Billy Melrose sat at his desk in the Bullpen and smiled. It was turning out to be a quiet day and those were the kind he liked. He had been stuck behind his desk for hours going over the final reports from the ACM situation. The Kalnikov family was settled into a new location and they even had the proper school set up for Alexi to attend.
He rose from his desk, intending to get himself a coffee and maybe a donut if there were any left. He smiled at his agents as he walked to the coffee corner, he knew his wife didn’t like it when he snacked on sweets, but darn those things were good. Just as he was reaching for the coffee pot, Scarecrow’s dulcet tones could be heard screeching from the hall.
“I’m alright, DAMNIT!” Lee bellowed again to the medic following him down the hallway. Francine was with him and her face would have shown amusement if she weren’t holding an ice pack to it. The pair of them looked distinctly worse for wear, bruises were going to be very evident if those dirty marks on Lee’s face were any indication.
Billy sighed, it had been a nice quiet day. Bracing himself for the oncoming storm, he turned to his agents. “Status report, Scarecrow.”
Lee spotted Billy and made a grab for Francine’s shoulder to turn her in his direction. He was muttering the few strides it took to reach Billy while dragging Francine along.
“It was a complete disaster, Billy!” Lee growled. “I don’t know how but the Baskov Brothers were waiting for us. They got everything!”
Francine cringed as Lee’s voice seemed to be booming off the inside of her skull. “Not so loud, Scarecrow!” she stated as firmly as possible while barely making a sound louder than a whisper. “He’s right to be upset, they had to have help, Billy. There is no way those two could have afforded that kind of firepower and back up on their own.”
“I just knew this day was gonna end badly!” Billy griped. He faced the room of agents only barely managing to look like they weren’t watching the scene intently. “I want all senior agents in the building in the conference room in 15 minutes!” he bellowed, and then added, “Now back to work!”
Amanda King smiled as she wiped down another dish in her nearly spotless kitchen as she resisted the urge to roll her eyes.
“Yes Mother, Alexi was quite a handful but he and his family have moved with some help from the Big Sister program,” she stated cheerfully, making a mental note to ask Mr. Melrose if Alexi and his family were really ok. “He won’t be coming back over for any visits so there is no need to worry.”
“Worry Amanda? I am not worried. I was just curious if you were going to be bringing any other young hooligans around. As much as those children can benefit from the love and support of a good home, even if there isn’t a father around, sometimes I worry about how it will affect those grandchildren of mine. Though I’m sure Dean would love to help with the father part, I just wanted to be sure that things were safe around here. Like childproofing your home when babies are about. That was all,” Dotty informed her daughter as she dashed about the kitchen, while tying her scarf about her neck. “And what if someone did decide to break in here one day? Don’t you think it would be a good idea to have an inventory of our belongings?”
“Yes, Mother,” Amanda responded as she finished the last dish and put it away. “It does sound like a good idea and we can talk more about it later. Don’t you think we should get going though? I thought the garden club meeting started at 9:00am today?”
“Oh the meeting itself doesn’t start until 10, so we have plenty of time to get there. It’s mostly going to be last minute plans and making sure that Deborah doesn’t try to bus everyone in from the church parking lot. She keeps insisting that it would be cheaper than the valet parking we have planned for the dinner dance tomorrow night.”
Dotty came to a stop beside Amanda and tapped her on the shoulder. “Are you going to get ready, dear? We have a lot to do today if we want to be back here before the boys get home from school.”
Amanda shook her head. “I just have to grab my shoes and throw on a coat, Mother. Not that it makes a difference. Teresa, Brian Kirkland’s mother, is planning on taking the boys out to the museum after school. Brian has been feeling a bit down lately since his dog died a few weeks ago and she thought that an outing would help make him feel better.”
The phone chose that moment to ring. Dotty, being closest to the receiver, picked it up before Amanda could reach for it. “Hello? Yes just a moment please.” “It’s for you, dear,” she stated to Amanda before passing her the phone.
“Hello? This is she speaking.” Amanda stood up a bit straighter as she listened for who might be on the other end of the line. Ever since she had started helping out at the Agency, she never knew who might be on the other end of the line.
“Oh, hello Teresa, Mother and I were just talking about you. The boys are looking forward to their outing after school today,” Amanda replied, watching her mother as she went and gathered Amanda’s shoes for her.
She nodded a few more times and a smile crossed her face, “I think that’s a wonderful idea. I’m sure the boys would love it. I can have their things ready tonight for you to take with you when you drop them off and that way you can just get them from school tomorrow.”
She gestured wildly for her mother to pass her a pen and paper and waited patiently until Dotty retrieved them from a drawer and set them on the counter in front of her.
“Ok, I have a pen now,” Amanda answered the woman on the phone as she spelled out the address and phone number onto the pad of paper. “I have them now Teresa, I’ll put them on the fridge. I just hope the boys are good for you.” She smiled again and laughed as she said her goodbyes and hung up the phone.
“I take it the boys are going away this weekend?” Dotty asked with an arched eyebrow.
“Yes Mother, Teresa’s parents invited her and Brian out to their place this weekend. Seems they have a new litter of puppies and want to give Brian a new dog. But in case he still too upset to pick one out, Teresa thought it would be nice to turn it into a big sleepover too. That way if he doesn’t seem receptive to the idea of a new puppy, he can at least have fun with his friends at his grandparents’ farm,” Amanda replied.
“As long as they only bring home one puppy for Brian. Goodness knows we have enough trouble with the Ferguson’s dog, let alone if they try to bring one of those pests here!” Dotty exclaimed.
She looked like she was ready to expound on the virtues of not having a dog, and Amanda thought it would be a good idea to head that off before it got started.
“Oh I know Mother, dogs can be very messy creatures. Much more messy than two little boys. But we really should get going if we want to get a coffee at that new shop you have been telling me about before we go to the meeting,” Amanda encouraged as she grabbed her belongings and headed towards the door.
“Of course dear,” Dotty agreed as she followed her daughter out the door, locking it behind them. “They have this strange drink Agnes has been talking about lately. Said her dear husband loved to drink it when he was in Italy on business. Something called a capuchin I think. No, that doesn’t sound right.”
She muttered under her breath the whole way to the car and while she was fastening her seatbelt. Suddenly crying out, “Cappuccinos! That is what she said they were!”
Amanda sighed and gripped the steering wheel a little tighter when her Mother came to her epiphany. “Sounds interesting, Mother. Why don't you tell me more about it?” she asked.
