Written: March-April 2001
Summary: Lee has a ghost to bury.
Rated: PG, maybe PG-13 at the most
Timeframe: Post-4th season, with some background information prior to series. All secrets are still secrets (jobs, marriage, you get the idea).
Archive: Here and ff.n, anywhere else, let me know so I can see it.
About the partner: In keeping with canon, Lee's previous partner was never named. The name Eric has been used many times in various fics. However, I chose to create my own name for him to keep him separate from the various incarnations that other writers have developed. Thank you.
Notes: I've been taking a hiatus from writing since having my second daughter back in December, but this story was just dying to get out of my head. I hope it is enjoyed by all. It's been very challenging to try to write while chasing down a two-year-old and nursing an infant and tending to a husband all at the same time! But, I'm sure I don't have to tell most of you about that. Now, on with the fic:
An abandoned warehouse in D.C.; Midday:
"Are you sure this information is accurate?" The thick Russian accent echoed off the bare cement block walls of an empty room.
"Have I ever let you down, Iggy?"
"Yes, well, we'll see, won't we? And don't call me Iggy! I have nothing but contempt for you, Shadow. You sell your loyalty to the highest bidder and betray your country. Fortunately for you, my superiors are impressed with what you have provided in the past and are interested in maintaining your health."
The long, lanky man that had previously been relaxing against a stack of discarded crates rose up to his full height of six feet two inches and moved slowly but deliberately toward the stocky Russian. Poking him sharply in the chest he growled, "Listen, Iggy, I'll call you whatever I want, and don't get patronizing with me. You spend your time between here in the states and in Western Europe getting fat off of our abundance while your comrades at home go hungry. We're no different. We both look out for number one. Now, get out of my way; I'm late for an appointment."
Meanwhile, across town in a lawyer's modest office:
Amanda King looked down at her hands as they rested in her lap. She thought of the past: her first year at college, the day she'd met Joe, their courtship, her immense joy on their wedding day. How could such happiness end this way? Would her children grow up believing that marriage was forever or just some disposable arrangement conveniently ended when it got tough? Yet, she knew that this was the only option left. Their marriage had been over for a long time; they just hadn't wanted to admit it. She'd never forget the look of relief of Joe's face when she'd finally asked him for a divorce during his last visit. Now he stood before her, handing over the pen he'd just used to sign away the commitment they'd shared. Knowing it was for the best, but heartbroken just the same, she accepted the pen.
Later that afternoon in Georgetown; five floors below the street's surface:
"Hey, Kevin, wait up!" Lee Stetson called out to his partner as he hurried toward the bullpen.
Kevin Ford paused at the double glass doors so that Scarecrow could join him. "We're gonna be late. You know how Billy loves it when someone walks in during a briefing."
"Oh well. You're Mr. Punctuality, not me. Besides, I had a lunch date with Debbie from accounting."
"Not the Debbie? Curves in all the right places and blonde hair down to her..."
"Yep, that Debbie." Lee gloated.
"I don't know how you do it. You're not that good looking, you know!" Kevin teased his junior partner of five years.
"Yeah, okay, whatever you say; but I'm the one taking her to dinner this weekend. Do you want me to tell you about it on Monday?"
Ford looked at his smirking friend and laughed as he shook his head. Together, they entered the conference room.
"Nice of you two to join us." Billy Melrose remarked as the latecomers sat down. "As I was saying, Igor Fedorov is in town again. We all know what that means; our information broker must have some merchandise for sale. I want everyone's ear to the ground this time! Keep in close touch with your contacts. I want this guy nailed. No more classified information is to leave Dulles in Fedorov's hands! Is that clear?" After a cursory glance around the room, he continued. "Good. Now, get out there and do your jobs!"
At a quiet house in a quiet neighborhood in Arlington:
"Oh, Darling, are you okay?"
"No, Mother, I'm not okay. My marriage ended today." Fiddling with the rings adorning her left hand, Amanda King looked across the kitchen and stared blankly out the window over the sink as if seeking the answers to life there.
"I know it seems like the world is ending right now, but it'll get better. I promise."
"I know, Mother. If you'll excuse me, I need to go put these away." Rising from her seat, she slipped the fine gold rings off her finger and started toward the stairs.
Early evening in the bullpen:
"Scarecrow. Shadow. My office, now," bellowed the voice of Section Chief Melrose.
Lee Stetson and Kevin Ford dropped the printout they'd been going over and immediately headed for the office.
Before they were all the way in the room, Billy started. "Here's the deal. We think that Fedorov is meeting his source tonight at Shuler's Warehouse."
"Why can't the bad guys ever meet at some nice restaurant or theater? No, it's always a dive bar or old, abandoned warehouse," Lee joked.
"Stow it, Scarecrow. We don't have time. Now listen. I want you two there for the meet. I've got a back-up team setting up, but you need to move now. Be careful and stay in touch with the team."
"We're gone, Sir," Ford replied even as they exited the room.
At the warehouse:
Kevin's red Trans-Am pulled up near an old loading dock and the two seasoned agents emerged.
