Sabrina Duncan sighed wearily and reached for the next in a never ending stream of case folders from her in-box. Lately sheíd been wondering more and more if sheíd made the right decision coming here.
Suddenly the telephone rang.
Absently she grabbed the receiver, her attention on the papers before her. "Justice Department. Sabrina Duncan here."
"Hello, Angel," a voice said warmly.
"Charlie!" She exclaimed, putting the folder down. "I was just thinking about you. Whatís up?"
"Iíve heard your office was handling the Waterman case."
She started digging frantically through her in-box while thinking furiously. "Isnít that the chemical lab that caught fire?"
"Yes, thatís it."
She finally found the object of her search and smiled triumphantly. She opened it and began skimming rapidly. "Iím reading the report right now. Wasnít someone killed?"
"Yes, one of my operatives, Julie Roberts."
"Oh, Charlie, Iím so sorry. Did you want me to keep you posted on anything we find out?" She started jotting a few notes in the upper left-hand corner of the folder.
"Actually I wanted to hire you."
"What?!" The pen froze in mid-air. "You canít be serious. What about Kris and Kelly?"
"Theyíre too well known," he explained. "Everyoneís already seen them. It would look too suspicious to have one of them turn up there."
ĎThat makes sense,í she admitted to herself reluctantly. "But why me? Iíve been out of that line of work for a few years."
"You have the perfect connections. Youíre able to get information on areas that other operatives donít have access to."
"But weíre investigating anyway," she reminded him pointedly.
"Iím sure youíre already aware of the fact that the Justice Department has far too many cases to be able to investigate as fully as Iíd like. Youíre able to spot something that another operative might miss."
She sighed. "I have to check with my boss to see if itís acceptable. I donít want to jeopardize our case here."
"I already checked with Jack. He and I are old friends. He said that he had no problem with the situation and that your office would benefit as well. The decision would be entirely yours."
"I donít know Ė " she broke off thoughtfully. It did sound tempting, but she wasnít sure if she could manage it with her current caseload.
"Think about it," he interrupted kindly. "You donít have to decide right away. How are you doing?"
"Iím all right." At least it was the truth. "Just a little busy here. As you said yourself, there are a lot of cases pending."
"I didnít mean work, Angel," he chided.
"Fine," she said evasively. "Couldnít be better."
"All right, then. I can see that Iím keeping you. Just give me a call in the next day or so and let me know whatever you decide."
"Right," she said briskly. "Iíll let you know."
"Thatís all I ask."
* * * * *
Lee Stetson had been summoned to Billy Melroseís office early this morning. Heíd just walked in and spied Dirk already seated. He braced himself mentally. This couldnít be good news.
"Scarecrow, nice of you to join us," Dirk sniped.
"I got here as fast as I could," Lee answered calmly, refusing to rise to the bait. "Whatís up?"
"There was a fire out in Los Angeles at the Waterman Chemical Company," Billy started to explain.
"That doesnít sound like it has anything to do with the Agency," Lee observed.
"Well, theyíre doing some top secret research on chemical warfare, testing out new toxins and things of that nature. A good number of those results are ending up in the hands of the Chinese. Thereís obviously a leak somewhere, and youíre going to find out who that leak is," Dirk elaborated.
"Billy, I just got back from Germany," Lee pointed out, alarm bells going off in his head.
"Yes, Iíd heard about that," Dirk commented snidely. "Wasnít that a few minutes before the Ambassador arrived to find out why you were seducing his fiancée?"
"Hey, I didnít know she was engaged," Lee protested defensively.
"We need someone out there right away," Billy interrupted. "Justice hasnít started their investigation yet. We need all the information we can get before they clamp a lid down on everything."
"Whoís the case been assigned to?" Lee asked curiously.
"Sabrina Duncan," Billy answered, handing a picture over to him. "Sheís one of their top operatives."
Lee studied it for a few seconds. "Thatís not saying much."
"Before joining Justice she worked for Townsend Investigations for three years as a PI," Billy explained. "She left in 1979. About a year later there was a boating accident. Her husband and daughter were almost killed. She was convinced it was deliberate but nothing could be proven."
"Oh, great," Lee muttered. "Sheís paranoid."
