Date: July 2002
Timeline: I place this during Season Three's 'The Wrong Way Home'
Synopsis: A lifetime of memories is sometimes all we have, and for Amanda this becomes her closure. Feelings new and wonderful start to reveal themselves, as she says goodbye to her past. . .
Author's Notes: As with 'Mrs. King and The Scarecrow' I have gone into the feelings of our two favorite characters and jumbled around inside. I see Lee in this story as the outsider looking in at Amanda's past, 'really seeing her' for the first time, as she becomes a 'personal case' for him to investigate. I have based this story around the wonderful episode written by: George Geiger, dialogue with special thanks. This story is in flashbacks through Lee's eyes, as he struggles with his inner feelings for Amanda as she goes through her own personal roller coaster ride - this time relying on his strength to pull her through.
Summary: This is part two of 'Hope, Love and Eternity' It's Amanda's turn to become the vulnerable one, and Lee become the strength, breaking down all the walls of her past. . . uncovering the woman she was. Discovering the woman of the future.
Song: I listened to this song over and over before choosing it to go with the theme of this story. Some might say it sounds like a sad tale of rejection - if you know it dig it out and play. . . personally, I think it deals with emotions being questioned inside his head. Savage Garden - Hold Me. . . one at a time please awwww.
Flashbacks: Are indicated with ***
Archive: Fan Fiction. Net, Kruchev List, Smkfanfic. . . anywhere else please ask permission.
Feedback: Yes Please!
'And in your eyes I see the missing pieces I'm searching for - I think I've found my best friend' - Savage Garden ~ 'I knew I loved you'
'Hey. . .
If we can't find a way out of these problems,
Then maybe we don't need this?
Standing face to face,
Enemies at war we build defenses. . .
And secret hiding places.
I might need you to hold me tonight?
I might need you to say it's alright?
I might need you to make the first stand?
Because tonight I'm finding it hard to be your man. . . '
Lee Stetson walks into 'Dooley's' and with a nod at the bartender, makes his way through the crowded bar. Walking across the balcony - overlooking the dance floor he sees her, dancing with 'him' to a song from long ago. She looks up as if knowing he is there and their eyes meet, she smiles and he smiles back. . .
No words needed to be said. . .
Previously sitting outside Dooley's Bar and Restaurant. He had known for sometime now that she had slowly maneuvered her way into his personal life, y'know little things - crazy things. Like always following him around, making sure he got home safe. . . worrying that he wasn't eating enough - well she had always done that, but it was with more an endearing note in her voice - than playing 'mother hen'. Taking more attention to detail over his appearance, than even he did (and that was saying something!)
Catching her on watching him was a constant joyride for him. Sure he had known when they had first met and ended up working together. . . it seems so long ago now, that she had a - well some people would call it a crush, others would say an infatuation (hey glad to be of service when it's an infatuation). And although he'd have to admit, he played along sometimes just to see how far he could push it. Seeing the honest, innocent look in her eyes. . . those large, deep, chocolaty brown pools. . . well, he'd be blind if he didn't see her attractive features.
She was tall for a woman, tall being that she stood just at his shoulder - and as he was proud to boast, stood 6ft 2ins tall. . . that was very impressive. A soft throaty voice, which under certain circumstances would become almost in audible when scared - and ramble on in a very, very fast manner. To the point that he often watched, and not pay attention to what she was saying - just to see if she drew breath.
She had soft delicate skin, not deeply tanned like some women preferred - but just dusted lightly with an outdoorsy feeling, well she had two sons who kept her busy 24/7 with 'Trailblazer weekends', 'Little League' and camping outdoors 'King style'. She was healthy looking, athletic not 'diet skinny' of the many times they had eaten together, either as a social occasion or as undercover assignment - he knew she enjoyed her food as much as he did.
So what was it about her that had made this mad transition in his life, this sudden need for a confessional? On Friday nights his calendar was always full - Serena, Stacy the every sexy Charlotte, not forgetting the masseuse Buffy. . . all with an opening all-eager to appease his every whim. Why was it as soon as he picked up the telephone - he ended up calling Amanda? Even though he had left her maybe over an hour before in the office, or as most cases outside her door after following her home, making sure she was safe before heading off in his direction.
He was going to have to admit to himself sooner or later he was attracted! Not in the way he was with every blonde or brunette pair of legs that walked past him, but in a strange and whimsical way. She had been sitting on the edge of his sub-conscious for three years now, niggling away at his inner feelings. Strange how a small detour in their personal lives had brought it to the fore for him. His own fairly recent events had turned his world upside down, causing him to rely heavily on her for support, and she had been there 'no guts, no glory'
He smiled at the phrase that had just come into his head, never truer words spoken, and at the time they where said - they had been lying on the cold ground in the middle of the forest, a small fire made from her one waterproof match. . . with hunters on their tail.
Hunting down Serdeych to him had been the elixir of life that he had needed, his closure over the death of Dorothy that had finally brought peace to his once tortured soul. And she had been there with him, watching over him like a guardian angel - allowing him the bereavement he had needed, understanding his quest for revenge.
It's funny how certain things in life had a way of opening your eyes to the world around, making you see beyond the dark horizon. . . really see the person in front of you. Or was it the re-appearance of past loves that made that happen? He wasn't sure, all he knew was the sudden return of her ex-husband had, for all intensive purposes - give him a resounding kick up the backside as far as his feelings for Amanda King where concerned.
And just what where his feelings?
It all had started out with a murder. . . yes, you heard me a murder in Estocia - South Africa, where Joe King was stationed as a lawyer for the E.A.O. (Emergency Aid Organization). He had been on his way to speak with the Prime Minister over some disturbing facts he had just un-covered, when a shot had rang out from inside. . . his bodyguard had come out claiming the Prime Minister had been shot. Joe who had minutes before been conversing with a guard, now knelt beside the fallen man who had also been shot in all the fracas.
Picking up the gun that had fallen out of the guard's hand, was then automatically assumed the murderer. And following a series of gunshots aimed at his direction, escaped on a nearby motorcycle and fled into the night.
Unaware of what had been happening on the other side of the world, Amanda King was spending another morning rushing around after her troop - Phillip, Jamie and mother Dorothy West, trying to get them all out of the house in time. Her kids to school, her mother to wherever she was going.
As Amanda hurriedly put the milk away in the fridge, her mother was frantically searching for the keys to the station wagon. She was borrowing it and was dropping Amanda off on the way to work, after Amanda informing her that she had them, they both headed out the door. That's when the telephone rang - and Amanda came back in to answer it.
He was standing in a hallway at a phone box, looking and feeling like hell, "I-I hope I didn't startle you?"
"NO! Y-you sound close?"
"Yeah, I'm here. . . I'm, I'm here in D.C.!"
"Well that's great!"
"Yeah. . . Amanda just listen to me please? I'm in trouble. . . N-now you'll be getting calls and I think you should tell 'em. . . well just tell 'em you don't know where I am - because you don't!"
Amanda listened on the other end and could tell her ex-husband was frightened and alone - what could've possibly have gone wrong to make him call her like this? And with such a sketchy message?
"I-I think it's best that way. . . "
In the distance she could hear someone mumbling about a cab arriving, and knew she had only seconds to spare, "Joe if you're in trouble please tell me. . . let me help?"
"It's just too dangerous. . . I'm sorry Amanda, I wish I knew what else to do? But I've gotta stay away from you and the kids. . . I've gotta go. . . now I'm okay - so try not to worry. . . "
"NO! Joe wait?"
He hung up, ending the call.
Staring at the other end, Amanda put down the receiver with a mixture of shock and anxiety. Something was wrong - terribly wrong. . . with only one solution!
International Federal Film (I.F.F.)/ The Agency. William Melrose (Billy) Section chief was standing with his personal assistant and senior agent Francine Desmond listening in to a radio transmission from one of his other field agent's already in Estocia, following the deaths.
"Joe King is the fugitives name. . . Joseph King from the E.A.O.?"
The voice came back, "That's him, they want him back before the State funeral. . . or all hell's gonna break loose!"
In the steno pool, Lee had been half listening to the conversation until the name Joe King came into it. Then he snapped to attention, getting up from where he had been sitting and walked over as the conversation continued.
"They closed the airport, but they think he's already back in the States?"
It was Francine this time that posed the question; they all didn't want to ask, "How long have we got to find him?"
"I guess 48 hours. . . the Estocian Government is raising for a revolution. . . they're sending one of their cops to supervise your investigation!"
Lee had made it the other side of the office and had began running a background check, as Billy and Francine looked at each other with anxiety the last thing that was needed was a political upheaval,
"How good is their case? Asked Francine worriedly.