"Okay, we'll split up. You take the north entrance and I'll go in back here," Kevin ordered as both men checked their weapons.
"Are you sure we shouldn't stick together?" Lee asked as Kevin radioed Billy that they were in place.
"Who's the senior agent here, Scarecrow? Besides, we wouldn't want him to get past us. You just stay put and wait for the back-up team to arrive before we search the place."
"All right. Be careful, Shadow."
"I always am." With that, the men went their separate ways.
Igor Fedorov paced in the shadows as he waited for his contact. He jumped as Kevin tapped him on the shoulder.
"Don't sneak up on me like that!" Fedorov hissed. "I don't like this. What was so important that we had to meet off our regular schedule?"
"I didn't have a choice. If the Agency gets you, they'll get me, and Billy's pulled out all the stops this time. I had to tell you so you could get out of the country as quickly and quietly as possible."
"Thanks for the warning," dripped sarcastically from the foreign man's tongue. "What about your partner?"
"He's at the north entrance. I'll make my way up to him. You take a couple of wild shots at us, I'll return a few, and then you escape out the back."
"Sounds like you've thought of everything." A sinister smile began to play at the corners of his mouth as a slightly altered version of Shadow's plan took root in his mind.
"I try. Okay, I'm going." Kevin slunk along the wall, through the darkness toward where Lee would be hiding out; but before he could get there shots rang out. He took cover. The gunfire was aimed at the north entrance. 'What the hell is he doing?' Shadow thought. Then he saw Lee partially come out of hiding to return fire. 'Great. Just great!'
Suddenly, all was quiet as Kevin saw one of Igor's thugs escorting Lee into the openness of the warehouse. Igor, himself, approached from the opposite side while calling out, "Did you really think I'd come alone? You Americans, you always underestimate your enemy. I, on the other hand, am sure that you are not alone. Where is your partner?" Fedorov's gun was pointed at Lee's midsection and the two men were now only a few feet apart.
With his hands on his head, Lee responded, "Go to hell, Fedorov."
"Quite probably, but not before you." With that, he raised his weapon to eye-level with Lee and prepared to pull the trigger.
"NO-O-O!" Shadow screamed as he jumped out from his cover. His first shot hit Fedorov in the arm. The squat Russian turned, even as he fired, and his bullet struck a very surprised Kevin in the head.
Meanwhile, Lee used the moment of confusion to disarm the henchman and get to cover. He heard the back-up team storm into the building as Kevin's body hit the floor. In seconds, Fedorov was in custody and Lee was kneeling beside his partner and friend.
Gently, he lifted Kevin's hand and held it. There was blood everywhere. "Hold on, Kevin. Help's coming. You're gonna be fine. Just hang in there." Lee continued talking softly to the dead man until Billy arrived and convinced him to release Kevin's body.
Back in Arlington:
The beautiful brunette buried her tear-stained face deeper in the comforter as a warm breeze blew in the partially open window.
In the hallway, a worried mother stood, listening to the muffled sounds of crying emanating from her daughter's bedroom. She shook her head and said a silent prayer that all those suffering on this night would find peace.
Amanda King opened the door to the office she shared with her secret husband. She moved across the room, unloading her burdened arms. First, she dropped some files that Mrs. Marsten had given to her onto Lee's desk. Next, she unpacked the small bag of groceries into the refrigerator. Finally, she put down her purse on her desk, nearly squashing the gift bag someone had left there.
Curious, she opened the bag and discovered a lapel pin in the shape of a top hat and painted bright red. Smiling, Amanda pinned it on her blouse. The five-year anniversary of their first encounter had been more than a week ago. They had both let it pass unmentioned, until now that is. She shook her head at her husband's sense of romance.
Lee stood in the vault doorway, watching the smile cross his wife's face. Emerging, he said, "Happy Anniversary. I'm sorry it's a little late. The jeweler promised it would be ready on time, but obviously it wasn't." He encircled her with his arms as she turned to him.
They shared a soft, but passionate, kiss before she pulled away. "Thank you, Lee. It's beautiful."
"No, it's a trinket. You're beautiful." Before their mouths could reach each other again, the door opened and Francine entered.
"Nice pin, Amanda." She pretended to not notice what she'd interrupted. Despite her best efforts, she and Amanda had become friends and even she had to admit that Amanda had been good for Lee.
"Thank you. It was a gift."
"Lee, Billy wants to see you downstairs."
"Yep. He sent me up here to help Amanda."
"All right. I'll see you later then?" he questioned his wife.
"Sure. I'll be here all day. I'm behind in cleaning out the vault."
"Hey, Billy. What's up?" Lee asked as he walked into his boss's office.
"Have a seat, Lee. I thought you should know. Igor Fedorov came through Dulles this morning."
"What? How?" The younger man was on his feet, pacing the room.
"Apparently, he got back in favor with his superiors. You know he was sent back to Russia after Kevin's death. That was a lot of bureacratic nonsense, if you ask me." Billy shook his head as he remembered the political garbage he'd dealt with. "Anyway, he entered D.C. today using a phony name, but it was him."