“Well let me see...” Dotty started as you could almost hear the wheels turning in her mind as she thought of all the tidbits Agnes had told her about her husband’s trip to Italy and the coffee shop that they had found when they got back.
Amanda smiled and let her Mother’s chatter wash over her as she pulled the car out into traffic and headed towards the coffee shop. As she drove she couldn’t help but wonder if Lee’s day was going as well as hers was.
By three o’clock that afternoon, the latest operation, code named Bankroll, was in full swing. After the morning debriefing on the fiasco with the Baskov Brothers, other agents and agencies were consulted. A disturbing trend of late that they had thought was only affecting Agency operations was noted. Several key operations by the CIA and FBI had also gone awry.
Once Melrose realized what was going on, he set things in motion. Agents not on priority cases had been reassigned to help and the main conference room was hopping with agents. Lee Stetson was standing by the chalkboard with a piece of yellow chalk in his hand circling a blank spot at the top of the board and muttering.
Billy sighed. He knew that look. Scarecrow was getting frustrated. Noting that the other agents in the room seemed to be moving subtly away from Lee, he decided to go over and see what was the matter now.
“Lee,” he called out as he approached. “What have you got for me?”
Scarecrow turned and eyed his boss with a scowl. “Nothing Billy, nothing!” He took the chalk he had in his hand and threw it at the board, watching in disgust as it broke and bounced off again and came back and hit his already dirty shirt, leaving a smear of yellow dust before falling to the floor in pieces.
He pointed around the room at different groups as he continued, “Mark’s team has been going over the busted CIA cases and found the ones that fit our pattern. Francine and her team has found several with the FBI and even Debbie and her team checking longshots found a few complaints from the local police reports that seem to match up.”
Each team barely looked at Scarecrow when he mentioned them. They all knew how frustrated he was because they were feeling the same way.
Billy nodded and stayed silent, knowing it was better to let him vent when he got this annoyed.
Scarecrow picked up a pile of reports and shook them at Billy as he continued. “So basically we know there is a new player in town and he’s been here for a year! We don’t know who it is, how he is so good at what he is doing, or what his plans are, other than he has his fingers in many pies and he is damn good at getting in my way!” With that last statement he dropped the pile back down on the table and looked even more steamed as a few of the pages slid off the top and fell gently to the floor.
Billy had seen enough. “Scarecrow, my office. Now!” He held his hand up to stop his protests and pointed towards the conference room door. “Francine?” Billy questioned as he followed him out, “get those please.” He gestured towards the pages and smiled his encouragement to the room. Needing them to stay focused on the task at hand and not worry about Scarecrow’s rage.
Once inside Billy’s office, Scarecrow started to pace like an angry tiger. “I don’t get it Billy!” he raged as he paced. “From all the reports so far, this guy has been around nearly a year. But no one has seen him or knows anything about him other than he likes to mess up my operations.”
Billy leaned back against his desk and eyed Lee as he paced and ranted. Each step he took and word spoke revealed the amount of tension and frustration building up in his agent.
“Lee,” he spoke quietly, hoping to calm the man down with a softer voice. When that didn’t seem to break through the angry man’s rant, he tried again a little louder. “Scarecrow!” he bellowed.
Lee stopped mid pace and looked at his boss, wondering how he could look so calm with everything falling apart.
“That’s better,” Billy stated as the agent finally stood still. “I agree it doesn’t look like much, but getting angry isn’t going to help you solve it. Now you have been up all night with that mess and now with all this, I’ll bet you haven’t taken a break yet have you?”
Lee opened his mouth to complain, that of course he hadn’t, but Billy wasn’t finished yet.
“Of course not,” Billy nodded, speaking to himself. “Now hear this. You are going home and having a shower and changing your clothes,” he gestured to the dirty suit he was still wearing now sporting a yellow dusty streak of chalk down the front. “Then you are getting something to eat.”
Lee’s face looked like it was ready to spout another protest when Billy had a brilliant flash of inspiration.
“Then you are going to swing by and pick up Mrs. King and the two of you are going to go the latest files we have on newcomers to the area. She has been learning the filing system and will be able to help you find them a lot quicker. And before you protest that someone else can do it, I have every available agent working on it now. All she’ll be doing is pulling files and I am not interrupting the agents to pull files for you. Plus, if I let you do it on your own it’ll take a week to get the filing room back in order again.”
Billy stood and went around to his chair and sat down. He reached for the phone and noticed that Scarecrow hadn’t moved yet.
“That wasn’t a suggestion, Scarecrow. I suggest you get moving. I’ll let Mrs. King know to expect you at six o’clock on the dot.”
He watched as the agent in front of him scowled, but obediently made his way out of his office. Watching as a few of the agents in the Bullpen scurried out of his way.
Billy just shook his head and reached for the phone, hoping Mrs. King was available on such short notice. He normally wouldn’t have used her on a case this important, but ever since the first day he met her he noticed the effect she had on Lee. He wasn’t sure exactly what it was or how it worked, but when she was around, the Scarecrow was a lot more effective.
It was nearly 3:30pm before Amanda and her mother made it home. The day had been a busy one, the last few hours spent making sure all the arrangements for the gardening club’s yearly gala were in place.
“I know I can’t wait to see the decorations in place either, Mother. I just love that we all get to go in costume,” Amanda stated as she unlocked the kitchen door, helping her Mother in with the boxes they had picked up on their way home.
“I know, I am just so excited!” Dotty exclaimed. “It is just too bad Dean can’t be there to see you in your gown. It is exquisite! I’m so glad they had one left for you.”
Taking the two large costume boxes from her Mother and setting them on the counter she rolled her eyes at the mention of Dean’s name. “Well he does have a job to do, Mother. He can’t just tell the Weather Bureau that he can’t come to work because his girlfriend’s mother’s gardening club is helping to put on one of the charity events of the season to help fund food drops for children overseas.”
“He could if he said it was for his wife’s mother,” Dotty amended with a gleam in her eye.
“Mother!” Amanda protested, but before she could continue the phone rang. Amanda moved to answer it as her Mother vanished up the stairs, taking her costume box with her.
‘Saved by the bell’ she thought as she watched her Mother practically bounce up the stairs.“Hello?” she answered absentmindedly wondering what power in the universe she might find to get her mother to stop being so...
“Oh, hello sir,” Amanda straightened up as she realized it was Mr. Melrose on the phone. She listened carefully, eyes darting around and back at the stairs, hoping her Mother would stay up there a few more minutes.