While the machine churned out Lee's report, the agent on the other end of the radio described that with Joe's prints on the gun that was used to kill the guard who knew? As far as any rumors surrounding him and the dead Prime Minister it was uncertain. Billy didn't want any of his agents put to any risk, so he concluded the transmission with sound advice.
"Well, give us reports as long as you can, but get out when the roof starts falling in!"
Lee tore off the computer print out, realizing his worst fear as Francine and Billy approached him, both not in a cheery mood, "If they think that an American killed their President. . . they're gonna want his head on a platter!"
Seeing Lee with a long look on his young handsome face Billy questioned, "What is it Scarecrow?"
Visibly shaken, he continued to look down at what he was holding. . . he couldn't believe what the printout was telling him, didn't want to believe. "I-I thought the name. . . sounded familiar right? I checked with the G.S.A. central registry. Joe King is Amanda's ex-husband!"
Francine looked at Billy, Billy looked at Lee. . . "Oh man. . . damm!"
Lee knew then without question what he had, wanted to do! Closing the printout he spoke, his face full of determination, "I want this case Billy!"
"You got it!"
Francine usually the center of all the juicy tidbits. . . and always on the hunt to irk Amanda at any opportunity, found even this as a surprise. "Well this is just too bizarre to be made up? - Amanda's ex is an international killer. . .
Billy although let most of the butt jokes pass him by, children will be children. . . but this was serious so he corrected her, "International suspect Francine!"
Turning to Lee he tried to put on his best serious face - even though they where dealing with an employee, and very well thought of employee at that. "No pulling favorites on this one Scarecrow. If. . . you have to use Amanda to. . . find him! Use her. . . "
He turned and walked away a deeply troubled man. He liked Amanda, since she had walked into the Agency three years ago; she had breathed warmth and life into a dull and stiff work place. He had even seen Lee start to thaw out. . . a young man - one of his best that he had often lost sleep over. Living hard and playing hard. . . he needed to lighten up, enjoy life.
Francine had left too, with her own troubled thoughts. . . talk about airing your own dirty laundry? Wait 'til the steno pool hears about this!
Lee was finally left with his own collection of thoughts, how was he going to be able to get Amanda to open up about her life? A life she kept close to her chest.
Amanda knew of only one person she could go to, someone who would just maybe help put the pieces together about Joe.
Darrel Prescott was Field Councilor at the Washington base of E.A.O. and Joe's main contact between the United States and Estocia. Amanda stood waiting for him and after a few minutes he arrived, apologizing for his lateness. He offered her to walk with him as he tried to lighten the conversation with 'haven't we met before routine' but Amanda was having none of it. She stopped him mid walk and asked directly what all the fuss about. When he had tried explaining that Joe was in trouble, he was a little surprised at her reaction.
"Joe is in a little trouble Mrs. King. . . the night before last there was a civil disturbance in the country he's currently posted too. . . "
He nodded, she continued. . . "Yes I know he writes al. . . what sort of incident?"
"That's funny, I was hoping he would get in touch with you? And you would persuade him to come back in. . . . so I could ask him that question myself?"
Amanda shook her head and apologized explaining that he hadn't contacted her, and she was frankly a little confused. "Mr. Prescott. . . Joe is a lawyer!"
She didn't understand what all the fuss was about; her ex-husband for all his faults was a mild mannered man. It wasn't as if his job was life threatening or dangerous, so why would he call her to tell her he was in trouble. . . why would Darrell Prescott be so insistent that he get in touch? It all didn't make sense, no sense at all.
A yellow taxicab was parked in Maplewood Drive, and the troubled man in question was sitting watching two young boys pull up on their bikes outside their front door, where their grandmother was hosing down the pathway. Boy had they grown, well children do grow up fast when you don't see them from one year to the next. That thought sat heavy in his heart, as he watched them exchange words with their grandmother and run into the house. . . a voice broke his thoughts,
"Are you sure this is the street?"
"Maybe you don't recognize the house?"
The taxi driver had been sitting patiently waiting for his passenger to make up his mind. . . well as patient as any taxi driver would be with the meter running. Joe looked back on last time, imprinting the memory of two sons in his mind, so it would last him for a very long time.
"So much has changed? Ah. . . ah take me back to Georgetown!"
Amanda had walked the short distance to International Federal Film the cover for The Agency, unknown to her that Darrell Prescott was following her in a dark saloon car. As she entered the Bullpen, Billy was in his office looking over some reports that had just hit his desk, knocking his door she was greeted with his warm toothy grin and beckoned her in.
"Amanda come in!"
Closing the door behind her, standing beside it she smiled. "Thank you sir!"
Billy got up from his desk preferring it to be formal than boss to his employee, came round to where she was standing and leaned against the front of it. "You heard about your ex-husband?"
Amanda closed her eyes briefly feeling slightly embarrassed that Joe had made the office news, "Ah yes sir, from a Mr. Prescott from the E.A.O."
Looking down at her feet not really wanting this conversation about her personal life, and that's what it was personal - Joe was the father of her two boys and no matter what had happened, she still had to hold onto that. "Sir you know it's absolutely ridiculous. . . Joe couldn't kill anybody!"
"Well Estocia's a very dangerous place! We don't even know for sure if. . . "
"NO sir makes no difference!"
Billy could tell that it was upsetting for her to be in the center of all this, taking the personal bench. But this was a serious diplomatic manner and needed to be sorted out, regardless of how it was affecting him or the rest of his staff. . . even Amanda the ex-wife.
"It's not his habit to pick up in the middle of the night and disappear is it?"
"Well. . . we've thrown out all the nets for him, along with the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. - Security Task Force. We'll do everything we can to get to the truth!"
It gave her a sense of relief that he wouldn't be hunted down, and she felt humble that The Agency where taking a special interest in his well being. "Yes sir. . . does Lee know?"
"Already have him on special assignment. . . very high level!"
She welcomed that; at least if anything she would have Lee in her corner.
Lee had watched his protZÿgZÿ grow with confidence with each passing year, and realized pretty early on she was stronger than she looked. Sure Amanda could turn on the charms just like any other femme fatale, many a time she had turned his head - the sense of wonder of her, had him question himself 'why had he never seen it before?' answer, because he was blind that's why. Three years she had been working with him, constantly - closely and in all that time the arguments, the petty discussions of 'whose the senior agent' she had stood by her convictions.
Argued oh they had some real roof raisers. . . but in the end she had never held a grievance, never ignored him the next day. And in the end he always found himself going back and apologizing, even though he wasn't technically in the wrong. That was something Scarecrow had never done - he had lived by his own convictions keeping people pretty much at arms length, no one had ever gotten in behind the steel wall he had built all around him.
That was until he had used a woman to get a package to a man in a red hat, that woman had saved his life, using not agent training. No martial arts or field experience could've predicted putting sugar in a gas tank, and fly a helicopter like her old washing machine, no Amanda was special, she used her basic survival of whit and quick thinking. Something that had gotten them this close to still being alive to tell the tale.
'This intoxication thrills me. . . I only pray it doesn't kill me!' - Savage Garden 'The Best Thing'
So now he stood on the edge of her life looking in and seeing pain that ran deep, an old wound that had yet to fade. If it had been him, he would have been bitter and resentful - but not Amanda, another quality he admired about her. She never spoke in a cross word about anybody, always willing to believe there was two sides to every story. Whereas Lee Stetson always saw three, his side, her side and the truth.
'Hey. . .
If we can't find a way out of these problems,
Then maybe we don't need this?
Standing face to face,
Enemies at war we build defenses. . .
And secret hiding places.
I might need you to hold me tonight?
I might need you to say it's alright?
I might need you to make the first stand?
Because tonight I'm finding it hard to be your man. . . "
Lee had been given the unfortunate task of collecting Estocia's Inspector General from Dulles Airport. A colorful man by the name of Asam Ali-Shamba, with baggage made out of Zebra print. In entering the front door of the Georgetown Foyer/I.F.F. Mrs. Marsden's office, he began chanting in his native tongue waving his hands around like a banshee, "May all your wives be pregnant?"
She looked at him with a mixture of shock and the slightest hint of humor, as the Inspector tied to explain that it was a traditional Estcocian greeting, totally out of date and his country had too many people as it was. Lee coughed a little sheepishly as the poor man dug himself in deeper. Not many people confronted Mrs. Mardsen and lived to tell the tale, as he introduced Asam Ali-Shamba, Inspector General of the Royal Estocian Police Force.
Asam Ali-Shamba took her hand in his and kissed it with all the manners of a proper gentleman, it did the trick and thawed her slightly, as Lee explained that he was going to be with The Agency for a few days on special assignment.