"Why are you telling me this? Is there a case involved? Can I do something about it?" Lee had stopped pacing in front of Billy's desk and was challenging his friend.
"No. I just thought you should know," Billy said gently, while moving next to Scarecrow. "You know, if you ever want to talk about it..."
Lee looked at his friend and boss and gave him a small smile. "Thanks, Billy. I know you mean well, but if I want to talk, I have someone who will listen." Billy Melrose was grateful for the relationship Lee and Amanda shared, whatever it was. There was a time when Lee was almost as dangerous to himself as the enemy was. Those days were long gone now though.
"But, be warned, Billy. If I see Fedorov, I'll kill him."
Melrose heard the conviction behind Lee's threat. He knew the agent would do exactly what he promised, if given the chance. "Listen, Lee, I know this is rough. Why don't you take off for the day? Go home. Relax."
"I just might do that." And Lee Stetson was gone.
"Spill it, Francine," Amanda requested.
"What do you mean?" the blonde agent evaded.
"What did Mr. Melrose want to talk to Lee about?"
"You know I can't say, but if I were you, I wouldn't make any plans for tonight. He's going to need to talk. In the meantime, we need to get busy with this vault. We're supposed to have the whole year of 1982 cleared out by the end of the week, and today is already Thursday."
Now, Amanda was worried; before she'd only been curious. However, she knew that Francine was right. They were behind schedule in purging the old vault files, and if Lee needed her, he knew where to find her. Together, the two women worked well into the afternoon.
Eventually, Francine needed a break. "I can't believe we're only up to September. We should be done with the whole year by now," she said as she collapsed on the small sofa and squeezed her eyes shut.
As Amanda plopped down next to her, she answered, "Yeah, I know. It was a busy year, apparently. Look, why don't you go outside for some fresh air and pick up a bite to eat? I'll keep working and see if I can finish up September before you get back."
"Are you sure? I'd love to get out of here for a few minutes."
"Absolutely. Go ahead" Amanda replied with a tired smile. Francine slowly rose, rubbing her stiff back at the same time, and headed for the door.
Amanda also got up and proceeded to look through the file she'd just pulled. When she realized she was reading the report of how Lee's last partner died, she stopped. He didn't talk much about Kevin, but Amanda knew that Lee still blamed himself for his death. She reopened the file and settled in for a long read. They were supposed to just give each file a quick once over to determine if they could be transferred to microfiche and then the hard copies destroyed; but she felt that reading this case might give her a better understanding of her husband.
By the time Francine returned, Amanda had finished reading about Kevin Ford's last case and had pulled all of the files regarding Igor Fedorov for review.
"Amanda," Francine exclaimed upon entering. "What are you doing? We're supposed to be cleaning out and organizing these files, not making the room look like we're starting a paper drive!" She indicated the mass of papers strewn about the room with a broad sweep of her arm.
"I'm sorry, Francine, but I got to reading a case and something about it bugged me. So, I pulled out the related cases to review," Amanda offered apologetically.
Her interest piqued, Francine moved closer. "Really? What case?" She began to lean over Amanda's shoulder.
"Igor Fedorov. What caught my attention involved the death of Lee's previous partner, Kevin."
"Oh yeah. I remember when Shadow died. I was in Europe on assignment, but I made it back for the funeral. Lee was really a wreck. He blamed himself. Apparently, Fedorov was going to kill Lee when Kevin appeared out of nowhere. Iggy, as he was affectionately known, turned toward Shadow and fired."
Nodding, Amanda responded. "You're right about Lee. In fact, he still blames himself. That's why I started reading it in the first place, but it caught my interest that the leak was never found. I wonder why Fedorov didn't give up a name."
"Well, Iggy was deported before a full investigation could take place. Someone very high up needed him for a trade almost immediately. The leaks had stopped, so I guess after time, resources were needed elsewhere and the investigation was dropped." Francine took a seat on the couch after moving a stack of folders.
"I've been doing some checking, and, well," Amanda hesitated looking for the right words.
"What? Did you find a link?" Now Francine's interest was renewed.
"I think so. Did you know that Kevin Ford was the only agent assigned to every Fedorov case? There are others involved in many of them, but Kevin was the only constant in every file."
Startled, Francine jumped up, "I can't believe you looked closely enough to catch that! Yeah, I know that Kevin was the only common agent among all the cases. He was a suspect for a short time after his death, but there was no evidence that he was the leak."
"Are you sure? That seems like an awful big coincidence." Amanda joined her in the middle of the room.
"Yes, I'm sure. I personally checked his financial records. If he was being paid for information, he must have found a whole new way to hide money. He had no secret accounts, no large deposits, and no big purchases. He was clean, Amanda." Francine headed toward the vault. "Now can we please finish this up so we can go home?"
"All right. You're probably right."
"Of course I am. Let's get done so you can go see Lee...I mean your children." The blonde agent smiled conspiratorially at her brunette counterpart.
Amanda smiled in return and joined her at the vault.
