise you won't be mad at me." Lee promised again. He leaned down and gave her a quick hug. "I swear I will bring Amanda to you soon." He stood back up and made his way to the door.
Before he could open the door to make his getaway he heard her mutter under her breath, "you'd better!"
Twenty minutes later Lee was standing on the roof of the Plaza Hotel with the gear he would need to rappel down to Amanda's room strapped on to the harness over his black jumpsuit. There was a bag slung over his shoulder with what he would need to open the window if it was locked and the extra equipment that Amanda and Jamie would need was hooked to his harness. Now all he could do was wait for Billy to signal him that it was a go.
Francine was currently in the supply closet across the hall from the penthouse suite awaiting her signal from Billy as well. Billy had the fun job of monitoring the security camera feed from the room below.
Lee couldn't stand the waiting. "Billy," he said into the mic in his watch. "Is there any sign of them yet?"
"Scarecrow, it will happen when it happens. Now just be quiet and wait."
In the penthouse suite things were starting to pick up. Pierre had the Polaroids he had taken earlier that day in his breast pocket of his suit ready to show to Mr. Stetson to ensure his cooperation. François had the explosive skin patches ready to go and the detonator was disguised as a calculator in his pocket. To any one who noticed them they would appear to be bandaids. Unless you were wearing one, in which case the weight and the heat emitted by the chemical compounds he had cleverly mixed inside them would be readily apparent.
Martin and Giselle were also going over last minute plans. They had checked their weapons and were now sitting quietly discussing what they would do later on that night with their 'bonuses' now sitting in the next room. If Pierre or François could hear the details of their planning they were very good at not reacting to it.
Pierre was taking the patches from François so he would have them ready to give to Stetson later on. He saw the sick looks on Giselle and Martin's faces and felt the tiniest bit of pity for the pair in the other room.
"François," he said quietly, noting that François had noticed the pair on the couch as well. "After we get Dr. Stafford and kill Mr. Stetson, we will not have any real use for those two over there. I find that working with them is quite distasteful." 'An understatement,' he thought as François tilted his head to show he understood.
"I think it would be better for all concerned if there was a little 'explosion' here after we leave. That would take care of the two in there and Giselle. I'm sure the two of us will have no problem letting Martin take the van back here after we leave the White House. Dr. Stafford, you and I can fit in my car quite comfortably. I'm sure you can arrange for him to have some engine trouble on the way back?"
François felt relieved that they were not going to leave the woman and the boy to their 'tender mercies'. He had heard some of their plans the night before and was going to suggest something similar himself. "I have a few extra explosives in my room. I never leave home without them," he grinned. "I just have to hook them up."
"Then get them ready. We'll 'check' on our guests before we leave. That should be enough time to get them in place. I have to call the hanger and make sure my plane is ready to leave. I want to be back at the warehouse before midnight," he added, referring to the warehouse in downtown Montreal where the bomb they had been working on for Parliament was currently stored.
Ten minutes later, after having made his call, he spotted François coming out of his room. He made his way over to the couch where Martin and Giselle were still giggling and planning. François nodded as he stood back up from supposedly putting his bag of gear down but really from planting an explosive on the underside of the couch.
"I'm going to give a final check on our guests. I want you ready to leave in five." Pierre addressed Martin. "And no playing with our guests until I say so or you won't be getting paid," he reminded Giselle before stepping into the other room to say 'Goodbye' to the pair inside.
Amanda and Jamie had managed to keep their spirits up most of the day. She had encouraged Jamie to nap whenever he could and napped herself when she saw him sleep.
But as the day went on Jamie was getting more and more discouraged. He had hoped to be out of here by now and even his mother looked like she was getting worried. "Are you sure..." he started to ask when the door opened again.
Amanda looked up at the two who had entered the room and felt a chill going down her spine. They were too relaxed and cheerful for two men who had hostages to worry about. 'Which only means they aren't going to worry about us much longer,' she thought in fear. She took a deep calming breath and waited to see what they would do next.
"Mrs. King, Mr. King. As much fun as this has been, I'm afraid I must go out for a while." Pierre smiled at the two huddled in the corner under the window. It didn't look like they had moved at all, all day. He waved his hand at François and watched as he moved toward the mattress he had placed the food on earlier.
"It would be a poor host if I didn't offer you a snack before heading out for the evening," he sneered at them.
But Amanda wasn't paying attention to his words. She kept an eye on the other man as he knelt down and reached in his jacket and pulled out some apples he was now placing on the mattress. She couldn't be sure, but something looked off.
"Are we supposed to thank you for thinking of us?" Amanda asked the man, glaring at him.
Pierre narrowed his eyes at the woman before him, not pleased at all by that comment. "It would only be polite," he stated flatly.
"Then I guess we are just 'rude' guests," Amanda answered flippantly. She was getting tired of waiting and her patience with this man was wearing thin.
"Yes, I guess you are," he replied. François got up to join him and gave a small nod that Amanda noticed.
"We will be back in a few hours." he smiled at the pair, knowing they would be dead within an hour. "Behave until we get back." With that they left the room.
As soon as Amanda heard their footsteps fade away again after locking the door, she took her hands out of the ropes behind her back.
"Stay here, Jamie," said firmly so he would know she meant business.
She carefully made her way to the pile of apples and moved them aside. There was nothing funny about them, and they seemed ok but she still wasn't going to let Jamie have one. She sat back and observed the mattress carefully trying to determine what it was that bothered her about the set up. After a few moments she realized it was the blanket behind the pile of apples.
Carefully she started to pull up on the corner of the blanket. She could see the small device sitting there like it had been waiting for her to find it. She took note of the timer on the front that was slowly counting down from 55. She watched long enough to determine that it was indeed a bomb and that they had less than an hour.
She closed her eyes and took a deep calming breath before sitting down again beside her son and hugging him close.
Jamie could tell that something had upset his mother, but he didn't think he really wanted to know what it was. He thought about asking but decided it was better to just wait. She would tell him what he needed to know without him bugging her.
Amanda felt much more calm now after hugging her son. She pulled away to look down at him. "I don't think we have to worry about those men for a while now," she told him in an overly cheerful voice. "I'm going to go over to the door and see if I can hear what is going on outside the room. I want you to stay here," she admonished as she then stood up and crept over to place her ear on the door.
On the roof Lee was getting ready to call Billy again when his voice erupted in his earpiece. "Lee, Gatineau, Beck and Martin Lafayette have just left the room. I'm sending in Francine. Stand by."
Lee nodded to the air as he gripped the rope tighter and started to descend to just above the penthouse windows.
Francine heard the men leaving the penthouse and wasn't surprised when Billy gave her the go not two minutes later. She quietly dragged her cleaning cart with attached vacuum cleaner into the hall, silently making her way to the service elevators. She called for one and waited until it dinged and the doors opened before making her way noisily down the hall. She stopped outside the penthouse suite and used gave a per-functionary knock on the door and calling out "Maid Service!" before opening the door with her keys.
Giselle heard the knock and was about to tell the maid to go away when Francine entered the room.
"Oh my gosh!" Francine exclaimed loudly, knowing that if Amanda could hear her she would know who had just entered the hotel suite. "I didn't realize you were in here ma'am" she addressed the woman in front of her, doing her best to seem like a ditzy maid.
"That is all right." Giselle replied, hoping she could get rid of this woman as quickly as possible. "We don't need any service today you can just turn right around and come back tomorrow." She moved towards the door to open it again for the maid to speed her way back out again.
Francine saw that she was going to try and get rid of her and glanced around quickly to see what she could do to prolong her stay. There was a potted fern by the front door on a stand that should suit her purpose nicely. "Of course, ma'am. I'm sorry to have disturbed you," she blathered on as she maneuvered the cart in such a way that it knocked the fern over onto the floor, spilling a substantial amount of dirt in the process.
"Oh my gosh!" she exclaimed again even louder. "I can't believe I just did that." She quickly took the vacuum off the back of the cart and plugged it into the wall near the door. "I'll have it cleaned up in no time. Don't you worry," she dithered on some more as she tried to figure out where the on switch was on the vacuum. It wasn't like she did a whole lot of vacuuming. That was why she had that cleaning service come to her place once a week. As soon as she found it she turned it on and looked at the woman again. "I'll even make sure they switch your reservation to 'Clean by Request' only so that no one else will disturb you." She gave a cheerful smile and did her best to spread the dirt as much as possible while she vacuumed it up. 'Hopefully this will give Lee enough time.'
Giselle just gaped at the foolish twit in front of her as she proceeded to make an even bigger mess while cleaning up the dirt. She gave a quick glance at the door in the corner making sure it was still closed and resigned herself to watching the maid. The faster she could get her out of there the better.
Amanda had no sooner put her ear to the door to listen when she heard Francine's 'oh my gosh'. She smiled at the fact that Lee had gotten her to dress and act as a maid again. 'She is going to kill him if he gives her another feather duster,' she thought in amusement.
She turned to tell Jamie to be ready to move when she saw the most wonderful sight in the whole world. There, dangling outside the window was her husband. He was reaching into a pack on his shoulder for something and grinning back at her as well.
She raced over to the window and quickly helped Jamie stand up. "I told you Lee was coming," she whispered triumphantly to him as she turned him to face the window and a waving Lee.
Outside the window, Lee was happier than he could remember being. "Billy, I have them in sight," he barked into the mic. As he was doing that, Amanda quickly opened the window and removed the screen.
"Are you just going to hang around out there all day?" she asked him with a grin.
Jamie just stared amazed at the sight of his mother’s boyfriend hanging outside the window. His jaw dropped a bit when he heard his mother's greeting. 'I can't believe she just said that!'