"Lee, she graduated in the top 1% of her class in the Police Academy and grew up on various military bases around the world. The woman does not overreact. It was very suspicious," Billy remarked. "Apparently quite a few people thought the same thing. Whoever did the job was a professional."
"Canít someone else go?" Lee protested. "Ron wonít be back until Monday."
"Everyone else is tied up on other cases," Billy answered. "Face it, Lee. Youíre the perfect choice. I can always pair you up with a temporary partner. I think Francineís available."
"Billy Ė " Lee started warningly.
"Now, now, Scarecrow, donít beg," Dirk gloated. "Youíll love Los Angeles. The weather is perfect this time of year."
"Los Angeles?" Lee groaned unhappily, rolling his eyes.
"Look at the bright side, Lee. The sooner you get started the sooner you can come back home," Billy stated.
"All right," he acquiesced. "Iíll go get the case files and run a background check on Waterman Chemicals. Iíll leave tomorrow afternoon."
"No need," Dirk stated cheerfully, handing Lee a sheaf of paper. "Everything you need is right here."
Leeís eyes involuntarily dropped down to the stack as he accepted it.
"Iím sorry, Lee," Billy said.
"Your tickets are there as well," Dirk continued helpfully. "Your plane leaves in about four hours. That should give you enough time to pack."
"Thanks a lot," Lee said disgustedly.
The next day Lee was at Waterman Chemicals under the cover of Herbie Wilson, CPA. "So you see," he droned, pushing the glasses up on his face, "the charges are very serious. The Board asked us to come over and perform our own audit of the books to prove that the allegations are false."
"And how long will this take?" Sharon Jeffers, manager, sighed. She knew she should have stayed home today.
"Oh, two Ė three days, tops," he smiled. "I can get started right now if you like. I also have to look around Ė make sure everythingís accounted for."
Sabrina Duncan was talking to Bob Lewis, head of operations. "Iím from the Justice Department," she stated firmly, flashing her badge. "Iím investigating the fire at your warehouse two days ago."
"Yes," Bob smiled anxiously, knees knocking. "It was very unfortunate, but it was an accident."
"Oh?" She arched an eyebrow at him. "I didnít know that the fire department concluded their investigation."
"Well, um, they didnít," he stammered, off-balance. "What are you suggesting?"
"Iím not suggesting a thing," she corrected. "Iím just here to do a little checking on my own."
"Let me assure you, Miss Ė "
"Duncan," she supplied impatiently.
"Miss Duncan, that there was nothing suspicious about it. One of our employees, a Miss Julie Roberts, accidentally knocked over some combustible chemicals. It was very unfortunate."
"Unfortunate?" She repeated in disbelief. "She died."
He paled. "I know that, and I should probably have said that it was tragic, but it was an accident."
"Then you have nothing to worry about. Do you?" She pushed him aside and marched towards the corporate offices.
"Wait!" Bob shouted frantically, running behind her.
Herbie surveyed the scene with interest. "Whatís going on?"
"Iím not sure," Sharon answered honestly. "I think that womanís investigating the fire we had two days ago."
"Fire?" Herbie repeated in dismay, feigning ignorance. "Oh, dear. Was anyone hurt?"
Sharon nodded. "One of our employees. Between us she wasnít the brightest bulb in the box, if you know what I mean."
He looked at her wide-eyed. "Gee."
"But itís got nothing to do with this," she added hastily. "Did you want me to find you an office and then show you around?"
"That would be nice, thanks," he answered distractedly, thinking of a way he could arrange a meeting with Sabrina without it looking too obvious.
"Youíll see," she nodded pleasantly, taking him by the arm and leading him off in another direction, "you wonít find a single irregularity here."
* * * * *
Bob Lewis went downstairs to the nearest pay phone and dialed, glancing around fearfully.
"Hello?" A womanís voice answered.
"Hi, itís Bob," he babbled nervously, glad she was there. "We have trouble. Justice is over here investigating that fire."
"So?" She scoffed derisively. "They wonít find anything. I made sure of that myself."
"Are you sure? This Sabrina Duncan looks pretty sharp."
There was silence for a few seconds. "Did you say Sabrina Duncan?" She repeated carefully, voice dangerously low.
"Yes, but if thereís nothing to worry about Ė "
"Take care of her," Donna interrupted firmly.