At Lee's Apartment:
Lee Stetson had spent the afternoon thinking about his long-dead friend. He remembered the way Kevin laughed at his stupid jokes. He thought of how the two of them would go prowling for dates and how they would match each other drink for drink. Then, there were the sad times. When Kevin's parents died in a plane crash, Lee had been his rock. And when Lee returned from an assignment in Italy broken-hearted, Kevin stood by him.
Finally, in the late afternoon, Lee could wallow alone no longer. He picked up the phone and dialed.
"Hello. Q-Bureau. This is Amanda King."
A bittersweet smile came to his face at the sound of her voice. "God, you sound beautiful." Lee uttered softly.
"Lee? Are you okay? You don't sound well. I expected to hear from you earlier today," a worried Amanda responded.
A slight chuckle escaped Lee's lips at her monologue and he asked, "Can you stop by here after work? I really need...well, I really need you."
"Of course I can. Let me finish cleaning up here and I'll be right over. Do you want me to bring anything?"
"Just yourself. See you soon. I love you."
"You know these phone lines are monitored," she whispered as she turned so Francine wouldn't hear her.
"I don't care. I love you," Lee repeated, more emphatically.
"I love you, too. See you soon. Bye."
The key turned in the lock and Amanda opened the door to reveal her second home. At the sound of running water, she proceeded toward the bathroom.
"Hello, stranger." She smiled at the sight of her husband standing under the steamy spray of the shower.
"Hello, yourself," Lee answered. "Care to join me?"
"Maybe later. Right now, I'm starved. Want some dinner?" She patted her stomach for emphasis.
"I ordered Chinese. It should be here soon."
"Okay. I'll be in the other room opening the wine." She turned to go.
"I'll be right there" he called as he turned off the water.
A short time later, the couple sat on the floor, surrounded by empty food containers, finishing their wine. Amanda looked at the handsome face of her husband and decided it was time to talk. "So," she began. "What's wrong? You sounded terrible on the phone earlier, and you haven't said two words all through dinner." As she spoke, Amanda reached her hand over to stroke Lee's forearm.
"It's really nothing. I just got some news today that brought up some memories, not all of them good." He grasped her fingers and raised them up to his lips for a light kiss.
"What kind of news?"
"You've heard me mention Kevin Ford?"
Suddenly she wondered where this conversation was headed. "Well, sure, a few times." Her response was slow and measured.
"The man who killed him, Igor Fedorov, is back in D.C."
"I was just reading about him today in some of the files I'm purging." She wasn't sure if she should mention her theories regarding Kevin's loyalty.
"It was my fault, you know," Lee said with his eyes downcast.
"Lee," she started while shaking her head.
"No, don't. I know what you're going to say, that I shouldn't blame myself, but you weren't there." His voice lowered a notch as he got up to refill his wineglass.
Amanda decided she needed to share her thoughts with Lee. Maybe she could help end his guilt. "Lee, I want to tell you something, but I'm not sure how you'll take it." At his look, she continued. "While reading through Fedorov's files today I realized that Kevin was the only agent involved in every case." She looked to her husband expectantly.
"What are you saying, Amanda?" Lee asked with controlled anger. He didn't want to hear what she was suggesting.
"Think about it, Lee. The only constant in each file was Kevin and the leaks stopped after his death. Maybe he was the leak." She had approached Lee on the other side of the room. His growing anger was evident by his increasingly red complexion.
"I don't want to hear any more of this talk. Shadow was one of the greatest people I've ever worked with! He wouldn't, couldn't, be a traitor!" He turned away from the sad look on his wife's face. "Maybe it's time for you to go home."
"Lee, I don't want to leave with you mad." She tried to reach out to him, but he pulled away.
"Amanda, just go. I'll see you tomorrow." He began to pour himself a scotch.
"All right, if that's what you want." She headed toward the door, calling back over her shoulder, "I love you, Lee." As she waited in the hallway for the elevator, Amanda heard the distinctive sound of a breaking glass in Lee's apartment.
The next morning:
Lee pulled himself out of bed despite his body's protests. "You're too old for this crap, Stetson." He continued to berate himself mentally, 'too much scotch on too little sleep just doesn't cut it anymore. Besides, it's not like it solves anything.' He stepped into the shower and quickly washed away the grimy feeling the previous evening had left behind.
After dressing, he headed straight for the broom closet. The remnants of a shattered shot glass still lay strewn about the floor next to the wall where he'd flung it. He swept it up hurriedly, then left for the Agency.
In the Q-Bureau:
Amanda was so deeply engrossed in the file she held tightly that she didn't hear her husband's approach. "Amanda," he repeated for the third time. "What's so interesting?"
Quickly, she dropped the folder, label side down, and stood to greet him. "Nothing. Are we still friends?" she asked tentatively. She would know by his answer if he'd had time to see what she was reading.
"Of course." He encircled her with his strong arms. "I'm sorry, Amanda. I know you were trying to help and I shouldn't have gotten so angry. But, you didn't know Kevin. He was the best. They don't come any more patriotic than Shadow. It just isn't possible." He leaned down to kiss her.