"Well it's nice to have you with us!" She leaned into her drawer and took out a visitors pass and handed it to him. Asam looked at Lee a little confused until he pointed out that it went on his lapel, coming forward to retrieve his own from her and slipping his own - as Asam tried to go up the stairs leading to the Q Bureau.
"Oh Inspector, The Agency's downstairs!" As he opened the closet door leading to the secret elevator that would bring them down to the heart of the business. "After you!"
Asam went passed him and entered looking around with interest, it was only when Lee followed him in, and was about to close the door, did Mrs. Marsden's voice speak,
"Ah Mr. Stetson?"
"Ah this is my office. . . not your closet. Your luggage please!"
He shook his head trying to look forgetful, not fooling her for one minute. As he started lifting the cases and suit bag. "Ah I'm sorry!"
The suave debonair agent looked perplex and uncomfortable as he loaded the baggage into his arms, "I'm sorry about that, I don't do this normally!"
With the cases and suit bag over his shoulder he finally made it into the closet and just about closed the door.
Now the Quartermaster is a person that is in charge of supplies, keeping a tight itinerary of everything that goes in and comes out of his storeroom. Some would say Leatherneck had a crummy job but not to him, his job required making up believable disguises for the agents, believable passports and background history - not to mention all the gadgets that an Intelligence Operative needed for basic survival.
Lee, the luggage and Asam Ali-Shamba entered his domain, as he looked up at them working on yet another gadget - James Bond had Q - The Agency had Leatherneck.
"Right this way Inspector. . . Leatherneck will fix you up with everything you'll need to chase the bad guys!"
As Asam came forward inspecting all that was sitting on the desk, he picked up a small red packet and looked at both of them, "Chewing gum?"
"Five flavors, one makes you see double and think backwards!" Leatherneck took the packet off him and set it back with the others, as Lee took a step back towards the door - looking for a hasty retreat,
"Yeah well. . . Leatherneck be sure to include everything huh?"
"Gotcha the whole works!"
Behind Asam - Lee stretched his index fingers and thumbs out, a signal to Leatherneck to stretch it out as much as possible. Pointing to Asam as he started closing the door.
"Lee what about the Zebra's. . . Lee, LEE?"
Leatherneck was left alone with the Inspector, and half a ton of animal print on this storeroom floor. "Okay Inspector. . . let's get you westernized!"
Billy met Lee coming out of the Quartermaster's office and walked with him towards the Georgetown foyer elevator, "Amanda's waiting for you upstairs in the Q Bureau!"
"What does she know?"
"Nothing more than we do! How's our guest from Estocia?"
"A little too good to be true!"
Hitting the call button, he slipped his hands into the pockets of his pants, rolling on the balls of his feet. "Meaning he'd like us to think he'd rather be at Disneyland. I'm going under the assumption that he's a lot shiftier than he looks!"
The doors opened and Billy simply rolled his eyes as he walked away, "See you later!"
The Q Bureau.
He was inside the vault; leaning against one of the filing cabinets reading while Amanda was sitting at his desk writing. With one hand on his lean hip and the other scratching his in thought as he read on the file he was looking at. "Hmm!"
Lee looked over as she brought her head up in question, "Oh nothing!" He waved at her with his hand to dismiss what he had said, but Amanda's curiosity was already piqued.
"No, no really what?"
Realizing he had spoken out loud with his 'hmm' and now had a curious Amanda watching him intently tried to pass it off, "No, no just work on that list Amanda! And be specific. . . you know. Ah doctor's, cleaners, old apartments as far back as you can remember?"
She lowered her head and began writing again, "Yeah I'm getting them!"
And Lee went back to his reading, but felt a little uncomfortable about dismissing her like that. After all it was her personal records he was looking at - and she did have the right to know if there were any discrepancies. So, lifting her reports he was looking at came out of the vault and towards his desk.
"I'm comparing your E.S. 12's. . . his account of the divorce isn't exactly the same as yours?"
Amanda reached out, slightly confused. "OH no? Let me see?"
Lee handed her one of the manila folders, "Here this is yours!"
She took it and set it down, holding her hand out for the other one, "Oh no I don't want to see mine! I want to see his?"
He tossed with the decision to let her see it, for all of about two seconds, "Alright!"
Sitting down on the chair opposite her, Lee watched with hooded eyes as she scanned the sheets in the folder, going over what was written.
She looked up fixing him with her innocent brown eyes, and smiled slightly, "Nothing!"
Smiling again, she returned to the notes in the file. But her smile changed to a look of mild disbelief as she read on. "OH-HUH?"
He sat forward in his chair, ears pinned back ready to listen, "What?"
"Oh well just some of the stuff's a little misleading, you know it's the legal talk. I mean it says that I am resistant to change. . . and that can't be me! I was never a stubborn person, I'm just not a stubborn person!"
Lee didn't know whether to laugh or not, instead he turned his head to one side speaking his remark avoiding eye contact. "Well you sure know how to get what you want?"
"LEE, I'm not stubborn. . . am I?"
He laughed at this and was about to retort when she continued, cutting him off, "OH look!"
Closing her yes for a few seconds trying to keep down the hurtful well in her chest - being transported back down a road she hadn't been down for a very long time.
"We just didn't agree on everything!"
"Care to elaborate on that?"
Her voice softened as she spoke, trying to convey that it was something best left un-said. "NO! Not really. . . no!"
Clucking her tongue she lowered her head and eyes back down to the file in front of her, but Lee wasn't going to let her go that easily,
She looked up again, "Yeah?"
"For the first time since we met. . . . you're my case! Now I need to know the truth. . . "
He fixed her with one of his most charming of smiles trying to soften her, "Even if it's tough?"
Closing the file she put it to one side and tearing of a sheet from the file block she had been writing on handed it over to him, "Ah here's your list!"
Exasperation was a word that Lee could best describe how he felt all the time, since she had crashed into his life. Amanda had a way of making him feel like that every time he was around her - she always saw things from a certain point of view. And in all his years of intelligence training he had honestly never come across anyone like her - and probably never would.
Seeing as Lee wasn't going to let it lie, she sighed heavily. He was like akin to a Jack Russell. . . always barking and when they got hold of anything. . . they. . . just wouldn't. . . let go!
"Okay! Joe and I were married in '72. . . Joe started law school in 1973, and I had Phillip in 1973. . . "
Lee watched her with mild annoyance; he knew she was stalling. . . so taking deep breaths he let her continue.
"And then Joe graduated in '75 and Jamie came. . . "
"I can read Amanda. . . tell me what isn't in the file?"
He knew she was hiding her pain - it still hurt her knowing that somewhere along the line she had failed somehow. He could feel it and knew how that could last for a very long time. Softening as he spoke, he tried letting her know he understood.
"What went wrong. . . ?"
"With the marriage. . . uh huh!" She shook her head and Lee knew she was closing the door on her life again.
"No really, I mean why?"
"I don't know. . . ah call it criminal psychology or something like that!"
He leaned forward tapping the table with his finger to bring what he was saying home, "I am trying. . . to put. . . the pieces together here? Joe is wanted for murder!"
She lowered her eyes to the table once again, she knew Lee was right of course - and she wanted to help The Agency in any way possible, but this was all to personal for her. . . disclosing what went on in her past - especially disclosing it to someone like Lee. Placing her folded hands under her chin she listened intently as he continued,
"Now everything you've told me about this guy, leads me to believe he's just a happy go lucky mild mannered lawyer?"
"He's a great guy - he really is. . . and I feel a little uncomfortable in this situation!"
Lee was about to reply, when the door of the office was rapped three times and the shadow of Asam Ali-Shamba, along with a baseball cap was standing outside.
Lee looked at Amanda with a look of disbelief; the man had good homing senses to have found him hiding up here. "Oh No!"
Amanda smiled as she spoke, "Saved by bell!"
Pointing a finger as he got up to go to the door he gave her a stern warning, "We don't know each other?"
She didn't know what way to take the statement, but hoped it was due to covering up her association with Lee and The Agency, nodded her head.
Lee opened the door with a look of mock surprise plastered on his face, "Ah Inspector come on in!"
Closing the door behind him, he introduced the Estocian visitor to Amanda. "Inspector Asam Ali-Shamba. . . this is Amanda King! She's the ex-wife of the man we're after. She's been very co-operative. . . an ah, she's also given us a couple of good leads!"
Asam Ali-Shamba took Amanda's hand in his and kissed it, causing Amanda's cheeks to tinge pink, "Hello?"
After following Amanda to her place of work, Darrell Prescott went to visit his boss a man by the name of Bryon Foster at his large expanse country estate. He was worried that Joe had gotten this far; knowing that he was in the United States and more than likely had contacted his ex-wife.