"I was hoping you would ask me in," Lee responded with a smirk as he climbed in the window and gathered Amanda and Jamie into a quick hug. He pulled back sooner than he wanted to and untangled the ropes and harnesses for Amanda and Jamie. "I want you two to put on these harnesses. We only have a few minutes to get out of here."
Jamie was still surprised at this new side of his mother he was seeing but not so surprised that he didn't realize he had to move fast. "Right!" he said as he started unbuckling the harness and reattaching it to his body.
While he was doing that, Amanda pulled him off to one side. Trying to make it look like she was still untangling hers from Lee's harness. "Lee!" she whispered keeping an eye on Jamie and hoping he couldn't hear her. "Under that blanket on the mattress with the apples is a bomb. I checked it a few minutes ago and there were 55 minutes left on the countdown."
Lee kept his face neutral as he listened to what Amanda was telling him. He gave her a quick nod and looked in her eyes then squeezed his own shut for a moment. He turned to Jamie. "Looks like you are ready to go," he smiled at his stepson and double-checked the harness to be sure it was secure.
He took Jamie by the arm and led him over to the window. "This will be just like last fall except there is a huge surprise waiting for you down below." He leaned with him out the window and pointed down to the window two stories down. "You see that open window down there? I want you to climb out and keep going until you reach there and then climb in."
He didn't give the boy a chance to object or even think about it before he lifted him onto the windowsill and out. "We'll be right behind you."
Jamie looked from Lee to his mother and back again and decided to say the only thing he could. "See you later then," he whispered as he dropped out of sight.
Amanda had her harness on and had the blanket peeled back from the bomb just as soon as Jamie was out of sight. "I don't have anything in here to disarm it, Lee," she whispered her voice showing more of her fear now that her son wasn't in the room anymore. "I really hope you have something good in your pockets."
Lee shook his head as he inspected the device. He didn't have anything capable of disarming a bomb on him. He managed to unscrew the wing nuts holding the outer casing on and removed it. Leaning as close as he dared to the bomb without breathing on it, he inspected every bit he could see.
"It should be ok, Amanda," he whispered in relief as he stood and walked to the window with her. "That bomb isn't designed for explosive capability, just for flammability."
At her confused look he clarified. "It is designed to start a fire; a really hot one. There is a small amount of an explosive chemical in there but even more of an incendiary one. When that bomb goes off there will be a very small bang but everything in this room would burn to a crisp before Fire Rescue could get here."
Amanda paled as she heard Lee explain how that man had planned to kill her and her son in a mini firestorm. She grabbed Lee's hand and hopped up on the windowsill. "Then how about we get out of here before that happens?" She tried to whisper playfully.
"Sounds like a plan, my dear." Lee responded in kind, knowing how upset she must be. "And I wasn't kidding, there really is a big surprise waiting for you downstairs." With that he started down the side of the building, knowing Amanda was right behind him.
He paused as soon as he was below the windowsill and updated Billy. "Billy, Jamie's clear and Amanda and I are on our way down now. Have Fire Rescue standing by, there is an incendiary device in the room designed for flame not bang and I didn't have the stuff to diffuse it with."
Amanda passed him as he was updating Billy and blew him a kiss.
"Roger that, Scarecrow." Billy responded.
"Francine, all clear." Billy spoke into Francine's earpiece. She could barely hear him over the vacuum but was very glad he spoke when he did cause there was not a speck of dirt to be seen and she was going to have to leave now anyhow.
"All clean!" she announced with a grin as she quickly unplugged the vacuum and reattached it to the back of the cart. "So sorry again for disturbing you," she apologized as she shoved the cart the rest of the way out the door and down the hall to the service elevator.
Giselle just stared after the twit of a maid and locked and chained the door after placing a Do Not Disturb sign on the handle.
"Silly English Twit!" she muttered as she went back to the couch and sat down to wait for Martin to call that he was on his way back.
Lee followed Amanda down and climbed in the window. He saw that Jamie was engulfed in his grandmother’s arms and out of his harness already. He quickly helped Amanda out of hers and took his off before leaning out the window and giving a wave to the agent on the roof. The climbing ropes were quickly hauled out of sight as he replaced the screen and closed the window.
"I told you I had something important for you to do, Dotty," he said cheerily as he turned to put his arm around Amanda and walked over to join the hug.
Dotty had been sitting on the side of the bed with her arms crossed since Lee had left. Each passing second making her more angry as she became even more convinced that this was busy work. "It is like watching paint dry!" she complained to the empty room as she stood up to wrap a comforter around herself. There was a bit of a breeze coming in that window and she was starting to feel a chill.
She heard a sound from outside the window. It didn't sound like a pigeon and was coming from up above. She stood and started inching her way towards the door to call for an agent when all of a sudden her grandson was sitting on the windowsill grinning at her.
"Hi Grandma!" he called as he hopped into the room and quickly removed the climbing harness.
Dotty only stared at him for a moment before rushing over and hugging her youngest grandchild to her chest. "OH MY GOSH!" she exclaimed as she started dragging him towards the bed, swinging him away from the window. She just kept repeating that over and over as her hands roamed over his back and arms trying to feel if he was injured.
She had finally calmed down enough to ask him what was going on when she heard Lee behind her. She turned still hugging Jamie and saw her daughter and Lee walking towards her with their arms open for a hug. She had no sooner touched their arms when her door burst open and Phillip was standing there with Mr. Melrose right behind him.
"MOM! JAMIE!" Phillip exclaimed as he rushed over to join in.
Billy just stood there smirking at Lee, as he was now surrounded by his family and holding onto them as much as they were holding onto him.
Lee leaned closer to Amanda and whispered in her ear. "I hate to do this too you but I have to go and get the guys who did this to you. I'll be back soon."
He pulled away and started towards the door.
Amanda opened her mouth to object and tell him he wasn't going anywhere without her when Billy spoke up.
"Mrs. King, Jamie, I'm going to need you to be checked out by our paramedics please and then we will have to get the details of what happened," he announced to the room, covering Lee's escape. Everyone started talking at once, drowning each other out until Francine appeared in the doorway and gave a sharp whistle.
"Thank you, Francine." Billy gave her a nod, "Nice outfit!" He didn't have to see the look on her face to know he would pay for that later. He was saved, at least, from having to deal with the family in front of him by Amanda.
"Mother, boys. Mr. Melrose is right. We need to get checked out and then we need to tell our stories so that they can catch the men that did this."
She held her hand in the air stopping the protests before they could be voiced. "I'm sure you all have a lot of questions, but we need to get this done first. I promise, all your questions will be answered." 'I have a few of my own, Stetson, like what on earth my mother is doing involved in our rescue!'
Turning to Mr. Melrose she herded her troops to the door. "Lead the way, sir!"
Once free of the room Lee Stetson charged into the room next door. He grabbed his suit bag from where it laid on the back of one of the chairs and dashed for the nearest empty bedroom. He hung the bag on the back of the door and started stripping off his clothes before he had even entered the bathroom. By his estimate he had 25 minutes before he had to leave to make the White House on time and he was not planning on being late.
Now that his family was safe he was letting his anger flow unchecked. It was a good thing that the faucets were of industrial design meant for repetitive and frequent use, because he had nothing else to take his anger out on. He turned on the hot water and set the temperature to how he liked it with more force than was needed, but not enough to come close to satisfying the anger he felt.
He left his clothes strewn wherever they landed but placed the earpiece and watch aside neatly on the counter and hopped in the shower. Hoping to quickly wash the sweat and grime off his body, 'those buildings might look nice and clean from the street but boy are they ever filthy,' he mused as he watched the coating of fine dust and dirt drift down his body to flow into the tub drain.
Just the thought of the incendiary device that had been in the same room with his family had him scrubbing his hair faster than necessary. He could feel a hint of panic rising and forced it down, choosing to remain focused on the anger he felt for Gatineau and his cohorts.
He stuck his head under the steady stream from the showerhead and rinsed the last of the soap from his body, not even taking the time to enjoy the relaxing sensation of the water flowing over him. Satisfied he was again clean enough to be presentable he jumped back out of the shower and quickly toweled off.
Stepping out of the bathroom, he dropped the towel onto the floor and made quick work out of putting on the tuxedo he had selected to wear tonight. It was one of the ones the Agency kept on hand for emergencies so while it fit ok, it didn't fit as well as one of the tailored ones he had at home for such events. He hadn't wanted to get one of those as he was hoping to be able to get his hands on the guys responsible for making his life a living hell the last few days and he didn't want to ruin one of his own tuxes with their blood. And he was so hoping he would be able to draw blood.
He could hear Francine talking to Billy in the doorway in the next room as he finished buttoning up his shirt and ran a comb through his hair. He put the ear piece back in and was strapping on the watch as he stepped out into the next room. He was just in time to see the back of Billy's head as Francine closed the door. She hadn't taken a shower, which was just as well. Knowing Francine that would have taken at least an hour, but she had managed to change out of her maid’s outfit and into something more appropriate for a formal affair.
"Lee!" she called as she saw him step out of the room. "Billy is taking Amanda and her family back to the Agency so Dr. McJohn can check them over and get their debriefings out of the way. He said to let you know he has Fire Rescue on standby and will call them in as soon as we get the others in custody."
"I hope we have that long, Francine," Lee muttered checking the clock on the wall. "The timer should have maybe 40 minutes left on it before it goes. I don't care but the hotel might like it if we can stop it before it burns the penthouse to the ground."
He picked his keys up off the table where he had left them earlier in the day and turned on the spot for Francine. "So do I pass inspection?" he asked impatiently. Wanting to get this day done with so he could get back and check on his family.