After they separated, she responded. "I'm the one who's sorry, Lee. I didn't realize how my theory would affect you. I'm sorry." She put on her best-wounded look and gave him another, albeit briefer, kiss.
"Okay, so we're both equally to blame and equally apologetic. Can we just forget it?" He smiled the dimpled grin he saved just for her.
"Done. Now, if you'll excuse me," she moved out of his embrace, "I've got a ton of paperwork to finish up downstairs before those old files can be destroyed." Picking up the folder she'd been reading when Lee entered, along with a stack of other material, she headed for the door of their sanctuary.
"On one condition," he lightly replied. "Meet me for lunch?"
Her beautiful smile and a nod were his answer as she exited the office.
Conference Room; later that morning:
Francine entered the long, narrow room to begin preparations for the "Freshman Agents" briefing to be held that afternoon. She was surprised to find Amanda, apparently hard at work on a stack of files. "Amanda, what are you doing here?"
"Oh, Francine, sorry; I didn't hear you come in." She looked up and shrugged her shoulders. "I needed a private place to get some research done."
"What's wrong with your office? You and Lee usually find it private enough for just about anything." The blonde smirked at her friend. She still enjoyed the occasional barb at Amanda's expense. It was a sign of their unique relationship.
"Actually, if you must know, I don't want Lee to know what I'm working on."
"Really? What is it? I mean, it must be pretty juicy for you to be keeping it secret from Scarecrow!" She leaned over Amanda's shoulder.
"I doubt you'll appreciate it either, Francine," she replied, allowing her friend to read the name on the file.
"Why are you reading Shadow's personnel records? You don't still suspect him, do you?" Francine's initial shock was starting to subside. She knew Amanda had great instincts; if she had gone to the hassle of actually signing out his personnel files, then maybe there really was something to her suspicion of Kevin.
"I just wanted to check him out; you know, find out more about him."
"Uh huh, and what did you find?"
"Well, did you know that Kevin was very punctual? It was almost an obsession. In fact, I remember once, when I was late for dinner, Lee even teased me about never having to wait for his last partner."
"So?" Now Francine was getting impatient.
"So, the only times Kevin was ever late for work, occurred at the same times when Fedorov was in the country."
"Don't you think that's stretching a bit?" Francine asked as she rolled her eyes.
"Maybe, but I know there's more. I just have to find it."
"Well, maybe, but for now, I need this room. So, would you mind playing Nancy Drew somewhere else?" The pretty blonde agent smiled, and gestured toward the door.
"Oh my gosh! Look at the time! I promised to meet Lee for lunch. Bye, Francine." Amanda grabbed her paperwork and dashed out of the room like a whirlwind.
Harry V. Thornton idly browsed through the newspaper while stroking his large, orange cat. "Well, Ike, looks like another day is half done. Want some lunch?" The robust man began to rise from his chair when the shrill ring of the telephone stopped him. He sat back down and picked up the phone. "Thornton here," he answered gruffly.
"Sir, its Donaldson. You wanted to know if anyone checked up on Shadow's files?" The disembodied voice sounded intimidated by the mere telephonic presence of Thornton.
"Yes, Donaldson. What's going on?" barked the old man.
"Well, sir, hmph," Donaldson cleared his throat. "An Amanda King signed out his personnel files this morning. Isn't she Scarecrow's partner, sir?"
"Thank you, Donaldson. That will be all." The Agency's founder hung up brusquely. "So much for lunch, Ike. It seems we have some work to do."
That evening; King residence:
"Jamie, I'll give you five dollars if you do the dishes for me tonight."
"Why?" Jamie smelled a set-up.
"Mom said that Lee's coming over later, and I want to finish up my homework so I can shoot hoops with him," Phillip explained.
"I don't think he's coming over here to see you, Dufus," Jamie called to his brother while clearing the table.
"Listen, Monster Breath..."
"That's enough, fellas. Phillip, you will not pay your brother to do your chores. The idea is to learn responsibility, not that you can buy your way through life. Jamie, Lee enjoys spending time doing stuff with you guys, too. He comes over here to see all of us. Now, why don't you two work together so we can all have a pleasant evening?"
"Yes, ma'am." the teenagers responded in unison.
The doorbell's tone sounded throughout the house.
"I'll get it, Darling."
"Thank you, Mother."
A few minutes later, Dotty entered the family room carrying an envelope, which she handed to Amanda. The return address was IFF. As Amanda opened it and pulled the paper out, her mother prattled on. "That certainly is a strange company, Amanda. I mean, what kind of business sends personal couriers out at this hour? And on a Friday, no less? What could be so important that it couldn't wait until Monday? Or at the very least you'd think they'd call instead."
Nodding and murmuring agreements with her Mother, Amanda read the short note:
I need to see you. Zulu Blue.
"Mother," Amanda started as she rose up off the couch. "I've got to run out."
"What about Lee?" her Mother asked.
"Tell him it's for work; he'll understand. I shouldn't be long." With that, Amanda was gone.
