A Random Run
The operative code named "Quisling" sat at the desk in the nondescript, bland office in a small complex in Georgetown and stared at the phone. Any moment now confirmation or denial of the plan they had submitted would come through. They tapped out a cigarette and lit it, slowly exhaling the smoke into the air. The phone rang. Picking up the receiver the operative said nothing, just listened quietly to the words being spoken. A wide smile graced their face and it would have been apparent to anyone watching that they had gotten good news.
They hung up the phone and stubbed out the cigarette a few minutes later. With the smile looking like a permanent fixture, they thought 'time to snare me a Scarecrow'.
Lee Stetson leaned back against the Wagoneer, crossed his arms and smiled. The past two weeks had been the best he could remember. His wife and family at his side and even his uncle had been with them and it hadn't bothered him. Well not much anyway. His wife had a way with people that made even being around the Colonel bearable. It had been like a family honeymoon. Spending all this time together as a family and every night with his wife was like a dose of heaven. As if he had conjured her up by thinking of her, Amanda appeared carrying a suitcase. He hurried over to take it from her hands.
"Amanda" he started as he took the case from her and added it to the ones he had already placed in the back. "I told you I was going to pack the car. Besides I thought you and Dotty were going to take one last look around at the gardens." His mother-in-laws love of gardening was a skill she had honed over many years and it seemed like she was always adding something new to the gardens at the house.
"Mother said she wanted to go on her own and that I shouldn't leave you alone for too long in case you get lonely." Amanda replied with a smile. "Besides, she dragged the boys with her and I have a feeling she is sizing them up for some big project." Amanda leaned in close and wrapped her arms around her husband, reveling in the feeling of being able to freely do so. "That was the last of the bags anyway so as soon as they get back we can leave. Did your Uncle get off alright?"
Lee smiled and pulled his wife closer so he could smell her hair. "Yes he got away just fine. He says he gave you his address so you could keep him appraised of things at home." He leaned back to catch her eye. "I think he likes you," he added with a twinkle in his eye.
"Of course he likes me," Amanda replied with an answering twinkle, "He thinks I'll be able to keep you out of trouble."
Before Lee could retaliate for that remark, he could hear the sounds of Dotty and the boys approaching and decided now wasn't quite the time to kiss her senseless. Then he caught the satisfied smirk on Amanda's face and changed his mind. Grabbing her up closely he proceeded to kiss her as if they were the only two people on the planet. He began smirking himself when he felt her lean in closer to try and get her balance back.
"Dude, we're in public!" Phillip's voice could be heard dimly through their mutual haze.
Lee broke the kiss but held onto Amanda still so she could have a moment to cool the blush in her face. Still smirking, he turned them so he could face his oldest stepson. "Yes we are, but we are married so I'm allowed."
Dotty watched the banter between the two and even noticed the amused grin on Jamie's face as they watched his parents embrace each other without fear of anyone seeing them. She had enjoyed this vacation immensely, though she couldn't wait to get home and try some new ideas out in her garden; at least one of which she was going to have great fun with. She had spotted some lovely flowers growing in the shade under the windows of the cottage they had been staying in and had had a great time asking the sailors that worked the garden about them.
"Well I don't know about you two but I can't wait to get home to my own bed. The ones here are wonderful but I still miss my mattress." Herding the boys into the backseat she nudged Jamie ahead of her towards the middle seat. "I'm sorry Jamie but I need to have the window seat if you don't mind. I know I'll have a headache by the time we get back if I don't have lots of fresh air," Dotty stated.
"No problem, Grandma," he replied as he crawled into the Wagoneer. Jamie had been pleased with how things had gone these past two weeks as well. Even though things had started off rocky between him and Lee, he had found that he quite liked having Lee around now and now that he was going to be a permanent fixture around the house he was even more so. "Hey Lee, are we going to start moving your stuff when we get home."
Phillip had continued walking past his parents after delivering his complaint that wasn't really a complaint and Lee had taken him by surprise to give him a friendly shove. As the two mock wrestled, Amanda had stepped away to the passenger side of the car, waiting for her 'boys' to settle down and behave. As Jamie's comment was heard, Lee paused, holding Phillip off with one hand as he replied.
"I think your Mother and I may stop by the apartment later to pack some things up for the week, but we were planning on waiting until next weekend to move the big stuff." He grabbed Phillip's hands in his and shook them towards his face. "We will finish this later," Lee said with a grin as he then turned him towards the seat behind the driver's side. "Right now it is time to get on the road if we want to stop at Marvelous Marvin's for something to eat."
Phillip quickly stopped his side of the battle and nearly jumped into the backseat. Fastening his seatbelt before Lee even had a chance to get in the car. "Come on, Doofus," he teased his brother as he held up the seatbelt buckle for him. "The food is calling! We must answer!" He rolled his eyes at the three authority figures now in the car as they chorused as one, "Don't call your brother names." He mumbled a token apology at his brother but Jamie just grinned. Someday they would realize that it was all part of being an older brother. That the younger one existed for the older ones to tease but he knew it wasn't going to be anytime soon.
For his part, he loved that Lee was joining in on the reprimands. He had always thought he was an awesome guy and now that he was attached to the family, he thought it was even better. Thoughts of being driven to school in his car danced in his head and he imagined the looks he would get from some of the girls, Julie in particular. He had been trying to figure out a way to catch her eye without being obvious and this plan was looking pretty good.
"Will you two be back at the house for breakfast tomorrow at least?" he asked, "I was kinda hoping Lee could drop us at school tomorrow."
Lee smiled at his stepson's request as he fastened his seatbelt. Seeing Amanda and everyone else were secure, he started the Wagoneer up and pulled out onto the road headed for the main gate before replying. "I'm sure I could manage that. It will be a tight fit with the two of you though. Maybe we should take the Wagoneer." He caught Dotty's eye in the rear view mirror and watched her grin appear at his words.
Before Jamie and Phillip could get too upset, Amanda jumped into the fray. "Boys, I'm sure Lee can get you to school on time and a bit squished tomorrow in his car." She knew they just wanted to show up in a 'hot rod' and maybe show off their new stepfather as well. "Why don't you two dig out a book or a magazine; it will be a while before we get close and it is a long drive."
The boys sheepishly agreed, realizing that Lee was just teasing with the Wagoneer comment, and rustled around in their packs for reading material.
"A wonderful idea, dear," Dotty agreed. "I have some gardening brochures that nice sailor gave me, I think I'll look them over."
Lee listened to his family's chatter as he pulled up to the gate surrounding the camp. He nodded to the guards as they checked over the vehicle and signed them out. Once they were settled on the highway he reached his hand for Amanda's but didn't have far to go as hers was already working its way over to him. Smiling at each other they gave a little squeeze and settled back for the long but pleasant family drive home.
Billy Melrose closed the door to his office and pulled the shades down. A typical Monday morning in the spy world meant a million things that demanded his immediate attention, but the only thing he wanted to give his attention to was the doughnut he had smuggled in in his briefcase. 'If Jeanie knew I was eating this I may not be able to go home tonight,' he thought guiltily as he settled behind his desk, shoving the 'Needs Attention Now' to one side as he laid his morning pick-me-up of the sugary confection down.
Once secured, he gave a quick glance to see if anything was life threatening and, after ascertaining that there wasn't any, he proceeded to consume his treat. Another reason for his calm was the return today of his best team. Lee and Amanda Stetson had been on vacation approved by the President himself for the past two weeks and today marked the start of their official married partnership at work. Dr. Smyth had had a cow over that one, but there was nothing he could do about it short of becoming President of the United States himself and there was no way the American people would ever vote for him.
Billy wiped the crumbs from his desk and any stray sugar off his tie, not wanting any to give him away when he went home later. His wife may not be an agent, but no stray specks of sugar escaped her eagle eye. He had just about finished reading the last of the 'Needs Attention Now' bulletins when he heard a familiar soft knock on his door.
"Come in, Amanda!" he called out and grinned as Amanda and Lee entered his office in high spirits. The matching smiles on their faces testament to the good time they had obviously had.
"Morning, Sir," "Morning, Billy," the pair greeted him as they took their customary places in the chairs in front of his desk.
This was the sight that Billy had missed over the last two weeks. He let them settle into their seats before picking their assignment. "I see you two had a good vacation," he smiled at them as he passed the folder to Amanda, knowing that Scarecrow wouldn't read it now anyhow. "There isn't anything urgent this week for the two of you. There is a NATO Defence and Security Committee meeting this week that has some high security requirements because of a few of the attendees, but there have been no hints of any kind of trouble. It should be fairly routine."
Lee snorted. "Billy, when has routine ever stayed routine?" He was hoping it would be a nice quiet assignment to let them settle back into the job after their nice time off. But he wasn't betting on it, not with their luck.
"Just be sure to check with your sources and see if they have heard anything," Billy sighed and replied.
"We will, Sir," Amanda nodded to Mr. Melrose as she gave Lee a dirty look. "There are a couple of things I want to check out on the computer as well." Amanda gave Lee a nudge with her knee as she stood up to leave.
"That will be fine, Amanda." Billy agreed. "Oh Amanda, before you leave, could I have your security badge please." Billy stood and held his hand out for the badge she was now wearing.
"Is there a problem, Sir?" she asked nervously as she removed her must-be-worn-at-all-times badge and handed it to her boss. Even Lee looked worried at Billy's request. But not for long, he caught the wink Billy sent him as he placed Amanda's badge in his desk.
"No nothing is wrong, Amanda." Billy chuckled as he pulled a new badge out of his desk from where he had placed the old one. "Just needed to make sure you were wearing your updated security badge." He walked around the desk and moved to stand in front of Amanda so he could clip it to her sweater. "That looks much better," he stated with pride.
Lee grinned with Billy at the look on Amanda's face as she read her shiny new badge that stated her name as Amanda Stetson.
Amanda slowly fingered the lettering on the badge, tracing out the Stetson with care. As the smile on her face became more and more wide, she stepped forward and gave her boss a big hug. "Thank you, Sir!" she exclaimed, then stepped back feeling a tad embarrassed for having hugged her boss.
"You are very welcome, Mrs. Stetson. I have been waiting to give that to you for way too long now." Billy turned back to sit behind his desk again waving at the pair of them. "I believe you two have some work to do, so go do it," he added, dismissing them before he himself got 'too mushy'.
Lee just grinned at Billy and let his hand fall to the middle of his wife's back as he escorted her out of the office. He nodded greetings at his fellow agents as they wove their way out of the Bullpen to the elevator. As they were waiting he asked his wife. "So you read the file, what do you think we should do first?"
The doors to the elevator opened and Amanda stepped inside with a sigh. "Well I think that 'I' will be checking out a few things on the computer while you go down to personnel and make sure they have the right information for your new address and any paperwork that we need to fill out for taxes and the medical plan. Then I think we should get some lunch and go see some of your contacts." She nudged Lee aside so she could get out at the floor for the Q Bureau and pushed the button he needed to go down to personnel.
She nearly laughed out loud at the look on his face as the door closed on her husband. Smiling she turned and headed up the stairs to their office.
Quisling had been sitting in the back of a semi-private booth at the popular restaurant known to be frequented by agents on their break for nearly an hour now, nursing a drink and picking at their food. So far all they had heard was who had the worst hair and where the latest sales on evening gowns were. The trivia about who was pregnant and who wasn't was starting to grate on Quisling's nerves. And then the object of their mission walked in. Lee Stetson, the great Scarecrow, was escorting his partner into the very same restaurant.
Leaning to the left, Quisling found they had an excellent view of the pair as well as the group of women currently chatting about inconsequential haircuts. The ladies noticed Stetson almost as quickly as they had. Quisling's ears perked up when they heard Stetson's name start to be bandied around the table.
"Oh ladies! Look who just walked in!" the blonde from accounting said in a hushed stage whisper that everyone at that table, and surrounding ones, heard as well.
"Who?" questioned the red-haired agent just in from Hong Kong. Taking a quick look around she noticed the pair now being seated in the far corner booth. "Scarecrow? I've been out of the country, who is he sleeping with now?"
The brunette gasped and mock grabbed at her chest in shock. "You haven't heard?"
The others at the table quickly leaned in close to try and keep from being overheard. Which just made the bug Quisling had left in the center of the table that much more effective.
"Well," the blonde stated dramatically, "I hear that he is still seeing that translator on the side but doesn't want anyone to know about it. Marcy in the cafeteria told me she had seen him out on a date with a brunette that fit her description."
"You don't know what you are talking about," the brunette retorted. "I heard that he is seeing that translator and carrying on with his partner at the same time."
"You don't mean Mrs. King?" the redhead asked, sounding puzzled. "I've met Amanda and let me tell you she is not the type to just go around jumping into bed with any old person she meets. Not even if that person is Lee Stetson."
"Pft!" the blonde snorted, "Just because she looks all squeaky clean doesn't mean she wouldn't jump at the chance to get all sweaty with him just like the rest of us." She gestured to where the pair were sitting and now leaning in close to read the menu together. "Just look at how she is leaning into him. I'll just bet she has her hand under that table stroking..."
Those words were issued by an imposing blonde, standing by the table. The girls at the table sat up quickly and had the good sense to look like they had been caught misbehaving by the teacher. Even Quisling recognized the new blonde as the notorious Francine Desmond. From what Quisling knew of her temper, that first blonde had better step lightly.
But that was not the case.
"Oh come on, Francine. You know as well as I do what we would be stroking if we were sitting at that corner table with Scarecrow." The blonde glared at Francine daring her to contradict her statement.
Francine's eyes narrowed as she leaned in over the blonde. The other two ladies at the table quickly excused themselves and disappeared to the ladies room leaving before any of Francine's wrath could fall their way.
"Listen up, blondie," Francine started in a quiet, calm voice. "Those happen to be two of my friends you are talking about, in a not very polite manner I might add, and I don't like it, I don't like it one bit."
Francine leaned in even closer now so that there was barely a hair's breadth between them and stared into the younger blonde's eyes until she blinked. Satisfied that she had her full and unwavering attention, Francine continued with her warning. "What ever Lee and Amanda want to do in their spare time away from the Agency is no one's business but their own. If I even hear a hint of a whisper of anything that could possibly be construed as nasty I will assume it came from you. And you don't want to know what I would do to you."
The blonde stared back at Francine and even from where Quisling was sitting it was clear that the blonde was doing her best not to shake.
"But you have said it yourself!" she whined, "She is just a frumpy housewife...."
Francine slammed her hand down on the table causing the water glass to knock over and spill its contents onto the blonde's lap. Still staring her down, Francine dared her with her eyes to move before she had finished saying her piece.
"That might have been my opinion at one point but times change and people with them. I will not let you go around spreading rumors and innuendo about two of my closest friends. Do. We. Understand. Each. Other?!"
Francine said that last statement, pausing between each word to add strength to her warning. The blonde in the chair finally averted her eyes and nodded her agreement. Looking satisfied, the older blonde stood up and moved toward the back of the restaurant and joined the pair already seated.
Quisling had watched the whole encounter closely and was glad they had had a good angle to see the face of agent Francine Desmond. While the blonde's words had been telling the look she gave the other blonde were even more so.
'I have never heard tell of Francine Desmond being nice to Mrs. King or even acting like she likes her,' Quisling made a mental note to check that out the next day. Draining the last of their drink, they picked up the paperwork that was spread out on the table to make it look like a long working lunch and stuffed it all back into the briefcase on top of the receiver for the bug. Turning off the recording device, they snapped the case shut and quickly exited the restaurant to return to 'work'.