Francine admired the sight of Lee in a tux, her eyes lingering on places she knew to be a fine sight in or out of clothes. "You look just fine, Lee. No one would ever guess that half an hour ago you were climbing down the side of a building."
"Is everyone in position?" He asked as he handed Francine her purse and headed for the door.
"Agent Johnston just checked in. All the added security we asked for is in position and he even has a member of the Secret Service already dressed in the same outfit as Dr. Stafford. He could pass for him as long as you don't get too close to see the scar on his cheek." Francine informed him as they passed the elevator and opted for the stairs instead. Lee hopped down them two at a time, listening to Francine's footsteps growing fainter as she followed him down at the more sedate pace that her footwear would allow. They couldn't arrive in the same vehicle anyhow, and they couldn't let on that they knew each other.
Lee made it to his car even before the elevator carrying Amanda and the rest of the family had made it down this far. He knew this because the Agency van was still parked nearby. As much as he would like to catch a glimpse of them again before he left he knew that would just fuel Dotty's curiosity and that was not something he wanted to do right now. Hopping in his car he revved the engine before pulling out of the garage and hoping he could get to the White House without getting a speeding ticket.
From his appointed spot in the press section of the State Dining Room, Pierre Gatineau had a wonderful view of the room. Waiters could be seen bustling about, refreshing water glasses, he could see several members of the security staff checking authorizations in the doorway, even the Press Secretary seemed to be having an intense chat with his staff. He would have preferred to be seated and enjoying the show the Americans liked to put on for events such as this, but duty called. He would just have to settle for watching it play out live before him.
François was superb in his role as cameraman. He had been recording since they had arrived. 'At least I'll have a souvenir to watch later,' he thought, sweeping the room again with his eyes. He was glad Martin had agreed to stay in the van to be ready to whisk them away immediately after they emerged with Dr. Stafford and Stetson. His own car was parked several blocks over, and they could switch there leaving Stetson in the van with Martin. Martin would think that he and Giselle would have him to play with as well, and Stetson would believe he was on his way to fetch his assistant and her son.
They had been in position for barely 20 minutes when he finally saw Mr. Stetson show his credentials to the security man at the door. He acted nonchalant as he watched the director nervously scan the room, waiting for his contact to approach him. He almost felt sorry for the man, but when it came to the pursuit of greatness there had to be a few sacrifices. 'The Kings and Mr. Stetson will never know how much they have helped the cause.'
Lee scanned the crowd hoping he looked sufficiently nervous to Gatineau and his cronies. The agent at the door had gone over his credentials with a sufficient thoroughness for the passing eye. He had given the signal though; they were here.
Under the guise of looking for someone who would be approaching him he mentally checked the locations of the agents and Secret Service littered throughout the crowd. The intel he had gone over earlier with Billy was spot on. Everyone was in place, not that he really doubted it, but it never hurt to be prepared.
He made his way to the IFF crew noting with relief that the students had been replaced with agents who looked young enough to be students. He knew for a fact that Evans over there was at least thirty and way past student age. Sometimes it paid to have a baby face.
Leatherneck greeted him as he approached. "Sir, the film is all set up and I thought we could add this angle..." he switched to a whisper as Lee got close enough to be the only one able to hear him. "They set up 20 minutes ago and have been staying fairly close together and not mingling with any of the other crews. No sign of them signaling anyone or keeping an eye out on any of the other guests, so it is doubtful that anyone else is working with them. Francine will be taking over as replacement camerawoman for CNN when she gets here and I have a few micro cameras set up with some choice angles for optimal sound and picture. If they whisper, we'll catch it." He was gesturing around the room pointing out locations knowing that it would just seem like last minute details. The other crews in the room were doing likewise.
Lee nodded impatiently as he listened to Leatherneck and stared at the mini monitor ostensibly set up for the crew to check on the film for the documentary, but was in reality focused on Gatineau and crewmate. If he could kill with a look the man would have dropped dead as soon as his eyes set on the screen. With less than half an hour before the timer on the incendiary device that had been left in the room with Amanda and Jamie ran out, he really hoped they made their move soon. If they didn't, they would have no conclusive proof of what they had planned to do. They would still be able to get them for the kidnapping of a federal agent but that would take longer to prosecute and be harder to do and keep Amanda's identity hidden from the general public. Not the route they would prefer to take.
"Francine said the Fire Rescue crews were in position ready to go in," Lee whispered back while gesturing himself, sometimes pointing at the page Leatherneck had handed him and at other times at the room around them. "But I think that you should get Billy to start the evacuation of the other floors now. The quick look I got at the device looked incendiary rather than explosive, but that doesn't mean there aren't others that are."
Leatherneck nodded in agreement, "I mentioned that to Billy a few minutes ago. He finally managed to get away from Mrs. West to check in on things here." He hadn't met Mrs. West but he had heard the stories. It made him glad his expertise was in gadgets and not dealing with the public.
Lee managed to cover his flinch with a cough at the thought of what torture Dotty was subjecting Billy to. He would have said more but he noticed that Gatineau was slowly moving around to his position, stopping to talk to the other crews along the way. He could make out a few words as he talked to the crew beside theirs. He was introducing himself and handing out business cards for the documentary company he supposedly worked for.
Leatherneck nudged his ankle with his foot as he moved past him towards the other agents in their 'crew'. He glanced up quickly and noted that Francine had slipped into position behind the camera with CNN and had focused her camera on his location. Looking back down at the page he did his best to appear engrossed in what he was reading as he watched Gatineau move toward him.
Pierre noted that Stetson had joined his crew and kept looking around nervously, waiting for him to contact him. 'Not that he knows it is me he is waiting for,' he thought smugly. He met François' eyes and nodded to let him know things were about to happen.
Slowly he started his trek to Stetson's side, stopping to chat with the other film crews about documentaries, the weather and how good the food smelled in the aromas coming from the kitchen.
Gatineau shook the hand of the latest chump he had been speaking to about he documentary company he was 'working' for and was proud he had been able to converse with all these silly English people without letting the disgust he felt for them show on his face or wiping his hands on his pant leg afterwards. He refreshed the smile on his face as he finally stepped towards his target, hand extended.
"Hello there," he gushed in a voice loud enough for the others to hear. "My name is Pierre Gatineau and I work for..." once he had gripped Stetson’s hand and pulled him close enough, he dropped his voice to a snarled whisper "...myself." He loved the look in Stetson's eyes as he realized that here was the man who was his contact. "I believe you got my note?"
Lee forced his eyes wide and gripped onto the hand in his a little tighter. Giving his best impression of a scared, nervous man. "You... You... You're the guy who left that?" the stammer in his voice adding just the right note of fear. "Wh...where are they? What do you want?"
Pierre smiled at the good-looking man before him enjoying holding onto his quaking hand. "They are enjoying my hospitality, for now," the dark look he added for the last bit making the man's face before him pale even more. "That can be changed. All I need you to do is a little favor for me."
He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out the business card he had been sharing with the others as well as a small envelope containing the explosive patches, some Polaroid pictures and a note. "When you meet with the winners after they receive their awards, I want you to place one of the 'bandages' inside the envelope onto the back of Dr. Stafford's hand and give him the note in here." Pierre tapped the envelope with his index finger, holding it out to Stetson. "You can put both patches on him if you wish, as long as you have them on his bare skin. Then when you are finished filming your little 'interview', you will excuse yourself and join me outside. We will then escort you and Dr. Stafford to your assistant and her son."
Lee was having a hard time keeping his temper. The smug look on Gatineau's face as he told him what to do only made him want to pound it hard with his fist. "What makes you think Dr. Stafford will go with us?" he made himself ask, adding even more of a quake to his voice.
"Don't you worry about that," Pierre informed the scared man, "Dr. Stafford will follow the instructions on his note if he wishes to see tomorrow. And if that doesn't seem like enough incentive, feel free to share your pictures with him."
Lee didn't have to fake the confused look on his face as Pierre laughed and moved on to the next crew, keeping up his appearance as just a friendly documentary producer making the rounds with his fellow professionals. Lee started to move closer to Leatherneck to go over whatever was in the envelope together but noticed the signal he was giving him to wait.
Opening the envelope, Lee was careful to use only the tips of his fingers so he would avoid disturbing any potential fingerprints. He could hear Gatineau chatting up the crew on the other side of them and kept his mask in place as he quickly skimmed the note for Dr. Stafford. It said the basic, 'do what we tell you' nonsense with the added twist of threatening to blow off his hands if he didn't. "Shit!" Lee cursed under his breath as he realized those 'bandages' must have some type of explosive in them. The Secret Service was going to love that. And then he saw them.
His hands were shaking for real now, but not with fear, with anger. The pictures in the envelope were of Amanda and Jamie. The two were huddled under the window in the room where he had found them and the looks of surprise and fear on their faces twisted his insides. Lee forced himself to take several deep breaths to help him refocus on what needed to be done.
Leatherneck saw the expression on Scarecrow's face and moved over to his side with a piece of camera equipment to 'show' him some detail. Keeping to his cover as the other agents in the room moved into position. While Lee had had his little chat with Gatineau, he had been coordinating their takedown. Peering over Lee's shoulder at the pictures in the envelope he too had a hard time keeping his anger in check. The look on Mrs. King’s face was bad enough, but the boy looked so small and frightened. He was awfully glad that they were currently back safe and sound at the Agency, because he was positive Scarecrow would tear the men to pieces to find them, and he would be quite willing to help him with that.
He looked up and saw that everything was in place. "Scarecrow," he whispered. He knew Lee would like to see what was about to happen.