"What Ė what do you mean?" He stammered. This was the last thing heíd expected her to say.
"What do you think I mean?" She snapped impatiently. "Kill her."
"But you just said Ė "
"I donít care what I just said. You donít know her the way I do. She wonít give up until she finds out what really happened. And I, for one, have no intention of going back to jail."
Bob listened thoughtfully for a few seconds, trying to think of what he could say to change her mind.
"Oh, and Bob? You know that if I go youíre going with me. Unless, of course, you have a little Ė accident first."
He swallowed hard. "No problem. Consider it done."
"I thought youíd see it my way," she purred, smiling.
* * * * *
Later that afternoon Sabrina called Bosley from an empty office to run a computer check. "Herbie Wilson," he read off. "CPA, Masters Degree in Accounting. Heís been with the IRS for about 10 years."
"Are you sure?" She asked dubiously.
"I ran it through twice to be on the safe side. Why?"
"I donít know," she paused thoughtfully. "His body language is all wrong."
"Well, see if you can get his fingerprints," Bosley advised. "Iíll run them through OCCB and see what turns up."
She looked up and spied Lee passing by the office door. "Yeah, Bos, right" she answered distractedly, hanging up the telephone and walked up behind him. "Oh, Mr. Wilson?"
Lee turned around to face her. "Yes? Do I know you?" He was caught off-balance as he hadnít been able to decide on the best way to approach her yet.
She shook her head and smiled. "No, Iím Sabrina Duncan. Iím with the Justice Department. I believe youíre with the IRS."
They shook hands.
"Pleased to meet you," Lee said pleasantly. "I heard you were investigating the fire they had here the other day."
She nodded. "Thatís right. And youíre here Ė " she trailed off expectantly.
"Oh, we got a report that there may be some trouble with the books," Lee answered. "We got an anonymous tip on some improprieties so weíre doing an audit."
"I see." Sabrina commented in disbelief. Something didnít ring true but she couldnít put her finger on just what it was.
Lee fidgeted uncomfortably, sensing that she wasnít buying his cover. "I was just headed out to dinner. Would you care to join me?"
"Iíd love to."
They walked off together. Theyíd just gotten outside when Sabrina spied light reflecting off a telescopic site out of the corner of her eye. "Get down!" she shouted, knocking Lee to the ground.
Suddenly there were two shots fired in their direction.
"Stay here," Sabrina instructed firmly, pulling out her gun and glancing around. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary she carefully got to her feet and ran off in the direction the shot had come from.
After a few minutes she slowly walked back to where sheíd left Lee.
He came out from the opposite direction, reholstering his gun. "They didnít come this way."
Sabrinaís eyebrows rose in surprise. "I didnít know that the IRS started issuing 38ís to their employees."
"Youíd be surprised at how many death threats we get after an audit," Lee tried weakly.
Sabrina stared at him, not believing it for a minute.
He cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Well, Iím not really an accountant."
"No kidding." Before he opened his mouth to say anything else she said, "What do you say we have dinner at my place? We can trade information. Deal?"
"Deal," he nodded in relief.
They got in her car and drove to her apartment, stopping only once at the market for sandwiches.
Once inside Lee looked around appreciatively. "This is pretty nice."
"Thanks." She waited until they were seated and then handed out the sandwiches and sodas. "All right. Youíve stalled long enough. Who are you and whatís your interest in Waterman Chemicals?"
"My name is Lee Stetson and I work with IFF. We work Ė"
"Iíve heard of IFF," Sabrina interrupted.
"Oh." He trailed off for a few seconds, surprised. After all, IFF was supposed to be a top secret organization. "Well, Waterman Chemicals is doing some top secret research for the Pentagon. Apparently some of those results are ending up in the hands of the Chinese government."
"It turns out that the new district manager, Xiang, is engaged to one Donna Rossinger, whoís got some pretty suspicious international connections. Why is Justice involved?"
"The White Dragons, one of the Chinese tongs, is laundering money through Asian American imports. Donna Rossingerís* the owner. Once a month she meets Xiang for lunch and then heads over to Asian American. Julie Roberts was following Donna when she was killed. I think she discovered something she shouldnít have, but never got a chance to let us know what that was," she answered. "Iím trying to figure out what the tie is between Asian American and Waterman Chemicals, other than the fact that Donnaís engaged to Xiang. It doesnít make any sense."