“No sir, that’s not a problem. I can be ready at six,” she nodded into the phone. “I just have a few things to do around here first. The boys are...” she closed her mouth mid-sentence and listened again for a few more moments. “Yes sir. Goodbye, sir.” she said, before hanging up the phone. She smiled, looking off into the distance and wondered what she would be doing that night. The last time the Agency had asked for her help, well, Lee had asked for her help, she had wound up looking after Alexi.
She gave a quick look around her kitchen and noted its tidy state, sighing in relief. If there were any more strange children coming over, at least the place was clean. She glanced over at the clock and saw the time. Hurrying up the stairs herself, she made her way to the boys’ room and started to quickly pack their things for the weekend.
As she turned to make her way to the bathroom to collect the boys’ spare toothbrushes she nearly ran into her Mother, who was standing in the doorway looking at her oddly.
“Who was on the phone dear, and why are you in such a rush? The boys won’t be home for another hour,” Dotty asked with a curious expression.
“I thought it best to get it started on now Mother.” Amanda frantically tried to think of an explanation as to who was on the phone and where she was going. She spotted one of Phillip’s old stuffed toys and blurted out, “Besides I have to go watch the chimp tonight for a bit.”
She brushed past her mother and berated herself for saying chimp.
Dotty stared after her daughter for a moment and then followed her to the bathroom. “What chimp are you talking about? And why is this the first I have heard of it?” She stood behind her daughter with her arms crossed blocking the door.
Amanda ducked down under the sink, holding the spare toothbrushes in her hand and counting to ten before answering her mother. She remained kneeling so she wouldn’t have to look her in the eye as she lied.
“Well, it’s like this; one of the people from my Save the Clams club has a friend who owns a chimpanzee and she heard that I’ve been interested in doing some part-time work, as I’ve been looking for a job. You remember how well that interview turned out for Honeycutt Typewriters. Well, her friend’s regular sitter has to go to the hospital, their husband is ill and she needs a sitter, last minute to watch the chimp for her tonight. She had already told her I would do it and now I need to get ready, which means making sure the boys are ready and supper is started before I go.”
Standing up she smiled at her mother and gently pushed past her again as she returned to boys’ room to finish packing. She really hoped her mother would accept that explanation as she made herself look as busy as possible.
Dotty stood there for another moment before shaking her head and following Amanda into the boys’ room. “Want to run that by me again?” she asked.
Amanda bit back her groan as she finished up with the boys’ bags and steadied herself to face her mother. It was going to be a long two and a half hours until Lee picked her up.
Scarecrow pulled his car up a few doors down from a familiar house on Maplewood Drive and glanced at the clock. ‘Ha!’ he thought, ‘five minutes early!’ Then he settled back to wait for Amanda.
He felt much calmer now that he had cleaned up and grabbed a bite to eat. He also had managed to get the word out to a few of his contacts that he was looking for any information they had. There was one promising lead, but he would have to wait to hear more about it tomorrow.
He glanced back down at the clock on the dashboard and noticed it was only two minutes later than it had been a moment ago. ‘Too long,’ he thought as he glanced over to the house again. Billy had told her to be ready at 6 on the dot. So of course he expected her to be outside waiting for him. He didn’t understand why Billy was insisting on using her tonight anyway. They had more than enough agents already on the case and certainly didn’t need some housewife mucking things up.
He glanced at the clock again and noticed there was still a minute to go. He was just reaching for the door handle to go and hurry her up, when he heard her voice calling out her goodbyes to her mother.
He watched carefully as she made her way to the sidewalk, pausing once she got there to look both ways before spotting his car and making her way toward him. He looked at her outfit and shook his head. “What does she think we’ll be doing,” he muttered and he restarted his car and waited impatiently for her to arrive.
Amanda reached his car and got in, “Hello Lee,” she said pleasantly, barely having time to strap herself in before Lee started driving.
She glanced over at him and gave her head a small shake, “This is where you say ‘Hello Mrs. King’ or ‘Hello Amanda’” she said to him as he drove, not looking over at her.
Lee rolled his eyes. “Hello Mrs.King,” he mimed back in her same tone as he drove. “Is that better?”
“I guess it will have to do,” she replied, with a grin on her face. “So what are we doing tonight? Mr. Melrose just said that he needed me to come in and help you out, but he didn’t mention what we would be doing?”
“Well we aren’t going to be breaking and entering if that’s what you thought,” he smirked at her. When she gave him a confused look, he took one hand off the steering wheel and gestured toward her clothes. “I can’t think of any other reason you would be dressed like a cat burglar.”
Amanda looked down at her outfit and smiled. “Oh you mean the black clothes? Mother suggested them, she thought it might be best with the chimpanzee.”
Lee grabbed hold of the steering wheel a little tighter as she mentioned a chimpanzee. Had someone told her about that operation with the circus act last year? Because if they did heads were going to roll. “What chimpanzee?” he asked, not sure if he wanted to hear the answer.
“The chimpanzee Mother thinks I’ll be watching tonight for a friend of a friend, of course. I couldn’t exactly tell her that one of the top agents in the country needed me for a secret mission and she thought that if things got a little messy a pair of black slacks and a black blouse would be the easiest to get any ‘muck’ out of. And since I had no idea what we were going to be doing it seemed like a good idea,” Amanda replied, feeling quite proud that her mother had accepted her explanation for her whereabouts this evening.
Lee spared a glance for the housewife sitting beside him, surprised at the smug look on her face. He shook his head and returned his attention to the road in front of them. “Well, there are no chimpanzees involved tonight. Billy simply needs you to help pull some reports from the file room. Just some boring, ordinary paperwork.”
“It can’t be too ordinary, you don’t usually ask for my help unless you really need it,” Amanda replied. She smothered a gasp as she noticed the bruises on the side of his face in the light of a passing car’s headlights. “Lee! What happened to your face?” she asked worriedly.
“I don’t need your help, Billy needs your help,” Lee clarified. “He’s worried that if I’m in there by myself I might make a mess of the filing system. As for my face, it is need to know and you don’t need to know.”
Amanda nodded her agreement with Billy, shaking her head at the same time about his stubbornness not to tell her how he got hurt. “I understand. They use quite the complicated system in there. It took me three days last week to learn it. What are we looking for in the files?”
“It’s a matter of National Security and that is all you need to know right now,” he answered curtly, finally reaching their destination.
“Lee,” she answered patiently as she waited for him to park the car. “I’m going to need to know a bit more that that or I won’t know what files to get for you now, will I?”
He didn’t answer her right away, but got out of the car and stood by his door waiting for her to to the same. She sighed and let herself out and then followed him inside.
She kept quiet as he led the way through the lobby to the elevator and even as he led the way down the hall to the file room.