Beaman made his way across the room in the snug fitting waiters uniform carrying a tray with a nice hot pot of coffee. He didn't go out in the field much, preferring the comfort of his classroom to the messiness of real life, but even he had felt compelled to volunteer to help Mrs. King. She may annoy him with her constant rambling and annoying habit of saying something odd that made complete sense, but she was also the kindest person he knew. Her advice about how he might actually catch Francine's eye was even something he was considering.
As he rounded the table where Alica Publicover sat, he purposely twisted so that the coffee pot was facing the direction François Beck was in. Alica had done such a good job earlier with finding out their current location at the Plaza and the background bios that he had included her in the operation as a reward. He expected the chair to hit him in the side so when Alica stood up with her purse, telling her fellow freshmen agents at the table that she had to 'powder her nose' he was already in the perfect position to let the coffee spill all over François and his camera.
At that precise moment on the other side of the room, Gatineau was chatting up another 'director'/'producer'/'whatever' in his attempts to look like just a part of the background. The agent he was really talking to took his cue from Beaman's student and grabbed the man by the shoulders and quickly shoved him through the door the Secret Service agent standing behind them had opened. It happened so quickly that no one in the area even blinked, having noticed nothing out of the ordinary over the curses of the cameraman currently sporting a fresh coating of hot coffee.
"I'm so sorry, sir!" Beaman was apologizing while looking like he was doing his best to wipe coffee off the man with the towel he had had draped over his arm. All the while lightly patting him down to feel for obvious weapons. "I can't apologize enough, sir."
Miss Publicover was doing her part as well. "Oh my, I'm so terribly sorry!" she was saying to Beaman and the cameraman. "I can't believe I did that!" she cried even louder, holding her purse to her face and acting distraught. Three other 'waiters' rushed over to help clean up the mess; one of them sticking a gun into François' back before he could react. Another gripped his shoulder and smiled. "If you would come this way, sir, we can help you get cleaned up," the third announced loudly, the smile on his face not quite reaching his eyes as he dared the man to try something.
François cursed to himself as he realized he had been made. He looked up to where Pierre had been just a few moments ago and realized he was now alone in the room. He nodded at the men who now surrounded him and allowed him self to be escorted to the kitchen where the camera he was holding was ripped from him and his hands handcuffed behind his back.
Agent Johnson re-holstered his weapon as his men dragged the man from the kitchen to the car waiting outside to escort Beck to his holding cell. Beck had been the one they were worried about apprehending. His position in the middle of a room crowded with dignitaries and officials made it crucial that he be taken quickly and with little fuss so as not to alarm anyone.
Johnson then made his way to the room where Gatineau had been taken.
Lee watched as the people from the Agency worked seamlessly with the agents from the Secret Service to remove Gatineau and Beck from the room. As soon as they were out of sight he put the envelope gingerly into Leatherneck's hands. "He claimed the bandages inside contain an explosive," he hurriedly explained, wanting to get out of there quickly. "Take care of them."
Leatherneck nodded and placed the envelope carefully inside one of the specially designed camera boxes they had with them. It was capable of containing small explosions; one of his own specially designed bomb disposal units, and instructed the 'crew' to continue filming as he carried it out to his car in the waiting parking lot.
Lee had only waited long enough to be sure Leatherneck had a good grip on the envelope before dashing through the same door Gatineau had been pushed through. He noted with satisfaction that the Frenchmen had already been handcuffed and was looking extremely pissed off.
Before he could complete his step forward and deliver what had promised to be a long over due beating to the man, Agent Johnson entered the room with a half dozen more men. "Scarecrow!" he called out, intent on stopping the man before he beat the prisoner to a pulp in front of witnesses. "There is still one more out in the parking lot."
Lee glared at the man in custody and turned mid-step to follow Johnson and the other Secret Service agents headed toward the parking lot. Dismissing the self-important little man from his mind as he focused on bringing the last man responsible for Amanda and Jamie's fear to justice.
Martin was sitting in the van outside, daydreaming about the fun he and Giselle were going to have later on that night and hadn't noticed the team of armed agents as they stepped out of the building. He probably would have been ignorant of them until they stood beside his door with their weapons out if a pair of late arrivals walking in front of his position hadn't gasped at the sight of them approaching his vehicle from the rear.
Moving quickly, Martin slammed his door open into the face of the agent by his door and jumped out. Twisting his body as he leaped down, he brought his right foot up and back to knock the weapon out of the hands of the agent standing beside him. He watched it fly underneath the car beside them and turned to run.
Lee's gun flew underneath the car beside the van and he staggered back a step. Moving forward again he reached for Martin's back and threw him against the side of the van, knocking his forehead into the side with a thud.
Martin rebounded off the van and he whirled around to face the agent and swung at his head with his fist.
Lee ducked the blow and delivered one of his own to Martin's side. Martin reeled under the force of the blow and brought his knee up to catch the agent in the face.
Lee's head snapped back as the knee caught him in the eye, but he just charged the man through the pain, tackling him to the ground and landing on top of him. Pure fury drove him and he began landing blow after blow on the man beneath him. Working his rage and frustrations over the last 24 hours onto the crumpled form.
The other agents in the lot had quickly got the last minute arrivals out of harms way and were making their way to the side of the van as Agent Johnson was pulling himself up off the ground where he had landed when the door had caught him in the head. He spied Lee a short distance away beating the now unconscious suspect to a pulp and waved his men back.
After a few more blows he grabbed Stetson's arm and hollered, "That's enough!" The agent nearly shook off his arm but stopped and stood up when he realized the man beneath him wasn't going to be moving anywhere anytime soon.
As he brushed the dust and dirt off himself, he grinned at the beginnings of a shiner on Johnson's face. "Walked into a door did we?" he quipped.
"Better than a knee to the head," Johnson quipped back at him as he nodded to a similar bruise forming on Stetson's face. The two agents moved away from the scene as Secret Service agents swarmed the man on the ground, cuffing him and securing the vehicle as a crime scene. They observed the car with François leaving for the detention center and could hear the loud cursing of Gatineau as he was shoved inside the backseat of the car waiting to escort him.
They smiled as Gatineau kept up his steady stream of curses as they gave him a friendly wave and proceeded inside heading toward Johnson's office. Once there Lee updated Billy on the situation so they could move on the woman still waiting back at the hotel, guarding hostages that were safely out of her reach. Meanwhile Johnson updated his men on the situation.
Lee hung up the phone after speaking with Billy. The relief that the men who had threatened his family washing over him like the sun's rays on a warm day. Johnson was still updating his team so he took a moment to visit the restroom across the hall to get cleaned up. He examined the spreading bruise on the side of his face, knowing Amanda would give him hell for getting hit, but knew he would enjoy the fussing.
He was drying his hands off and turning towards the door when it opened.
There, before him stood the President of the United States. His personal agents gave a quick sweep of the room before allowing him to enter completely and then they stepped outside to take up positions in front of the door.
Lee did his best to stand up straight and ignore the aches he was feeling from the aftereffects of his fight.
The President smiled as the agent before him attempted to stand at attention even though he must be in pain. That shiner alone looked nasty. "Mr. Stetson," he began as he stretched his hand out to shake the agent’s hand. "I wanted to quickly stop by and give you my personal thanks for the hard work you and your partner have done for your country over the years and extend my personal congratulations."
Lee held back his grimace at the President's tight grip on his hand and nodded gratefully at the President's words. "Thank you, sir. We were just doing our jobs," he acknowledged.
The President smiled again knowing the agent before him hadn't grasped the double meaning of his congratulations. He was the President after all and had access to more intelligence than any other person on the face of the planet. When his staff had selected Scarecrow and his partner as the best agents in any agency under his command an intense background screening had been done to ensure that there were no hidden secrets that could come back and embarrass his administration. The team’s marriage the year before in Marion County had come to light and he had been delighted to hear the news.
"I know you were," he confirmed as he reached inside his tuxedo jacket to pull out an envelope that he handed to the agent. "I just wanted to be the first to offer my official congratulations and ensure you had a copy of this. Dr. Smyth should be receiving his copy soon." The President grinned at the slight look of confusion on the agent’s face as he turned back toward the door to leave. "I hope you and your family enjoy your stay at Camp David next week. I want you to be sure and enjoy your time there and get plenty of rest. I need my best team in perfect shape to be prepared to stop the evil in this world." With that he stepped out of the restroom and let his detail escort him back to the awards ceremony in the other wing.
Lee opened the envelope the President had handed him, wondering what was so important that the President had wanted to deliver it to him personally. He read the paper in his hands and stared at it in shock. Then he had to re-read it a few times before the full import of what was written there sunk in; the grin on his face growing each time. He refolded it and carefully placed it back in the envelope, tucking it safely inside his own jacket before heading back to Johnson's office.
Agent Johnson was seated now, working on his report when Lee entered the room. "That was some good work we did, Stetson." He grinned at the man before him. "We managed to pull that off with no one being the wiser. He noted the look of happiness on his face and wondered what the President has said to him, but figured he would find out eventually. He looked too pleased with himself to have been told any bad news.
"We do seem to work well together," Lee acknowledged. "I'll just check in with my team at the ceremony and then head back to the Agency to fill out my report. Unless you need me to stick around?"
"Nope, everything is good here. I'm sure you are wanting to check on how your partner is doing. It must have been an ordeal for her son as well."
Lee frowned briefly at the mention of what Jamie had been through. He knew he would be keeping a close eye on him for a while, he might even see about getting him in to see Pfaff to make sure he was alright. He would make sure his stepson came through this in one piece. He was not going to let any of that man's evil rub off on his family anymore than it already had. "I'll make sure you get copies of all our reports as soon as they are completed." he told Johnson as he turned to leave. "Though it might take a while for the full report to be compiled." With that he took his leave, the bounce in his step apparent to anyone who cared to notice.
He couldn't wait to get back to the Agency and check on his family.