"Is Rossinger violent?"
She nodded. "She was blackmailing a murderer to keep quiet about a black market ring she was running while she was attending Blackmore College. When she realized that we were onto her she locked us in a barn and set it on fire."
"Nice," Lee commented sarcastically, nodding. "So did she end up at the California Institution for Womenís finishing school for girls?"
Sabrina shook her head. "She ended up at some fancy white collar prison for about four years. Sheís out now on good behavior."
"She only got four years for all that?" Leeís eyebrows rose in surprise.
"What can I say?" she remarked philosophically, shrugging her shoulders. "She comes from a family with a lot of money and political clout."
"Howíd she end up singling you out?" Lee asked curiously.
"I was the one who ended her little scam. I was also the main witness at her trial."
"And thatís why you think she tried to kill your husband and daughter," he concluded.
Sabrina abruptly stood up and started cleaning up the remains of their dinner. "So you know about that."
He eyed her warily, seeing the barriers slam down.
"I see," she said after a few seconds. "Well, for the record, money laundering is my specialty. I know what to look for and just about every trick thatís been invented. I can handle this just fine."
"Youíre not exactly objective, you know," he remarked hesitantly. "Wouldnít it be easier Ė "
"No, it wouldnít," she interrupted icily. "And I really donít care to discuss this any further."
"Fair enough." It was none of his business, after all. "I wonder how they blew my cover blown so quickly," he mused aloud.
"Your body language is wrong for an accountant. Besides, what makes you think that those shots were meant for you?" She challenged mischievously and walked over to the bar, poured each of them a scotch and then walked back to the couch, handing him a glass.
"All right," he said agreeably. "What have you discovered so far?"
"Nothing." She took a few sips of her drink. "I think that Iím making people nervous by just being here. My cases have a 99% success rate."
His eyebrows went up in admiration. "Thatís pretty good."
"For a federal employee?" She finished wryly.
"I didnít say that," he protested uncomfortably, although he had been thinking it.
"Thatís all right," she soothed, patting him on the knee. "You should hear what we say about you agents."
"Iím very good at my job," he announced defensively through gritted teeth.
"Iím sure you are," she agreed innocently.
He finished his scotch in one gulp. "Are you always this abrasive?"
"Are you always so sensitive?" she countered.
"Iím not Ė " he began hotly, then took a deep breath to calm down. "Look, we only have to work together for a few days. Can we call a truce?"
She thought for a few seconds. "Truce."
"What does this Donna look like?" Lee asked curiously.
"I havenít seen her since the trial, but she was rather pretty. Iím guessing she hasnít changed much. Why?"
"Maybe Iíll follow her the next time she comes in. See where she goes."
"I told you that she always goes back to Asian American," she reminded him.
"I know that, but why? I mean, she never stops to go shopping or deliver any packages?"
"Sheís a working woman. She has other things to do."
"It still doesnít sound right. Why meet every month like clockwork and come all the way down to Waterman Chemicals? Why doesnít he ever meet her for lunch?"
"Sheís the owner. She can make her own hours."
"But she must have errands to do. Asian American isnít a big place, is it?"
Sabrina shook her head. "Theyíve got about five employees total."
Lee nodded. "Iíll call IFF tonight and have them fax me her particulars." He glanced at his watch and got to his feet. "Iíd better get going. Someone may be watching your place right now."
"Youíre right." She finished her drink and stood up, walking him to the door.
"I think we should pretend that we donít know each other tomorrow," Lee continued. "We may find out more individually than working together."
"That makes sense." She opened the door and held it open for him. "So Iíll see you in the morning."
Lee nodded, pausing for a second as he was unsure of how he should phrase what he wanted to say next. "I didnít mean to bring back any unpleasant memories."
"I know, and thanks," Sabrina said softly, touching his arm in appreciation. "See you tomorrow, stranger."
He smiled. "See you tomorrow." He left.
She closed the door behind him thoughtfully and made her way back into the living room. She put the glasses in the dishwasher, sat on the couch, picked up the telephone and dialed.
"Townsend Investigations," Bosleyís voice answered.