She even kept quiet as he led the way inside the file storage room. But once there she stood by the door and waited while he went further into the room and started pulling at random drawers.
Lee looked over to the door where Amanda was standing. He sighed and waved her over. “Look Amanda,” he started, hoping that she would cheer up a bit and willingly help so they could get this over with and he could get back to the real work, which was not going to happen if she stood over there giving him a disapproving look the whole night. “I am looking for any and all references to ‘bad guys’, enemy agents, who might have the money and resources to pull off several big jobs this past year. In this room somewhere we have lists and phone taps and video and images on all the major players worldwide. We, I need to find any that may have come to DC in the last year and see if they could be the one we, I am looking for. Now can you help me or not?”
Amanda smiled, “Now was that so hard?” she asked him as she pushed closed the drawer he had opened and gently moved him back out of the way so she could move past him toward the next row. “So it sounds like you are looking for enemy agents. They would be in this row here.” She started grabbing files out of the cabinet and handing them to Lee. Once his arms were full and she had a few folders herself, she gently nudged him to one of the large tables in the room.
Placing the folders he had down as well as hers, she turned back toward the cabinets. “Now you get started on those ones and I’ll pull a few more.”
Lee started to sit down when Amanda stopped and turned back again. A questioning look on her face. “Lee, you said you were looking for bad guy enemy agents with money and resources, but that doesn’t just mean agents does it? Of course you wouldn’t be looking just for agents. You would want a list of all the high up criminals as well. Just because you’re an intelligence operative doesn’t mean they would be.”
Lee stared at her in surprise, and annoyed that she had noted that it might not be just an agent they were looking for and that he hadn’t. But before he could say anything she continued.
“Right! So I will go upstairs and pull the Interpol list of suspected whereabouts of wanted criminals and then I’ll come back here and start checking through recent travel visas too. After I get you the rest of the agent files, of course. You just get started, I have a busy day tomorrow and I can’t be here all night,” she finished, turning back to the cabinets they had been at moment before.
Lee frowned and sat down groaning, while looking at the pile of folders on the desk in front of him already. He was annoyed with all the files he had to go through and annoyed at Amanda for suggesting another direction to look in that he and no one else had thought of.
He reached for the first one and scowled as he listened to Amanda humming cheerfully as she selected more files from the cabinet for him. This was going to be a long night.
Several hours later, Lee was going over the file footage in his top ten suspect pool. Each of the men and women in the pile of folders he had whittled it down to were the best he could see of the bunch. Even with including Amanda’s suggestion of adding criminals to the mix, he had a more manageable size to sort through now.
He glanced behind him to where Amanda was now returning the files to the proper drawers and cringed at the mess he had left on the table. ‘Billy was wise to assign her to help,’ he thought, knowing he would not be doing as neat a job as she was. Or even doing it at all. Then he turned his attention back to the television screen in front of him and watched the scene more carefully. He wanted to get a look at how his suspects acted to see if he could glean any insights from their mannerisms and behaviors that could help him narrow down his suspects.
Amanda stole a glance at Lee as he worked. She knew he wasn’t the greatest at filing, but she would have hoped he would help clean up his own mess! When she had brought him these folders, everything was neatly inside them and organized by cabinet. Now she was having to check each file to make sure the right information was inside. She frowned as she pulled yet another incorrectly placed page out of one folder and returned it to its rightful place.
‘I have half a mind to go over there and make him help me,’ she thought to herself. She shook her head and changed her mind as she looked at the mess he made. She knew it would be easier to do by herself, she just didn’t think it could be this boring and thankless. When Billy had stopped by earlier and she mentioned about pulling the criminal and immigrant lists, he had had a surprised smile on his face. He at least had thanked her for the idea while Lee just sat there and grunted in the file he had been reading.
She continued putting files away and half an hour later the room looked pretty much like it had when they had arrived. Excepting for the pile that Lee had on the smaller table with the VCR and television. She walked over and stood behind him, waiting for him to acknowledge that she was there. He had said he would drive her home once she finished with the files.
She watched him quietly for a few moments and was about to tap him on the shoulder when something on the screen caught her eye. One of the men on the tape seemed familiar to her somehow. She wasn’t sure exactly where she had seen him but there was something about the way he stood and his hands that caught her eye.
Lee sat up and stretched and noticed that Amanda was standing behind him. He glanced around the room, impressed that she had got it back in shape so quickly. Realizing this meant she needed a ride, he made a move towards the VCR to push stop.
“Wait a moment, Lee,” Amanda touched his shoulder before he could turn it off. “Who’s that man there? His voice sounds familiar” she asked, pointing at a man off to the side of the screen, not the one Lee was watching.
Lee looked at the man she had pointed out. “That is Dzhon Smit. Otherwise known as John Smith. He used to be a Russian diplomat until he got too diplomatic with the Ambassador’s wife. He was not only asked to leave his post, but was quietly exiled and has been living in the DC area for the past two years.” He turned back to Amanda to tell her he was ready to leave and noticed the curious look on her face.
“I know him from somewhere,” she muttered as she watched him on the screen.
Lee laughed as he turned the machine off and stood up. “I’m sure you do, Amanda. He may not be welcome in Russia anymore, but he still gets invited to all the big parties. He’s quite the ladies man. I have no doubt you have seen him before. He’s almost always in the social pages and on tv.”
He stretched until you could almost hear his back cracking and reached over for her arm. “Now I promised to take you home once you cleaned everything up. And you have. So let’s go.”
Amanda let Lee escort her out the door, but she wasn’t done yet. “But Lee, if he still goes to all the parties then he would be hearing things too. He could be one of the guys you’re looking for and I know I have seen him somewhere and not just in the social pages.”
Lee just nodded as they made their way back out to his car.
“Amanda, I’m sure wherever you may have seen him was somewhere important, but he’s just not a big enough deal for me to consider him as a suspect. I’ll have you home soon and then you can get some rest for your big day tomorrow.” Lee opened the car door for Amanda, waiting until she was inside before closing it, and then moving around the car to slide in behind the wheel.
They pulled out into traffic and he asked her, “What are you doing tomorrow that’s so special anyway?”
Amanda yawned and looked at her watch, noting that it was nearing midnight. “Mother’s garden club joins up once a year with the others in the area and they all put on a big fundraising event. This year it is Feed the Children, a charity that brings in food and supplies to families in war torn areas to see that they get enough to eat. Last year’s dinner theater did very well, but for the current theme, they are having a fairy tale ball. The guests dress up in costumes as their favorite fairy tale characters and even the wait staff will be dressed up. They’re hoping to beat last year’s goal of $250,000. And, of course, Mother drafted me to help out.”