Billy Melrose sat in his darkened office with the blinds drawn and door closed rubbing his temples. He had just received word on the situation at the Plaza and decided to take a few moments to rest before briefing the rest of the team out in the Bullpen. He also wanted to give the Tylenol he had just taken a chance to work before Mrs. West spotted him and tried to give him a piece of her mind again.
"That woman could make the KGB run in fear," he muttered to his desk as the throbbing in his head started to ease. He had had to go into the debriefing room and rescue the agents trying to get her story. Her rambles had outdone any he had ever heard from Amanda and the agents were losing track of where they were. Finally he had managed to get a coherent statement from her. He did not envy the poor Steno Pool staff that would have to transcribe it into a paper copy. He had left Mrs. West in the debriefing room with a cup of tea and ran into Amanda in the hall.
Amanda was looking better than when he had escorted her family from the hotel. She had cleaned up and changed her clothes after finishing her own debriefing. "Sir, I'm so sorry Mother was being so difficult," she had apologized with a grin. He knew she must have watched some of her mother's debriefing from the next room and had witnessed Billy trying to keep her mother focused on telling her story. "She does tend to ramble on when she is worked up and I've never seen her more so."
Amanda had then taken his arm and escorted him back to his office. "I had a fresh bottle of Tylenol put on your desk earlier. I knew you were going to need it. I'm just going to check on the boys and then I'll join you." He could tell she was desperate to hear more about Lee and what was happening but knew she couldn't let herself until she checked on her children.
"That's fine Amanda, take your time. I'm sure the medicine will need a few minutes to take effect anyhow." He patted the hand she had rested on his arm. "Last I saw, they were both telling their stories with great enthusiasm to Agent Bartowski and Dr. Pfaff. So there should be no need to worry."
He had then watched with amusement as Amanda had hurried back out of the Bullpen to the debriefing rooms muttering under her breath about how Pfaff had better not have given her boys any sweets or she would never get them to sleep tonight.
Billy sighed and reached back to stretch when a smiling Scarecrow knocked on his door and walked into the room. "Lee," he greeted the man settling into the chair across from him. "I hear you and the Secret Service managed to take down Gatineau and his men without disturbing the awards ceremony. Congratulations."
"Everything went great Billy," he said, still smiling. "Though I could have done without this," he gestured to the black eye he was sporting and the bruise on the side of his face. He would have said more but Amanda chose that moment to knock and enter.
He stood up again to greet her with a smile. He noted that she looked much better now than when he had first seen her in that hotel room. The worry that had been on her face had been replaced with the quiet calm he was used to.
Amanda smiled when she saw that her husband was already in Billy's office waiting for her. He didn't look like he had been hurt but when he stood up to face her she saw the black eye and bruise on his face. "Lee!" she gasped as she reached out to run her fingers over the offending colors his flesh had turned. "What happened?"
Lee took hold of her hands as they felt their way across his face. He looked into her eyes and then pulled her to him, placing a gentle kiss on her lips instead of ravishing her like he wanted to. He could feel her embarrassment as he showered her with more affection than he had ever shown before in front of Billy. But then she didn't know that Billy knew.
Stepping back from Lee she just gave her head a little shake and kept hold of his hand as she moved them to the chairs in front of Billy's desk.
Billy grinned with amusement as he watched that little display and was glad they were finally letting their feelings show. "First up, Amanda I want you to know that the men took you and Jamie are in custody. Gatineau and Beck are currently at a secure location awaiting interrogation and Martin Lafayette will be joining them as soon as the doctor's clear him."
Lee jumped in at that before Amanda could speak. "It was just a little scuffle Amanda. I didn't hurt him much," he informed her before she could complain that he shouldn't be beating up suspects.
"He's right, according to the doctors, he has a few bruises and a possible concussion. They just want to keep an eye on him for a little while before the interrogation starts," Billy added.
Amanda looked from Lee to Billy and shook her head. From the look of Lee's face it was a bit more than a 'scuffle' but she was willing to let it slide this time. "What about the woman, sir? And the bomb? Did they manage to get it disarmed in time?" she questioned her boss, worried that if they hadn't gotten to the bomb in time that the whole hotel could have gone up in flames.
Billy's face darkened as he recalled the phone call he had just finished before they joined him. "Actually, no they didn't." He heard Amanda's gasp but continued looking at Lee instead. "We got the hotel evacuated before anything happened and the tactical team was safely across the hall when it went off. But there must have been another device set to go off before the one that was in the room with you. When it went they evacuated as well and let Fire Rescue take over."
He watched as Lee took hold of Amanda's hand to comfort her as he got to the part about Giselle Lafayette. "Ms. Lafayette must have been very close to the device as by the time the Fire Rescue team got inside there was barely anything left that resembled a person. Fortunately it was incendiary and not an explosive as you surmised, Lee. The second one in the room where you were held went off 10 minutes after the first. But with Fire Rescue on the scene and prepared ahead of time with Intel on what they were facing they managed to contain the scene before it had a chance to spread beyond those two rooms. The manager of the hotel has even expressed his thanks at our quick handling of the situation and wasn't too upset over the damage. Seems they had a renovation scheduled for next month for the penthouse anyway and this just moves their plans up a bit."
The three agents were silent for a moment as they contemplated the grisly death of the woman who had been involved in the events of the past week.
Billy finally broke the silence as he pointed at Lee. "You, Scarecrow, have an appointment in the debriefing rooms. It shouldn't take too long. You can both submit your written reports in two weeks when you get back from your vacations." He shifted his view to Amanda and added, "Amanda, you can take your family home. Dr. Pfaff has a list of doctors you can choose from if any of your family still needs someone to talk to later on, if they don't feel comfortable talking to him."
With that he made to stand but was stopped by the hand Scarecrow was holding up and the grin on his face.
"That all sounds good Billy, but there is one more thing I need to brief the two of you on first." Lee announced as he pulled the envelope from his pocket and handed it to Amanda to read first.
The two men watched as Amanda gave her husband a quizzical look before reading the paper inside the envelope. Her eyes widened and her mouth opened as she digested the contents. She wiped the tear that had formed in the corner of her eye as she passed the letter across the desk to Billy and beamed at Lee.
Billy could hardly stand to wait for Amanda to finish reading to get his turn. From the expression on her face it must have been good news. Once she passed it to him and he read it, he could understand why. He was about to offer his congratulations as well when Francine made her way into his office.
"Billy, I just heard about the hotel. I ran into Fielding on my way in and he reeks of smoke." She stopped when she saw the faces of the three in front of her. She just knew something good was happening. "What did I miss?" she queried.
Lee smiled and took the paper from Billy's hands and handed it to her. "I think you will need to read this for yourself Francine to believe it," he told her quietly.
The three agents beamed at Francine and listened as she eagerly read the paper aloud.
"The office of the President of the United States hereby acknowledges the tireless work done on behalf of this country by Agents Lee and Amanda Stetson of the Agency. Their tireless efforts over the past year have kept our borders safe and families even safer by performing their duties as federal agents with excellence.
This office also recognizes that while married partnerships are not the norm for such positions, the partnership of Lee and Amanda Stetson is to remain as it is until dissolved by sole order of the President. No other authority is authorized to interfere with the performance of their duties."
Francine's head swam as she read the official document in her hands. It was worse than she thought. They weren't just having a relationship; they were married! She started to hand the paper back to Lee but then she noticed the personal note at the bottom of the page.
"Congratulations on your nuptials and I wish you many happy years of marital bliss." And it was personally signed the by the President!
Francine slowly sat down in the chair under the window and stared at the paper in her hands. She couldn't believe that they had gone off and gotten married without telling anyone. How could she have missed that little detail? She had noticed how close they were but the thought that they could get married had never even crossed her mind.
Billy and Amanda wisely contained their laughter at Francine's stricken face but Lee was not yet that smart. His booming laugh startled her and she glared at him. Thinking of all the times she had interrupted them over the past few years. Before she could open her mouth to deliver a fabulously witty and cutting remark Billy reminded Lee of his debriefing interview.
"Lee you had better hurry on down and get your debriefing over with and Amanda, may I suggest that you get your mother and your boys home?"
Amanda wisely grabbed hold of her husband’s hand as he was still laughing at Francine's expense and dragged him out of the room. Pausing only to retrieve the letter from Francine's hands and thanking Billy as she left. She felt bad for leaving Billy to face Francine but she knew she wanted to get her family home as soon as possible and that Billy could take whatever Francine decided to dish out.
Once the door had closed behind them she swatted Lee on the shoulder. "She is going to get you, you know." She warned him as his laughter finally faded away.
Lee just took hold of her hand and escorted her down to the holding rooms where their family awaited him and he had to give his statement. "I know but I just couldn't resist. It was worth it though," he smiled as he mentally framed the look on Francine's face to enjoy over and over again. "You get your mother and the boys home and I will do my best to get over there later on tonight. I should warn you though, your mother knows about what we really do for a living."
He felt Amanda come to a sudden stop beside him and stare up at him in shock. "Don't worry," he calmed his wife, pulling her close and giving her a brief hug. "I got her to agree to hold off on all questions until Sunday night. That should give us all a chance to rest and get everything out on the table before we head off to Camp David on Monday."
Amanda smiled at her husband, amazed he had managed to get her mother to agree but also knowing there was no way Dotty could keep quiet that long. "We might have to start that conversation tomorrow, Stetson. Do you really think mother will wait that long for answers?" she shook her head and pushed him toward the room he needed to be in for his debriefing. "Besides I doubt Jamie will wait that long either. He figured some things out as well."