"Hi, Bos. Itís me. Can you run a check on one Lee Stetson? Heís with IFF."
"IFF?" He repeated in surprise, jotting the name down on a piece of paper. "Do you know how hard itíll be trying to get any kind of information from them?"
"I know," she agreed sympathetically. "I just need to know what kind of agent he is."
"Iíll try, but I canít make any guarantees."
"Just do the best you can, all right?" She sighed tiredly, massaging her forehead as she felt a tension headache coming on. This was becoming far too stressful.
"Are you all right?" He asked concernedly. "You sound funny."
"Huh?" She questioned, startled. She hadnít been aware of how she sounded. "Iíve been better," she admitted ruefully. "Iíll check in with you later." She hung up the telephone before he could ask her anything else and rested her head on the back of the couch for a few minutes, her mind going back in time to about two years ago.
It was a few days after their speedboat exploded. Sabrina was sitting on a chair in their living room.
Bill came out of the nursery. "Sheís asleep," he sighed, sitting on the couch comfortably and smiling.
"Bill, we need to talk," she whispered.
"Whatís wrong?" He asked, leaning forward and reaching to take her hand in his.
She pulled away from him. "Iíve been thinking about this all night, and I think that you and Wendy should go away for a while."
"What?" He asked, puzzled. Surely heíd heard her wrong.
"Itís the only thing that makes sense until we prove who did this. I didnít find you again and go through 12 hours of labor to have someone kill you out of the blue." Sheíd been up all night trying to desperately think of another solution but couldnít come up with a safer alternative.
"So come with us," he begged. "You know you can. We can all disappear somewhere and come back later after everything blows over."
"Can you see me in a kitchen baking cookies and joining the PTA?" She asked softly. "Weíd end up way out in the boonies somewhere. Both of us know I couldnít handle that. Iíd go stir crazy. Iíd start to resent you, youíd start to resent meÖwhat kind of life would that be? Do you think thatís fair to either of us, or to Wendy? What kind of example would we be settingÖthat when the going gets tough the tough run away?" She paused for a few seconds. "Besides, anyone determined enough would find me."
"The same holds true for me, you know."
She shook her head. "This was aimed at me, not you. If both of you leave without me you wonít be a threat any more."
"Bri, think about what youíre saying," he pleaded.
"I am thinking about what Iím saying. Please donít make this any harder than it already is." Her voice was strained as she fought desperately not to lose control. She didnít want his last memory of her to be one of her falling apart.
"So what are you going to doÖgo back to work for Charlie Townsend?" He asked bitterly. "I knew that damned job would come to no good."
"All right, you told me so!" She snapped furiously, getting to her feet and walking to the corner of the wall. "Do you feel better now?!" Suddenly her anger fled, leaving her empty and cold. "I donít know what Iíll be doing yet, but Iím a threat to everyone right now. I couldnít live with myself if anyone got hurt because of me."
"But you can live with this?!" he demanded bitterly.
"Do you think this is easy for me? Wendy needs at least one parent." Her voice shook as she said the horrible words aloud. She took a few deep breaths to try to calm down, closing her eyes. "Can you think of another alternative?"
"I donít believe this!" He exploded.
She winced. "Do you think Iím enjoying this?" She asked sharply, voice rising. "Do you really think this is something I want to do?!" Suddenly she started shivering. "Would you be able to forgive yourself if something happened to her? Sheís our child, Bill. Sheís got to be the main priority here."
"No matter what it costs?" He asked bitterly.
She nodded slowly, tears trickling down her cheeks.
He made a move to hold her in his arms and try to make her change her mind.
She took a few steps backward. "Please donít. Just Ė donít."
"Please, Bri, come to your senses," he pleaded. "We can work something out. We can go into hiding together. You canít do this!" He whispered brokenly.
The walls started closing all around her and she had to get out of there. She hurried blindly over to the door and opened it.
Kelly was standing in the threshold, hand raised to ring the doorbell. "Hi!" She said cheerfully. "You ready for lunch?"
"Lunch?" Sabrina whispered blankly.
Kelly nodded. "I was bringing over the background checks of the people you asked Bos to run. We were going to go to lunch and compare notes. Remember?"
"Uh Ė " she stammered, her mind a total blank.