After a pleasant, yet strange lunch with Francine, where Francine seemed to be going out of her way to be nice to Amanda, Amanda and Lee set out to make the rounds of his contacts. None of them had had any useful information, which only left one place left to stop.
"Well Lee, there is only one more person we have yet to get in touch with," Amanda stated cheerfully hoping her husband would stay in a good mood. "I know he isn't your favorite...."
"But he always does have some useful information. I know, Amanda, I know." Lee replied sighing. "He just annoys me now more than ever." Turning the â€˜vette towards Augie's latest business venture 'Videos for the Mature Gentlemen' not that there was anything gentlemanly, or mature for that matter, about Augie Swann.
As they pulled up out in front of the glass-fronted store, he noted that the windows were covered with old newspapers. That didn't bode well for the inside. Lee turned in his seat to face Amanda, not quite sure how he could get her to stay in the car, but it was a moot point. Amanda had already undone her seat belt and was opening the door before he could speak. He opened his mouth to try anyway but his wife must have known what was coming. A quiet, "Don't even bother trying" reached his ears from where she stood outside the car waiting for him.
As he stepped out of the car and turned towards her he once again opened his mouth, but closed it. He knew nothing he could say would make her stay behind no matter how seedy the outside appeared. Lee was more concerned with how his wife would handle being inside a video store like this. Not that he would mind taking her into one, but this was run by Augie Swann, there would be nothing good inside.
As they entered the shop, Lee's suspicions were confirmed. Large cutouts of very scantily clad women stood around the shop at the end of each aisle of videos. Unimaginative titles for their 'films' prominently displayed across their bodies obscuring the bits that weren't covered in cloth bits.
He didn't even glance at his wife's face, not sure exactly what he would see there and not sure he wanted to know. "Augie!" He hollered out, wondering where in the store he could be. It wasn't that big.
From behind a pile of boxes on the other side of the cash register came a muffled, "Over here!" Lee maneuvered his way around a few of the unopened boxes and came across Augie sitting cross-legged on the floor with open boxes around him; various 'adult toys' littering the ground around him.
"Hey Lee!" he called up to the taller man staring down at the assortment with disbelief all over his face. "I know these videos have been doing ok for me so when the dealer mentioned that a few toys might help boost profit I figured, 'Hey! Why not?' only now that these things are here I think he might have sent the wrong supplies. Surely these dog collars are supposed to be going to a pet store."
Augie stood up and knocked over a box that landed at Amanda's feet. She had followed Lee, like she always does, and was now staring at the items that had landed on her foot. Leather masks in assorted colors were lying there. She nudged the pink one with the zipper across the mouth off her foot and took a step closer to Lee. "Augie," she began quietly, "We were wondering if you had heard anything about the upcoming NATO conference. With all those contacts of yours surely you would have heard something useful."
Amanda could feel the look Lee was giving her as she politely asked Augie for information as if he were the nicest person in the world and would tell her anything. He still hadn't quite wrapped his head around the fact that Amanda could get more out of Augie with her kind words than he could with his threats. There was just something about Augie that made Lee want to hit him.
"Gee, I'm sorry Mrs. King, I'd really like to help but I haven't heard anything about any NATO types. Just that there is a dude looking for some information on safe houses in England. He had a bit of an Irish accent so I'm pretty sure he wasn't going to send any flowers." Augie looked hopefully at Lee. "I'm sure that info has to be worth something. I have the names of the people he was looking to find on a list over here."
Augie knocked another box over in his haste to move around behind the counter and reach for the paperwork he had stuffed under his cash box. As he searched the papers for the one he needed, the scent of strawberries mixed with the scent of chocolate wafted toward Lee and Amanda as the bottles in the fallen box started to leak their contents across the already not-to-clean floor.
Lee grasped Amanda's hand and pulled her away from the ever-spreading mess to join him as he walked around to the front of the counter. It wasn't the information they were looking for, but surely someone at the office would like to know about this. "I hope that is a complete list," he warned as Augie shoved several papers that looked like they had been used as napkins into his hands. He carefully pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket to wrap the sheets up in, not wanting to touch whatever it was on the page.
"It is! It is!" Augie nodded enthusiastically. "I swear those are all the people he was looking for, and he didn't tell me all those names, a few guys I know called around asking if I knew where any of them were, so I figured they were connected." Augie was now holding his hand out expectantly.
Lee sighed as Amanda took the now wrapped papers from his hand so he could get out his wallet. Pulling out a few bills he watched as he could almost see the dollar signs rolling behind Augie's eyes as he placed them in his hand. "For this much they had better be."
Lee and Amanda turned to go, but Lee stopped and commented to Augie instead. "You might want to get that stuff off the carpet as soon as you can," he pointed at the gooey, sticky mess now seeping towards the masks that were on the floor. "Otherwise it might stain."
Lee held his tongue as they walked to the car and got settled back inside it, seatbelts in place. He turned to offer his customary apology to her for taking her inside such a dive when Amanda shocked him.
"Lee, do you think there is someplace else we could get some of that strawberry syrup?" Amanda asked him with an enigmatic smile on her face.
Lee's jaw dropped. He couldn't tell if she was serious or not. The smile she was wearing on her face wasn't helping either.
He slowly shook his head and mumbled something about women and never understanding them under his breath as they headed back to the Agency to deliver the paperwork; not noticing Augie coming out of the door they had just left.
"Lee! Wait!" Augie called out after the pair as their car turned the corner at the end of his block. He had missed them but he was sure it wasn't anything big. He had forgotten to mention that in those calls from the other information brokers he had been talking with that there had been some interest in what Lee had been up to lately and where he had been seen. Augie had known better than to tell them anything, he needed to keep Lee on his good side, even if he didn't really tell him every little detail about what he did, it never hurt to stay friendly with the feds.
Later on that evening as they sat in the backyard watching the boys practice their basketball shots, Lee pondered if Amanda had been serious with her comment about the syrup. He was about to ask her when Dotty sat down on the blanket beside them, placing a tray with iced tea down within reach.
"I thought you might be thirsty out here. After all it is hot work watching the young go at it like that. I can't remember the last time I had that much energy," Dotty commented as she handed glasses of iced tea to her children. "If only we could bottle it, then I'm sure all the packing and unpacking we'll be doing this weekend would be so much easier."
That little comment at the fact that not all of Lee's things were in the house yet did not go unnoticed by the pair.
"Mother, if it helps, Lee and I were planning on getting a start on it tomorrow night." Amanda tried to explain, "We would have gone tonight but the boys had basketball practice and we were running all over town this afternoon with meetings, we were just too tired to get anything done tonight."
Lee just leaned back on his elbows and let Amanda handle her mother while he relaxed and watched the boys. Taking a sip of his iced tea he listened with half an ear; he just loved how excited Dotty was for him to move in. It made him feel really at home to have her accept him. And she hadn't said anything about their jobs since that first day they had explained them to her.
"But what about tomorrow, dear? What if you have more 'meetings'?" Dotty lowered her voice and leaned in and spoke that last word in a hushed voice.
Amanda shook her head in amusement and replied, "Mother. Really all we did was have a few meetings with some of Lee's associates."
Lee nearly choked on his iced tea to hear Augie Swann described as an associate of his. "Actually Dotty, we have a lot of paperwork to do tomorrow and we should be in the office all day. Maybe not at our desks, but in the building," Lee added. He sat up and put his iced tea down so he could grasp his mother-in-law's hand. "There is nothing to worry about. Since you know what we do we will tell you what we can. And even if we can't tell you exactly what is going on we will let you know when and if you need to worry."
Flashing her the Stetson grin he watched as some of the worry left her face.
"Lee Stetson don't you try and use that charm on me, mister," but she couldn't help the smile that crept across her face. "The two of you will be the death of me one day. Just be sure you keep my daughter safe."
"He does Mother, he does," Amanda said, watching the smiles on their faces. "But it is getting late and if we don't get those boys inside soon, none of us is going to get any sleep tonight and tomorrow will be shot before it even starts."
With that last line, Amanda stood up and started herding the boys inside for their showers. Lee watched as his mother-in-law gathered up her and Amanda's glasses and headed inside, telling the boys where they should put their dirty shoes and clothes. Taking another drink of his iced tea, Lee just lay back on the blanket and listened to the sounds of his family preparing to retire for the evening. He could have stayed there all night if he hadn't heard the voice of his wife drifting out through the window.
"No Phillip, I'm very sure Lee will not let you borrow his car for shop class next week."
His eyes opened wide and he decided it was past time to join his family inside. Hurrying to the door he called out, "Your mother is right about that!" Closing the door behind him, he gave the lock a turn and went to be sure Phillip understood that was never going to happen.
The next day at the office was just as long and boring as Lee had told Dotty it would be. After several hours of fighting with the computer, Amanda had finally kicked him out of the office and told him to go find someone else to bother.
"Lee," she told him with more patience than she felt, "Why don't you go down and talk to the people from the European desk and see if there have been any rumors that they have heard," thinking to herself that if she had to listen to one more muttered curse about electronic boxes being the epitome of evil she was going to throw him out the window. He had eagerly agreed and for the last two hours she had had a very productive afternoon. There was still nothing on the horizon that looked like it could even remotely interrupt the NATO talks scheduled for later in the week and the Secret Service, CIA and FBI had also reported that security arrangements were on schedule with no new threats to worry about.
She was just thinking that this was shaping up to be a really good day when she heard a knock on the Q Bureau door. Knowing it wasn't Lee, she turned and was surprised to see Francine standing in the doorway with what looked to be a doughnut box from the place down the street. After their strange lunch yesterday, where Francine had been nice to her the whole time, she wasn't sure what to expect.
"Hello Francine!" Amanda greeted her with a smile, wondering why Francine was showing up to see her for the second time in two days. "What can I do for you?"
The usually confident blonde agent looked around the room but didn't see any sign of Lee. Tilting her head in query, Amanda answered her unasked question with "I sent Lee down to check with the European desk, I don't expect him back until it is time to leave in about an hour."
Francine nodded and closed and locked the door behind her. She made her way over to Lee's desk and dragged his chair over closer to Amanda's and then set down the box on Amanda's desk.
"Amanda..." she began and stopped. Francine quickly opened the box and revealed the contents to be a dozen chocolate glazed chocolate doughnuts. "Doughnut?" she offered, not waiting for a response she grabbed one for herself and took a big bite, in the same manner a drinker might take a large swig of booze before saying something difficult.
"Amanda," she stated again more confidently, "I know you know I haven't always been the easiest person to get along with."
Amanda raised her eyebrows at that statement. The strange behavior she had been observing since Francine had entered her office had been interesting to watch, but now it almost seemed like she was getting ready to apologize. She took a doughnut out of the box and started to nibble on it.
"It's ok, Francine," Amanda started to say, trying to help the blonde agent out.
"No it's not, Amanda," Francine cut in firmly. "If I don't say this now I never will. Amanda, I want you to know that while we may not be the best of friends..."
Amanda's eyes grew larger at that statement. The implied 'yet' plain to hear.
"I do want you to know that I think you are good for Lee and he for you." Francine continued on, "If you two ever need any help with anything I really hope that you both know I've got your back."
Amanda could feel the chocolate icing that was stuck to her lip from the doughnut but just let it sit there a moment. That last comment from Francine was as much a declaration of friendship as it was an apology for the last few years and she wasn't sure exactly what to say that wouldn't scare the blonde agent off.
Taking a moment to dab at the icing with a Kleenex from her desk, she cleared her throat and smiled. "Francine," she began, "Lee and I know who our friends are and whom we can count on and you should know that your name is on the top of that list." Seeing that Francine was starting to look uncomfortable with the whole situation, she decided there had been enough bonding for one day.
"You know, these doughnuts are really good. I had heard that new shop was good, but the chocolate they use is really great!"
Francine smiled and relaxed as Amanda started to ramble on about the chocolate. It was hard enough to come up here and offer her version of an apology, but if Amanda had started to talk about feelings she knew she would have run out the door. "They really are great aren't they? Hollie told me about them last week and I just had to get some. I figured if I ate them up here I wouldn't have to fend off half the office to keep them to myself."
With the awkward moment over, the two women agents greedily munched their way through the entire box of 6 doughnuts as they gossiped lightly about the other agents in the Bullpen. That was how Lee found them half an hour later as he returned from meeting up with the agents from the European desk.
The two women turned towards the door as he entered and smiled at him. The relaxed atmosphere was something he was not used to seeing with Francine in the room, but he liked it. Spying a bit of chocolate on his wife's lips, he decided not to let this opportunity go by and quickly crossed the room to kiss her lips clean.
Francine watched as Amanda's greeting of "Hello Sweetheart" got cut off as Lee gave his wife a thorough kiss. "I'm going to take this as my cue to leave," she announced as she stood and brushed the few remaining doughnut crumbs off her lap. "If it's always going to be this lovey dovey in here maybe you won't see me as often."
She gave Amanda a little wave and disappeared out the door.
Amanda tried to say bye to Francine as well but her husband's lips were in the way. Not that she minded in the least. Finally managing to push her husband far enough away to take a deep breath, she admonished him for his bad behavior. "Lee, that wasn't very nice of you." Standing up she pushed him toward his desk as he kept trying to lean in for another kiss. "Francine and I were having a very nice time talking and you swoop in like some love-starved Lothario. Whatever will she think?"
Lee grinned and finally managed to get his hands on his wife's waist and pulled her in close. "She will think that we are newly married and have spent the entire day away from each other. Besides Amanda, she has known me a long time I'm pretty sure she is aware of my reputation where the ladies are concerned." He smiled and tickled Amanda along the sides of her rib cage. "At least now she knows all that attention is focused firmly on you."
Amanda squirmed in her husband's grasp and managed to pull herself away. Quickly putting her desk between the two of them she tried to refocus her husband's attention on the job. "So did you find out anything interesting downstairs?" she asked as she started to put away the folders she had been referencing while on the computer.
From the way his wife had distanced herself from him Lee knew she was in full on work mode and figured he had better get it out of the way before she would let him continue what he wanted to start. "All clear down there too," Lee replied cleaning the top of his desk a bit as well, knowing that he was really just shoving papers around so they looked neat rather than really putting anything away.
Amanda finished with her desk and tut-tutted at the mess Lee was making and made her way to his desk, fixing up the mess he was making. "It is looking like this will be the quietest NATO Defence and Security Committee meeting in history."
Seeing that Amanda had finished clearing off their desks, he tried to reach out for her again. "I take it we are all done here for the day?" he asked hopefully.
Taking pity on her husband, Amanda reached in her desk and took out her purse. Gesturing for her husband to follow, she led him out into the hallway and waited while he locked the office behind them. "That we are. I already called Mother so she knows we won't be home until late. I told her we were going out to supper and then packing up your place so she knows not to worry."
Escorting Amanda out to the car as she explained about her mother, Lee had a hard time keeping his mind off their plans for the evening. As soon as she was situated in the car with her seatbelt in place, he took off toward his old apartment. "So which restaurant did you want to visit tonight? I hear Emelio's has a new cook and there is that new place near my apartment called Neeney's that everyone is talking about."
Lee could see the new place up ahead on the right. He had heard the food was good there and even the dancing was excellent. The parking lot looked a little full and he was already planning on where he could park when Amanda interrupted his thoughts.
"Those sound like good ideas but I was thinking we would have more time to be on our own if we simply ordered in."