Lee listened with half an ear as Amanda rambled on about her mother’s event. “Umhm” was all he said as he drove on going over his suspect pool in his head. He finally pulled up a few houses down from Amanda’s and waited for her to get out of the car, but she didn’t move. He started to ask what was wrong when he realized she had fallen asleep. He watched as she slept for a few moments, smothering a snicker when he noted a small snore coming from the passenger seat. Finally he reached over and gave her shoulder a shake.
“Amanda, we’re here. Time to get inside now,” he told her in a calm voice, so as not to startle her.
He smiled in surprise as she slowly turned her head back towards him and slowly opened her eyes with a quiet, “hmmm?”
Amanda quickly sat up as she realized she had fallen asleep in Lee’s car and blushed. “I’m sorry Lee, I didn’t mean to fall asleep on you.”
She stared at him for a moment as she cleared her head enough to think clearly and then glanced down at his hand still on her shoulder. “I’ll just get out now and let you get back to work.”
“Yeah, I’ve got a busy day tomorrow too.” he said with a smile.
Amanda quickly got out of the car and smiled. “Well then good luck,” she said and started to close the door. Before it got all the way shut, she opened it up again and leaned into the car. “And remember to be careful,” she admonished.
“Yes Amanda, I’ll be careful. Good night,” Lee said as he rolled his eyes again.
Knowing that was the best response she was going to get from him, she nodded and closed the door quietly so as not to disturb her neighbors.
Lee watched until she was inside her front door and then pulled away from the curb, intending to head home and get a few hours sleep before getting back to business in the morning.
The next day the sun was shining brightly in the windows of 4247 Maplewood Drive as the inhabitants got ready to begin their day.
“Jamie!” Amanda called from the kitchen where she was fixing the boys’ lunches, “Don’t forget to take your gym shorts today. They’re washed and in the third drawer down.”
“Yes Mom!” came the reply from above her. Phillip was finishing up his breakfast while her mother scurried around making her own breakfast of eggs and toast.
“Amanda, we have to leave here in the next hour to finish setting up and then get back here and get changed. The afternoon tea comes first with the older ladies and then there’s a 2-hour break to reset everything for the evening meal and ball.” Dotty reminded her daughter as Jamie came bounding down the stairs, gym shorts in hand.
“I got my shorts, Mom. Can I have raspberry jam in my sandwich instead of the strawberry?” he asked as he jumped into the chair beside Phillip, bumping into his arm in the process and causing him to spill some of the milk from his cereal bowl.
“Hey, watch it Wormbrain! I’m eating here,” he growled at his little brother.
“Phillip!” Amanda warned, “What have I told you about name calling? And Jamie, those are chairs not a jungle gym you’re getting on. Please try to be more careful.”
“Sorry, Mom,” the boys answered in unison as they turned their attention to their food.
Amanda finished making the lunches and placed them in paper bags while the boys put their dishes in the sink and got their coats.
Meeting them at the door, she handed them each their lunch bags and gave them a hug. “Now remember to mind your manners tonight when you’re with Brian and his grandparents. His mother will be giving me a full report when you get back and I want to hear that you were on your best behavior.”
“Of course we will, Mom,” Phillip replied as he squirmed out of the hug to head out the door.
“We will, Mom,” Jamie agreed as he went to follow his brother.
“Jamie!” Amanda called before he was halfway down the walk. “Gym shorts?”
“Oops! Thanks Mom!” he called to her as he raced back in the kitchen to grab his shorts and catch up with his brother.
Amanda sighed as she leaned against the doorframe and watched as her sons walked down the street towards their school. They were growing up so fast.
“Amanda!” her mother called from in the kitchen. “We have to leave soon, aren’t you going to eat any breakfast. You know it is the most important meal of the day.”
“Coming Mother!” she called as she closed the door and went to get herself something to eat.
It was nearly noon before a seriously frustrated Scarecrow entered the bullpen. Billy Melrose watched him enter and called him over to the conference room where they had set up the night before. “Scarecrow!” he bellowed and watched as the scowl grew on his agent’s face. He moved to stand back from the open conference room door to let Lee enter first.
Scarecrow made his way into the room past his boss and started pacing in front of the other agents already gathered and hard at work. Billy had followed him in and watched as the other agents took note of Scarecrow’s attitude and silently moved out of his way.
“There had better be a good reason why you are only showing up now, Scarecrow.” Billy admonished. “Report!” he barked.
Scarecrow stopped his pacing and glared at his boss. “I was out checking with some contacts this morning. The only thing they had to report was a conversation between one of the guys at the Russian Embassy and his wife. He was telling her she couldn’t go to some event tonight. Probably trying to keep her from spending all their money on people who aren’t Russian,” he complained, exasperated that even his contacts hadn’t heard anything.
“That is something, Lee,” Francine consoled, standing up from the table and coming over with some papers she had been going over. “The most I have is some schmuck who has been schmoozing with the rich and famous over the past year and swindling funds from the ladies.”
“Sounds promising, Francine,” Billy replied with a hint of hope in his voice, “Anything to indicate that he could be our money man?”
Francine sighed, “Not so far, all I can find out about Dzhon Smit is that he is a real ladies man. Likes to wine and dine them. After which several of the single ladies he has taken out have left the social scene. I have some feelers out to see why but nothing back there yet.” She shuffled through the pages she had been going over and pulled one out with a flourish. “But there are a few unconfirmed reports of him going out with a few Senators’ wives. But nothing untoward has been found there.”
Lee turned to Francine and asked, “Did you say Dzhon Smit?” at the same time a feminine voice on the other side of the room asked her the same question.
Lee, Francine and Billy all turned towards the voice and saw that it was agent Debbie Swiss who had spoken. She was staring back at the three of them as well. Then she shook her head and moved over to join the trio bringing with the folder she had been looking through.
“Are you talking about Dzhon Smit, 42, from Omsk?” she asked.
Francine and Lee looked at each other and nodded.
“Then I’d say you might have your man!” she commented excitedly as she searched through the pages in the folder she had. “Dzhon Smit might be seen as a ruggedly handsome ladies man, but at least 15 years ago he was a higher up in the KGB. He seemed to have fallen out of favor with them, but from what I have found, almost every time he was involved in a scandal with a lady was around the same time a major operation went bust. There is no real evidence that ties him to the incidents, but the ladies in question always seemed to have some family tie to an important person who had influence over events.”
She pushed her way over to the table past two other agents who were standing nearby listening and started arranging pages from her folder on the table.