Her Mother was left shaking her head in bewilderment. As she turned back toward the kitchen, she mumbled under her breath, "You always say that just before you disappear for hours, sometimes days."
"I'm glad you could make it, Amanda."
"I didn't have a choice, did I, Sir?" She asked pointedly, while taking a seat in the chair he offered.
"No, I suppose you didn't. Let me get right to the point. Why are you checking on Kevin Ford?" Harry sat down across from Amanda as he was speaking.
Taken aback by his question, Amanda searched for answers of her own to help stall. "How do you know I'm checking out Kevin?"
"It doesn't matter how I know. Just answer me."
She took a deep breath and decided to put all of her cards on the table. "I had a theory that he might've been the leak to Igor Fedorov all those years ago and I wanted to research his records to look for proof, one way or the other. What I've found so far isn't much, but I have a lead to check out Monday."
"That's what I figured. Listen to me, Amanda. I'm speaking as your superior, not your friend. You will stop this search immediately. Is that understood?" His voice held a tone of authority she'd never heard from him before.
"But, Sir..." The wheels inside Amanda's head were turning full-tilt.
"No 'buts', Amanda. This is not open for debate. Consider the matter closed. Fedorov's leak was the one that got away and that's final." He stood as he finished and headed for the door.
Amanda also stood to follow him. "Yes, Sir. I understand," she responded dejectedly.
Back at Amanda's; much later:
"Where've you been, Amanda? I was starting to get worried," Lee asked as he moved to greet her with a hug.
She looked around the quiet house. "Where's Mother? The boys?" She returned the hug.
"The boys have been in bed for an hour. Your Mother went to a late movie with her Bridge Club since I offered to wait here for you. Now, where have you been?" He led her toward the couch where they both sat down and cuddled together.
"I got a message from Harry and had to go. Afterwards, I just drove around for a while to think." Her eyes were closed and her head rolled back against Lee's shoulder.
"What did Harry want?" The worry was obvious in Lee's tone.
"Sorry, Lee, need to know," she fibbed. She hated lying to him, but they had already had one fight over Kevin; she didn't want another right now. "Besides, it doesn't matter now. It's done." She sounded as hopeless as a child who finds out there's no Santa Claus.
Concerned for his wife and his mentor, Lee held her tight. "Are you sure? There's nothing I can do?"
"You're doing everything you can right now, Lee. Just hold me." Her tired voice floated up to him.
"Forever, Amanda. Forever."
The rest of the weekend had passed without incident and had given Amanda time to rest and clear her thoughts. Now, as she drove to Birchwood, her mind drifted back to her conversation with Harry. She had said that she understood his order, but she never agreed to obey it. So, she planned to keep the appointment with the finance manager at Birchwood that she'd made Friday afternoon. When she'd come across the name and address of the federal agents' retirement center mixed in among some of Kevin's private papers, she knew it was important, she just didn't know why. Then, as she thought about it, she remembered what Francine had said about finding a new way to hide money. Her mind came back to the present as she parked her car.
"Mrs. King to see Mr. Spaulding." Amanda told the pleasant looking receptionist.
"Go right in, Mrs. King. He's expecting you."
Amanda knocked once, then entered the small, utilitarian office. "Mrs. King, I presume?" A plump, slightly balding man in his early fifties offered his hand across the cluttered desk.
Grasping his hand and shaking it lightly, Amanda smiled a greeting. "Mr. Spaulding," she began, as she offered her Agency credentials for his review. "How are you this morning?"
"Very well, thank you. What can I do for you today?" They both sat down.
"Well, sir, I'd like some information. Can you tell me if a Mr. Kevin Ford ever made cash donations to the retirement home, particularly in the year 1982?"
"Let's just see, shall we?" He began to type away at his computer keyboard, pausing a few times to allow the machine to process his requests. Finally, he sat back and looked at the screen for several moments. Amanda could see his eyes moving across it steadily. At last, he turned toward her again. "No, I'm sorry. He doesn't appear to have made any donations that year."
"I see." Her disappointment obvious in her heavy sigh. Then a thought struck her. "What about large anonymous cash donations on or about these dates?" She handed him a slip of paper from her purse.
Again, he worked at the keyboard. This time, when he looked up at her, she knew the answer by the smile in his eyes.
Meanwhile at Nedlinger's:
Lee Stetson sat on his barstool, having an early lunch. His mind wandered over the previous weekend. Amanda had been so upset by her meeting with Harry. But, at Lee's suggestion, they'd spent Saturday afternoon with the boys at a movie and Saturday night alone at the apartment engaged in more adult entertainment. By Sunday, she seemed like a whole new person. Lee smiled to himself as he finished off his fries.
Then, he heard the voice. Lee looked out of the corner of his eye toward the disruptive sound. What he saw confirmed his suspicions. He was a little older, and a whole lot thinner, but there was no mistaking who it was. Igor Fedorov was in the process of harassing a waitress at a nearby booth. Immediately, Lee's blood began to boil. He tried in vain to keep himself calm, but suddenly the room seemed hotter and his breathing became shallow. In his mind, Lee saw Kevin's body fall to the floor as his precious life's blood spilled. Without conscious thought, he rose from the stool and began to move slowly toward the little man.