Lee glanced at his wife and saw the hungry look on her face and knew that food was not the only thing her appetite was hungry for. He smiled at her and took her hand in his. "Then off to the apartment we go with the haute cuisine of fresh delivered pizza just for you, my dear."
He did his very best to keep them under the speed limit the rest of the way.
No one was aware, but at the exact moment the Stetsons were passing Neeney's, Quisling was sitting at the bar inside nursing a scotch on the rocks. Since the interesting lunch observed the day before, the agent spent entire day today on research. They had pulled case files and social rosters, even old newspaper articles of the society pages looking for any mention of Lee Stetson. And all they had to show for it were a few paper cuts and some ink stains along the ridges of their fingerprints.
Swirling the ice around in the glass, Quisling looked around the room once more. Hoping that Scarecrow would make an appearance, they had been talking up this restaurant and bar to anyone and everyone hoping to make it seem like the happening place to be. Perhaps that might lure him out to where he could be quietly interrogated using some soft Class â€˜C' skills. It seemed like the place was popular enough. The same ladies who had been at lunch yesterday were sitting at the bar nearby, commenting on every single butt that walked past.
Hoping that they would be forthcoming with enough dirt if they stayed nearby, Quisling decided to risk staying at the bar rather than moving to a quiet corner booth. Having left the receiver at home because it was really too bulky to have at the bar at this time of day, it really was the only option remaining.
Unfortunately it didn't look good. There was more chatter about the good-looking guys in the bar than there was about Lee Stetson. Figuring the night was going to be another bust, Quisling started to wave the bartender over in order to pay the tab.
About that time an attractive looking brunette who resembled Amanda King walked into the bar on the arm of an equally attractive man. The blonde at Quisling's side gasped and motioned for her friends to lean in closer. "That's her!" she exclaimed in a hushed whisper, pointing at the woman and her companion. "That's the one that was last seen with Stetson! I was sure they were still seeing each other."
As the ladies started gossiping about the woman in question, Quisling watched where the couple was seated and then moved to ask the hostess if a table nearby was available. They were fortunate enough to get one that was very close by and faced the woman. â€˜Maybe my luck is changing,' they thought after ordered a salad and turning on the mini cassette recorder they had in their pocket.
As the evening progressed, Quisling was finding it difficult to not just give up and head on out. While the conversation between the couple was not completely boring, finding out the difficulties in the language differences between Russian and English were not enough to keep anyone from wanting to fall asleep. Finally, over dessert and coffee, the pair who seemed to be on a first date started talking about the people they had seen over the last few years.
"So what was your most disastrous relationship you have ever had?" the man asked his companion as he took a sip of coffee.
The woman smiled and took a bite of her chocolate cheesecake before replying. "Well that one is very easy to answer," she responded as she took a drink of her coffee as well. "There was this man I was seeing a few years back. His name was Lee and he seemed to be perfect in every way. He was even sweet enough to buy me a dress he said he had seen in a store window and thought would look perfect on me. I found it all very romantic. I felt like a princess he had wanted to dress up for a ball."
She smiled as she drifted off into her own thoughts, brought back to the conversation by the discreet cough of her date. She then blushed and continued, "Sorry about that, I was just thinking of that dress. You know I loved it so much that even after I dumped him I kept it, it is the same one I was wearing when we met."
The man smiled as he obviously began picturing her in that dress. He caught himself and, while he didn't blush, he certainly looked like he was remembering a special time with that dress as well. "That sounds very nice, but where is the disastrous part?"
The woman shook her head, "That comes the night before the party we were supposed to attend. I was at his place; I had begged the doorman to let me in so I could surprise him with a romantic meal to thank him for the dress. I had even brought it with me so I could give him a preview of how well it fit, when he came home he had a woman with him!" She took another drink of her coffee before continuing, "She said she was his secretary but the way they looked at each other and talked to each other led me to think otherwise. The fact that she looked just like me threw me off too. It wasn't until later after she had gone and I went to try on the dress that I knew for sure that our relationship was going nowhere."
She leaned in closer to her date to emphasize her next point. "Here I am, entering the room in the beautiful dress he had bought me, he is pouring us some wine and before he even turned around to see me, he called me by her name! Imagine! It isn't like Leslie and Amanda are even close to sounding alike. That was when I knew he was just using me to stand in for the woman he really wanted."
The woman's date dropped his coffee cup on the table with a soft thud. "How rude! What a horrible way to treat a lady. I hope you gave him a piece of your mind!"
"I didn't get the chance. Before I could get into the topic with him, he got a call from work and he left. He didn't even wait until I was gone. He just asked me to lock up before I left and told me not to worry about cleaning up. Well, I sure didn't worry about cleaning up. Part of me wanted to dump him in the middle of the dance floor at the party to hurt him but good in public, but I got a phone message the next day saying he wouldn't be seeing me anymore! I didn't even get the pleasure of telling him where to go."
The anger of being denied the chance to tell off the man who had hurt her feelings could be seen from where Quisling was sitting. Leslie's date leaned forward and grasped her hand with his, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Well, if you don't mind my saying so, I'm rather glad he was a jerk." At that comment the woman's head snapped up to stare him in the eyes, softening at his next remark. "Otherwise, you might still be with him and I wouldn't be here with you tonight."
Recognizing that as a signal that the couple's evening was soon going to be moving off to a much more private locale, Quisling signaled for the check and promptly paid for their meal. On the way to the parking lot, Quisling had a niggling thought started to really nag at them. If Lee Stetson had been making eyes over Amanda King that far back, how far had their relationship progressed? There had been rumors about the two for years. Nothing serious, Lee was known as too much of a player for one woman. But it would seem that Leslie wasn't his normal type at all. Her story made it sound as if Scarecrow was willing to get serious about one woman. If that was true a few years ago, where might his relationship with Amanda be now and was it something that could be exploited? It was time to call in for some surveillance to gather more information.
The next morning at the Q Bureau brought more of the same routine for Lee and Amanda. The case they were working on, checking for potential problems with the upcoming NATO meeting, was hitting nothing but dead ends. While this was good for the meeting, it was very boring for one Lee Stetson - man of action.
He was currently sitting behind his desk reading over updates to the same reports he had requested the day before that basically said the same thing - No Threat Found. The urge to go and do something was starting to feel like a physical itch.
From her desk across the way Amanda could sense her husband's need to do something growing. It was starting to distract her and she hated to be distracted by her husband. At least she hated being distracted by him this way and at work. Deciding to see if there was something she could do to distract him instead, she quietly put down her folder and stood up and walked around to the back of her husband's chair. Fluffing the hair at the base of his neck, she let her fingers do the talking by massaging the tense muscles just under the surface of his skin.
Leaning down so her lips were beside his ear and knowing she had his full attention now, she said, "Scarecrow? Feeling a little bored are we?"
Lee relaxed at his wife's touch and let his head fall forward so he could enjoy the feeling his wife's hands were generating. "Not any more," he replied flippantly, "Now I'm feeling something quite different." He started to twist to reach for her when he felt a gentle swat to the back of his head. "Ow! What was that for?" he grumbled.
"I was merely trying to distract you, not start anything," Amanda replied in her mom voice. "You can get your head out of that gutter, mister. I did have an idea that might make you feel better, but if all you can do is think with the lower part of your anatomy..." she let her voice trail off, enticing him with the thought of some lost treat if he misbehaved.
"I'm good! I'm a good boy!" Lee stated with a childish lilt to his tone as he sat up straight at his desk and folded his hands neatly on top of the blotter.
Amanda couldn't resist and laughed at the sight her husband made. He looked like a little boy sitting quietly at his desk hoping the teacher would pick him for some cherished task. "I was going to suggest that since we have had no bad news to report that you go down and check with Leatherneck about those self-defense classes he was going to check out for the boys while I finish up with these reports. That should take care of the time from now until Noon." As she watched his face fall at his idea of her assigning him â€˜busy work' she took pity on him and continued. "Then maybe, just maybe, if we report how well things are going to Mr. Melrose, he might just let us have the afternoon off. Then we could go home and have a nice relaxing lunch before school lets out and we could enlist the boys to help move some of your stuff over to the house."
Amanda laughed again as her husband sprang from his chair like it had suddenly bit him in the derriere. "Amanda, that is the best suggestion I have heard in a long time!" Lee strode quickly for the door but stopped suddenly and whirled back to her desk. Grabbing Amanda and planting a devastating kiss to her lips before dashing back to the door. "You just hold that thought. I know what I want for lunch." He then gave her a wink and was gone.
As Amanda sat there with a dazed look on her face, the phone started to ring. When it finally penetrated her muddled senses she reached for it and got back to work. She was really hoping now that Billy would let them have the rest of the day off because now she was suddenly really hungry for the same lunch Lee wanted.
The clock was reading three o'clock as Amanda dashed into the kitchen twisting her hair up into a ponytail as she went. "Lee!" she hollered back over her shoulder. "We need to get going if we are going to pick the boys up from school."
Lee Stetson hurried down the stairs of the Maplewood Drive home with a very happy smile on his face. Leatherneck had given him the name of several gyms in the area that offered self-defense classes for teens and the Agency awareness classes were starting up next week for agents' families. He picked his keys up off the desk by the front door and stood watching his wife throw some snacks in a bag for the boys.
"I'm ready whenever you are, dear," he said to her as she dashed by him for the front door bag in hand.
The smile stayed on his face the whole way to the school. Even though Amanda had taken the Wagoneer to his apartment and he was picking up the boys on his own, he knew they would be pleased he was there with his â€˜vette to get them. He eased into a parking spot where the boys would be sure to see him and leaned back against the side, crossing his arms as he surveyed the other parents.
The bell soon rang and children, â€˜teenagers' Lee mentally corrected himself, soon began pouring out every door in sight. Within seconds it seemed the once quiet lawn was coated with giggling girls and boys. He caught sight of Jaime and waved. Jamie saw him leaning against the car and turned his head to talk to someone he couldn't see yet. From the "WOO HOO!" he heard he was sure it was Phillip. He knew he had guessed right when Jamie was joined on his walk to the car by Phillip and a half dozen other teenage boys and even a few girls.
"Hi Lee," Jamie greeted him as he tossed his bags into the backseat, having reached the car moments before his brother. "Well," Lee started to explain but was cut off by the sound of awed teenagers practically drooling on his paint job. Standing a little straighter he felt himself gently elbowed out of the way by a boy Phillip's age trying to lean in the driver's window to get a better look at his dashboard.
"This car is rad!" he heard the boy exclaim as Phillip had caught what his friend had done to Lee and was tugging on his arm to pull him back away from the car. "I know it's awesome," he quickly told his friend. "How about we see if we can get Lee to let us look under the hood." As he saw the horror grow in his stepfather's eyes he quickly added, "I'll give you a call later and see what time would be good. I think we're in a hurry right now."
His friend just nodded and stood on the sidewalk drooling over the car while the girls walking by seemed to be giggling and checking out not only the car but Phillip as well.
Lee observed it all and mentally sighed, wondering what kind of torture the boys were thinking of doing to his car now. "Phillip's right, we really need to get going. He will call you later," Lee said firmly as he climbed in the driver's seat and waited for the boys to get in and put on their seatbelts.
As they pulled away from the school he allowed himself to give a tiny sigh of relief. Noting the amused looks on the boys' faces he grinned. "If you check that bag back there on the seat with you, Jamie, I think you will find that your mother packed you boys a snack." He chuckled with amusement as the boys dove into the bag and fought to get their hands on the best snack. "As you may have noticed, your mom and I got off work early today so we thought we might as well start moving some of the smaller items from my apartment over to the house today."
"Awesome, dude!" Phillip managed to get out around the apple he was shoving into his mouth. "The sooner we get you moved in the happier Grandma will be," he exchanged a sly grin with Jamie, "And the sooner your car will be in our garage all the time."
Lee hoped they were just teasing about his car but just in case he felt he needed to exercise his manly right to keep his car safe. "Just so you know, there will be no â€˜tuning up' no â€˜touching' no â€˜polishing' or even â€˜looking' at my car without my express permission." He tried to keep his eyes looking stern as he relayed that important information to the boys, but he couldn't keep a straight face any more than they could.
The trio was still laughing about it when they pulled up in front of his apartment a little while later. Lee parked his car behind Amanda's and quickly hurried out to where she was lifting his stereo system into the back.
"Amanda!" he exclaimed in frustration. "I thought you were going to wait for me to lift the heavy stuff?" He quickly grabbed hold of the other side and took it from her and placed it delicately in the back of the Wagoneer along with several boxes of his albums she had already brought down.
Amanda waited until he had set down the stereo and then leaned in to kiss her husband. "I did Lee, this stuff wasn't all that heavy. There is lots more upstairs for you strong men to tote anyway." She turned her attention to the boys climbing out of Lee's car. She had to resist the urge to rush over and give them a hug, knowing that their teenage persona's would balk at any loving attention from their mother in public. "I hope you guys cleaned up your mess in Lee's car," she admonished the pair. "If you don't keep it neat I don't think Lee will let you in it anymore."
Lee laughed as the boys scrambled back into the car picking up their trash to carry up to Lee's apartment to place in the garbage. When both of them were standing on the sidewalk he gestured to the boys with one hand while the other grasped hold of Amanda's. "Shall we go up and see what else we can fit in the car?" He asked with a smile. "Last one inside has to ride back in the Wagoneer with your mother."
Amanda laughed as the boys nearly knocked Lee over trying to beat each other inside. "I hope they don't make too much noise in the hallway," she commented to Lee as they walked inside the building at a much slower pace.
The smiles on the group were evident even from the location across the street where Quisling had been situated for the last few hours. It had been a boring day researching rumors that, of course, were not written down anywhere. Just as they thought they were going to be stuck on the phone gossiping with every two-bit snitch on the Eastern Seaboard, they learned that Scarecrow and his partner were only working a half-day.
That was what led them to be outside in an alleyway with an expensive camera with a telephoto lens hoping to snap an incriminating picture that could be of use. When Amanda King had shown up they had hoped to maybe get some compromising pictures of her with her partner. But when he didn't arrive right away, that idea went by the wayside. â€˜He probably conned her into cleaning his place,' Quisling thought with a quiet snort.
Then Scarecrow had arrived when Mrs. King was placing boxes of crud in her car. The greeting they gave each other and the kids!!!
A broad smile grew on Quisling's face as they imagined the possibilities. Knowing that Mrs. King didn't do â€˜casual' and the fact that her boys were there as well indicated that maybe there was another, more legal tie, between the two partners. If there were it was a closely guarded secret. There had been some rumors, but they were always quickly quashed. If Scarecrow had married his partner that meant he was not only vulnerable through her, but also through their now joined family as well.
The possible scenarios for snagging the Scarecrow and having him beg for mercy were flying through Quisling's mind. Crueler and more elaborate each time. Seeing that the â€˜family' was going to be busy for a while and already knowing Mrs. King's address, Quisling decided to head out and get some confirmation of what they suspected before delivering a threat.
"You can have a few hours more, Scarecrow," Quisling muttered in the direction of the building while getting up from the ground. "I hope you enjoy them." Those last words were accompanied by a quiet bit of evil laughter. Which of course echoed off the walls of the alleyway, causing Quisling to laugh even more at the sound.
Francine was sitting behind Lee's desk sipping a cup of coffee when the pair arrived at work the next morning.
"That wouldn't be fresh would it Francine?" Amanda asked as she gingerly removed her rain soaked coat and hung it on the hook by the door. Lee was doing the same with his overcoat. The rain that had been threatened all week had finally arrived, soaking everything in sight, including two federal agents.