“Look here!” she pointed to the pages in front of her. “Here in ‘78 there was that bust in Paris with the Direction Generale des Etudes et Recherches had a major flap involving that circus, and here,” she gestured to the page she had placed beside it, “You see that, around the same time, Smit was seen publicly at several events with the Director’s sister.”
She quickly shoved those to the side and place two more pages down side by side, “Here we have a mass shooting of agents at a party hosted by the Brazilian government in ‘79. They were all high up members of Agencia Brasileira de Inteligencia. Smit had only left the country the day before, after being supposedly caught in the bed of the President’s brother’s mistress. One Orlando Geisel. Again, nothing really suspicious there, but look at all the times his name has come up over the world; each time there are women involved who lose money or are involved in a scandal with him. And then shortly before or after he leaves the country, major incidents occur!”
Debbie slammed her hand palm down on top of the paperwork to emphasize her point and smiled like the cat that had eaten the canary.
Lee could almost feel the pieces falling into place in his mind. “So he schmoozes with the rich and powerful, particularly the ladies,” he started, waving his hand in the air over the pages, “There is a scandal of some sort and he schemes money out of them and then there’s a flap? Shootings? Secrets getting out, that sort of thing?”
He smiled excitedly and gave out a whoop. “Billy I think we got him! If this guy is who we think he is then of course the Russian diplomat wouldn’t want his wife anywhere near Smit.” He turned to Francine and asked,
“Which events are on the docket for tonight that would give him the kind of exposure he would need? One with women he can sucker and money to be had.”
Billy nodded his agreement with his agents and watched Francine bark at Fielder to hand her the social roster for the evening.
Francine quickly flipped through the list, “There is a gathering at a few of the embassies, but none of the big ones. There is a ball at the Canadian Embassy tonight for some visiting hockey player. Other than that, the only event on our radar that involves money is the Feed the Children Gala.”
Lee felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up when Francine read off that last event. He looked at her and asked, “Would this be the event that has all the gardening clubs in DC joining together to put on a massive event?”
She looked at him dumbfounded. “When did you get so up to date on the gardening social scene?” she asked in disbelief.
All eyes turned to Scarecrow as he closed his and sighed.
He then turned to Billy, “Last night when Amanda was helping out in the file room she noticed Dzhon Smit on the viewer when I was reviewing file footage from when Isaac Petrovich was in town last month. She mentioned that he seemed familiar and that she was sure she had seen him somewhere before. And then when I drove her home she mentioned that her mother had drafted her to help out at the charity gala her mother’s garden club was helping to put on.”
Billy could feel the bile in his stomach churning at the thought of Mrs. King and her mother, as well as countless other guests at this event, being targeted.
“All right people, listen up!” He bellowed, moving to stand in the doorway so the agents inside and outside of the conference room could hear him.
“Our prime suspect is attending the Feed the Children even tonight hosted by the Garden Clubs of DC. I want him brought in tonight before he has a chance to get anyone at the ball in a compromising position! That means I want three teams assembled and ready to go in half an hour. Scarecrow, get a team ready, you will be going in to the event itself - costumed, and you bring him out. Francine, you’ll be heading the containment team. I want you ready to cover with the guests if anything happens so they don’t realize what is going on. Debbie, you can lead the backup team. If he gets outside of the building I want him stopped!” Billy finished and looked at the agents still standing around and bellowed, “Scramble people! I want this man in an interrogation room tonight!”
As one, the assembled agents dashed off to make preparations. Billy grabbed Scarecrow’s arm as he passed and pulled him aside. “Scarecrow,” he warned. “I want your team to get him out of there as quietly as possible. If that means using Mrs. King’s help to get him away from the crowd, you’re authorized to read her in.”
Lee looked at Billy with surprise, he was really telling him he could read a civilian in on the mission? “Billy...” he started.
“No buts, Lee,” Billy cut him off before he could complain any further. “There will be a lot of wives of bigwigs there tonight and we may need her help. I’m not saying tell her every little detail, just enough to ensure her help if you need it. Now get going!” With that Billy dropped his arm and headed off to his office, presumably, Lee thought, to fill in the higher ups about what was going on.
Lee shook his head and went over to the table to get more details about the Gala and the theme. He vaguely remembered Amanda mentioning something about a theme for the evening. He glanced over the rundown until he found what it was. Then he groaned.
Looking up he pointed to several agents, including Fred Fielder. “You, you, you, you and you!” he barked, not unlike Billy. “I need the five of you to meet me in the Quartermaster's office in five minutes. Looks like we get to dress up for this little shindig tonight.”
With that he turned and headed over to his desk to give Amanda a quick call, if he was lucky, she was at home and he could get her to come up with some excuse to stay home with her mother. He picked up the phone and dialed the number he was quickly getting to know by heart. After 10 rings he finally admitted defeat and replaced the receiver. He gave a quick glance at his watch, noting the time and then quickly headed off to join the rest of his team, hoping that he would not have to get the ‘assistance’ of Mrs. King at the party.
Amanda King smiled as her mother dashed off to find her friend Agnes. The afternoon tea for the genteel ladies of DC had gone off without a hitch. The clean up and resetting of the event for the fairy tale garden had gone smoothly. She glanced about the area again admiring the marquee. The tent poles that held up the white canopy were all individually decorated by each of the garden club members. The the different varieties of flowers made for a dazzling splash of color against the soft lights suspended above.
The tables themselves seemed to posses a private, magical feeling. A large round glass bowl held a pillar candle surrounded by several smaller versions with tealight size candles. Scattered around these candles were tiny vines with miniature flowers and sprinklings of glitter.
Past the edge of the tent, the grounds of the estate were a magnificent background. The hedges and trees presenting a lovely dark and mysterious tone, perfect for their Fairy Tale Prince and Princesses Gala. Even the horse drawn carriages set up near the home had old-fashioned oil lamps hanging from them that added to the mood. Guests who were willing to pay an additional donation, would get a private ride around the grounds.
With all the guests dressed as princes and princesses, they had planned a unique way of garnering donations. They were going to have servant girls come out dressed in tatters, collecting unwanted jewelry from the lords to help ‘feed their families’.
Dotty had gone to find a good position to view the main event. And with the evening running without any hint of problems, Amanda was looking forward to the show. Even though she felt a bit out of place. Her mother had picked out her costume for the evening, and while it was a gorgeous gown, she didn’t feel quite right dressed like Cinderella in the dress she wore to the ball to meet her prince. It implied she was waiting for someone to sweep her off her feet. But she had Dean, even if he hadn’t accompanied her that evening.