Amanda entered the pub and noticed Lee walking over to a booth where a patron was ridiculing his waitress. Without warning, Lee grabbed the man up by the lapels, nearly lifting him off the ground. She ran over to intervene as realization dawned and she recognized Fedorov from his file photo.
The puny Russian was obviously afraid. His eyes darted quickly around the room, silently begging for assistance, but none came. The place was pretty empty and the few people present were only too aware of Scarecrow's reputation. The group consensus seemed to be that he must have a valid reason for his actions.
When Amanda arrived at his side, she heard Lee's whispered voice promising revenge. Fedorov's fear was replaced with pride when he heard Lee mention Ford's name. Igor obviously had no regrets over his past and was about to begin boasting when Amanda interrupted the scene.
"Lee! Stop it! He's not worth it." She pleaded with her husband while placing a gentle hand on his arm.
He turned to face her, startled by her presence. Without releasing Fedorov, he said, "You don't understand, Amanda. He killed Kevin!" Before he could continue, she jumped in. "I know, but this won't bring Kevin back. Lee, we have to talk. Please." Her eyes begged him to see reason.
Finally, Lee dropped the swarthy Russian back into his seat. Leering at him as he leaned over, Lee poked a finger in the man's chest while he hissed, "This is not over between us, Iggy. Not by a long shot. You'd better be watching over your shoulder, because I'll definitely be watching you." Then, he turned and took Amanda by the elbow to lead her from the bar.
They walked in silence the short distance back to the Agency. When they arrived in the Q-Bureau, Lee had only slightly begun to calm down. "Amanda," he began as soon as the door was closed. "Why did you interrupt me?"
"What did you think you were going to do to him, Lee? Beat him up? This isn't grade school, and you're not the playground bully!"
"No, Lee, you need to listen to me. I know you're angry and hurt, and I know you want revenge for Kevin's death, but you don't have all the facts." She lowered her gaze. 'This was not how I wanted to tell him,' she thought.
Lee stopped the pacing he'd started just moments earlier. He looked at his wife. He watched her eyes drop to the floor as her hand came up to play with the rings she wore on a long chain. She fidgeted, getting the hidden jewelry out of her blouse. Then she began furiously sliding them back and forth along the chain. He knew she was fighting her anxiety, and he knew that he didn't want to hear whatever 'facts' she wanted to share.
After what seemed an eternity, but was in actuality only a few seconds, Amanda approached him and placed a delicate hand along his cheek. She guided his face toward hers and they shared a soft kiss. As they pulled apart, she led him to the couch and they both sat down. Running a hand through his thick hair, he looked at the only woman he'd ever given his heart to and said, "Okay, Amanda. I'm listening. What don't I know?"
Half an hour later, she'd told him everything. How she'd stumbled across the initial reports that had gotten her thinking; how she'd continued to research Kevin after their fight the previous week; about Harry's order and how she'd disobeyed it; and what she'd learned that morning about the donations.
Lee sat still and silent throughout the entire discourse. He didn't want to believe it, but it certainly made sense. When she finished, he stood up. "Okay, let's suppose, just for the sake of argument, that it's true. Shadow was a traitor." He grimaced as he said it, as if the words themselves tasted bad. "Why? If he gave away the payoff money, then why? Why would he do it?"
Amanda walked to him slowly, put her hand on his arm, looked sadly into his eyes and said, "I've got a better question. Why would Harry cover it up?"
Before either of them could attempt an answer, the phone rang. Lee picked it up. "Scarecrow here. Sure, Billy. Okay. Bye."
He turned back to Amanda. "Billy wants to see you in his office right now. He does not sound happy."
"All right. I love you." She headed out the door.
Moments later; downstairs:
As Amanda approached the office of her section chief she noticed the blinds were closed. 'Not a good sign.' With a deep breath, she knocked on the door and opened it when she heard the gruff sounding, "Enter".
Harry Thornton stood in the middle of the office, while Billy stayed seated behind his desk. "You wanted to see me, Sir?" She kept her eyes straight ahead, carefully avoiding looking in Harry's direction.
"Have a seat, Amanda." Billy's tone left no doubt that this would not be a friendly meeting. Before her skirt-clad bottom was touching the chair, he began. "Can you tell me why you disobeyed a direct order?" he requested loudly.
"What order would that be, Sir?" She feigned innocence.
William Melrose rose up and placed both hands solidly on his desk. "Do not play games about this, Amanda. I received a phone call late this morning from Harry," he indicated the silent man and continued. "He asked if I could spare time for a brief meeting. Do you know what he told me when arrived? He said that he had given you a direct order on Friday and that, as of this morning, you purposely disobeyed it. What do you have to say for yourself?" He took his seat again, but kept a tense posture.
'Oh boy, I'm really in deep this time!' Keeping a professional attitude, the agent in Mrs. King responded, "According to regulations, Sir, an agent may disregard an order if that agent's superior does not have knowledge of all the pertinent facts."