"Sure is," Francine smiled sweetly, "Help yourself." She leaned back further relaxing into Lee's chair as she watched the two drying off and pouring coffee. "I see you are both trying out the drowned rat look today? It's working for you." she smirked.
Amanda was ready to reply when Lee jumped in. "I think it would work well on you too Francine, care for a hug?" The soggy agent approached his desk with his arms spread wide ready to gather Francine into a big, wet hug.
"No thanks, Lee!" Francine responded as she placed her now empty mug on the desk and stood up. "I was just stopping by to leave a message from Billy." Dodging the soggy agent, she maneuvered her way to the door and stepped half out so only her head was still in the room. "He says to double check all your sources. This NATO meeting is looking too perfect and he is getting pressure from Dr. Smyth to make sure it runs like clockwork." With that Francine made her escape.
Lee shook his head, water droplets flying onto his desk and paperwork he had left behind the day before. "I am not looking forward to going out there again," he grumbled and looked out at the rain.
"Maybe if we call all the ones that we can it will have stopped, then at least we can be dry when we have to go out." Amanda suggested as she tossed a towel from their stash of supplies to Lee. "And dry off before you make the ink run."
Lee was still grumbling as he reached for the phone to make his first phone call. He tossed the towel onto the floor and dialed his first number. "Hi, got anything good for me?" he asked, the frustration in his tone making his greeting sound less then friendly.
Amanda just sighed and started dialing a few numbers of her own. 'This is gonna be a fun morning.'
Not to far from where the Stetsons sat calling snitches, Quisling was sitting calmly at a desk pretending to work despite the desire to jump for joy. On the desk in front of them sat a copy of one marriage license in the names of one Lee Stetson and Amanda King.
This was the dirt they had been hoping to find and it was better than anything they could have hoped for. The best spy in DC had gone and got himself 4 fresh targets. Everyone knew a spy's greatest weakness was their family and he went and married a ready made one.
Part of Quisling was also disappointed that such a good-looking man was now off the market but just a small part. The rest was busy trying to work out the best way to handle such a situation. What information did they want first? Agency top clearance codes? Missile codes? A list of undercover operatives? The choices were vast.
After several minutes of debating, Quisling finally had an inspiration. Typing furiously for several moments, they prepared their note. Taking care to handle it only where necessary, they placed it in a plain manila envelope with a few choice pictures and a copy of the marriage license for good measure. They had figured out the perfect delivery system too. 'Now to get out of the office and deliver this,' Quisling thought with a less than pleasant smile on their face.
Two hours later Amanda sighed and hung up the phone. None of the calls she had made had indicated there were any new rumors around and judging by the tone of Lee's phone call he hadn't found out anything new either. Not that she could tell much, he was talking in Dutch. Yelling in Dutch would be more like it.
Amanda flinched when Lee threw the phone back on the receiver and waited for him to finish cursing in Dutch at the hung up phone. She watched as he closed his eyes, took a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair. Finally he looked over at her and gave a small smile.
"Finished are we?" She asked him, nodding at the phone he was so angry with.
"Yeah," he acknowledged sheepishly, "Tato was just being his normal greedy self and wanted me to pay him before he told me he knew nothing." He sighed. "I just don't think there is anything to be found. Not that we will stop looking, but I feel like it is a waste of time."
"Look on the bright side," Amanda smiled at him, hoping that it would help cheer him up. "The sun has come out and the rain has stopped." Putting her phonebook in her desk and retrieving her purse, she locked up her desk and stood and stretched. "So who do you think should be our first stop? Rhonda? Augie? Both of them called earlier and suggested we come by"
"We had better get Rhonda first," he admitted, "Augie's place is a ways away and we will need some gas. At least we have a legitimate reason to go see her." Feeling a bit better now that they were finally moving, he grabbed his keys and followed his wife to the door. "Maybe if we're lucky we'll find nothing and Billy will give us the afternoon off again."
Laughing, Amanda swatted her husband's behind as they left the office and locked up. "Lee I'm sure he will find something to do. We have to actually do some work to earn that paycheck of ours."
Lee put on a sad face and grabbed his wife's hand to walk her to their car. "But it would be so much more fun to have half days and the pay check."
Amanda just shook her head and smiled. Her husband could be such a little boy sometimes. Climbing in the car she buckled herself in and waited for Lee to get situated. "At least it is only a few places we need to go, then maybe we can have a short lunch before we go back to work." She said that while giving her husband a pointed look. Lunches like the one they had had the day before were wonderful but too many could get them into trouble.
Lee just grinned as he started the car and they pulled out into traffic to swing by Rhonda's.
Augie Swann knew he was going to die, he just wasn't sure if Lee was going to shoot him or beat him to death. He paced in the front of his shop muttering under his breath. "It isn't my fault! I didn't do anything! I didn't know! How could I know! He is going to kill me!!"
He had closed the store nearly an hour earlier, after his last 'customer' had left. The worst customer he had ever had in his shop and he hoped they never ever came back again. He had thought he was going to have a sale, this one had been well dressed and seemed friendly enough. At least until the other customers finished paying for their stuff and left. That was when they had locked the doors and the temperature in the room plummeted as they told him what they wanted.
Augie eyed the envelope on the counter again like it was going to explode. He had taken the request, though he had thought it a bit strange, Lee liked getting information and he couldn't figure out why this person hadn't just passed it onto him directly. After they had left he kept the doors locked and snuck a peek. 'It never hurts to stay informed,' he had thought with a smile as he snooped inside.
But all traces of that smile vanished once he realized what he was looking at. "He will kill me and bury me in a deep dark hole with lots of ants for company, I just know it and I didn't do anything!" He whined again to the empty shop.
Taking another look out his front window he looked once again for Lee's car. He just knew he would be by. Whenever he didn't want to see him was when he showed up. Sure enough, there was the â€˜vette pulling up outside.
As Lee parked in front of Augie's newest venture, he could see his least favorite snitch peering out the window. The look on his face set off alarm bells in his head, but before he could even open his mouth to gently suggest that Amanda wait in the car for him, she had one hand on the door handle and the other on his arm.
"I feel it too, Lee, and don't even think of finishing that thought you're having." Amanda stated quietly before she got out of the car and stood on the sidewalk, holding out her hand to her husband/partner.
Lee's eyes darted around the area, taking everything in that he could see. One hand he had loosely by his side ready to draw out his weapon if needed while the other grasped tightly to his wife's.
They walked the few feet to the door and entered quietly.
Augie had watched them approach and stood behind his counter, eyeing them the entire way. As soon as he saw they had entered the store he picked up the envelope and waved it around in the air like it was a hot potato.
"Lee. Buddy," he stammered out, "I swear I had no idea about any of this." Shoving the envelope at Lee he quickly stepped back to the farthest corner behind the counter. His eyes darting from Lee's face to the envelope and bouncing on his feet, he watched with a worried expression as Lee slowly took out the contents.
Amanda stood beside Lee and watched Augie curiously as she scanned the shop. Aside from the normal/abnormal items for sale she saw nothing out of the ordinary. She turned slightly and noted that the door was still locked behind them but couldn't find what was making her feel so on edge. â€˜Something is definitely off,' she thought to herself, just as her husband dropped the contents of the envelope on the counter in front of her and launched himself over the top to get to Augie.
Lee knew something was seriously wrong. Augie hadn't acted this nervous around him since the last time Retzig had been in town. But that was one person he had already crossed off the list after he had double-checked that he was still locked up. As the contents of the envelope fell into his hands, he couldn't help but notice the item on top. It was a copy of his marriage license.
Shuffling quickly through the papers he took deep breaths to control his rising anger as he saw a note written for him but ignored it as he focused on the pictures. Some had obviously been taken the day before at his old apartment building and featured the boys. Others were shots taken outside their home. The one of Amanda and him in their own bedroom snapped the control he had left and he dropped the bundle of papers and pictures onto the counter and lunged towards Augie.
"WHERE THE HELL DID YOU GET THOSE!" He yelled at the poor, cowering snitch as he grasped a hold of him and shook him, nearly bouncing his head off the back wall.
Amanda froze for a moment in shock as Lee went after Augie but quickly scooped up the papers to look for herself. She saw the marriage license and note as well. She quickly scanned the note and its request, paying attention to the threat at the bottom. She paid no mind to the yelling and crying of her husband and his target and focused her eyes on the pictures. If they hadn't been so ominous in their existence she might be inclined to take them home and add to her family albums. The love for each other she could see in her family's eyes was heartwarming and at the same time it was terrifying to know that someone else had been watching. The picture of her husband and her self in the bedroom the night before caused her to blush, but not from embarrassment. While embarrassing, the thought of someone spying on their most intimate moments made her more angry than she could ever remember being.
The next picture however, puzzled her. Knowing Lee had most likely launched himself after seeing the picture of the two of them, she couldn't help but be curious as to why the picture of her mother's garden was there. Each of the photographs had been more and more personal, culminating in that one of them in the bedroom. What could possibly be so important...and then she saw it.
Her quiet gasp got her husband's attention.
Hearing the sound from Amanda, Lee paused in his shaking of his snitch to turn toward her. He kept a firm hold on the back of Augie's neck and shoved him towards the counter where Amanda stood staring in horror at a picture.
"Amanda? Honey, what is it?" Lee asked as gently as he could. His anger still throbbing where his hand kept a firm hold on his snitch.
Amanda looked up at the two men in front of her. Noting the terror on Augie's face she reached out and placed her hand on the arm holding the snitch's face against the counter top. "Lee, this isn't Augie's fault," she shakily said to her husband. "Don't hurt him." Her eyes darted to the phone and she quickly moved to pick up the receiver.
Lee grasped her hand as she reached and held it in place. "What is wrong?" He could feel her hand shaking under his grasp.
Amanda handed him the picture of their backyard with Dotty's gardening shed. "Look closely at the fertilizer," was all she said as she shook off his hand and proceeded to place a call to the Agency.
Lee relaxed his grip on the now whimpering snitch and took a closer look at the picture. He couldn't understand what had made Amanda so upset. He could see the open shed and gardening tools inside. Empty pots from all the transplants Dotty had already done and another couple of rows of full ones that awaited planting. Looking even more closely at the bags of fertilizer he had helped her put in the shed just a few weeks ago in preparation for spring planting he couldn't see anything amiss. Not right away at least. He counted up the bags that were there and that was when he saw it.
When he had placed them in the shed before, none of them had had any wires.
Realizing what this meant, he too reached out for the phone but Amanda was already hanging it up. She held out her hand to stop him from speaking.
"Mr. Melrose is going to meet us at the house," she told him quickly before he could protest that he wanted to speak to Billy. "I think it would be a good idea if we bring Augie with us," she added.
Lee nodded his head and reached into his pocket for a pair of handcuffs to secure his snitch.
"Lee!" Amanda snapped at her husband. Grabbing the cuffs from his hand she shoved her husband back from Augie who by this point was beginning to lose the ability to speak. The terror he felt being very obvious on his face.
Amanda gently brushed the hair out of Augie's eyes and grasped his hand. Tugging gently on him she pulled him towards the edge of the counter so he could join her in front of it. Once he was clear, she pulled him towards her and gave him a quick hug and a kiss on his cheek.
Augie glanced in amazement at Amanda and gave a terrified glance at Lee. He could hear the agent's growl but was shocked to see â€˜Mrs. Stetson' turn to him and give him a warning look.
"Augie," Amanda stated in a quiet voice. "I want to thank you for calling us and letting us know you had something for us. You might have just saved my family."
Stepping back from Augie, Amanda picked up the papers and pictures from the counter and stuffed them back into their envelope as she quickly walked to the door. Once there she turned and looked at the two men exchanging puzzled looks.
With an exasperated sigh she shook her head and unlocked the door to leave. "Lee Stetson, Augie could have used this information for his own benefit and not called us at all. We should be thanking him for calling us as soon as he got it. Now how about you help Augie find his keys so he can lock up and we can get to the house in time to meet the bomb squad and get our family out?" With that said, she stepped out onto the sidewalk and made her way to the car.
Inside the store Lee was shaking his head as he rounded the counter and stood in front of Augie. Augie braced himself for the blow he just knew was coming and nearly fell over when all he felt was Stetson's hand on his shoulder. "I just hate it when she's right," Lee sighed.
Lee gave a quick glance around and gave Augie's hand a quick shake and pulled him in closer. "But if you breathe a word about any of this to any one..." Lee pulled back so that Augie could see the fire in his eyes and tightened his grip. "It will be the last thing you ever tell anyone." He released Augie's hand and gave him a nudge towards the front door. "We have to move. I hope you have your keys in your pocket."
Augie didn't know what gods he had pleased lately but he was infinitely glad that he had. He quickly pulled the keys from his pocket and locked the door behind them as they made their way to the car to join Amanda.
The ride to Arlington was tense. Augie was squashed behind the front seats as Lee raced as fast as he dared toward their home. Amanda had spent most of the time on the car phone arranging things and Augie felt that now was not the time to bring up that he hadn't got paid for his information yet.
The car squealed to a stop in front of a nice little home with a white picket fence. Several other cars were lining the streets as well as a big black van. Before Augie could pull himself out of the backseat, the two agents in the car were already out the doors and headed to the backyard.
"Lee! Amanda!" Francine called out as she came out from behind their house. Catching up to them she quietly pulled them to the side. "We found the bomb. It was set with a motion detector so that the next time that bag of fertilizer was moved it would have gone off. It was a small one; only enough explosives to demolish the shed and whoever was inside it."
Amanda grabbed hold of Lee's hand and squeezed it for all she was worth. She knew Dotty had been planning on doing some gardening this evening after her garden club meeting finished. The look on Lee's face showed that he remembered that too. Seeing the bomb squad coming out from the backyard, Lee ushered the two women out of the way and headed toward his car. Augie had managed to untangle himself and was just getting out to stand on the sidewalk when the three agents got there.
"Francine, Augie here saw the person responsible for all this and we need to get him back to the Agency and sit on him for a bit." Lee told Francine as he watched the bomb squad gingerly put the offending bag of fertilizer in the back of their van. "Maybe a few hours in a holding cell would work too to make sure he keeps quiet," he added in a whisper to the blond agent.
Amanda, however, worried as she was about what had been in her backyard, was not one to miss any details and heard what Lee told Francine. Rounding on the two agents she grasped hold of Augie's hand and glared at them. "I think I'll go with Augie in an Agency car to be sure he is treated well." she stated defiantly. "I think you would do well to remember how we came about this information, Lee," she added with just a touch of reprimand.
Lee grabbed hold of Amanda's other hand and pulled her from the snitch to stand a few feet away. "Amanda! He knows we're married and has pictures to prove it. I want him too scared to breathe a word of that to anyone."
"He does know we're married Lee, and he knows where we live. But if you scare him to death he will never trust you again. And that is what he needs. To know that we trust him so he can trust us," Amanda refuted. "He didn't have to call us right away. He called us because he knows us and trusts how we will deal with him. If you lock him up now, you had better be prepared to keep him there because he will have no trust for us ever again. And you can't do that, Lee. You have to let him go at some point."
Lee opened his mouth to argue that he had never trusted Augie with anything when Billy stepped up beside Amanda. "Scarecrow," he growled. "Listen to your wife. There is no way we are going to lock up the snitch who just brought you golden information because you are scared for your family."