Giving her head a quick shake, Amanda started to move off to find a better view for herself when she spotted Agnes assisting a young female guest.
“Oh Amanda dear,” Agnes gushed, “I was just helping this young lady to one of the private booths toward the back,” she leaned in closer to her to whisper, “I think she may have had a few too many. Would you be a dear and make sure she gets situated? I know Dotty is around here somewhere and I promised to watch the main event with her.”
Agnes transferred the young woman to Amanda’s arms and gave her a pat on the back. “You’ll be fine now, Shelby,” she consoled. “Amanda will find you a nice place to rest for a bit.” With that last statement, Agnes turned and vanished into the crowd in the same direction Dotty had gone a few minutes earlier.
Amanda looked down at the inebriated girl in her arms and gave a small sigh. “Come along, Shelby,” she whispered into the girl’s ear. “There are some nice tables back here where you can rest and no one will be able to see you.” Together the two managed to walk a mostly straight line to the rear seating, near the caterer’s tent. The private booths were basically a table surrounded by strategically placed potted hedges for privacy. Amanda gently assisted Shelby into a chair and helped her rest her head on the table. The soft snores coming from the young woman suggested they had made it to the table just in time.
Amanda looked at Shelby and thought she could use a blanket to cover her while she slept and headed out towards the caterer’s tent in hopes of finding a spare tablecloth or blanket to use. As she passed by one of the other private booths, she heard a familiar sounding voice.
‘Dzhon Smit!’ she thought to herself. She paused behind one of the hedges and listened for a moment to the men talking quietly inside.
“Once all the funds are gathered and placed inside the large treasure chest, you can swoop in like a gallant thief of old and wave your sword around. Make some sort of dashing speech like you are part of the event and wheel it out back and straight onto the truck. The guests will never know it isn’t part of the show,” Dzhon was telling his companion.
“Sure thing boss, this will be real easy,” the companion agreed smugly.
Amanda gasped. They were planning to interrupt her mother's event. The men inside reacted quickly to the sound and the next thing she knew, they were facing her.
Dzhon Smit glared an icy smile at Amanda. “My dear, didn’t anyone ever tell you it was rude to eavesdrop?” He gripped her by her upper arm and pulled her close to his side like he was escorting her. He turned to address his friend, “Change of plans, I’ll take care of getting the chest, you just have the van ready to go and I’ll meet you outside in about 20 minutes or so.” He shook Amanda’s arm, “This young lady will need to be disposed of as well. There will be a bonus in it for you, as this is an extra on top of what I hired you for.”
She watched as Dzhon’s companion gave a quick nod and walked off before commenting, “You won’t get away with this. Those children need that money for food.”
Dzhon gave her a comical smile, “Yes, my dear, they do, but I also need the money to fund certain activities. It gives me great pleasure to take those from those in power and use it to disrupt their comfortable little lives.” He kept his grip on her arm tight as he escorted her to the edge of the center of the marquee where they had an excellent view of the servant girls gathering jewels.
Amanda looked around desperately hoping she would spot someone from the event’s security team to help her. She saw the guests laughing and cheerfully handing their jewelry over to the girls with black velvet lined trays and watched as every time they filled the one they were holding, they danced over and dumped it into a large treasure chest on a decorated cart. As she looked, her eyes passed over a woman standing by herself off to the left. And then she gave the woman a second, more intense look. It was Francine!
Seeing the agent in attendance sent a wave of relief coursing through her. She knew Francine was not planning on attending the event, having helped her mother’s friends with the guest seating arrangements just yesterday.
She looked more carefully at the crowd and found several more faces she recognized from seeing them at the Agency.
Just beyond the marquee, she spotted a man on horseback, seemingly patrolling the outer edge. She couldn’t make out his face in the darkness, but something about him seemed familiar, even though he was dressed as a knight like the ones stationed at the entrance. However, they weren’t supposed to be riding any of the horses that had been hitched up to the carriages. She watched him and could almost feel him tense up when she thought she made eye contact. It was hard to tell through the visor he was wearing.
Her attention was brought back to the man that held her arm as the women had finished gathering the gems and were thanking the crowd for their generosity.
Amanda had no intention of helping the man steal the money from all the children they were hoping to feed. She reached her free arm out to a nearby table and scooped up as much of the glitter as she could and held it tight in her fist.
Suddenly the man holding her arm stepped forward into the middle of the performance, dragging her along with him.
“My good people!” Dzhon addressed the crowd. At some point he must have slipped on a mask, because now a very fashionable men’s mask covered the area around his eyes, distorting his features. “I come now to ensure that the funds gathered this evening make their way to the people who need it most.” He declared most formally, trying to make it seem like the role he was playing was part of the event. “I even have with me as hostage one of the fine young princesses,” he swiftly dragged her over to the treasure chest and grasped the handle to the cart with his free hand. “As long as everyone behaves accordingly she will be released unharmed once I’m away with the booty.”
Amanda would have rolled her eyes at Dzhon’s attempts to fit in, if she weren’t so scared about what would happen once he was away from the audience. Realizing it was now or never, she threw the handful of glitter she had in his eyes and wrenched her arm out of his grasp. Falling to the ground a few feet away.
She could hear the crowd gasp with excitement over the events being portrayed in front of them and was surprised they weren’t more upset. Then she noticed Francine and the other agents conversing loudly with the guests around them at how wonderful the performance was. She winced with pain as she shifted to stand up and realized she had jarred her wrist when she fell.
As she was about to call out for help, she looked at the knight on horseback that had been walking around outside the marquee. He had changed from his slow, circular walk around the outside of the gathering and now appeared to be charging straight at her. She put her good hand to her mouth to smother a scream as the white horse leaped over a table without smashing a single decoration and landed smoothly inside the open area.
The servant girls shrieked and scattered while the horse made its way toward her. The rider leaping from the bareback to land on Dzhon, who was still gripping the cart while trying to rid his eyes of the glitter she had thrown in them moments before.
A punch, and then another was all it took for Dzhon to go limp and fall to the ground unconscious. Amanda just stared at the knight, wondering who on earth would be so reckless to come in like that, when it suddenly clicked. Only Scarecrow would try to pull off such a stunt.
She was trying to think of a way to end this charade and make sure everything got sorted out and her mother was okay, when she heard a woman’s voice that sounded distinctly like Francine’s.
“Would you look at how that brave knight saved the princess! Speech Sir Knight! Speech!”
Amanda closed her eyes tightly. She could recognize the underlying sarcastic tone in Francine’s voice, she had heard it often enough in the office.