Byron sat dipping a silver ladle with tea granules in and out of the china pot as he spoke. Darrell had suggested that maybe Joe would come to his senses if the Head of E.A.O. where to ask him to come in, but Foster was no fool. He didn't want his name or association with Joe King to play a part in all this, even though Joe had contacted him from Estocia when he had uncovered the discrepancy.
But as they had no proof of what Joe had uncovered or what he had gotten out, there was only one solution to end it all - kill him. After all he wasn't meant to get out of Estocia in the first place - and as there was a manhunt for him that meant that the heat was taken off him and the E.A.O. staying out of the office was for Byron Foster, the ideal solution for him at least.
Worrying that Joe King might make it out to the estate where Foster lived; Darrell pointed out it could be dangerous for him. Once again Bryon explained that even if he did, his address wasn't listed and he would say that Joe had attacked him. Finally through with his dunking of the tea, he lifted two china cups from the tray and handed one to Darrell, explaining as he did about the fine job that had been done in Estocia and how did he manage getting Joe's prints on the gun? Explanation! Darrell had used an inside man, and had changed the grip with the one that Joe used for his personal protection.
The possibilities where endless, they could if they wanted use the same man to do a job in the States, but Darrell refused - he was already in the country and didn't want to be contacted. The only other way to get to Joe King was through his family - that's where he was vulnerable, his weakest link. It was already established that a check was being done on the company Amanda worked for - the production house called I.F.F. and her two sons went to the same school. . . but the sinister twist was already being developed. Not her son's - Joe King's! They were going to have to move and be decisive. To get to him they would use Phillip and Jamie.
'Hey. . .
More than angry words I hate this silence,
It's getting so loud!
Well I want to scream. . .
But bitterness has silenced these emotions,
It's getting hard to breathe.
Lee was never one to cave over emotions, as a highly trained agent he had been taught to suppress all his feelings, all his knowledge as it could, 'if he was ever caught by the enemy' be used against him. Human emotion however was something else entirely - a place that baffled him at the best of times. . . he was a player, well at least he thought he was. But lately even that activity had turned sour on him. He no longer craved that sort of attention and for a man in his early thirties it had become a worry for him.
Sure he still got the messages on his answering machine, life was never dull on the Stetson answer service, but for the man himself? He had thrown all his energy into each case with a thirst, or was it simply to be near Amanda? The whole Lee/Amanda friendship thing had turned his head into Jell-O. It had been fine at first, mutual respect and understanding of where they stood as partners - had made it easier for them both to get on with their jobs.
So why was it that he listened for her voice, or waited for her sometimes in the Georgetown Foyer just to say 'hi' waited for her usual knock on Billy's door. . . three light taps followed with a 'hello' he knew it was her without even looking around. Billy would say that it was the connection partners had with each other, like E.S.P. - but he had, had partners before and never had that connection with any of them, well except Dorothy!
And she had died as a result of that connection, something he had sworn would never happen again. But it was, right under his nose and he was powerless to stop it. Amanda King had gotten in under his skin and as once before he had fought with stealth control. He was getting the feeling that his control was slowly but surely slipping. His last date had been Leslie, sweet sincere Leslie had, had all the qualities he had admired in a woman, a head on her shoulders and a curvaceous body.
But in the end he knew he was fooling himself, she no way match up to the qualities of Amanda. And he had been a fool to think she did. And with the recent events that had taken place. . . he knew for certain no one ever would.
After establishing names and association's, Lee was resigned to the fact that there was no way they could persuade Asam Ali-Shamba out of the office and from beneath their noses. So he had to conduct the interview with Amanda as if, as he had said 'helping them with their enquiries'
Sitting now at his desk with Amanda on the opposite side, the Inspector snooping over files in his bookcase. They both went over what she had written down as a glossary of her life with Joe King.
"No the first apartment was on 17th an J, and before that Joe lived in a room in a big old, ah rooming house near the university. And before that he lived with his parents in Chevy Chase on Ellington, and then he went to North High! Lee. . . you know we could go on for ever?"
Sitting back ticking off everything she had said, he'd have to agree. This wasn't getting them anywhere, "Yeah I know. . . I know!"
He sat forward scratching his head, as her looked over how much that they had progressed through, "I doubt we'll need before college. It's unlikely. . . he went back fifteen years for help right?"
"It would be a lot easier if he lived in the U.S. though?"
Their conversation had peaked Asam Ali-Shamba's curiosity also who was listening in, as Lee continued. "Well he's got a bank account here! A taxman, a broker and a secretary who shuffles his mail over at the E.A.O.!"
Asam finally spoke putting his view forward, "In Estocia, a running man only runs two ways! Away from something. . . or towards something?"
"He's not running away, he came straight to D.C. he wants something here? Lee looked at Amanda as he spoke the last part of the sentence.
"Perhaps at the Emergency Aid Organization, or maybe he's looking for his superior Byron Foster?"
As Asam spoke, Francine entered the office with clipboard in hand. She greeted their Estocian visitor in his native tongue and he responded in kind. Before turning her attention to Lee who wasn't a bit surprised at her knowledge of the language, but instead had waited patiently until she had finished.
"Well, I just came back from the F.B.I.!"
"They drew a complete blank on hotels and motels in D.C. and three county's. Likewise for hospitals, jails, rescue missions, flap houses and morgues!"
Amanda closed her eyes with relief as she blew out the pent up air she had been storing, "Good!"
Lee smiled too even though he didn't like the pointy finger of jealousy stabbing at this chest. She had every right to be relieved of course - he was after all the father of the children who where the center of her world, but that didn't matter. It was the fact that she was relieved he hadn't ended up in some dive or worse dead - when he was a suspect to a murder investigation that had rattled Lee's cage. It meant he was still out there, and more than likely to contact her. . . possibly put her in danger.
As Francine once again spoke to Inspector Shamba in his native tongue, as they both exited the office Lee made the suggestion that they 'hit the road' giving Amanda a small portable radio communicator that dialed a number direct to his own, so that she could reach him when she was ready to catch up with them - as he wanted to get the inspector started. Suggesting that they should loose him was a tempting idea on both their parts, but Lee didn't want the Inspector finding Joe before they did. Asking Lee as he took his jacket off the stand if the small communicator was just like a regular phone, and did it have a area code - all he could do was laugh and shake his head. . . . there was no way getting around Amanda's intuitive head, even in a situation such as this.
On the other side of town Darrell Prescott was up to no good! He had gone to Arlington High the school that Phillip and Jamie attended, posing as a Private Detective by the name of Friars, waiting for the Vice Principal Alma Dennis to speak to him. When she finally appeared he first introduced himself and started asking personal questions about Amanda and her sons - citing that there had been problems, and it would be best if Joe King where not to have any contact with them. Which was puzzling to the Vice Principal, as she had always assumed that it had been more than amicable between Amanda and Joe - but as Darrell in his detective mode, was quick to point out that 'things change' and if she was to see him - as he handed her his card. . . obviously his own private number was on the card, even if it wasn't his real name.
Amanda had gone back home to go through all the letters she had received from Joe over the years, trying to find some sort of clue as to what sort of trouble he could have gotten himself into. Dotty was helping her also with the last of his letters form '82 and '83, sorting them out into bundles to find any possible leads other than the amount of rainfall they had received - or how big the lizards had got. Amanda also warned her mother on keeping the boys on a tight leash - just until it was all over.
She needed to get back to work and asked her mother that if Joe was to try and make contact, she had to try and find out where he was and what was he doing? I.F.F. would know where to find her. This caused Dotty to look upon her daughter with dismay! Here was the father of her children in trouble and missing and all she could do was think about going to her job! But Amanda in her usual calming manner explained to her over anxious mother that everything would be all right.
She had pulled out of her driveway not knowing that sitting in wait Darrell Prescott watched her leave, as her home telephone rang and Dotty wasn't quick enough in calling her back. It was the Vice Principal of the school wanting to urgently speak with Amanda, over the matter of Joe and the Private Detective, finding it simply awful that this had all happened. Dotty West was too distracted in talking to Mrs. Dennis that she didn't see the dark saloon follow her daughter's car close behind.
He had never really cared about the emotional side of her life before - until now. It had always been a taboo subject between them, even though he knew practically everything about her, well that was printed on paper that is. And even though she had just touched the surface of his inner ever-battling emotions. . . there was still a lot more where they came from.
For just the briefest of moments he could almost touch the raw emotion she had been feeling, could almost taste it - that was until they had been interrupted by The Inspector chief, and even then he had felt her withdrawal. . . sensed her closing up. And that's what was frustrating him as they took a walk down memory lane. . . retracing the steps of yester-year.