Billy motioned Francine and Augie over and continued. "Francine is going to take Augie to a safe house and we will have a sketch artist meet them there. A level â€˜C' type one Francine," he said pointedly to the blond agent, knowing she was probably going to take him to a level â€˜D' one that was only fit for junkies and other lowlifes. A level â€˜C' one was more a place like Amanda's house in a nice neighborhood. Francine nodded resignedly and moved Augie toward her car, which was parked further down the block, calling out to two other agents to follow them.
"While she is getting him out of the way I suggest someone tell me why the hell there is a bomb in your backyard and what the devil is going on?" Billy demanded of his agents.
"Sir..." Amanda began but was interrupted when Lee exploded in a quiet voice, "Someone knows we are married and left a demand with Augie at his shop this morning. A picture of the bomb in the garden shed was included in the package." Lee looked at the house they were standing in front of. "I don't like this Billy, this came out of the blue. The only thing we are working on is that NATO Defence and Security Committee meeting."
"Is this the package, Amanda?" Billy asked pointing at the envelope she had in her hands.
"It is sir," Amanda answered, handing it over to her section chief. "I haven't gotten a very good look at everything inside it yet. Once I noticed the bomb in the picture we came straight here."
"I say we meet back at the Agency in one hour. That should give you enough time to get your family out of the way for a few days at least and I'll have the lab boys go over this for prints and get copies made. Don't worry it'll be eyes only for now." Billy looked at his watch and noted the time. He motioned to the agents still gathering evidence to step on it. "The boys should be home soon so I'll leave you to it." He walked to his car and looked pointedly at Lee, "One hour and I expect to see you in my office." With that he sat down and drove off.
Most of the other agents left in the next five minutes, with the exception of the two Lee pulled aside and asked to stay behind and keep an eye on his family until they left town. He gave them extremely detailed instructions on how closely they should watch HIS boys and mother-in-law before he finally left them to join Amanda inside the house.
He walked inside feeling more vulnerable than he could ever remember. Even when Jamie and Amanda had gone missing a few weeks ago he hadn't felt this open to attack. Knowing that someone could have let a bomb off here and he wouldn't have known about it until after the fact was shaking him to the core.
He could hear Amanda in the kitchen on the phone with someone so he stood in the opening to the kitchen listening to her until she hung up the phone.
"Thank you so much, Sharon. It is so much easier arranging to get my family out of the house now that I'm a full time agent. I don't think I would have been able to arrange this so fast on my own. ...I'll be sure to let Lee know you helped. Thanks again, Sharon. Bye."
Lee watched as his wife hung up the phone and then sighed. She hung her head and wrapped her arms around herself and looked so sad that he couldn't let that go without doing something. Walking quietly up behind her, he reached out and pulled her back into his arms. "Don't look so sad, there pretty lady. We will fix this," he whispered into her hair.
"I know we will, Lee, I believe I'm the one who told you that together we can do anything. I just hate how close this one is. We could have lost Mother." Amanda stumbled over her mother's name, the emotion being overwhelming.
They stood that way for a few moments, just holding onto each other and gathering their strength for when the family returned home. Finally Lee pulled back and turned Amanda in his arms. "So how are we getting the family out of the way for a few days?" he asked. But before Amanda could answer him the front door slammed open and the sounds of bickering teenage boys filled their ears.
"You take that back, Jamie! I do not have the hots for Christine! I just like her style that's all." Phillip's voice could be heard bouncing off the walls.
"If that's true then how come you broke your date with Beckie this weekend so you could offer to help her with Christine research at the video store Saturday? I think she can find the movie clips she wants to reference for her paper without your help," Jamie answered back, a grin could be heard in his voice as he one-upped his brother.
"I just wanted to help her out that's all!" Phillip replied, his voice rising with each word. As the two boys entered the kitchen they both stopped and stared at their parents in an embrace.
"Uh, sorry about the yelling, Mom." Phillip apologized with a grimace, knowing his mother had heard every word since they had entered the house. "I really am just helping her out. I swear."
"Boys," Lee said sternly, "You should never ever lead a woman on. Or girl. It will only end badly for you. So I really hope you are just helping her with her homework. But that isn't important right now, something has come up...."
"Yes it has," Amanda jumped in before Lee could finish what he was about to say. "I was hoping Mother would be here too before I told you the news."
At that moment Dotty came whirling in the back door. "Oh goody. You're all here. I had the most wonderful time at our meeting this afternoon. Darcy had the best ideas for helping to keep your roots moist when transplanting seedlings that I think will help immensely when we tackle the garden this weekend." She looked around at her family in the kitchen and noted the slightly worried look on Lee's face. "We are transplanting the garden this weekend, aren't we?"
"I'm afraid not, Mother," Amanda stated, forcing a note of joy into her voice. "Do you remember Jamie telling us about how his class is working on the Civil War right now? Well I mentioned it to one of our directors at work this morning and he told me that they were doing a documentary on a Civil War battle, the First Battle of Bull Run, and they will have a few historians there helping them get their facts straight. He invited the family up to watch them film and so Jamie could get some extra input for his assignment. Now Lee and I have already taken two weeks off work so we can't go, but with the teacher's in-service happening tomorrow and the boys having no school I was hoping that you could take them, Mother."
Jamie could be heard yelling "COOL!" while Phillip just groaned. "Do I have to go too Mom? I had plans."
Dotty eyed Amanda and Lee suspiciously. "Are you sure you can't come with us Darlings?"
"Phillip, now I know that spending the weekend watching a documentary on the Civil War may not seem like a fun thing to do, but when I was speaking with Sharon Farrow, the director, and she told me that they were going to have a weapons expert there as well to go over the weapons they were going to be test firing for the shoot. She said they could always use some more help on set and wanted to know if you would be interested in dressing up in period costume and shooting at some of the targets for them?" Amanda didn't like the idea of a gun but figured if he only learned how to shoot weapons from a hundred years ago it wouldn't be so bad. â€˜Besides it is a sure way to get him to want to go,' she thought as she noted the growing look of horror on her mother's face.
"Mother, don't worry. The experts will be right there and they needed some younger faces for the film. A lot of the soldiers back then were barely out of their teenage years and Phillip is just the right age."
"But Amanda! A gun?! At his age?!" Dotty flustered out. "Are you sure that is a good idea?"
Amanda moved over to her Mother's side and glanced back to where the boys were now hounding Lee with questions about this director and what kind of weapons she would have with her. She gave Lee a nod and watched as he herded the boys up the stairs while hollering back that he was going to help them pack.
"Mother, it will be perfectly safe. Trust me. The guns are going to be hundred-year-old weapons from the Civil War museum and the experts won't let the boys touch them if they aren't safe," Amanda tried to reassure her mother.
"But Amanda, I thought that you didn't make documentaries?" Dotty replied looking suspiciously at her daughter. "Is there some other reason you are trying to get rid of us?"
"Mother!" Amanda sighed, wishing her mother wasn't quite so perceptive and hating to lie to her. "We do make some real documentaries. We do have a cover to keep and there really is a documentary being filmed right now about the First Battle of Bull Run. Now the director herself offered to drive you guys up there and have you stay at the same hotel they are in, but she has to leave tonight to make sure everything is in position for the shoot on Saturday. She will be here in less than an hour so if you could please go and pack now?"
Amanda had been slowly walking her mother toward the stairs as they spoke and now they had reached the base of them. Dotty eyed her daughter as only a mother could and decided that if there was something going on, she wasn't going to learn anything right now. With a sigh she slowly started up the steps. "Alright Amanda, I'll go and pack. Heaven forbid that you tell me anything that you don't want to."
As she ascended the stairs she met with Lee coming down. Pausing she leaned over and gave Lee a kiss on his cheek. "I know you will take good care of my daughter while the boys and I are gone," she told him and then went into her room to pack.
Lee looked at Amanda. "What was that for?" he asked with a puzzled expression.
Amanda sighed. "I think she knows something is up but since I wouldn't say anything different she only has suspicions. I don't think she believes half of what I say anymore." She glanced at her watch before snuggling close to Lee for a hug. "Sharon said she would pick them up by 4 and that is just under a half hour from now. Are the boys ready to go yet? We have to meet with Mr. Melrose by 4:15 and I don't want to be late."
Lee held his wife close and relaxed a bit in her arms. "They have everything packed that they will need for clothes. Jamie is getting his notes ready for his project and Phillip is going through them with him to find out about what type of weapons they will get to try." He pulled back a bit to look his wife in the eye. "I can't believe you are going to let them fire guns. You hate guns."
Amanda smiled sheepishly back up at Lee. "I know and I'll probably regret it later but it was the only thing I could think of that would convince Phillip to go willingly and Sharon did ask if she could use the boys in the shots. She really does need a few young male actors. Most of what she was going to film was going to be just scenery, but seeing the guns lying on the ground doesn't make for a good film." She laid her head back against his chest before continuing. "Besides I think she is looking forward to just filming right now. She really needs a break after that mess in Cairo."
They stood like that for a few minutes just holding each other and listening to their family upstairs getting ready until they heard a knock at the door. Instinctively Lee pushed Amanda behind him as he checked out the window beside the door to see who it was. Amanda could feel the muscles in his back relax as he realized it was Sharon Farrow at the door.
"Sharon!" Lee greeted his fellow agent as he opened the door. "Thanks for doing this."
"Not a problem, Lee," Sharon replied. She was slightly shorter than her fellow agent and had a similar hair color but that was where the similarities stopped. Sharon wore glasses and had a more slim appearance that had deceived the bad guys more than once into thinking she was just another tiny weak female. "After what the DC office did for me after Cairo and those contacts you suggested I talk to, how could I refuse? Besides I promised Kamilah that I would remember her to you. But I refused to give you a kiss from her." She smiled wistfully as she delivered this promised message, if the Scarecrow's wife wasn't standing there before them she might very well have given him a sock removing kiss.
Lee squirmed a bit and glanced at Amanda who had an amused smile on her face. "A â€˜good' old friend of yours, huh Lee?" she questioned with a smile. She knew he had a very colorful past with women and had accepted that a long time ago but every now and again when one of them popped up in their lives she loved to watch him squirm and worry about it.
"Amanda," he started, "It was a long, long time ago and I haven't thought of Kami in years." he protested.
Amanda burst out laughing, "Would that be Kami with an â€˜I'?" she questioned through her giggles.
Sharon saw the look on Lee's face and couldn't help joining in the laughter. Anything that got the better of Lee was worth it, as it didn't happen that often.
When Dotty descended the stairs a few moments later with her bags in hand, the two were still giggling at Lee's expense. "Amanda, don't pick on the poor man," Dotty chastised her daughter while going over to Lee to give him a big hug. "If my daughter starts to tease you, you let me know and I'll set her straight."
Lee sighed, knowing the only way to get this over with was to get them on their way as quickly as possible. "Don't worry Dotty, I can take care of myself. Let me help you with your bag." He reached down and picked up Dotty's suitcase and led the way out to Sharon's car.
They had just left the house when a thundering sound up above let Amanda know that the boys were ready too and on their way down. Sure enough, two kit bags flew through the air to land at her feet. "Boys!" she yelled as they narrowly missed her. "I think I have mentioned that we carry our belongings down the stairs?" She watched as they sheepishly walked slowly down the stairs and gathered their things.
"This here is Ms. Sharon Farrow. She is a director for IFF and she is in charge this weekend. I want you both to listen to what she has to say and behave yourselves or she won't let you within a hundred feet of any sort of weapon. Is that understood?"
"Yes Mom," the boys chorused as they rolled their eyes.
Sharon nodded her head above them. "I'm sure we will get along great Mrs. Stetson," she added as she stepped back to make room for the boys to leave. "Lee is outside helping your grandmother get settled, she has shotgun so you boys will have to share the backseat. Shall we go?"
No further words were needed as the two teens flew out the door nearly knocking over a returning Lee. "Thanks again, Sharon, for doing this." He said as he shook his fellow agent's hand.
"Like I said before Lee, it isn't a problem. I wouldn't want any one to mess with my family either. Hopefully you can get this settled quickly." Sharon nodded to Amanda and made her way to join the rest of the family in the car.
Lee and Amanda stood on the front steps and watched as Sharon drove off with their family and the shadow car left keeping pace behind them. Once they were out of view, Amanda ducked inside and grabbed her purse off the kitchen counter. Locking the door behind her she grabbed hold of Lee's hand. With a determined look on her face that never bode well for their opponents, she looked him in the eye and said. "Let's get to the Agency and see what Billy has for us."
With a nod Lee agreed with her and the two set off.
Billy Melrose was not a happy man. Not only had he had to put up with a rant from Francine about the sleazy snitch she had just dropped off at an Agency safe house that wouldn't shut up with the suggestive comments, he had just gotten off the phone with Dr. Smyth. He had nearly lost his temper and yelled at the man when he insisted that the Stetsons stay on the NATO Defence and Security Committee meeting case, but he was also refusing to allow them to work on this new bit of business with their family. Finally Smyth had hung up on him after informing him with a sneer that he would be in the office soon to deliver the good news personally to the Stetsons.
No Billy Melrose was not a happy man.
He reached for his Tums and the phone at the same time, ordering some extra security for the Bullpen and popping a few Tums into his mouth. He could just imagine Lee's reaction, but it was Amanda's that really worried him. Nothing had really ever set her off before, but he knew from past experiences that you never stood between a mother and her children. It was the most dangerous place to be.
He was standing to close the blinds to his office, not wanting any more witnesses than necessary to Lee's murder of the Head of the Agency when the phone on his desk rang letting him know that the Stetsons were on their way down. The blinds secured, he stuck his head out and gave a yell for Francine to hurry up and bring the latest report on the notes and papers Augie Swann had provided. That and he didn't want to be the only one stuck in the office when the explosion occurred.
Moving to sit down again behind his desk, he closed his eyes and took a few deep, relaxing breaths and waited for hell to break loose in his office.
Lee and Amanda had made great time getting across town to the Agency on their silent ride from home. Worry for their family and anger at the fact that their children were being targeted had silenced the pair. They used the trip to fortify themselves for the coming storm, knowing that it could very well get a lot worse before it was over.
They hurriedly parked and entered the building. No smiles for Mrs. Marston today as they quickly entered the elevator clipping on the security badges as they went. One last loving glance was shared between the pair before the elevator dinged signaling their arrival.
As they entered the Bullpen they caught a glimpse of Francine's heels as she entered the section chief's office and wasted no time in greeting any of their fellow agents as they quickly crossed the room and entered even before the door closed.
"What have we got Billy?!" Lee demanded of his friend and boss, not wasting any time with friendly greetings.
Amanda at least managed a quick nod to the pair in the room with them before staring at Billy, waiting for his answer.
Billy slowly rose from behind his desk, choosing his words with care. "Scarecrow, there is something you should kn-" was as far as he got before Dr. Smyth breezed in.
"Ah Billy, not trying to warn the children are you? Bad form! Very bad form." Dr. Smyth crooned with a gleeful smile on his face. Shutting the door firmly behind him, the aggravating little man with the power turned his joyous expression to the Stetsons. "I wanted to be the one to personally tell you that you are off this case. The only thing you two will be working on for the foreseeable future is the NATO Defence and Security Committee meeting. I'll be assigning Fielder to look after your family and track down who is trying to tug on Scarecrow's straw."