It was Lee's turn to freeze and turn to face his wife but before he could say anything the door opened and the agents inside were ushering him in to do his debriefing. Amanda smiled at having got the last word and opened the door to the room her boys were in. The two of them were finishing up the popsicles they had conned Dr. Pfaff into giving them; the pile of sticks on the table indicating that they had more than one.
Both boys noticed their mother at the same time and jumped up to greet her with a hug as they called out "MOM!"
She wrapped her arms around her boys and listened as they both started explaining what had happened over the last 2 days. Their voices continued getting louder as they tried to be heard over the other. "BOYS!" she finally managed to get out over the din they were creating. "I know you have a lot to tell me and we have a lot to discuss," she looked pointedly at Jamie, "But can we hold all discussions until the morning? I'm pretty tired and I know once we get home and eat and clean up you will be too. Besides it will be much easier to wait until your grandmother and Lee are with us too so that everyone can find out everything at the same time."
Philip and Jamie looked at each other and shrugged. "Sure thing, Mom," Jamie agreed. He couldn't wait to find out more about her job.
"Ok, Mom," Phillip added. "But can we stop and get a pizza instead of cooking something? I think a large pepperoni would be perfect!"
Jamie nodded his agreement with his brother as the trio made their way down the hallway. Stopping outside the debriefing door Dotty was behind. It wasn't hard to tell which room she was in, as they could hear her inside pestering the agent sitting with her about the whereabouts of her family.
Dotty stopped mid-sentence trying to get the young man to tell her where her daughter was when Amanda opened the door. "Oh Amanda!" she cried as she quickly stood up and rushed over to hug her baby girl.
Amanda mouthed an apology to the dazed agent still sitting in the room as she led her mother and boys out of the debriefing area and toward the blind entrance to the Agency. She wasn't sure where her car was, so she stopped by a desk on their way out to order a cab and a pizza they could pick up on the way home. Once her mother had released her from the crushing hug, both her boys had kept their grandmother busy with questions and answers. She had never been more grateful for the energy of her boys as she watched the three of them try to outdo each other for talking.
Finally she managed to get them all in the cab and tiredly sat up front with the driver. Giving him the address she leaned back and closed her eyes. Content to listen to her family in the backseat.
It was 2am before a weary Lee Stetson showed up at Amanda's backdoor. The debriefing had gone quickly enough, but there were a few odds and ends that he had needed to clear up before he could get away. He had almost managed to avoid Francine the rest of the night, but she had caught up with him just as he was leaving and had pressed a package into his hands before vanishing.
He had held it gingerly by the edges as he watched her almost knock over the guards outside the Bullpen in her haste to get away. When he finally did open it he had another surprise waiting for him. Inside was a framed sketch of him and the boys at the game the other night. But this one was from after the game when they had been holding onto each other as they celebrated their team winning. The looks of joy and love on their faces would have been obvious to a blind man.
Lee opened the backdoor with the key Amanda had given him ages ago, and placed the picture quietly on the center island. He crept in slowly, torn between hoping Amanda had stayed up to talk to him and hoping she was sound asleep in bed getting the rest she needed.
'Looks like she tried to do both,' he thought as he spied his wife curled up on the couch wrapped in a throw. He noticed the evidence of how tired everyone must have been as he walked through the kitchen littered with napkins and an empty pizza box before kneeling on the floor in front of his wife.
She had taken a shower and was wearing her nightgown and robe. He could still smell the scent of her soap as she slept peacefully on the couch. He couldn't resist reaching out to tuck an errant hair behind her ear. She stirred under his touch and opened her eyes to spy him there.
"Lee," she breathed as she sat up to hug her husband close. "I was wondering how long it would take you to get here. I didn't think the debriefing would take that long."
"It didn't," he replied from where he had buried his face in the hair around her neck. "Leatherneck got back with the crew from the White House before I left and they wanted to go over some of the details with me." He nudged his wife's legs over on the couch as he got up to sit beside her. Pulling her back to lean against him as they relaxed. "And Francine gave me something for us before she left."
"I tried to save you some pizza but the boys were hungrier than usual and devoured it in no time flat," she murmured, still feeling sleepy.
"That's ok, I grabbed a sandwich earlier and I'm not feeling that hungry right now. I just wanted to see you before I went home," stifling the yawn that threatened to escape.
"You didn't have to but I'm glad you did. I wanted to thank you for that warning about mother. She tried to start a few times tonight but got her to hold off until tomorrow morning after breakfast. And I know Jamie has been talking with Phillip because the two of them kept giving me odd looks all night." Amanda stood and helped her husband off the couch as she walked him to the backdoor. "I have a feeling you had better get home as quick as you can so you can be here by nine. You are going to need all the rest you can get to handle this debriefing, Scarecrow."
Lee swallowed at the thought of not only facing Dotty but the boys as well. "Yeah, I'm gonna need all the help I can get." He leaned over and gave her a last kiss before heading out the door. "Remember to lock up behind me," he admonished as he made his way back to his car to head home for some much-needed sleep.
"When have I ever forgotten to do that, Scarecrow?" Amanda said with a smile to the door she was locking. She just shook her head and decided to leave the cleaning up for the morning. She was going to need her rest too if she wanted to have any hope of keeping up with the boys and mother in the morning.
It was a well-rested and beaming Lee Stetson that stood at the front door of 4247 Maplewood Drive at 8:55am. He half expected Amanda to open the door before the ringing of the bell could fade away.
He was half right. Jamie opened the door eagerly to let him in before the echoes of the bell had died.
"Morning, Lee," he greeted him with a smile. "Whatcha got there?" he asked, nodding at the box Lee carried.
"Just some croissants for your Mom and grandmother and maybe a few doughnuts for some boys I know who never seem to be not hungry." Lee replied, passing Jamie the box as he stepped inside.
"Cool!" Jamie answered as he made off toward the dining room with the doughnuts. "Phillip!" he hollered up the stairs, "Lee brought doughnuts!"
"Awesome!" came the answering reply as Phillip bounded down the stairs. "Morning, Lee!" he called as he kept going past him to fight Jamie for the chocolate ones.
Dotty's head poked out of the kitchen and smiled when she saw who was at the door. "Good morning, Lee. I hope you slept well," she greeted him more calmly than her grandsons had. The rest she had gotten last night had done her a world of good. "Amanda's just finishing up the coffee in the kitchen and then we will all be having a talk in the dining room," she informed him as she made her way inside to referee the doughnut war threatening to break out in there. "Phillip! Jamie! I'm sure Lee brought more than one chocolate doughnut! He knows how much you like them," she scolded as she too disappeared into the dining room.
Lee just shook his head and made his way to the kitchen to greet his wife properly before the interrogation began. He couldn't think of it as a friendly chat or family meeting, he just knew it was going to be much more brutal than that.
Amanda looked up and watched her husband enter as she placed three coffee mugs on the tray beside the glasses of juice that were already there. "Good morning, Sweetheart!" she greeted as she walked around the kitchen island to kiss her husband.
Lee kissed her back, giving her a hug to go along with it. "Jamie met me at the door and already took the doughnuts in. I'm sure he and Phillip have already finished one each by now."
"You didn't have to bring doughnuts, Lee, they did just finish their breakfast." Amanda smiled as she put the cookies she was going to add to the tray back into their container.
"I know," Lee added as he picked up the tray of drinks, "but I figured we might need as many extra points we could before we finish what we have to tell them today."
Amanda nodded and held the door open for her husband as he preceded her into the dining room. As expected, Phillip and Jamie had finished their doughnuts already. Dotty had her croissant neatly on a napkin in front of her as she waited for her coffee.
She let Amanda and Lee have enough time to sit down and distribute the drinks and get their own pastries from the box before she began.
"The boys and I were discussing the best way to go about this," she started off, pausing to be sure she had both of their undivided attention. "And this is what we are going to do. The three of us," she waved her hand to indicate Phillip, Jamie and herself, "promise to remain quiet and not interrupt with any questions until you two," she pointed at Lee and Amanda, "have started at the beginning and explained every detail about what you two really do for a living, when you started doing it and why you both felt you had to keep it a secret from us."
Lee reached for Amanda's hand and held on as they both felt the three sets of eyes awaiting an explanation.
"Well, Dotty," he began, "We won't be able to tell you every detail about what we do because a lot of what we do is classified," he watched the boys’ eyes bug out at that statement.
"Yes, Mother," Amanda continued, "We do work for IFF, but as you all probably guessed last night, it is not just a documentary film company. We work more directly for the government as federal agents." She paused and watched as that information sank in. Not really as much a surprise as it would have been just a week ago.
"You see, fellas," Lee was looking both boys in the eyes now, "About 6 years ago I was on an assignment. I can't tell you what it all entailed, but I ran into some trouble and needed to pass something on to a fellow agent of mine on a train, but couldn't run the risk of someone seeing me do so. At that moment I spotted your mother at the train station dressed in her nightgown and asked her for her help."
"Pleaded for my help was more like it," Amanda interjected with a smile. "I tried to pass the package on like he asked but there was no way to tell which man with the red hat was the right man to give the package to. Lee had no way of knowing that there was a Shriners’ convention on the train." They both smiled at that memory.
"So your mother kept the package. I tried to get it back from her but it turns out, Dotty, that you had already mailed it to Aunt Lillian in Maine."
"But Phillip had opened the package before you mailed it, Mother, and had seen what was on a note inside the music box. I took that information and shared it with Lee but the words made no sense, not even to the people who deal with codes."
"I sent your mother home, not planning on ever seeing her again, but then I ran into some difficulties." Lee kept a straight face as he referred to getting beat up and thrown in a food cellar 'difficulties'. "Your Mom couldn't leave the clue alone and worked out what it meant on her own and came to rescue me."