"I don't believe this!" Harry barked. "Regulations be damned! I gave you an order, Amanda."
Amanda pointedly ignored his outburst and continued her explanation. "Sirs, I believe I have found out some very relevant information regarding the leaks that occurred during 1982. That is why I disobeyed your order, Sir." She looked at Harry for the first time since entering the office. "I could not, in good conscience, ignore such blatant evidence."
Harry sat down next to her with a heavy sigh and in a tired voice asked, "All right, Amanda. What have you discovered?"
"Well, Sir," she started, "I believe that Kevin Ford, Shadow, was the leak."
"That's preposterous, Amanda!" Billy laughed.
"She's right, Billy." Harry said in a deflated tone that caused both Billy and Amanda to stare at him.
Billy's wide eyes began to spark with renewed anger. "What do you mean, she's right? Kevin was the leak, and you knew about it? Why didn't you tell me then, so we could've done something about it? Wait a minute. You rushed Fedorov out of the country before he had a chance to finger Shadow. Didn't you?"
"Billy, why don't you call Lee down here? Am I right in assuming that you've already shared your thoughts with him, Amanda?" As she nodded, Billy dialed.
A few tense minutes later, the four of them sat together as Harry began to share his tale. "Obviously, this is need to know; so what I'm about to say doesn't leave this office." Looking around the room, he received nods of consent and so he continued.
"You all know that I was a triple agent for most of my career. Well, I began to realize that I would need a replacement some day. So, in late 1981, I went to Shadow with a proposition. He accepted and started slowly making contacts. He and I could never let our affiliation be known because if one of us were ever found out, the other would be in jeopardy. Finally, after fishing for a few months, he got hooked up with Fedorov. He began selling information tidbits to work his way in. Of course, as with me, he didn't give over anything they couldn't get themselves with just a little effort. Fedorov's superiors took a liking to Shadow, and he was slowly earning their trust. When Fedorov killed Kevin, it was without their approval, and he has spent the past five years at a labor camp paying for it. So, you see, Kevin was the leak, but he was also loyal." Harry sounded older than ever as he leaned back in his chair. Closing his eyes, he completed his story. "I decided that the risk was too great, and therefore never even considered a replacement for Kevin."
The other three agents shook their heads in disbelief until Amanda finally spoke up. "But, one more thing, Sir. Why still cover it up? If he wasn't really guilty of treason, why not admit the whole thing five years ago?"
"For starters, five years ago nobody knew that I was a triple agent, much less Kevin. Also, because his letter of pardon has never been found. I can't prove a thing that I just told you."
Lee sat up straighter. "What? Where could it be?"
"After his death, I personally went through his things, both here and at his apartment. I don't know what he did with it, but I couldn't find it."
"Oh, my gosh," Amanda said softly.
The following weekend; Lee's apartment:
Amanda sat silently sipping her wine while Lee dug through the back of the closet. He emerged a few minutes later with a shoebox labeled simply, "Stuff".
"That's very descriptive," she giggled.
He smiled his patented dimpled grin and shrugged as he placed the box on the sofa cushion next to them. "By the way, " he began as he picked up his wineglass from the table. "I thought you'd want to know that Fedorov has been sent back to Mother Russia." He took a sip of the rich beverage and leaned back.
"Really? Why?" She ran her stockinged toes inside his trouser pants' leg.
"Apparently, word of my little outburst at Ned's got out and his superiors decided that he was too well known in D.C." He allowed his fingers to twist themselves in her hair.
"Well, Scarecrow, let's see it! That is what I came here for, after all," she demanded gently.
"Yes, ma'am." He replaced his glass on the table and removed the lid of the shoebox. After briefly digging around, he produced a framed picture and handed it over. While she looked at it, he went to check on dinner.
Amanda stared at the photo of her husband, Harry, and Kevin all decked out in tuxedoes at some posh D.C. affair. "Lee, this is great!" she called to him. As she handled it though, she noticed that the frame seemed to be broken.
Lee returned from the kitchen and took his seat. "Yeah. That was taken at an embassy party. Kevin had it framed and gave it to me for my birthday about six months before he was killed. I packed it away because every time I looked at it, I felt guilty all over again. You know what, though? I think now would be a good time to set it back out." He smiled at her and then noticed her fussing with the frame and asked, "Amanda, what are you doing?"
"The frame must have gotten broken crammed in that box. I'm just checking to see if it can be fixed." As she spoke, it broke apart further in her hands. "Oops." She looked at Lee's face to see an understanding smile.
"It's okay, Amanda. I'll have a new one made."
She began to put the pieces down gently on the table, when an envelope slid out from behind the picture. Tentatively, she picked it up. Lee shook his head to signify that he didn't know what it was. She opened it and withdrew a letter. A smile formed on her lips as she read it silently before handing it to her husband. She immediately drew his attention to the signature at the bottom of the official document, that of President Reagan.
"Unbelievable!" Lee exclaimed as he drew his wife in for a kiss.