While the twinkle in his eye revealed how much he was enjoying delivering this news, Smyth was after all, a very smart man and had continued into the office until he was standing behind Billy's desk. Making it a bit more difficult for Lee to rip him limb from limb with that statement, but also catching all of Scarecrow's actions for the security cameras placed in Billy's office. He planned on enjoying this over and over again later when he needed a laugh.
Francine had been stunned by the swift movement of events since she had entered the office and barely had time to set the folder she had been carrying down on Billy's desk before Lee shoved her out of the way in his haste to reach Dr. Smyth. She landed on the chair in front of Billy's desk with a thwump and quickly drew her legs to the side and out of the way as Amanda was latched onto Scarecrow's back, trying vainly to stop her husband in his desperate quest to thrash the life out of the Agency's Head. Even Billy, who was now standing between the two men, was quickly losing the battle to keep Lee's hands off the man's throat. Dr. Smyth was standing there with that vile smile on his face, daring Scarecrow to touch him and apparently enjoying watching the potential attempted murderer standing mere inches in front of him.
So engrossed was Francine in what was happening before her, she almost missed the ringing of the red phone on Billy's desk. It was obvious that no one else had noticed it either. Knowing it was the direct line from the President's Office and required answering immediately she jumped up and picked up the receiver, hoping her swift, "Hello!" could be heard over the din surrounding her. Nodding an affirmative answer even though there was no one to see it, she quickly placed the call on the speakerphone and turned the volume up to full.
The President's demand echoed off the walls in the small office and everyone froze in place. Dr. Smyth, with his cigarette clenched between his teeth, while Billy had a hold of Lee's wrists and Amanda practically on his back hugging his neck trying to pull him backwards. Everyone in the room snapped their attention to the President's voice emanating from the small speaker.
"Dr. Smyth! It has been brought to my attention that there is some problem with security-" the President started to say before Smyth jumped in.
"Mr. President, you have my assurances that there will be no problems with the NATO Defence and Security Committee meeting this Friday. I was just informing Scarecrow and Mrs. Stetson of where their duty lies, with their country." He assured the President in a smug tone, very pleased that the President was about to witness the Scarecrow's dereliction of duty and knocking him down a peg or two in the President's eyes.
"Dr. Smyth, never interrupt me again!" the voice coming from the box snapped out sharply. "It has come to my attention that there is a problem with the security of the Stetsons' family. Obviously it would be very difficult for them to remain working on the NATO Defence and Security Committee meeting until this matter with their family is resolved. Having their attention split between work and home would not make them very efficient at their jobs. With that in mind I'm calling to offer Agent Johnson of the Secret Service to aid with any security issues leaving the Stetsons free to work on catching whoever is threatening their family."
The commanding tone of the President softened as he addressed the Stetsons, "Mr. and Mrs. Stetson you have the full support of this office. Requisition anything you need to find who is after your family and deal with this situation swiftly. I want anyone who dares to think they can go after our children and families to know it is a very, very bad idea. I have every confidence that you will be able to resolve this situation quickly."
Addressing Dr. Smyth again, the President's voice took on the harsh quality of before, "Austin, I do think you should come over to my office for a little chat. I don't think you remember my last words about how I want things run at the Agency, or maybe it is time you should consider retirement? I think I can spare some time for you in an hour, that is if you are through over there?" While his statement sounded like a question everyone in the room knew it was an order from the Commander-in-Chief.
The sound of Dr. Smyth's cigarette holder snapping in between his clenched teeth could be heard as he cleared his throat. "Of course sir, I'll be there right away. Carry on children; you have your assignments. I think that Fielder can take over the NATO Defence and Security Committee meeting security arrangements while you clear this situation up." With an imperious nod at the agents in the room he left swiftly, leaving in his wake a room full of dazed faces.
The speaker on the desk burst into sound once more as the President addressed the assembled agents. "Again, you have the full support of the White House and all her staff. We can't have you worried about your families' safety and that of your country at the same time. I wish you the best of luck." With that a click could be heard as the line disconnected.
Amanda slowly slid down her husband's back until her feet were firmly fastened to the floor once again. Absently stroking his shoulders as she guided him to the chairs in front of Billy's desk, after he released Lee's wrists. Billy also sat and the three continued to stare at the speaker on the desk in stunned silence.
Francine was the first to recover and gave a discreet little cough. "Now that that is settled, I want to show you what we have found out so far." She moved quietly over to Billy's desk and retrieved the folder she had dropped pulling items out of it and holding them up as she explained. "The pictures were all taken on an ordinary Kodak camera; telephoto capable, and available at any camera store in the city. Likewise with the paper it was developed on - available in any shop around town. There were no prints or identifying marks on the note either. As for the demand, here is a short list of people who would want the information at the meeting. It isn't really short as there are at least a dozen countries that would benefit from having inside information. Asking for a bug to be placed inside the meeting room is a bold move. The frequency they asked the bug to be set at is readily picked up by many receivers and would, in effect, broadcast the meeting for miles, making it impossible to narrow down who is actually receiving this information. Whoever is trying to compromise you, has done their homework."
Amanda looked at Francine with a slightly puzzled look, "Do you mean to tell me that they are going to all this trouble and all they want is a bug placed? It doesn't seem like they want all that much in comparison to the threats they've made."
Billy smiled at Amanda as he allowed himself to relax now that he no longer had to physically hold Scarecrow back. He made a mental note to get more exercise since he had only been seconds away from losing his grip on Lee's wrists and it would look bad if his boss, no matter how much Dr. Smyth deserved it, was bludgeoned to death in the Section Chief's office. "It may seem like a small thing but this is how it's usually done. Ask an agent for something that seems small and innocuous and after a few times they then start asking for bigger and bigger bits of information. While each little compromise doesn't seem like much, by the time the bigger requests are made and the agent looks back at what they've already done and the choices are then limited to giving in and doing what was requested or jail."
Lee had been silently observing the others as he calmed the rage that he could still feel coursing through his veins over Smyth's dismissal of the safety of his family. He allowed the soothing touch of his wife's hands on his shoulders to wash some of the strain away as he came to terms with the fact he had very nearly beat the tar out of the Agency's director. If it hadn't been for Billy and his wife, he had no doubts that Smyth would be dead right now and he on his way to an Agency holding cell. He noticed that Francine still had one item left in her folder and now felt calm enough to ask about it. Making a mental note to tell Billy how much he appreciated his intervention, Lee pointed at the remaining item. "Francine," he asked, and then cleared his throat to make his voice sound a bit more normal. "Francine what is it that you still haven't told us?"
Francine had been dreading this part. Not even bothering to pick up the report still inside the folder she handed the entire thing over to Billy. "It is a report on your marriage certificate that was found in the envelope. As you know for the sake of security, all copies of official documents such as these are removed from the issuing office with a note left in its place to contact the appropriate security agency immediately if there are any questions. It is a standard practice when any agent marries to help shield their families. We checked and the file in Marion County hasn't been accessed." She paused for a moment and looked Billy directly in the eyes as she continued. "That means that the only way to see this document is to access the secured files room in the vault on Delta level."
Billy cursed and looked over the report in the folder. "What did the security tapes and logs say?"
Francine sighed, "It's all in the report. The system suffered malfunctions. That is to say, the room was accessed but who did has been wiped from the logs and the security tapes are all blank for that time period, even checking the surrounding hallways for the same time frame yielded no results. Whoever did this is smart."
"Damn it!" Lee hit his fist on the top of Billy's desk and stood up to start pacing the room. "This means that whoever is doing this has a direct line into our files!"
Amanda's eyes widened as she realized as well that this meant the danger came from within the Agency itself. "Sir, if whoever is doing this is inside the Agency doesn't that mean they might know where we sent Mother and the boys?" Lee heard the fear in his wife's voice and came to stand behind her, letting his hands rest on her shoulders now.
"Francine!" Billy barked, "I want you to head down to records and personally check access and pull any and all files about their whereabouts. I don't think any of them will have had time to enter into the system but just in case I want them pulled. Now!"
"Consider it done!" Francine called over her shoulder as she bolted from the office as fast as she could.
"I highly doubt my office is bugged so we should be good to talk in here, but what are we going to do about the NATO Defence and Security Committee meeting? We can't just assign it to Fielder now, everyone would know about it in a heartbeat," Billy commented, wondering what they would do now.
"That is a great idea, sir," Amanda began, each word sounding more emphatic than the last. "If we make sure that everyone knows that Fielder is being added to our team, and that we're adding more agents as well to help with security and maybe even get Leatherneck to rig up some sort of jamming equipment so that no bugs of any type would work, and you can announce the changes first thing to the Bullpen. In the meantime, we can have Agent Johnson ready with extra people watching Mother and the boys and then tomorrow morning we won't come in but someone can let it slip that we're taking the boys to the Smithsonian for an in-service day treat. Without Lee and me here, but being off with our family, it may just insult the mole's ego enough that it will egg them into trying something more aggressive."
Lee had been absently rubbing his wife's shoulders through her ramble as he tried his best to keep up. Hearing her suggestions about the family had him feeling a strange mixture of pride and fear. Pride in her ever growing skills as an agent and fear over trusting the safety of their family to the Secret Service. Though he had to admit if he couldn't be there to do the job personally, trusting them to the people assigned to protect the president on a daily basis was a close second.
Billy regarded Amanda with a puzzled look. "Are you saying you want them to think your family will be out of the house for a while making it look like you will be easy targets when you return?"
"But they won't really be there, sir. It will just be Lee and me and I would rather have them try something when Mother and the boys won't be around and since there is no way to contact the mole to let them know that Lee won't be putting the bug in place, throwing up all this extra security at the last minute and adding extra agents to our team would be like throwing it back in their face that he won't do it." She reached a hand up to grasp her husband's as she turned in her chair to look him in the eye. "I really want to get this over with as soon as possible. I don't think we could keep it from them for long and I don't want them to worry." The look in her eyes showed her determination to get this done and fast and Lee couldn't agree more.
"Billy your office line should be free of bugs so I'll just call Johnson now and make sure that he can have men in place within the hour. Then I say the three of us should stay in here until we have the plan in place." Lee was reaching for the phone when Billy's hand beat him to it.
"I agree that this plan sounds like it could work Scarecrow, but I'll call Agent Johnson and get things rolling with the family. Why don't you two start making plans for the tac squad so we can get them in place before we make any announcements." Billy nodded at his two agents and they nodded back. Lee escorted Amanda over to the small sofa where she proceeded to pull a notepad out of her purse as the two started on their plans for the set up and strike.
Billy couldn't help the small smile of pride that crossed his face as he dialed the direct line for the Secret Service. â€˜It really was the best idea I ever had to hire Mrs. King,' he thought to himself as he listened to the phone ringing in his ear.
From their position outside the Bullpen, Quisling gave a quick glance at the activity inside as they walked by. Desmond had just come flying out of the office and nearly knocked them over in her haste to get somewhere. Quisling just sighed and continued toward the steno pool, hoping to pick up some new information about the Stetsons. By this time Scarecrow should be jumping out of his skin with worry. Confident that their plans were well place, and smiling about the surprise they had left in the Stetson home, they decided to splurge on a treat for that evening and have dinner at Emilio's instead of reheating the leftovers from the night before.
Amanda slowly opened her eyes and looked at the bedside clock, noting that it would soon be time to get up and put the day's plans in action. She glanced over and noticed that the breeze from the partially opened window had the cool feel of rain; rather like the feeling you get from an impending storm. â€˜That sure fits the mood for today,' she thought quietly to herself.
From the sounds of the slow even breathing behind her she surmised that her husband was still asleep. Taking the few moments of solitude that she could before everything started, she went over the plans they had made the night before. After Billy had finished briefing Agent Johnson he had assured them that Johnson himself was on his way out to where the family was with 5 of his best people.
Francine had returned shortly afterwards with the paperwork Sharon had submitted with details on where the family was staying and was satisfied that no one else had seen them or even thought that Sharon was doing anything other than visiting her cousin that weekend. Though the latest gossip did involve Sharon and a sheik having had some sort of fling that had started the whole Cairo mess last month.
They had managed to corner Fielder before he left the office for the day and told him that since things were running so smoothly they were going to add him to the security team so he could be in charge while they took the next morning off to spend with the boys. They had made up some excuse about the boys' grades having improved to help sell it.
As the office had slowly emptied and the day crew moved out and was replaced by the evening staff, Leatherneck had shown up and been filled in on the situation. His face expressed how upset he was that their family was being targeted and he promised that he would have his strongest jamming device in place by midnight.
With Billy having Agent Johnson in place and the tactical team briefed and already in place outside their home since before they arrived last night, there had been nothing left to do but worry. She had tried to tidy up and do some cleaning last night to burn off her excess energy, but Lee had come up with some rather distracting alternate uses for that energy.
Amanda smiled and snuggled closer to her husband as she thought about those â€˜activities' - a smile that only grew larger as she felt him stir and place his arm firmly around her waist. He pulled her even closer and nuzzled her neck for a moment before whispering in her ear, "Good morning, beautiful."
Turning, she moved her arm to around his neck and pulled him to her for an early morning kiss. "Good morning yourself, handsome," she whispered back to him after they broke apart.
Lee looked at his wife and felt the familiar happy feeling of joy at being able to wake up with his wife every morning fill his being. He searched her eyes for any of the worry he had seen on her face the previous evening as was relieved when he saw she only looked well rested. Pulling her into a tight embrace he rolled onto his back and rubbed her arm gently. "Are you ready to get up and get this over with?" he questioned lightly. Today was going to be a rough day and once things started they wouldn't stop and he wanted to be sure she was ready.
"I'm as ready as I'll ever be," she returned with a smile as she hugged him tight and then rolled out of bed. "I'll just take a quick shower while you call Billy and check on how his â€˜announcement' went over this morning." Tossing a wink and a grin over her shoulder, she sauntered into the bathroom and shortly thereafter the sound of the shower running could be heard.
Lee watched her walk to the bathroom and envied the shower curtain for the show it was about to receive as he rolled over to the phone and dialed Billy's direct line. A quick look at the clock showed that it was almost 8:30 am. The morning briefing should be over by now and Billy should be settling in behind his desk at any moment to sneak that doughnut he thought no one knew he ate regularly.
As the dulcet tones of his boss snapped out a "Hello!" Lee rolled over onto his back to get more comfortable. "Morning, Billy," Lee, greeted his boss and friend, "How did the morning briefing go?"
Billy Melrose sighed and closed the drawer hiding his doughnut, "Everything went fine, Scarecrow. I announced the adding of Fielder to your team and the back-up agents. I even mentioned that Leatherneck had already provided some extra security gadgets. No one gave any indications of any type of reaction but that doesn't prove anything. For all we know this source could be in a different department and won't find out about the changes until everyone has made the water cooler rounds."
Lee's relaxed feeling began to fade. He had been hoping against hope that maybe the mole would jump up and confess so that they wouldn't have to worry about anything today, but that only happened in the movies. "Well, everything is set on this end. Amanda and I have everything set here. We have her jeep in the garage and dummies in place so it looks like we have a carload. With the window tinting we added to the back no one will be able to tell the difference."
"Just don't let your guard down for an instant," Billy cautioned. "The report is back from the crime lab; that explosive may have been small but it was powerful. It might not have taken out a large area but the area it did reach would have been completely demolished. These guys mean business." His eyes drifted across his desk to the picture he kept of his own loving wife and his tone became more concerned. "How is Amanda holding up? Any news on the family?"