She had finally met up with Lee and Inspector Shamba, retracing the possible movements and haunts that Joe would have used the night before. One of them was an old rooming house that he had lived in while at Law School. As they walked towards the said address, Inspector Shamba tried explaining to them that the night of the shootings the whole of Estocia had began a night of rioting - justification for the Prime Minister's death. All the while much to Lee's annoyance, Amanda defended Joe's honor with the Inspector adding his own thread to counteract her theory. Joe had been seen fleeing the scene, and that had been enough to convict him - things where bad enough in Estocia as it was. . . . the food was in short supply and the ground was parched dry with lack of rainfall.
As they continued to argue his innocence the three of them came upon the large red-bricked building that was the rooming house, the front entrance was thronging with students hanging around outside - entering or exiting on the way to classes. Amanda stooped and looked around - swamped once again with memories, "This is where Joe lived when he was in Law School!"
Lee thought it was a very dominant looking building, and adding with the crowd hanging around outside it without a care in the world - it reminded him of his own college days and the complete lack of social status, that was to make him the man he would become. "Well it looks like we turned off memory lane onto fraternity row!"
"No this is Mrs. Mc Donald's, we called her Mrs. Mc Dragon she rents rooms to law students. Joe lived. . . "
She pointed up to a window above the entrance, where a group of people where sitting basking in the warm sunshine, "Right up there!"
As she had spoken, she had heard an old familiar voice of the lady in question and called out to her, leaving Lee and Inspector Shamba no other choice than to follow her. Greeting the woman on the steps with the 'you probably don't recognize me speech' she was surprised that Mrs. Mc Donald did, and greeted Amanda with the same warmth. She had a pleasant appearance and a warm happy face - sort of the mother hen of all the students who took board in her home. Wanting to know if there was some sort of reunion going on that she hadn't heard of as Amanda's old boyfriend had just spent the night - and did they ever 'tie the knot?'
It was bad enough that the woman recognized her after all these years 'gosh had she not changed that much?' but then to force her to talk about her personal life which was still personal and really nothing to do with the case. . . .'OH okay it had a lot to do with the case, but it was still an old wound she didn't want to open up again just yet!' Luckily for her the woman noticed the two men behind her and ushered them into her humble abode. As Lee and the inspector passed over the threshold - Shamba once again blessed the rooming house with the same greeting he had used back at the agency. As if a blessing of 'wives being pregnant' stop the shenanigans that went on in student housing, Lee could testify that Shamba had probably increased the American population. . . tenfold.
Mrs. Mc Donald led them up to the very same room Joe had spent the night in; the same room he had also lived in may years before. He had used the excuse that there was a seminar in town and that his housing had been mixed up, and as she had the room - gladly gave it up. He had stayed the one night and left the next day, the morning that Amanda had gotten the phone call from him. Inspector Shamba asked her was she sure that was the same bed he had slept on? Mrs. Mc Donald agreed that it was as he ran in hands lightly above the sheets of it - piquing her interest as she asked if he was checking for his aura. . . well anything was possible right?
Amanda wanted to know if she knew if Joe had told her about where he was going. . . all the while Lee was behind them checking through the dresser drawers for hidden clues. Mrs. Mc Donald explained that when she had gotten up the next day Joe had already left - leaving them stumped once again. Lee on the other hand had found an empty book of traveler's checks; Inspector Shamba had seen them also and asked Lee about his findings. Shaking Shamba of explaining it was nothing - he slipped them into his inside jacket pocket for safekeeping.
Amanda gave Mrs. Mc Donald her phone number, just incase he called or stopped by - with the message to give her a call. The kind woman didn't see a problem in that, in fact suggested that Amanda herself stick around as the 'kids' got in around four and it could be some fun. But Lee interjected with a curt 'No! Not today' which in Mrs. Mc Donald's eyes was a pity. . . she could tell them some stories about Amanda! In hearing that Amanda embraced the woman warmly, feeling that enough about her past was being told to the few she didn't want to know as it was.
"Mrs. Mc Donald, it was good to see you. . . please don't get me into trouble!"
They broke the hug and the woman left, as Amanda closed the door behind her she turned and looked at Lee "Well?"
"Well, we've got to be going too!"
Amanda began opening the door again as he came up behind her. . . followed closely by Inspector Shamba, time to loose the access baggage. Lee pondered the thought that just incase Joe came back to the rooming house, someone should stay and keep an eye on things from here. Amanda totally agreed with him leaving Shamba with no other choice than to comply with their wishes - said their goodbyes and left.
Lee's theory was that Joe was not going to be back at the house and he wanted the Inspector out of his hair, it was a perfect excuse to have him room sit for the afternoon - while he and Amanda follow up on a lead. Sitting down on one of the park benches in the grounds he took out the empty traveler's checks book and asked Amanda if she had anything that would raise the impression of the last check Joe wrote. Handing him a pencil Lee went over the surface lightly until a name finally came up,
"Dooley's. . . you know it?"
Amanda looked at Lee and nodded once again trapped in past history, "Yeah!"
As they left - once again Darrell Prescott was hot on her trail. . .
"So tell me isn't happiness. . .
Worth more than a gold diamond ring?
I'm willing to do anything,
To calm the storm in my heart!
I've never been the praying kind,
But lately I've been down on my knees.
Not looking for a miracle - just a reason to believe. . . '
Facing the basic feelings of having Joe King enter their lives had thrown Lee a curve ball he couldn't catch. Joe had been the most influential man and her life that was until he had stumbled across her.
Sure she had, had a series of dates and male companionship - most notorious was Dan, Dave, Dean. . . DEAN that was his name 'why could he never remember that name?' they had been engaged briefly, but in the end it didn't work out. At the time Lee had been sympathetic but deep down inside quiet relieved - he had known straight away that the 'Weather Man' was not the sort of person to stir the inner passion in her, why did he know that? Because he had tasted it and had come close to that part of heaven. Even though at the time they had been on an undercover assignment as an engaged couple on a wedding cruise - with the only solution to not blowing their cover was to follow through and get married.
He had been visibly shaken that day in seeing her in the wedding dress, so pure and innocent. All rational thoughts had fled his head as they stood before the flowered altar and answered to the vows. As the veil was lifted, all he could think of was how beautiful she ad looked and that for a split second he didn't want the world closing in on them - he wanted to remain there locked in her eyes, never to come out. It was the most innocent of kisses - a cover kiss 'to make it look real' but once his lips touched her's ever so briefly, and felt her melt against him. . . he was almost lost. Bewildered, he had looked into those deep brown eyes and knew he had to lean in again for another touch, denying that it wasn't the most pleasant of experiences he had ever had was only being foolish.
Something had stirred and shifted that day inside him - but he had always put it down to his concern for her because of the non-agent training in her background. Civilian housewife was not the sort of person to get romantically entangled with. . . she was a friend pure and simple!
So why did the thought of her own thoughts lost in memories of a man who hadn't been around for years suddenly make him want to punch a wall or get seriously drunk and then punch a wall? He had no idea she was his partner - nothing else! Really nothing else!
Who was he kidding? Of course it meant something to him. It stung that all of a sudden Joe's name gets mentioned and Amanda goes into all 'concerned spouse of the victim' believing without a question of doubt his innocence. He being the skeptic wanted to believe that this man wasn't capable of killing another human. But every time he turned that corner the angry arm of jealousy kept choking his words, his only justification for these feelings was simple. He had always known that her ex husband was in another part of the world, but now suddenly re-surfacing with a price on his head - he was once again throwing Amanda into the middle of his mess. And she deserved so much more, more than she would ever know.
A Trip down Memory Lane.
Inside Dooley's Lee had gone up to the bar and ordered a pitcher of beer for them both, as Amanda stood at the old jukebox memorizing it's extensive library. As he approached her, he too was amazed at the selection of tracks in it from their youthful days and young and restless teenagers. Amanda smiled, as he rhymed off a selection of artists responsible for them,
"Great isn't it? I don't think they have changed a record on there since Joe and I used to come in here!"
"Came in here a lot didn't you?"
They moved to a both that had just been vacated and sat down, Amanda lost in her memories, "Oh yeah we came in here almost every single night. Yep we didn't have much money, but you know what? That thing would always take a nickel and play a song. . . and it would always play that one!"
"Mm, let's hope he comes in here one more time?"
Amanda smiled as he poured beer into her glass, "Yeah!"
As he filled his own glass, the question that had been eating away at him all day rose to the surface. This was the first time they had to be alone since Inspector Asam Ali Shamba had knocked upon the Bureau door. And Lee was not going to let the chance slip by him again.