"I found Lee and helped him with the difficulties he was having," Amanda threw Lee a look at referring to nearly being killed by the KGB 'difficulties'. He took me to meet his boss, Mr. Melrose, and he was so impressed by how I had managed to help Lee, that he offered me a job. Little things at first like typing and doing up expense reports, but then he had me helping Lee out more and more."
"I didn't like it much at first either. My boss was making me work with a Mom who I thought was just lucky. But after a while, I started to realize that it wasn't just that she was lucky, she is also one of the smartest people I have ever met." He smiled as he watched Amanda blush under the praise he had just given her.
"About two years ago I finally became a full agent like Lee." Amanda continued, hoping she wasn't still blushing. "So Lee and I are full partners now at work. While he may be the senior agent because he has been doing this longer, he is not my boss. Mr. Melrose is."
Amanda reached across the table and took hold of her mother's hand. "He really is a very nice man, Mother. You just have only met him when bad things were happening. He couldn't tell you anything different because it was all classified."
"And it still is," Lee added in case that was one of the questions they were storing up to ask. "We can't tell you any more about that now than we did then. What we do is a secret. Your mother was ordered by our boss not to reveal any of what she did when she first started to work part time for us. And you boys were so young we didn't want to scare you. Now that you are older we are trusting you with this secret. No one outside of us can know what we really do for a living. It could be dangerous for all of us."
"Not that our jobs are dangerous all the time," Amanda added hoping to draw attention away from the fact that their jobs were in fact very dangerous. "A lot of what we do involves research and talking to people. Anytime there has been the slightest chance of danger there have been teams protecting all of us."
Lee and Amanda stopped there to eat their snack. The boys and Dotty didn't look as stunned as they could have but they were still silent as they absorbed the information.
Jamie was the first to speak up. "But Mom, if your jobs are so safe, why did those people kidnap us in the first place?"
"That actually had nothing to do with our jobs, Jamie," Lee stated. "The people responsible came after you and your mother thinking that your Mom was my assistant. They wanted to get me to do something for them since as a 'director' I had access to certain people at a 'documentary' we were filming as part of our cover."
"But didn't you say you were filming the Presidential Awards this week?" Dotty asked. "Oh My Gosh! Does that mean someone was after the President?! Were they trying to kill him?! Did you two stop an assassination?!"
"No, Mother!" Amanda did her best to interrupt her mother’s ramble before it could take on a life of its own. "It was nothing like that and we can't tell you the details anyhow. It is still an active case and classified."
"You don't, like, carry a gun do you, Mom?" Phillip asked. Not that he could picture his Mom doing any of this stuff, let alone carrying a gun.
"In fact, I do carry a gun," Amanda replied. "I keep it up in a gun safe under my bed. And that is something we can go over in more detail later. Suffice it to say you boys are not to touch it under any circumstances, do you hear me?" She gave them her 'Mom' glare hoping to help that sink in.
Three shocked faces sat in front of them upon learning that Amanda carried a gun. "I think now would be a good place to stop for a break. Give you guys a chance to absorb some of this information before you come at us with more questions. How does that sound?" Lee was starting to get a headache after all the revealing they had just done and wasn't sure if he could take much more.
Amanda touched his arm and caught his eye. "Before we take that break, there is just one more thing we need to tell you that you will need to think on." She saw the light of understanding in his eyes as he realized they did still have one more, big secret to tell.
Lee gripped onto her hand and held on tight. The revealing of this secret scared him more than the other one. If the boys and Dotty didn't accept him into the family as a full member he didn't know what he would do. He couldn't face losing his other half because the family wasn't happy with the lies they had told.
"Mother, boys, I need to introduce you to someone and I want you to try and not judge us too harshly for what we did. We were only thinking of you and how it could affect you if the wrong people found out. There are some pretty nasty people in the world that would stop at nothing to get what they want and if anyone was in their way they could do almost anything-" Amanda would have kept going but Dotty had had enough.
"Amanda! Please just tell us, It can't be any worse than finding out you are a federal agent." Dotty tried to think of what she could possibly be wanting to tell her that required an introduction. "You don't have another spy out on the door step waiting to meet us do you? We don't need a personal bodyguard now do we?" She was starting to worry now that this next big secret was going to be a bad one.
"No, Dotty, that’s not what we are going to reveal." Lee chuckled at the thought processes of his mother-in-law. "What Amanda is trying to tell you in her own way is that we-"
"We got married, Mother," Amanda jumped in before Lee could finish the sentence. She really wanted to be the one to tell her mother she had gotten married again. Especially since she hadn't had her mother at the wedding.
"I'm sorry, dear, I thought I heard you say you got married?" Dotty was confused. Amanda had been married to Joe but that was over ages ago and she and Lee had been going out for so long now and she was really hoping that those two would get... "Amanda King!" Dotty gasped out. "Are you telling me that you and Lee got married and didn't tell us?!"
Phillip and Jamie had been trying to follow along and they were pretty sure that when their Mom said she had gotten married that she had meant to Lee. But still with all that had been revealed today it could have been Buck she had married. But when they saw the blush creep up their mother’s face they knew they had been right.
"All right, Mom!" both boys shouted.
"When does Lee move in?" Jamie asked.
"Does that mean the 'vette will be here every day?" Phillip asked.
"Will we be getting a bigger house?" Jamie asked before the echo from his first question had faded away.
"Boys!" Dotty shouted as she wanted to have her two cents worth heard as well. "I think I want to hear more about why we didn't know about this new member of the family first."
Three sets of eyes stared at the pair holding hands across the table from them.
"Lee will be moving in only when everyone here is ready for him to move in." Amanda knew she was beyond ready but that didn't mean the boys quite realized that it meant he was going to have a much more active role in parenting. "And yes, that would mean his car would be here too and as to a bigger house, well that is just one of the things we will talk about AFTER we have all had a break. I want everyone," Amanda gave a very pointed look to her mother, "everyone to have at least an hour to think about everything before you tackle us again with questions."
The boys nodded their agreement as they both jumped up and headed up the stairs. The sounds of them discussing what kind of new house they wanted could be heard until they closed their bedroom door. Dotty started to open her mouth to speak but Amanda just held her hand up. "I mean it, Mother. I want everyone to be present when we discuss this further. Lee and I will be taking a little walk so you won't be tempted."
With that Amanda grabbed Lee's hand and dragged him out the backdoor.
Dotty just shook her head as she watched her two 'spies' leave. "I was just going to ask if they wanted chicken or steak for supper tonight. I assume we will be all eating together and I wondered which Lee would prefer," she muttered to the walls as she entered the kitchen to pull the meat out of the freezer to defrost.
Once in the backyard, Lee pulled Amanda out of sight and embraced her as tight as he could decently do outside. Sighing the pair relaxed into each other’s arms as they let the stress of their 'interrogation' drift away. Not that they were stressed over the questions they had been asked as they hadn't really gotten to that part, but more for all that they had revealed. They still weren't sure how their news would be received. It seemed to have gone well but that was why they wanted a break. To make sure that the news had sunk in with everyone.
"That went well, didn't it?" Lee asked from behind Amanda's hair where he had his face buried.
"That remains to be seen," she replied from where her face was buried into his chest. She stepped back and threaded her arm through his and encouraged him to walk with her. "They seemed to be ok with what we told them and I don't think our jobs were that much of a surprise. I'm just worried about how they will take our news," she waved her hand between the two of them as they strolled down the street.
"Yeah," Lee replied, "I'm hoping that news goes over well too. I don't want to lose you."
Amanda stopped and looked at Lee curiously. "What do you mean by that? Why would you lose me?"
"Amanda, I know how important family is to you, if they decide they hate me because we lied to them I don't think I could stand it."
"But how would that mean you would lose me?" Amanda asked again.
Lee tugged her along with him as they continued to stroll around the block. "If they hate me... I couldn't stand in the way..." he trailed off, not being able to bring himself to say that he would stay away.
They walked silently for a moment as Amanda thought about what he was saying. "Lee..." she started off tentatively "Are you saying you would leave if they hated you?" She kept her voice quiet and calm not wanting to startle him.
When Lee stayed quiet as they walked she knew she was right. She spotted a bench up ahead under some trees and steered Lee towards it. When they reached it she sat down and tugged Lee down with her. She watched as he sat down and kept his eyes down, focusing on the dirt instead of on her.
"Lee, you do know that no matter what, you are a part of this family and you are not going anywhere don't you?" She stated quietly. Amanda reached over and touched his cheek encouraging him to look at her. "No matter what they say, you are not going anywhere. If the boys decide they don't want you as a stepdad that is too bad because you are their stepdad, and Mother has been singing your praises since the day she met you. So don't you even think of backing away to 'spare' anyone’s feelings because I won't let you. We all love you and you are here to stay." With that she leaned in and gave him a tender kiss on the cheek and wrapped her arms around him.
Lee sighed and hugged her back. He knew he should listen to her instincts but he couldn't help worrying. Being a parent was not something he felt he was prepared for. He just didn't know what he would do if they were mad at him.
They sat there like that for a while longer but as the time passed they knew it was time to return to finish what they had started. Lee reached for Amanda's hand and the two stood up and headed back to the house.
Dotty was standing at the kitchen island going over cookbook recipes when Lee and Amanda returned. She had settled on chicken for supper but wasn't sure which recipe she wanted to use. She had just taken a sip from her tea when the backdoor opened and Lee and Amanda stepped inside.
Dotty had spent her time alternating between being mad at them for hiding their marriage, being worried about their jobs to trying to listen in on what the boys were saying in Jamie’s room. From what she had overheard the boys were ecstatic about Lee being a part of the family but the two before her still looked worried. She let her motherly instincts take over and took pity on them.