"Iím sorry," Kelly said, taking in the scene before her. "I didnít mean to interrupt." She glanced around apprehensively. "Look, Iíll just go wait in the car. Take your time, all right?"
"I think weíre just about finished," Bill remarked icily. "At least thatís what Iíve been told. Isnít that right?"
"I Ė I need some air," Sabrina whispered brokenly, hurrying outside.
"Bri, wait!" Kelly called anxiously. She turned to Bill. "Whatís going on here?"
Suddenly they heard a baby cry.
"I have to get Wendy," he said coldly, turning his back on her and walking into the nursery.
Kelly stared after him in bewilderment for a few seconds, then hurried outside. She found Sabrina sitting in the passenger side of her car staring straight ahead and taking deep gasping breaths, arms wrapped around her middle.
Kelly cautiously got in on the driverís side. "Bri? Whatís wrong?"
Sabrina closed her eyes and shivered. "Would you mind if we skipped lunch? Iím not very hungry."
Kelly put her arms around her friend and hugged her. "What happened?"
Sabrina swallowed hard and tried to compose herself. "Iíll tell you later. I just have to get out of here. Please."
Kelly patted her shoulder, wondering what on Earth was happening. She knew Sabrina wouldnít tell her until she was good and ready. "Your wish is my command." She leaned over, started the engine and pulled out of the driveway. After a few minutes of silence she glanced over to Sabrina and saw her just sitting there. She was so pale and unmoving that Kelly was starting to get frightened. "I have an idea," she stated instead, forcing herself to sound normal. "Since neither of us is hungry I say we both go to my place. We can have a few drinks, share a few troublesÖwhat do you say?"
"I could sure use a drink right about now," Bri admitted shakily. "Could I crash on your couch for a few days?"
Kellyís eyes widened in shock. She hadnít realized things between them had gotten so bad. "Of course you can. You donít even have to ask."
Sabrina smiled wanly. "Thanks."
Sabrina sighed, returning to the present with a thud. That was probably the second time in her life that sheíd gotten so drunk she didnít even remember what she said that entire night. It was just some horrible blur that sheíd forced herself to live with. She smiled faintly, remembering once again what a true friend Kelly really was. They all were, really. Theyíd all taken turns during those next weeks calling her and making sure she was all right. Even Charlie had gotten into the actÖmaking sure she was so busy that she didnít have too much time to think. Thatís why she ended up leaving. She needed to start over with a clean slate.
She straightened up and glanced at the clock, noticing the time. She brushed the hair from her eyes and decided to get some more work done. After all, it was only 12am.
* * * * *
Bob Lewis sighed unhappily and picked up the telephone. This was one phone call he didnít relish making.
"Hello?" Donna answered.
"I assume everythingís been taken care of."
"Not exactly," he answered hesitantly.
"And what does that mean?" She demanded.
"I guess itís true what they say," she sighed in annoyance. "If you want something right you have to do it yourself." She slammed down the receiver in fury, planning what she was going to do to take care of this once and for all.
* * * * *
Lee was sitting at his temporary desk at Waterman Chemicals the next morning.
"I saw you and that investigator leaving together," Sharon commented, coming up to him and smiling. "You two looked pretty chummy."
"Itís not what you think," he protested, running his hand through his hair nervously, trying to make his act look good. "She was questioning me about the fire. She didnít want to understand that I only got here yesterday."
"I heard sheís tough," Sharon agreed.
He nodded. "She sure is. She questioned me for about an hour, then she finally let me leave. I canít really blame her. After all, sheís only being thorough."
"I guess," she agreed reluctantly. "StillÖ"
Suddenly a blonde woman popped her head inside. "Hi, Sharon. Is Pete here?"
"Sure," Sharon answered agreeably. "Heís in Mikeís office. Heíll be out in a minute."
"Thanks." She smiled, leaving.
"Whoís that?" Lee asked, feigning ignorance as heíd received her picture and dossier late last night by special courier.
"Mike Xiangís fiancée, Donna," Sharon explained. "Sheís here to meet him for lunch."
Lee nodded. "Look, I really have to get back to the books here. Can I buy you a drink later?"
"Sure. Didnít mean to interrupt you."
Sharon left the office.