"You know Amanda, um. . . you never did finish telling me why you got divorced?"
"You really want to know huh?"
Moving to plates that where still on the table as a way of distracting the butterflies fluttering inside her stomach, as Lee tried to shrug it off as Amanda continued, "Pretty nosey aren't you?"
This time he laughed, knowing by the tone of her voice that she wasn't annoyed at him asking. And she wasn't strange as it was; she felt it was time to let go of the hurt that had kept her sheltered for so long.
"Okay! Well. . . it's no big secret, um. . . well when Joe got out of Law School; he was interested in the Emergency Aid Organization, and it meant constant travel. . . "
As she spoke Lee watched the conflicting emotions flittering across her face. For one brief moment in time he could see the young Amanda West, long auburn hair, and a head full of ideas of a happily ever after with the man that she loved and a family to someday care for. Somewhere deep inside him. . . his heart shattered.
"I just ah, I didn't think it would be good for the boys. . . they where too little you know? Six months here, six months there. . . I really thought it would be better if, we were all. . . settled!"
"You wanted to be a housewife!" It was a simple explanation that in Lee's mind spoke volumes,
"Well I wanted to have a home, I wanted. . . for all of us to have a home! But ah, Joe felt he really. . . had something to give. So. . . he went ahead and took the job. . . and I stayed in Arlington and um. . . I guess we where really sort of separated for a couple of years. And then we finally admitted, that it just wasn't going to work. So. . . "
Lee felt anger well up within his chest; anger directed at a man who left his beautiful wife - yes dammit she was beautiful even he knew that! And two wonderful boys with an upbringing that would put most two-parent families to shame. To follow his own selfish needs in wanting a career on the other side of the world, and where had it gotten him? Right bang in the middle of a murder investigation with him as 'murder one'
Amanda jarred him from his thoughts that had taken a dangerous path - a path that would led to Amanda having to take sides, and he didn't like the odds.
"SO. . . life's turned out okay huh?"
"Yeah but okay. . . isn't good enough for you!"
Her cheeks tinged pink as she looked away, he had said something so thoughtful and instead of thinking it mushy - he actually was glad he had said it. He had conveyed so much in one tiny sentence, so much feeling for the woman sitting opposite him. She had been a mystery to him for three years, and now he had been given a glimpse into who she really was, why she pursued this career of dodging bullets and espionage which had un-social hours, lousy money and even lousier perks. She enjoyed the thrill just as much as he did that's who she really was. . . he knew that because that's what kept him going too.
Opening the door into her life had done one thing to him - no he didn't want to run screaming into the night shouting 'non-commitment' over his shoulder! He instead wanted to fold her into his arms, wrap them around her - hold on tight and protect her from the rest of the wicked world she was going to have to face on her own. . . but she wasn't on her own, she had him!
Her eyes spoke of the wounds that still hurt - the rejection on life's lonely highway. But never again! He would never let her be hurt again.
'I might need you to hold me tonight?
I might need you to say it's alright?
I might need you to make the first stand?
Because tonight I'm finding it hard to be your man. . . '
As she had looked away from him and left him with his thoughts, she had spotted Joe coming in through the entrance, at the same moment Lee had spotted him and wanted Amanda to try and distract him so that he could come up on his blind side. But Amanda was having none of it, she knew Joe would be nervous - he didn't know Lee and the last thing they both wanted was for him to run again, she was going to go alone. Lee wasn't happy about it but respected her wishes, she was to get Joe's attention, Lee was to watch if everything was okay she would give him a signal.
But as she approached Joe he panicked and left, leaving Amanda no choice but to follow him, looking back at Lee as she left. Lee was about to follow when who should step into path but Inspector Shamba who had been following a lead of his own from one of the students who had seen Joe in Dooley's the night before. When asked by the Inspector what he was doing here - Lee replied and asked him to sit and have a drink promising to be back as soon as possible.
Heading towards the direction of the bar he called over the owner 'Dooley' explaining that his friend had offered to buy the whole place a drink. And as it was happy hour the place was thronging with people all coming over to shake the hand of the man who was being ever so gracious - giving Lee just enough time to slip out the door and make his escape. Stepping out into the sidewalk he scanned the street up and down deciding on the direction he hoped Amanda had taken - a followed it.
Joe had moved through an alleyway with stealthy speed, Amanda hot on his trail. He knew she was behind him and ducked in through an open doorway and waited until she would pass. But hey little did he know he was working with a professional here, Amanda had done this countless times before. Slowing down briefly she walked straight passed him and around the corner to wait. Sure enough Joe came back out thinking he had lost her, only to walk straight into her as he too rounded the corner.
A mixture of shock and disbelief etched his face as he embraced her warmly, as Amanda rambled on about how everyone was worried about him, including Mr. Prescott from the E.A.O. she offered him shelter back at the house but he declined - it wasn't safe for him and couldn't take that chance, but knew they needed to talk. So hand in hand they made their way to the Georgetown University Library where it would be quiet enough to talk. Unknowing that Darrell Prescott was closing in behind them.
Lee was wondering around yet another dead end alley with an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. Amanda knew he had come out after here, and wouldn't have just disappeared without letting him know she was okay would she?
Joe had led Amanda quickly through the maze of bookshelves in the main section to the Library, practically rushing her off her feet. She had tried in vain to get him to slow down a bit, but he had already his suspicions that they had been followed. Stopping briefly he tried to explain that he had made the fall guy that's why he had told Amanda it was too dangerous and that she was putting herself in danger by contacting him. As he did Amanda heard not too far away a gun being cocked - pushing Joe to the ground as two bullets hit the books in the bookshelf directly in front of where they had stood.
Fortunately for them, Lee had also heard the gunfire - drawing his own pistol out of its shoulder holster and ran. Inside Amanda and Joe had managed to crouch through as many aisles of books as they could, as another four bullets whizzed passed their heads. Lee had finally reached the library and entered through the back door hoping he wasn't too late, as he watched a tall man heading in Amanda and Joe's direction. Amanda on the other hand could hear the man's feet and timed it with their escape route, to move forward at the same time praying that Lee had been close enough to get to them before the gunman would.
Lee had unfortunately had entered come in via the opposite end of the main hall and had a lot of ground to cover to reach them, slowly moving through the aisles listening and watching - as Amanda and Joe tried to make their own break for freedom. Making it as far as the checking out desk. . . as yet another two more bullets barely missed them, but this time Lee was there and saw his chance to help them along. But Prescott was too quick as Lee had a crouching civilian frightened for her life at the desk, and managed to get himself out of the way firing as he made his escape.
Searching the library, looking for any sign of movement Lee called out Amanda's name, only to have her and Joe pop up form behind the desk. Helping her up over the counter the three of them too made themselves scarce before the police would have the place surrounded. Making their way back to Mrs. Mc Donald's a party had already started with noise and frivolity and was bulging at the seams. The case they had been investigating had suddenly took a more sinister twist as now Joe was being targeted by a hit man, it raised all sorts of possibilities as to who and why? Joe's suggestion that it was an inside job, an employee form the U.S. E.A.O. because he had caught them with their hands in the till, stealing millions from U.S. Relief. If they where doing it in Estocia, then why not everywhere else?
Lee wanted to believe the story, but without proof Joe didn't have a chance in clearing his name - even though Amanda once again jumped in to defend her ex's honor. But he had to admit it was all making a lot of sense, so knowing full well that the shooter would not crash a house full of people - decided that Joe and Amanda would be safe enough lying low until he came back. He had to somehow find a way of getting Inspector Shamba out of their hair for the night, at the mention of Shamba's name Joe warned Lee to be careful as he thought Shamba was in on all of it. Hey Scarecrow was a professional and could take care of himself, and left Joe and Amanda to walk hand in hand back down memory lane. . . with Lee watching them go. . .
He had never been the jealous type - jealousy was never part of his lifestyle. The ladies that entered his life all knew where he stood. He kept his professional and private life very much separate. . . well he had an image to keep! He had heard all the rumors around the water cooler and the steno pool, of how many hearts he had actually broken. Sometimes it was fun to listen in to the exaggerated conversations - finally succumbing to his boyish devilment and walking round the corner or into the room just as it was getting to the juicy bit. Seeing the stunned and flushed faces making speedy exits did his heart good - served them all right for playing 'kiss and tell'
He knew Amanda would most certainly have heard them all before, and although she was always an open book as far as he was concerned. He always knew whether she had been told something scandalous about him by the way her blush crept right down to the collar of her blouse, and her tell tale hand would reach up to try and hide it. Yes he could read her body language very well, the way she twitched her nose when she was being humorous, or the way she dipped her eyes when she was speaking form her heart. The way they widened when he paid her a compliment and watched as he saw he mentally store it in her head to savoir along with other treasured memories. Before compliments from Lee Stetson where like water of a ducks back to him, he had, had years of practice. . . every one of them finely tuned for each occasion.