Lee's gaze had drifted to the picture of his own family that now rested on Amanda's dresser. A snapshot of his parents now resided alongside school pictures of the boys and one of Dotty and Amanda taken last fall. "We spoke to them last night, Billy. Johnson is there all right, along with his team," he gave a chuckle as he recalled his older son's enthusiasm. "I guess he must have brought along one of his younger agents, Phillip couldn't say enough about the hot blonde who showed up to work with one of the historians. Jamie was just upset because he had forgotten his camera with the telephoto lens, he had been hoping for some distance shots of the scenery."
"Just keep your eyes open," Billy warned again before hanging up the phone.
Lee watched as Amanda came out of the bathroom wrapped in a large fluffy towel and stood in front of the closet choosing something to wear. His body shivered, but not from the cool breeze now blowing strongly into the room from the open window. Not noticing his boss had already hung up, he murmured, "I have no intention on closing them," and then he hung up the phone.
It was nearly 10 am and Quisling was finding it very difficult to focus on another mundane task that was part of their cover at the Agency. Knowing that everything was in place for the biggest scheme of their career and that by tomorrow morning they would have succeeded where no other agent had before in compromising the great Scarecrow, made it difficult to keep still and remain calm. Noting the time and figuring a trip to the water cooler to grab a fresh coffee might be enough of a walk to settle their excitement, they grabbed their mug and headed off.
They stood in the doorway to the Bullpen for a few moments surveying the atmosphere and were satisfied with the results. â€˜They have no idea what I'm about to accomplish!' they thought smugly as the scent of fresh brewed coffee beckoned from across the room.
Fred Fielder was seated at his desk in the Bullpen going over the layout for the NATO Defence and Security Committee meeting scheduled to start off that evening with a get-to-know-you dinner, followed by a weekend of touristy events before the real business of meetings began first thing Monday morning. As he moved his pencil over the schematics for the meeting room being set up for Monday's use, he couldn't figure out what a blacked out square in the corner was for. Spying Leatherneck entering the Bullpen, he called him over.
"Whatcha need, Fielder?" Leatherneck asked as he took off his wet jacket, soaked with the rain that was starting up outside. He hung it off the corner of the desk so it wouldn't get any of the paperwork spread across the top wet.
"I'm going over the plans for the meeting on Monday and this blacked out area here," Fielder pointed with his pencil indicating the blacked out square, "I can't work out what it is for. There is nothing in this briefing report about it."
Leatherneck leaned in closer and jabbed the paper with his finger. "That's because I only installed that little beauty myself last night," he cheerfully explained to the agent. "Lee was worried about bugs finding their way inside the building so we came up with this nifty jamming device. It is one of my latest models, nothing can get past that sucker." He smiled with pride as he went on to explain in detail how the mechanics of the device worked.
Coffee from the carafe spilled over the edge of the mug Quisling was holding, shaking them out of their shocked state. â€˜Scarecrow was supposed to plant a bug! Not stop all bugs from working!' they thought in a panic. Not that they needed one to be planted, their superiors had already informed them that they already had someone on the inside who would be planting their own listening device. Getting Scarecrow to plant one was icing on the cake that would be the start of his downfall.
Setting down the mug and wiping off the spilled coffee gave them a few more minutes to listen in to the banter of the two agents going over the schematics. The jamming device they had come up with sounded truly diabolical. There was no way they would be able to find a way around it in time for the start of this evening's festivities. They were about to head back to their desk when they caught the tail end of the conversation between the two men.
"...so Lee figured that he and Amanda could take the boys out this morning for a bit and they would have time to go home and get ready to make it over to the hall for the dinner tonight. They added me to the security team so I could make sure there were no problems today." Fielder was relaying to Leatherneck with a note of pride in his voice.
Quisling grasped the mug tighter in their hand as they quickly made their way out of the Bullpen and back to their own desk. â€˜I'll kill him! I'll kill them all!' they thought feeling the anger building but managing to keep it hidden behind a pleasant smile. They sat for a moment, working on channeling the growing rage into something more productive and then started gathering their belongings from the desk.
Making the excuse that they weren't feeling well, Quisling left the Agency and pulled away from the parking lot without undue haste. After two blocks they nearly doubled their speed, soaking the few pedestrians out on the sidewalks with water as they sped by. Quisling needed to get home to change into more appropriate attire for the murder of the Stetsons. Their instructions had been very clear. If unable to compromise Scarecrow, he needed to be taken out. If any of his family happened to be there too, so be it. Collateral damage.
Lee and Amanda made a great show that morning, hollering to the boys to get in the car out in the garage and basically talking up a storm about all they would see. Once in the vehicle, they had cranked the radio to one of the boys' favorite stations. Having the double benefit of making it seem like the boys were with them and creating enough noise to blast any listening devices that may have been placed there.
They took great care when they approached the Smithsonian to park near a vehicle with a large family so it would be harder to tell if the boys were with them or not. And when they left they repeated the process, the added benefit of the pouring rain making visibility that much worse.
Now they were only minutes away from their home and Lee could tell by the way Amanda was twisting her necklace that she was worried. Not wanting to say anything that could be over heard, he reached for her hand and pulled it towards his lips and away from her chain. Planting a delicate kiss, he then stroked her knuckles before placing her hand back on her lap.
Amanda gave him a loving smile back and reached for the bag in the backseat with a silent sigh. Keeping the bag low to the floor she pulled out and checked their weapons. Lee had already checked them before they left that morning but she couldn't help but check them again. She leaned forward and tucked her back-up weapon in the back of her skirt and smiled when she felt Lee's hand adjust her blouse to ensure it was covered from view.
When they were two blocks away, Lee risked a radio check with the tac team stationed around the home. Two quick taps on the on the handset he had placed in the glove compartment was the signal that they were approaching. The single tap they got back in reply meant that nothing unusual had happened since they left and the home should be all clear.
In the darkened basement of 4247 Maplewood Drive, Quisling was pulling themselves upright to a standing position. They reached for an old blanket on top of a stack of boxes and began to quickly dry themselves off. Once done they pulled their gear out of the pack that had been strapped to their back as they crawled nearly the entire block through backyards to force their way in through the same basement window they had entered earlier in the week.
Satisfied that everything was prepared, they made their way up the stairs. Surveying the kitchen they were pleased to see that their earlier preparations were still in place. They gave a quick check on the transmitter in their pocket and were once again pleased to see the flashing green light indicating that the signal was ready to transmit.
They heard the sound of a car pulling into the driveway and quickly made their way over to the small laundry room off the kitchen and waited.
As they had arranged while talking quietly as they walked around the Smithsonian, Lee pulled the car into the garage and closed the doors. As they peered out across the yard to the back door a flash of lightening lit up the rapidly darkening sky; the light rain of early morning now threatening to become an all out storm.
Grasping each other's hands they quickly dashed across the yard and opened the back door. Immediately Amanda started admonishing Lee for dragging the two of them through the muddy puddles outside and made a loud show of brushing the non-existent mud off the coat hanging by the door as Lee made his way quietly to the right. He quickly checked out the family room and living room. The front entry way was clear and the fine powder he had sprinkled on the steps leading up stairs hadn't been disturbed. With the tac team's eyes on the trellis, he was confident there was no one up there.
By this point Amanda had her own coat off and was vigorously shaking it out causing water droplets to spray all over the floor in front of her. She was yelling now, complaining that Lee shouldn't be doing that and making noises like she was trying to wrest the wet garment from him. Lee traversed the dining room and spotted Amanda and was about to give her the all clear when the sound of a gun being cocked could be heard. They froze.
Lee's eyes snapped to the sound and he saw a figure in black standing on the opposite side of the wall Amanda had gotten the coat from. A gun was raised to aim exactly where Amanda's head was.
Lee lowered his gun and stepped forward. Amanda and the figure did the same, until the three of them were standing around the center island. The figure waved their arm to indicate that Scarecrow should toss his gun into the kitchen sink, then pointing the gun at Amanda's head for emphasis. Reluctantly, Lee tossed his gun into the sink full of water, which hadn't been full when they left, and placed his hands flat on the island before him.
They remained standing like that for several moments until Lee could stand it no more. "Are you just going to stand there all day or are you at least going to tell us who you are?" he growled.
A soft, delicate female voice giggled as the figure raised its free arm to pull off the black stocking mask obscuring her features. "You aren't known for your patience now are you, Lee?"
Amanda bit back a gasp as she recognized Brenda from the steno pool. The pretty blonde had been with IFF for as long as she could remember, just last month she had dropped off some brownies for the promotion party for her. Brenda had been made Director of the Steno Pool and was responsible for sending out staff to where they were needed once Billy gave the orders.
Lee forced his smile into a cocky grin as he remembered who the blond woman was across from him. One of the few he hadn't dated from the steno pool. She had always seemed a tad too nasty in her comments and sneers. The way she had made the last girl he dated in the steno pool cry after her evening with him had been the deciding factor that had made him keep his dating choices outside of the Agency.
Keeping his eyes on her and his hands where she could see him he had to ask, "So Brenda, the steno pool not paying enough these days? I thought department heads were at a GG18 pay level."
Narrowing her eyes at the handsome man, she motioned with her gun for Amanda to step closer to Lee. "GG13, thank you very much, but money isn't everything. Sometimes a girl just has to do what she can for her country." She smiled a cold smile as she reached back with her free hand to pull out two pairs of handcuffs. "Now why don't you call the boys in from the garage so we can make this family scene complete."
At the mention of her boys Amanda's eyes flashed with anger. "They aren't here, Brenda. I sent them away with Mother for the weekend," she tossed vehemently at the woman pointing a gun at her head.
Brenda's eyes flashed with an anger of their own as she realized that not only had he thwarted their plans to get information from the NATO Defence and Security Committee meeting, but he had removed his precious family from harm as well. "No matter," she stated coldly as she tossed the handcuffs across the counter, "I was going to have you each cuff yourself to a boy and thread the cuffs to the cupboards on opposite sides of the room, but maybe this is more fitting." She smiled an evil smile. "Cuff your wife's hands behind her back Scarecrow," she spit out at the angry man, "Then I want you two to back up towards the fridge and cuff your hands to hers through the fridge handle."
Amanda stiffened at the tone in Brenda's voice and knew that if the cuffs made it on they might never come off. She noticed Jamie's camera was still sitting on the island where he had forgotten it the day before. As she stepped closer to Lee and slanted her back to him she allowed her fingers to brush over the top of the camera, triggering the ten second wildlife timer.
As she drew her arms towards her back, she felt her husband grasp the handle of the gun she had stuck there when they were in the car. Turning her head slightly to see him, she gave him a soft smile. "I love you," she stated clearly and calmly.
Lee had seen Amanda touch Jamie's camera and knew something was about to happen. Holding tight to the gun he had pulled from her back, he smiled as she turned and said his favorite words to him. "I love you too," he replied, as the camera started snapping the three pictures it was set to take.
Shoving his wife down and throwing himself to the side, Lee took aim and fired at the woman now shooting holes in his refrigerator. Her groan of pain could be heard from the other side of the island as Amanda and Lee stood up again. Lee waved his wife down as he poked his head around the corner gun first to make sure Brenda wasn't going to cause any more trouble.
He watched with horror as she lay there, blood soaking through the black of her outfit to pool on the floor. The gun was nowhere to be seen, having flown through the air to land out of sight after the impact of the bullets. The small box with a flashing light was being slowly pulled out of her pocket and Lee had seen enough detonators in his time to know exactly what it was.
"RUN!" he screamed at Amanda as he pulled her up roughly from her crouch behind the island and the pair ran for the back door. Brenda's frustrated cries punctuated by the sound of a button clicking over and over as she repeatedly tried to set off the explosion she had planned.
Once in the backyard Lee had no intention on stopping until they were over the neighbor's fence. His strong hold on Amanda's arm forcing her to keep pace. At least until she stumbled over a small black box nestled in the bushes outside the back door. It toppled to its side with a crash as she fell to the ground dragging Lee with her. He swiftly covered her body with his as he heard the telltale sound of an explosion behind them.
They lay there on the grass in the pouring rain, the debris falling around them as the noise of the explosion was quickly drowned out by the strong rumble of thunder. After a few moments the pair sat up and turned to look at the remains of their kitchen, while the tac team swarmed their location. One member dropped to the ground beside them and gave them a cursory check. Satisfied that there were no injuries requiring immediate medical attention, he swiftly joined the rest of the team inside the burnt out kitchen.
They were still sitting there when Francine arrived several minutes later with the back-up team. After speaking with the tac team leader, she had the pair hustled off to the Agency's doctors for a full check up.
Billy Melrose heard Scarecrow before he saw him and slowed his hurried pace toward the medical wing as a result. â€˜If Scarecrow is bellowing he can't be hurt,' he surmised. Upon entering the Agency's clinic he spied the object of all the ruckus trying to climb off an examining table, much to the chagrin of his partner/wife.
"Lee Stetson!" Amanda stated firmly, "If you don't lie down on that table and let Dr. McJohn pull those glass slivers out of your back I'll get my mother in here to do it for you and she won't give you a needle for the pain first!" With that statement she pushed again on her husband's shoulders.
"Fine!" Lee grumbled and let himself fall face forward onto the table. "You don't have to be so bossy about it. You could have just asked nicely."
"I did ask nicely, the doctor asked nicely, even the nurse asked nicely. Now we are telling you, and you had better listen, Buster!" Amanda smiled as she delivered her lecture, having already won the argument. She noticed the movement in the doorway and greeted their boss with an even warmer smile. "Oh hello, sir! As you can see, Scarecrow still hates doctors no matter how often he needs one."
Billy smiled as Lee complained and muttered under his breath about how Amanda could have cleaned these up at home and he didn't need to be poked and prodded for hours. Ignoring the grumblings of the man who resembled a small child rather than an agent at the moment, he turned his attention to Amanda. "What happened? I thought the tac team was watching your place?"
Amanda kept her hand on Lee's shoulder, rubbing it affectionately as she ignored him and talked to their boss. "They were there, sir, but I guess the storm outside reduced visibility enough for Brenda to slip in. They were there in an instant when the kitchen exploded, but by that time it was too late." She gave a shudder as she thought of the poor woman who had blown up in her kitchen. She wasn't all that sorry that she died, but to be at the center of an explosion had to be painful.
Lee felt his wife's hand shake on his shoulder and reached up to grasp it with his own. He opened his mouth to say something comforting at the same time Dr. McJohn pulled a rather long sliver out of his behind. "OUCH!" was all that came out as he tossed a glare at the man.
Billy coughed to cover the laugh threatening to explode from deep within. "Brenda? I take it you know who it was then?"
Lee shifted to where he could see his boss' face, "It was Brenda Evans, the new Director of the Steno Pool." At Billy's surprised look he continued, "I'm not sure exactly what her plans were but she definitely was not working for our side, the crack she made about working for the good of her country was delivered with just a dash of villainy." He grimaced again as the doctor was now adding a stitch or two to the larger holes in his back. "How is the house anyhow? I know something exploded in the kitchen but is the house still sound?" he asked, giving Amanda's hand a comforting squeeze.
"I'd like to know that myself, sir. What did explode and why did it not explode until we were out of the house? Not that I mind that part, it just seems if she wanted to kill us she would have actually detonated the bomb while we were in the house." Amanda cut herself off there and bit her lip, not wanting to ramble and hoping for an answer.
"It was the dishwasher," a voice called out from the doorway. They turned to see Leatherneck giving them all a grin. "Nice moon, Scarecrow," he directed at the agent lying on the table.