She opened her eyes again and looked at the knight. He moved toward her and offered her his hand, pulling her gently to a standing position.
“Fear not good people!” the knight/Lee called out to the crowd. “Yon evil doer has been dispatched and shall be placed in custody to pay for his crimes.” He beckoned to one of the event security guards to come and take away the treasure chest of jewels and continued. “The fair protectors of this event shall take charge of what you have so generously donated this evening. And now I must depart.”
He bent and picked up the unconscious man and placed him on the back of the horse. He turned to face Amanda again, and gave her a very deep, gallant bow. “My lady,” he addressed her, before accepting the help of another from the security team and mounting the horse again. Dashing off into the night outside of the marquee with his prisoner.
Amanda just stared after Lee, as the crowd around her erupted in applause. Apparently everyone thought it was just a part of the planned proceedings. Several of the guests came over and congratulated her on her performance. Francine being one of them, she added in that she would need to come to the Agency in the morning for a debriefing and then vanished into the crowd. Amanda turned to ask her what time but she was gone and she heard her mother calling for her.
“Amanda!” Dotty screeched, “Why didn’t you tell me you were playing a role tonight?” Dotty took over for Amanda in accepting the congratulations from the crowd. Amanda smiled and nodded at her admirers and let her mother take charge. Her wrist was really starting to throb and she couldn’t wait to get home and relax. Though she knew that really wasn’t going to be an option. She was listening to her mother tell all of the guests in range how that was the most romantic thing she had ever seen, a knight on a white horse rescuing her daughter.
Many hours later Amanda King was seated in her living room in her nightgown and robe listening to her mother in the kitchen fixing them a cup of tea. After Dzhon had been carried off by Lee, the evening had progressed as it had been originally intended. Her mother’s garden club was quite pleased that the event had surpassed their hoped for total and raised nearly $300,000 thousand for Feed the Children. Dotty had not stopped going on and on about how Amanda had been a part of the main event and hadn’t told her beforehand so she could take pictures.
The woman in charge of organizing that portion of the evening had given her a strange look, but not said anything when Dotty thanked her for letting her daughter participate even though she wasn’t a member.
“Really, Amanda,” Dotty continued the train of thought she had been on for the last few hours. “Next time you are involved in something like this you need to tell me. I would make sure we got lots of pictures. And Dean! Dean would have loved to have helped out too, I’m sure.”
“Yes Mother,” Amanda agreed meekly, accepting the teacup of hot liquid gratefully. “It really was just a last minute twist they came up with. I don’t even think everyone knew about it beforehand,” she replied. Hoping that would help when her mother started badgering her garden club friends about the evening’s events.
Dotty just sat down on the chair opposite her daughter with her own cup of tea and kept talking. “The way that man on horseback just swooped in to the rescue! I have read scenes like that in many of my romance novels, but to see it happen with my own eyes, and to my daughter! Well! I certainly hope Dean keeps things as romantic between the two of you as that man on horseback did.”
Lee Stetson groaned from his hiding spot outside the King residence kitchen window. Partly due to the new bruises he sported on his body as a result of jumping off a moving horse onto Dzhon, and partly due to the chatter coming from the living room inside. He was very glad he did not have to face Dotty’s questions after each case the way Amanda did.
His debriefing tonight was enough fun, since Francine beat him back to the office and every female he met just about swooned when he walked by. Even Billy had a great big grin on his face while listening to him recount what had gone on.
When he had gotten to the part of the evening where Amanda had fallen to the ground, Billy had asked if she was all right. He said she was fine, but after he thought about it some more he realized she had been favoring that hand in the few moments after the event. That was why he was stopping by. That and Billy had wanted him to let her know that her debriefing was set for 10 am on Monday, not on the following morning like Francine had assumed. Billy felt Monday would be fine; Amanda did have children to take care of and getting away on a Saturday morning would be difficult.
Finally Lee heard Dotty proclaim her intention to go to bed and get some rest.
“Amanda, I’m sure you won’t stay up too much longer will you, dear?” Dotty asked of her daughter as she placed her teacup in the sink and moved toward the base of the stairs.
“I won’t, Mother,” Amanda replied. “I’m just going to finish my tea and head upstairs in a few minutes.”
Lee watched from the window until Dotty was out of sight and tapped on it to get Amanda’s attention.
Amanda heard the soft tapping from her living room and jumped, very thankful that her tea was nearly gone so it didn’t spill. She made her way over to the kitchen window with her teacup. She placed it in the sink beside her mother’s and gently pushed the window open a bit further.
“Hello,” she whispered softly, “What are you doing here? I thought I was supposed to come in in the morning?”
“That’s why I’m here,” he whispered back to her, “Billy says not to worry about it. You can give your report on Monday.” He gestured to the wrist that she had been favoring earlier in the evening. “Unless you hurt your arm and need to see one of the doctors?” he asked.
Amanda held up her arm and waved it for effect. “Nope, just a bit bruised. I took some aspirin earlier and now it feels fine,” she gave him a quizzical glance, “Why, were you worried?”
“No,” he stated with finality, “But any injuries that require treatment have to be looked at within 24 hours to be covered by Medical. Billy wanted to be sure you were all right.”
“Oh,” Amanda replied quietly. She stayed quiet for another moment before asking, “Lee, that man you arrested tonight. He was the one I was asking about yesterday wasn’t he? I thought you didn’t think he was a suspect?”
“Everyone is a suspect,” he declared firmly. He looked at her and wondered, “Amanda, you didn’t go looking for him did you? Is that why he had you as a hostage?”
“Oh no, Lee,” she answered while shaking her head. “I was just helping this girl, Shelby, to a table. She had too much to drink and was falling over and after I had her seated, I walked past this private booth and heard him talking about his plans and he just came out and grabbed me. I wouldn’t go looking for trouble,” she declared.
‘But it seems to know where you are anyhow,’ Lee thought to himself. “I believe you,” Lee stated, glancing at his watch and noticing the time. “I’ll just let you get some sleep. Remember, ten o’clock Monday morning in Billy’s office,” he stated as he stood up from his crouched position and made his way out of the flower bed.
“Sure thing,” Amanda said cheerfully. “Bright and early. Goodnight Lee!” she called out, slightly louder than a whisper to the figure now retreating into the darkness of her backyard. She watched for another moment until she could no longer distinguish his shape from the other shadows before shutting and locking her window and heading up to bed. Hoping that the evening’s events would encroach on her dreams. After all, how often do you get to play Cinderella and need rescuing from a dashing knight?