Amanda on the other hand was a totally different situation/occasion you could possibly ever imagine. She was special, she took things on a matter of trust, and she held it high above anything else. His compliments where then rewarded with the most honest and basic of emotions. That's why it had annoyed him as he watched Joe take Amanda's hand - after what they had shared at 'Dooley's' she was willing to still give him the benefit of the doubt and trust her inner instincts. . . something Lee was still trying to fathom about her. He had simply watched them leave, walk through the doors of their past. . . as the knife twisted in his gut once again.
As night had fallen Prescott telephoned his boss from a call box in the outskirts of town, explaining in an agitated voice to Byron Foster that the friend with Mrs. King was not a filmmaker as he had come in 'guns blazing' Darrell wanted to get the 'kids' now, only to have Foster try to reason his way out of it. They were only to grab the children if the authorities where to come after them, it didn't sit well with Prescott. . . but he would do what his boss said - for the meantime.
Meanwhile Lee had managed to get a disgruntled Inspector Shamba back along with his Zebra luggage to his apartment. Apologizing for leaving him all by himself but something had come up and had detained him. Shamba's bar bill had come to eight hundred and thirty-three dollars, which Lee promised he would get out of petty cash the next day. Slipping into his kitchen as the Inspector settled himself into the couch, Lee poured both himself and Shamba a glass of milk - slipping two grains of Zoromethol into Shamba's mixing it around before handing it to him and watched as the intrepid Inspector downed the whole glass.
Joe and Amanda had settled themselves back in the room that he had spent his youthful carefree days, and a restless night the night before. As they reministe over how much the place hadn't changed all the sounds being just the same, Joe went over just how much trouble he had gotten himself into. . . and Amanda as always sat and listened.
He had begun doing some investigating of his own, after his invoices didn't match up the amount of wheat that had been shipped into Estocia. Instead of receiving 900 metric tons only 700 arrived - somehow somewhere the paperwork was being doctored, and not for the first time it had seemed. Joe had been on his way to the Prime Minister with his findings when all hell had broken loose and he had been assassinated. The people of Estocia where starving and someone in the United States was to blame for it. Although Amanda wanted to believe what he had said, she needed proof that would clear his name. It was all in front of him and he was all dressed up and nowhere to go. . . what did he know he was a lawyer a pen pusher - he should have just stayed out of it.
Amanda disagreed he couldn't have stayed out of it - even if he tried, it was after all who he was - he cared. They had a brief tender moment as the took each other's hand, before the door was knocked and Mrs. Mc Donald poked her head through announcing they had company, but seeing as they were both sitting on the bed beside each other - asked if they wanted to be alone. Lee stood behind her and caught a briefest glimpse of what had been going on, before Amanda broke away and thanked her saying that it was okay. The woman simply gave them all a curious look and left them to whatever they were going to get up to.
Lee announced as he closed the door that 'Shamba was probably by now sleeping well into the next century, unless they woke him up' and had they come up with a plan? The only way that Joe could match his invoices against the Prime Minister's relief schedule was to be able to access them (State side invoices) was via a computer at the E.A.O. Lee asked Joe if he knew what he was looking for - when Joe replied he did there was only one thing left to do. . . . gain access into the Emergency Aid Organization.
Entering the government building was easy pickings, especially when you had a government agent to do the 'picking'. Joe set to work switching on the modem and typing in his password to access the Invoice Files, but came up against a problem. It seemed that the files had been wiped clean - not a trace of them could be found, somehow someone had gotten there before him and had purged the records. . . and with Joe's only other hope of clearing his name had died with the Prime Minister - all hope had seemed lost. But Lee had other idea's involving a certain Inspector Asam Ali-Shamba - as Joe had said he wasn't to be trusted and could be the clue to finding out what exactly did happen in Estocia that night. Even though he wasn't going to come quietly and more than likely wouldn't talk! Scarecrow was planning on giving him 'a nightmare he would never forget!"
They had been able to slip into his apartment without making a sound, and headed straight to Lee's bedroom where the sound asleep Inspector was lying on the bed. Lee pulled out his pistol and handed it to Joe an action Amanda wasn't too sure about. She had gotten used to Lee carrying a gun it was necessary for the line of work - even though she still loathed the fact that they where extremely dangerous, she did never imagined that her own ex husband would carry one. Joe took to from Lee and stood over the sleeping body and called out his name trying to sound authoritative, but no response - turning to Lee with a look of defeat.
As they where getting nowhere fast Lee suggested that Joe should knock him about a bit - shake him up and although Amanda hadn't said anything when Lee had handed Joe his weapon she couldn't help but speak up now,
"Joe doesn't knock people around. . . Mr. Stetson!"
Lee was defeated, he knew they had to stay in the character of 'government official and Civilian' or he would have argued the point with her there and then - so instead he just made a sound and kept his mouth closed. Amanda also knew he couldn't say anything and that suited her fine as she turned to Joe and asked him to just shake the Inspector really hard to rouse him. As Joe was about to do as Amanda said, the sleeping form rolled over revealing as much surprise to Joe as it was to Lee and Amanda - the Prime Minister of Estocia.
Joe was speechless and also very much relieved - the man that he though had been murdered was lying in a bedroom in Washington, D.C. very much alive. The saying 'The reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated'
As Lee and Amanda made coffee for everyone the newly arisen Prime Minister was complaining about how much America had been 'deceptively exhausting' Lee setting the tray on the small coffee table that they were all sitting around made the rye joke for his benefit that,
"It's all those time zones between you and a good nights sleep"
Covering up the fact that he had drugged him into the exhausted state in the first place. Handing out the cups to first Amanda then Joe he was about to hand the Prime Minister his when the man in question leaned over and helped himself to Lee's, letting him know that he knew exactly what had been done to him. Amanda had so many questions left un-answered, namely how did he figure out he was being targeted for an assassination attempt? The Prime Minister explained that he had taken a round about way to his office and that's where he had discovered his Inspector Chief Shamba waiting for him with a gun.
At about the same time the he had seen Shamba, Shamba had also seen him and fired, he fired back killing Shamba instantly. Joe took up the story from his end that Shamba's accomplice had then come running out of the building, seen Joe and shot at him - only missing and killing the guard that Joe had been talking to. He then panicked and began shouting that the Prime Minister was dead, as Joe had escaped into the night with the blame being put on him.
The Prime Minister had decided to remain dead and his trusted friends in Estocia where making his death last a very long time, but with him being dead it posed a problem for Lee. Joe and the Prime Minister where still vulnerable targets, Joe had been blamed for his murder and the Prime Minister was blamed for the theft of the wheat that had not arrived into his country. Staying dead would make it difficult catching the real thieves, and Joe knew he could prove the discrepancies had been going on inside the U.S. E.A.O. they needed a name to tie it all in together. And they had one, Joe had told only one other person about his suspicions - Byron Foster, but how where they going to prove it? Lee had the solution,
"The same way you prove a snakes not dead. . . you see if he wants to bite you?"
The solving of the case almost went off without a hitch, wrapping it up and clearing Joe's name was paramount in Lee's mind. He wanted nothing more that to close the case on the King v Estocia and say goodbye to it with a salute and a handshake - but the remaining feelings he had, had during it would never go away.
The events that led to the capture and conviction of two amateur criminals was all in a days work something he did very well. Amanda played her part in it as his partner, his friend a mother and a wife. And was able to carry it all off with style and finesse if not a touch on the worried side. It had made him feel even more grateful for the three years they had shared. . .
'Do you remember not long ago?
We used to live for the nighttime. . .
Cherish each moment!
Now we don't live - we exist,
We just run through our lives
So alone. . .
That's why you've got to hold me!'
The following morning Lee arrived at the home of Byron Foster and knocked the old man out of his bed. Disgruntled he answered the door in a rough manner - that was until Lee flashed his badge and explained that the importance of his knocking on his door 'depended on the amount of freedom he would enjoy over the next ten to twenty years!' Letting him in, Foster went into his drawing room leaving Lee to leave the front door ajar.
Handing him a large file containing the allegations of theft, fraud and attempted murder was a lot for the man to take first thing in the morning - but he knew the government had no hold on him unless there where witnesses to make the allegations stick. That's when Lee pulled the toy out of the cracker by getting up just as the door to the drawing room opened and revealed his little surprise. . . he liked it when a plan came together.
"You know Joe King. . . and by the look on your face, you also recognize the Prime Minister of Estocia?"