Lee glared at them all and winced again as the doctor tied off the last stitch. "I'm all done now, Scarecrow. It wasn't that bad, just keep them clean and dry and have your wife put some antibiotic ointment on them twice a day." Dr. McJohn stole a glance at Amanda and couldn't resist adding. "Since you were a good boy this time, how about a lollipop?"
That did it. Lee scowled at them all as Billy broke into laughter first, followed quickly by Leatherneck and even his own wife. He pulled his pants back up and gingerly sat up to face them all. "You try having shards of glass in your butt and see how much you like it," he pouted.
That only made Billy and Leatherneck laugh harder. Amanda stepped closer to her husband and gave his arm a gentle rub. "Now sweetheart, don't be mad." She stretched up to give his cheek a gentle kiss and breathed in his ear, "I owe you for protecting me from all those mean glass shards."
Lee's pout turned to his sexy grin in no time flat. Noting the others still in the room he had to ask, "How do you know it was the dishwasher? It couldn't have been the blue wire, we had that fixed." His eyes twinkled at his wife with that last teasing line.
Leatherneck took a deep breath to try and stop laughing before answering, "It's clear that the dishwasher was the epicenter of the blast, and we found plenty of blue wires in the debris." He was not sure why the blue wire was significant, but he went along with the theme. "The bomb didn't go off until you were outside because of the jamming device I added outside the kitchen. It is just like the one I have set up at the NATO Defence and Security Committee meeting, just on a smaller scale. The rain must have shorted it out. Good thing it didn't short out any sooner."
Amanda blushed as she realized that must have been the box she tripped over when running from the house. She noticed Lee looking at her and realized he knew it as well. She decided to let Leatherneck find out that bit later, or not at all.
Leatherneck continued, not seeing the looks the pair were exchanging. "The kitchen and house are still sound. You'll need to replace a lot of windows and everything in the kitchen though. Looks like you get to experience your first home renovation project, Scarecrow." He smirked at the thought of Lee Stetson standing in the middle of a construction scene trying to make coffee and keep the dust off his suit.
"But will the house insurance cover this? I had a kitchen fire a few years back. Won't they think I'm high risk and cancel my coverage?" Amanda asked worriedly as she remembered the hassle she had gone through last time to get things working again.
"Not to worry, Amanda," Billy consoled her, "This was official Agency business. A quick word in the ear of your insurance rep and everything will be fine." Seeing that Lee was now pulling on a clean shirt from the clinic's emergency supply bin he surmised that it was time. "Now that you two are medically cleared, I think it is time to get the debriefings over with." Holding his hand up to stop Lee's protest he added. "And since you already put Fielder in charge, I'm thinking when you're done you don't need to come back until Monday. You'll have a lot of cleaning up to do this weekend. And don't worry I had an Agency team board everything up before they left."
Billy started towards the door with Leatherneck, but noticed something on the clinic counter and couldn't resist. Turning once more to his battle weary agents he tossed something at Scarecrow. "Here Lee, you might need this," he grinned as he left the room leaving Scarecrow standing there holding an inflatable donut pillow, with Leatherneck's laughter drowning out Lee's protests.
A few hours later Scarecrow wasn't protesting any more. He only lasted about 5 minutes sitting on those hard chairs in the debriefing room before grudgingly admitting that the pillow would help. Fortunately it only took one glare to stop Agent Bartowski from laughing and get down to the business of finishing this debriefing. He wanted nothing more than to get home and see for himself how bad the damage was. After he checked in with Billy to see if they had found out any more information about Brenda. â€˜Like who she was working for,' he thought grimly as he gingerly stood up and deflated the pillow to take with him. He may need to sit on it for a few days but he would be damned if he was going to walk through the halls carrying it and risk letting Francine see him.
He met up with Amanda as she was leaving her own debriefing and quietly snuck up behind her, wrapping his arm around her as they walked. She only jumped a little and then turned her face towards his. "How are you feeling, sweetheart?" she asked with concern, running her hand gently over his back and giving a quick brush on his lower regions.
Lee smiled as Amanda's hand gently grazed his butt in the Agency hallway in full view of the security cameras. "I'll be fine once we get home and can relax. Why don't you meet me upstairs in the Q before we head home; I just have a few quick questions for Billy."
She nodded her agreement, too tired to argue that he needed his rest too. She knew the agent in him wouldn't let him relax if he still had questions no matter how small they were. She gave him a quick kiss on his cheek at the entrance to the Bullpen and continued on to the elevators. Lee stood and watched until the doors closed behind her before entering and heading toward Billy's office.
He gave a quick knock on the door and entered. Francine was seated in front of Billy's desk and was reading off a report. "...checks all came back clean." She gave a turn and waved him toward the chair beside her as she continued. "I have a team working on a new deep background and another going over the one they did a few months ago just before she was promoted, still nothing." Francine faced Lee as she quickly summarized what she had just been telling Billy. "All her background checks have been squeaky clean, Lee. Either she turned recently, to whom we don't know yet, or she was a sleeper of some sort."
"But we will find out," Billy stated firmly as he stood from behind his desk and walked over to where his favorite agent was standing beside the chair. He grinned as he realized why Lee was not taking a seat.
"Billy..." Lee began but Billy cut him off with a wave of his hand. "Yes Lee, I was going to keep a team on your house anyway. If you like we can even have Agent Johnson stay with the family until they get home."
Lee nodded his agreement. "I hope that Leatherneck has some free time on Monday. I want to get the boys and Dotty into the training classes for families of agents right away."
"I think we can get Leatherneck to put on a special class just for them. I'll arrange to have him come out to your place on Monday and get things started. Knowing Amanda's knack for finding trouble it wouldn't surprise me if the rest of her family is just as good." He grinned soberly as he recalled all the times she had found the bad guys just by going through her daily routine. "Why don't you get out of here? You aren't due back until Monday as it is." He grasped the taller agent by the shoulders and gently shoved him out the door and then closed it firmly.
Lee would have turned and gone back in but he was starting to feel very sore by this point and he knew that Amanda was upstairs waiting for him. He checked his pocket and found the painkillers were still there that Dr. McJohn had given, but decided to wait to take one until they were home.
He made his way through the Bullpen, up the elevator and gingerly climbed the stairs to the Q Bureau. Entering he found his wife on the phone with her back to the door.
"I know, Mother, it was the strangest thing. Lee and I were at work but the lightening was that bad it hit a transformer and I guess the power surge shorted out that dishwasher for good." she paused for a moment obviously listening to Dotty. "I'm sure we will, at least we still have all the numbers from the people we used before. We'll see you tomorrow morning. Give our love to the boys, Bye-Bye."
Lee chuckled as he watched Amanda hang up the phone. "I take it they will be home early then? I hope they like what we've done with the kitchen."
Amanda gave him a wry grin. "That was fun to explain. I didn't want them to worry so I used the storm as a cover. It is possible for lightning to short out appliances and she knows all about the trouble we have had with it before. She was trying to start the redecorating on the phone. But they are coming back early because the storm is moving their way and they're getting rained out."
She made her way over to her husband and gave him a gentle hug, mindful of the stitches on his back. "What do you say, shall we head home and order in some take out and relax? Or would you rather get a start on the reports?" Amanda kept her head down at that last bit, knowing the last thing Lee would want to do was start the paperwork early.
Lee pulled back and tried to look into Amanda's eyes. "Home. Food. Shower. Bed. That is all I want right now. The paperwork can wait â€˜til next week." He stepped away and took her hand. "Care to walk with me, Mrs. Stetson?" he asked with a devilish grin, made all the more charming by the dirt still smeared across his cheek.
Amanda smiled, "Anywhere you care to lead, Mr. Stetson." She paused before leading the way out the door. "As long as there is a bar of soap where we are headed, somebody needs to wash up." With that she released his hand and hurried down the hallway. Lee's protests following her down the stairs.
The sky was bright and beautiful when the Stetsons awoke the next morning. Knowing their family was returning was the only thing that stopped them from staying in bed all morning to enjoy the sunbeams falling across their bed.
The night before they had inspected the kitchen. The Agency cleaners had done their best, but what was left behind still wasn't in great shape. Amanda had hauled out the cooler from the garage to hold the fresh jug of milk they had picked up on their way home and tossed out a few items of food from the fridge, but had decided to leave the rest for her mother to sort through. She knew Dotty would want to go over everything so she could get the details just right when she retold the story over and over again at her gardening club.
They had just finished putting together a modified shopping list of the groceries they would need for the weekend and what would fit in the cooler when they heard a car pull up outside. Lee put his hand on Amanda's shoulder to indicate she should stay seated while he went to open the door for the boys.
"You made good time..." but the rest of that sentence died on his lips when he realized it wasn't the boys at the door but Joe King. And he did not look happy.
"Lee," he said curtly as he pushed his way past him and into the house he had once shared with Amanda and their family. He headed straight to the family room only to pause in shock as he saw the destroyed kitchen and Amanda perched on the back of the sofa with a notepad in hand. "WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?!" he bellowed.
Lee slammed the door closed with more force than he knew Amanda liked and quickly followed Joe. He helped Amanda stand up from the back of the couch and stood behind her as she addressed her angry ex-husband.
"What happened here Joe, was the storm. The lightning struck a transformer outside and the
energy released from that traveled through the wires and hit the short in the dishwasher and Kablooie!" she watched carefully as Joe walked quickly through the ruined kitchen touching counters and cupboards alike.
But Joe was not buying that. In his time in Estoccia, he had had enough opportunity to see the bombed out remains of many homes.
"I don't think so," he ground out angrily, taking note of how close Stetson was to his wife. He pointed a now grimy finger at Lee and growled, "I think this has to do with you and your job and I think you should get the hell out of here and away from my family. I knew that letting Amanda keep doing secretarial work for you was a bad idea. I want you away from my kids now!"
Lee tensed for a fight and started to step from behind Amanda to get to Joe, but her hand on his chest stopped him. He looked down and saw the fire in her eyes as she turned and gave him a warning glance and quickly hid the smirk he felt threatening to creep across his face.
"Joe..." Amanda started as she stepped forward to face her ex-husband, "I don't know what you are-" But Joe cut her off with a wave of his hand.
"I get home yesterday and start calling to see if I can take the boys for the weekend and no one returns my phone calls." He nudged the twisted remains of the answering machine on the counter. "I think I know why now. I have had it, Amanda. I want Stetson out of the boys' lives and you should quit that job of yours and get something safer. Hensley has an opening for a secretary and his office is only two doors down from mine." He allowed himself a small smile at the thought of being able to see her everyday. Once she quit the Agency she would have more time to be home with the boys where she belonged.
Joe may have been thinking of how life would improve once he got Amanda to quit her job and Stetson out of their lives, but he should have been watching her face. Never before had Amanda felt this angry with the man she had once pledged to love, honor and obey. But he had lost all rights when he left them to go help strangers in a far off land, forgetting about the two small boys and wife who needed him at home.
Lee wisely backed further away from the two ex-spouses. This was one fight Amanda could handle herself, even if it came to hand-to-hand combat and he really wished it would. He relished the thought of Amanda tossing Joe out of their house on his ear.
"Joe KING!" she shouted, letting her stressed emotions from the last few days flow as Joe pushed her just that one step too far causing them to explode. "You have absolutely no right to demand anything in this house, it is my home. NOT YOURS! Lee will stay wherever he wants and as my HUSBAND his place is in my bed, in OUR home. I have custody of the boys, not you, and I say Lee can and will be around the boys as much as he wants."
Joe paled when he heard Amanda declare Lee as her husband but never got a chance to say anything as she kept right on going.
"As for my job," she snapped, poking her finger into Joe's chest, "I am not a secretary, I am an agent; a full-fledged, honest-to-goodness federal agent. I will choose what I want to do whenever I want to, I've been doing that ever since we got DIVORCED."
Amanda paused for a second to take a deep breath, remembering that the boys and her mother were due home at any time. "If you have a problem with any of this, I suggest you get over it. Mother and the boys will be home soon and we have a lot of work to do, getting them unpacked from their trip and planning the kitchen renovations." She held up her hand to stave off any further arguments. "Now I am going to head upstairs and change before we need to go out and pick up some groceries. I suggest you go home and cool down." With that she abruptly turned on her heel and disappeared up the stairs.
Lee had been watching with amusement as his wife laid into Joe like he had always wanted to do, but knew if he did he would be the bad guy. He had stayed back, keeping his head down until he was sure his wife was out of earshot. Looking up at the stricken man standing in the middle of his destroyed kitchen he could almost feel sorry for him, almost.
Joe stood at the remains of the kitchen counter holding onto the tiny edge in shock. His Amanda had never spoken to him like that before, ever. But if what she said was true then she wasn't his anymore. The thought of her running around chasing down bad guys made him want to throw up and plead with her to stop, but from the dressing down she had given him that wasn't likely to happen. It wasn't like they were married anymore he had a fiancÃ©e of his own. He just never expected her to get on with her life and with a man like Stetson.
He looked over at his sons' new stepfather and felt a wave a jealousy run through him. This was the man his sons would be seeing every day and turning to for help. It was obvious from Amanda's attitude that Lee was going to be around for a very long time. Recalling how happy she had seemed over the past few years he had to grudgingly admit that maybe these two might even make it. The offer the EAO had made for him to go back overseas on a more permanent basis was starting to look better and better. He'd just have to talk to Carrie about it later this evening when he got home.
Looking up to where Lee was standing, studying him carefully, he decided that an argument now would only get him into more trouble. Deciding to go the safe route and pretend the argument had never happened seemed to be the safe bet. "So... Um.... The boys were away on a trip?" he asked Lee lamely.
Lee weighed his options and decided to be the bigger man and let Joe off the hook, for now. The trouncing his wife had just given him seemed to be enough for one day. "Yes, they were. Jamie is doing a project on the Civil War for school and a friend of mine was filming at a battlefield this weekend. Unfortunately the storm we had yesterday flooded the area so they are coming back early. They should be here any minute if you want to stay and wait for them. I'm sure they would love to see you."
Joe gave an absent nod as he moved over to sit on the dirty couch and wait for his sons. Once Joe was settled, Lee headed upstairs to check on how Amanda was doing.
He stuck his head in the bedroom door and ducked quickly to avoid the blouse that flew through the air near his face. He quietly closed the door behind him as he listened to his wife muttering to herself as she changed in front of their closet.
"Tell me to quit my job, not good enough, he says, must be a secretary he says," fell from Amanda's lips as she pulled her favorite Georgetown sweatshirt over her head. She turned mid-ramble and saw her husband with his arms crossed leaning back against the bedroom door with an amused grin on his face. "Enjoying the show, Scarecrow?" she muttered even as a matching grin formed on her own face.
"I'll always enjoy watching you do all the work," he replied as he quickly crossed the room to stop her from picking up the throw pillow on the bed and hurling it in his direction. He picked her up and swung her away from anything she could grab and held her close, standing in front of the window, breathing in the relaxing scent of her body lotion.
Amanda gave a little squeal and held onto her husband even after he swung her around and set her down in front of the window. She then leaned in close to enjoy the scent of his aftershave. "Well don't get used to it, Buster. When we get to work on Monday I expect you to fill out your own reports."
"I think that can be arranged, but that is Monday and today is Saturday. I think we can both play hooky today," he murmured into her hair as they stood holding onto each other in the middle of their bedroom.
The two of them stood their enjoying the feel of each other's embrace long after they heard the car pull up out front and the sounds of their family coming from downstairs. Knowing that soon they would have to move and get started on another adventure.