"Amanda, Lee," she said as she stepped over to stand in front of the two of them. She reached out and grasped each of their hands in hers. "I am a bit confused and upset and a little hurt over all the lies you two have told over the years. I won't deny that. But I'm also very pleased that you two are together." She dropped Amanda's hand and reached out to Lee. "Lee Stetson," she said as she leaned in to give him a hug. "Welcome to the family, son. I know you will always look out for my girl."
Amanda watched with tears hiding in the corners of her eyes as her shocked husband hugged his mother-in-law back for the first time. She knew that with her mother on their side that any issues with the boys could be dealt with. She watched them for a moment and then couldn't resist any longer and stepped closer so she could join in. They hugged for a few minutes longer until finally they all stepped back. Dotty and Amanda wiping tears from the corners of their eyes while Lee turned and coughed trying not to let them see him do the same.
Lee was the first to break the silence after that hug. It had affected him more than he wanted to let on but he also wanted to be sure that Dotty was not mad at him. "Dotty, are you sure you are ok with this? I don't want to be the cause of any problems-"
"Nonsense, Lee! Even a blind man could tell how happy you make my daughter and all any mother wants for her child is that they be happy. I'm not saying I'm completely comfortable with your line of work." She saw Amanda start to open her mouth to retort and stopped her cold with a shake of her head. "Don't you even try those lines on me, missy. Not that much danger, she says. I have read my fair share of spy novels and if they didn't have danger in them no one would read them. I'm not your mother for nothing, young lady. I have noticed every single bump and bruise you have ever had since you learned how to stand. I just didn't nag you about them because I was trying to let you have your privacy."
Amanda and Lee both rolled their eyes at that one but fortunately Dotty didn't notice and kept right on going. "I know you must enjoy what you do or you wouldn't be doing it. I raised my daughter to be a responsible adult and I trust in her choices even if they do scare the living daylights out of me. I just want you two to promise to tell me the truth, when you can. I do understand that there will be times you can't tell me everything. But at least stop with the tall tales."
With that last bit Dotty turned back to the cookbooks she had laid out on the counter. "Now what would you prefer Lee? Chicken a la King or Chicken Cacciatore?"
Before Lee could speak up, the thundering noise of two teenage boys could be heard echoing down the stairs as they descended.
"Grandma! Are Mom and Lee here?" Phillip called out as he bounded into the kitchen first. He stopped short as he saw the three of them and almost got knocked over by Jamie as he entered. "Wormhead why did you stop like that? Oh, Hi Mom, Lee, Grandma." Jamie quickly called out as he noticed them. "Sorry, Phillip," he quickly muttered before the adults could reprimand him for calling his brother a name.
Dotty saw how nervous Amanda and Lee were and decided to make a quick retreat. "I'm just going to leave these here and let you guys decide what we will have for supper tonight. We have that trip to get ready for and I think I'll just head upstairs and get a start on my packing." Putting her mug of now cold tea in the sink, she headed up the stairs to leave the newly discovered family alone.
Amanda watched her mother make a hasty retreat up the stairs and was a tad envious of her for being able to leave. Watching her men with a practiced eye she could tell they were all nervous. Hoping to relax them some for the chat they were about to have, she spoke up. "I know you boys probably have some pretty serious questions for us, but I think we would be more comfortable if we all sat down in the living room." She waved the boys on ahead and grasped Lee's hand. "It will be all right, Lee, you'll see," she whispered encouragingly as they all got comfortable. The boys taking the chairs while she and Lee took up position on the couch.
They had barely gotten settled when Phillip spoke up. "I know you two are worried about us but we've done a lot of talking."
"We did, Mom," Jamie piped up. "We both like Lee, and we are glad you guys got married. Especially since we didn't have to dress up and go to church to see it," both boys shared a happy grin at that statement.
Amanda was pleased the boys seemed to be doing so well but she needed to be sure they understood how things would change with Lee in the house. "I'm glad you are both so pleased that Lee and I got married." She said, still holding on to Lee's hand. For her own comfort or his she really couldn't tell. "But you do both realize that when Lee does move in he will be a parent. If he tells you to do your homework or clean your rooms you will have to listen to him. It won't be just all fun and games."
The boys both rolled their eyes at their parents. "We know that, Mom," Phillip replied. "But we think that Lee is cool enough that it won't be a problem."
"Yeah, Mom," Jamie added, "We both like Lee and we see how happy you guys are." He looked over to his brother and gave him a nudge with his foot. "We wouldn't mind if he moved in right away. It would make it easier to pick out our new house if we are all here." The boys grinned at their parents.
"I think we should have a full court basketball court in the yard," said Phillip.
"And we could have a library too! With window seats and cushions for reading on," added Jamie.
"And if we get a big enough place we could even get a dog. Grandma can't complain if it is a big enough place that she can't even smell one in the house," Phillip said again.
Both boys were trying to outdo each other with their ideas about what their new house should be like. Lee felt like his head was swimming. He was so relieved that the boys were happy about his marrying their mother, but then they both jumped into telling them all about what house they wanted that he couldn't keep up. It was an excellent example of a verbal tennis match except they were bouncing off of him instead of each other.
Amanda felt Lee's grip on her hand relax as the boys said they were happy with their marriage, but felt it tighten again as the boys excitedly explained everything they wanted in a new house. She knew she had better stop them soon before Lee's head exploded.
"Boys! Boys!" she called out loud enough to be heard next door. "We are so pleased that you are ok with all of this," she said in a quieter voice now that she had their attention. "We are thrilled that you are excited about a new house as well. But there are enough changes going on right now and I think that a new house is something we can discuss further after Lee has moved in. There will be a lot of changes. Now that you know about our jobs we are going to have to go over the house rules again and make sure you are aware of what you need to look out for. And when we do choose a new home we are going to have to decide as a family where we want it to be. All of those things you mentioned are fine but we may not find a house with everything you want in it. I want you to be patient about this please."
Phillip and Jamie looked at each other and shrugged. "Sure, Mom," Phillip spoke up for the both of them. "We can wait I guess. But when is Lee going to move in?"
Lee felt all the eyes in the room turn to him and yet it didn't make him feel uncomfortable. His family was looking to him to answer a question and it didn't scare him nearly as much as he thought it would. He looked to Amanda to see if she wanted to take this one but she just smiled and nodded for him to go ahead. "Well fellas, I was thinking I would move in after we get back from our trip, if that is ok with you."
"That sounds good, Lee, but you are staying here until we leave aren't you?" Jamie asked.
"I think we can arrange that," Amanda smiled as her men were acting like a family at last. "Lee and I can run over to his place this afternoon and get his things he will need for the trip and a few things he'll need until we leave on Monday morning."
Amanda stood up and beckoned for her boys to as well so she could give them both a hug. Lee stood up as well and when Jamie reached out to pull him into the hug he wondered why he had ever been nervous about joining this family.
Being teenagers the boys pulled out of the hug much quicker than Dotty had. They had reputations they wanted to protect after all. "We could come with you and help," Jamie offered.
"That would be great, but you two have some packing of your own to get started on. Your grandmother is going to be making us a nice chicken dinner tonight and with all of the excitement of this past week I think you two had better get started now or you won't be ready to leave until it is time to come back from our vacation." Both boys looked a bit disappointed at that but perked up a bit when their Mom mentioned the trip they were going on.
"Why don't you guys head up and get started now and your Mom and I will leave and try and get everything we need and when we get back we can talk about this dog you two seem to be interested in," Lee added, trying to see what Amanda was thinking out of the corner of his eye.
Amanda just shook her head, knowing that she wasn't just gaining a full-time husband now that Lee was moving in, but another boy as well. "Just remember to pack the clean clothes you have and if you have any dirty just bring them down to the laundry room and I will make sure they are ready before we have to leave." They all started to walk towards the stairs and front door. "Now get up those stairs and pack, fellas." She said to the boys as she gave them a gentle shove up toward their rooms.
"Sure, Mom!" "Ok, Mom!" They called out as they dashed up the stairs with the energy only teenagers had to get started.
Lee smiled and didn't think his smile would ever leave as he pulled his wife close to him in a loving embrace. For once not worried about being interrupted by their family. "That went better than I ever could have imagined," he told her as he leaned forward to kiss her lips.
Amanda let out a laugh as she only let Lee give her a quick peck. "Oh Lee," she smiled with amusement, "That wasn't the end of it, this is only the beginning." She pulled back and held onto her husband’s arm as the two walked toward the front door. "They will be asking us endless questions for the next little while. Mother will be the worst as she puts things together but they will be throwing them at us like crazy and out of the blue."
Lee looked a little worried. He had no idea what Amanda was talking about. "What do you mean?" he asked worriedly. "We hit all the highlights. I don't think we left anything out." 'What could they possibly ask that they needed to worry about?' he wondered, as he opened the front door.
"Amanda!" Dotty's voice could be heard calling down the stairs as the two federal agents were preparing to leave. "When did the two of you get married? I'd love to know when your anniversary is."
"Those kind of questions, Mr. Stetson, and a whole lot more." Amanda smiled as she looked at Lee. Looking over her shoulder towards the stairs she called out to her mother, "We'll tell you all about that later Mother, we're just headed over to Lee's to grab a few things and we will be back and then you have the entire evening to grill us."
Lee shook his head as he grasped his wife's hand and escorted her out of the door before Dotty could ask anything else. He didn't know if he should be looking forward to tonight’s conversation or trying to come up with an excuse for Amanda and himself to stay out, but he did know that he was going to enjoy being a full member of this family.
Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King and its characters belong to WB and Shoot the Moon Productions. No infringement is intended. I only borrowed them for my own enjoyment and now share it with you for yours. Feel free to save it for your own reading enjoyment later.