Bryon Foster had risen from his seat, his face a deathly pale. . . "Good day. . . Mr. Stetson!"
Lee paused only for the briefest of smiles, knowing that the old man was beat. "Good day Mr. Foster!"
Turning he left with his two accomplices. As he left Byron Foster picked up the handset of his telephone and dialed the number to Arlington High, getting the secretary he requested to speak to Mr. Friar. Darrell Prescott answered on the other end as Foster gave him the instructions to get the 'King boys'
Amanda dropped Phillip and Jamie off at the school, kissing them goodbye as they left in the direction of the building. Just as they did the Vice Principal approached the car and leaned into Amanda's window to ask her if she had received the message she had been left the other day? Slightly confused Amanda apologized and said she hadn't. Mrs. Dennis was forced to explain that,
"The man was here again and was making her a little nervous!"
This confused Amanda even further, as she had not the faintest idea what the woman was going on about.
"Just a minute Mrs. Dennis. . . whose here again?"
"Your Private Detective!"
"MY Private Detective?"
"The one you sent to watch over the boys in case your husband comes after them. . . you really should have called me first?"
A sense of dread fell to the pit of her stomach as Amanda slipped of her seatbelt - trying to remain calm, "Mrs. Dennis, could you show me where he is?"
Both women went into the main building of the school; Mrs. Dennis went into the front desk to see if he was still there leaving Amanda outside to wait. It gave her enough time to slip the radio remote out of the back pocket of her denims and dial in Lee's number, she explained quickly that she thought this was an emergency as someone had been at the school, and that she thought he was after her boys. Lee knew it was crucial to keep Amanda calm so he asked her where she was. She told him what part of the and Joe who had been listening in recognized it as being the middle school and they weren't far away from it.
The panic in her voice gave her away and Lee knew that she needed to stay focused on getting her children to safety. He wanted so much to try and calm her down, to let her know everything was going to be all right - but he had a car with two passengers, not to mention the frequency was open to everyone listening in at The Agency,
"Alright Amanda, you find the kids and you stay on the air. . . we're on our way!"
She had just managed to put the radio away when Mrs. Dennis came out with a puzzled look on her face - no one knew where the detective had gone, and as classes started in ten minutes the children could be anywhere. Splitting was the best solution and possibly the quickest to get to them - Amanda only prayed they weren't too late.
Phillip and Jamie had gone into the gym hall and where playing on the large trampoline to see who could get the highest. In all their noise and laughter they didn't hear or see a stranger entering the building until he was practically beside them, introducing himself. At the same time Amanda radioed in that she was heading towards the hall - as Lee announced that they had arrived.
Opening the hall door Amanda walked in on Darrell Prescott with her two sons. In seeing her - Darrell grabbed Jamie as she had called out to them, pulling out a gun he pointed it in the direction of them. He didn't hear or see Lee, Joe and the Prime Minster come in behind him - assessing the situation Lee knew he had to get Prescott away from the kids to avoid them injury. He launched his attack - rolling, as Darrell turned around surprised. . . Lee knocked the gun out of his hand as the boys ran for cover. Prescott was only momentarily stunned as he counter attacked Lee's move and knocked him to the floor, Joe seized his chance and came after Darrell with a vengeance as he tried to retrieve his gun - once again he was not to be outsmarted, as he too ended up on the floor.
With all the commotion going on it had given the Prime Minister enough of a chance to grab Phillip and Jamie and get them to their mother, as Lee picked himself of the floor and once again try and get control of the situation. In the tussle they both ended up on the trampoline - with Prescott kicking Lee back to get himself enough leverage to get back onto the floor. Lee stood up getting his balance and began jumping up and down getting himself as high as he possibly could, to grab at the monkey rope directly above his head.
Reaching it with very little effort he began swinging Tarzan style after Darrell missing him the first time as he tired making his escape, turning on the rope Lee launched himself of the opposite wall with enough leverage to kick Darrell Prescott finally to the ground. Slipping of the rope he grabbed the dazed Field Councilor with his 'killer right' knocking him once and for all unconscious.
It was over all, except for the mess to be cleaned up - and the Prime Minister a now very happy man ran over and clasped Lee's hands in his own, saluting him with praise,
"The snake bit, just as you said!"
As the joyful skipped off with as much delight as a man high on too much caffeine, Lee looked over to the now reunited family unit. He was glad that Joe was now a free man and happy that at least 'one of them' had believed in his story. He was relived that Phillip and Jamie hadn't got hurt 'nice kids'
But it was the look on Amanda's face that made it all worthwhile. As he radioed in to Francine to pick up Foster as Prescott had already been nailed Lee was awarded with the look of gratitude from her, a sense of unspoken thank you was written all over her beautiful face that was there just for him and him alone.
Family life had sort of returned to normal that evening. As a special treat Joe had taken the boys to a game allowing quality time alone with them - something he vowed would be done more often. Amanda had busied herself with her mother re-potting her plants to put outside. When Joe had returned back with the happy and loud children - Dotty as a treat had decided to end the night with hotdogs 'their favorite' leaving Joe alone again with Amanda. Ever the matchmaker she looked back one last time at the pair of them before following the boys into the house - 'who says second time around can't be just as fun!'
Joe not wanting to end the night suggested they get a pizza, going back to their old haunt of Dooley's - once again for old times sake. And that's where our hero came in. . .
'Hey. . .
If we can't find a way out of these problems. . .
Then maybe we don't need this?
Standing face to face,
Enemies at war - we build defenses
And secret hiding places. . . '
He had sat in his 'vette' for almost an hour tossing with the idea of just heading home. Earlier that evening, he had been parked down Amanda's street when he saw both she and Joe leave in the station wagon. He didn't want to follow - it was futile to worry, she was in safe hands right? She was spending an evening with a man she had shared many years with and the father of her children. . . there was nothing to worry about - was there?
Better to be safe than sorry. . .
And that's how he found himself - sitting in the car park at Dooley's feeling like a prized chump and totally the 'gooseberry' in the relationship. Amanda had gone in a little under an hour ago and still he hadn't got up the nerve to go in - he Lee Stetson 'Scarecrow' afraid of going in and seeing. . . what? Them all over each other - no that's not Amanda, she wasn't that sort of woman. . . at least he hoped she wasn't. Sitting arguing like old times? Well Amanda could argue like the best of them, but she was more tactile than that. She would wait until they got home and air her grievances then rationally - like an adult.
No all of the above was not what was playing on his mind. . . he was worrying incase there was any hope of a reconciliation; there his feelings were out. If she decided to reconcile with Joe where would it leave him? Nowhere that's where. She was a grown woman who was free to make her own mind up with matters to do with the heart. But what about her job? Would she be able to still keep it a secret once Joe became involved in her life again - or would he find himself walking into the office one morning and find her resignation framed and pinned to the notice board by Francine, with a Dear Lee letter waiting for him in his office.
Pulling the keys out of the ignition he opened the door and got out, locking it he pulled his tan jacket more firmly around his broad shoulders and went inside. . .
Amanda and Joe had enjoyed their meal and talking over old times. There was a sense of peace between them, a truce from past hurts from long ago. They had always remained friends but this time it was a different - they were no longer bitter over what went wrong. Joe had suddenly come to the conclusion that Amanda was not the woman he had married,
"You're not even the woman I divorced. . . you've changed Amanda King?"
She smiled at him then shrugging her shoulders - she knew she had changed in three years too. She had more confidence in herself, more feeling that she had a whole lot more to give to life than just being a mother, "Well. . . I've just. . . developed some outside interests!"
"Yeah. . . whatever they are, they suit you!"
Looking down at the table, Joe asked one final question - a question that somehow he already knew the answer to, "You mean you don't want to go back?"
Amanda knew within her heart that she didn't, somehow not too long ago that decision was taken out of her hands. . . "NO. . . I want to go forward, it's gonna be a great future!"
Joe took her hand in his; finally the door on their too brief a marriage was finally closed. "How about some music?"
She watched as Joe slipped a nickel in the jukebox and the old song from long away drifted through the bar and filled her soul with its haunting melody. Taking Joe's hand he led her onto the dance floor and they danced just like they did as young starry-eyed teenagers - facing an uncertain future. . .
'I might need you to hold me tonight?
I might need you to say it's alright?
I might need you to make the first stand?
Because tonight I'm finding it hard to be your man. . . '
And that's how Lee found her. Nodding to Dooley he made his way through the crowd to the balcony overlooking the dance floor. He sees her dancing with Joe to a song from long ago. . . and if knowing he is there she looks up. Their eyes meet - he smiles, she smiles back,
No words needed to be said. . .