* * * * *
A few hours later Lee had tailed Donna to Asian American. Donna had walked inside the storage room in the back, examined some Chinese vases that were packed in a crate and placed a piece of paper inside. She then walked off.
Lee slipped inside and removed the paper.
"What does it say?" Sabrina whispered from over his shoulder.
He spun around, startled. "What are you doing here?" He whispered furiously.
"I decided to search this place while Donna was at lunch with her fiancée. What are you doing here?"
"I followed her. I saw her slip something in here." He dug around and finally removed the paper, opening it up and reading it. "It must be in code," he muttered.
"It looks Chinese," she observed, reading it over his shoulder.
"Itís Mandarin," he corrected absently, his mind trying to figure out what it meant, "but itís not words. Itís just a bunch of letters and numbers." He wracked his brain for a few more seconds, then started to shove it into his pocket. "Iíll send it over to crypto. Theyíll figure it out. Itíll probably end up being some shipping information."
"What does it say?" She pressed.
"CO2 H3Y," he read hesitantly. "I told you that itís some kind of code."
She stared at it for a few seconds. "Are you sure itís not some kind of formula?"
His eyes lit up. "Thatís got to be how theyíre getting the information out of the country. Even if customs was able to translate it into English theyíd think it was just tracking information."
"And thatís why the White Dragons are spending their laundered money in a chemical company," she added.
He nodded, shoving the paper into his pocket. "Right. Letís get out of here. Iíll go to Waterman Chemicals and arrest Xiang. You coming?"
"I am. Let me call my boss first and let him know what weíve discovered. Iíll be there in about a half hour."
"Right. See you there." He left, smiling.
Sabrina surveyed the storage room one last time to make sure that she didnít miss anything, then went outside to the street.
A gentleman tapped her on the shoulder.
"Yes?" She questioned, turning around.
He blew some white powder into her face.
Suddenly she sneezed, then everything went dark.
When she awoke she found herself tied firmly to a chair. She shook her head and realized her mistake as everything started to spin crazily.
"I was wondering when youíd join us," Donna commented with false concern.
Sabrinaís gaze snapped upwards towards the voice.
"Pete tried an experimental knock-out powder on you," Donna explained helpfully. "Unfortunately it has a few side effects, so the DODís still working out the kinks. All in all it still does a pretty good job, wouldnít you say?"
"Side effects?" Sabrina whispered, trying to sound stronger but her head was pounding.
Donna nodded. "That sneeze just before you lose consciousness, dizziness, severe headache, nausea. Of course the DOD isnít too concerned about those last three, but the sneeze just about makes it worthless. They only last a few hours. Donít worry. Youíll be dead long before that."
"Iím surprised you havenít killed me already," Sabrina observed, glaring icily at her.
"It was tempting, believe me. But first I want to know who else youíve told about our little operation."
Sabrina stared at her in disbelief. "Youíve got to be kidding."
Donna shook her head and smiled. "Not at all. You will tell me."
"Let me make her talk," Pete pleaded, coming into the foreground.
"We can do this the easy way or the hard way," Donna continued smoothly. "You could tell me now, and Iíll try to make sure your death is relatively quick and painless. Otherwise Pete will find out for me, and he does have his ways. Heís a man that really loves his work."
Sabrina forced herself to remain silent, but her eyes involuntarily darted over towards him.
"I thought Iíd gotten rid of you two years ago," Donna confessed ruefully, enjoying the situation before her. "I have to admit that at first I was a little miffed that the explosion missed, but then I realized that it was poetic. You tried to destroy my life, so why shouldnít I be the one to destroy yours?"
Sabrina took a deep breath and kept a tight reign on her temper.
"Still wonít talk?" Donna prodded, pouting. She knew that Sabrina wouldnít crack, and she relished seeing how tough Sabrina would remain after Pete was finished. "Oh, well. Pete will fix that. After heís finished youíll wish that youíd died in that explosion." She glanced at her watch. "Iíd better leave you to it, then. Iíll come back a little later to see how things go." She left the room chuckling.
Sabrina started trying to free herself from the ropes but only succeeded in having them cut deeper into her wrists.
"I didnít know you were into pain, baby," Pete cooed, enjoying her discomfiture. "Youíll have plenty of that by the time Iím through." He leaned forward to rip open the buttons on her blouse.
She stared at him impassively for a few seconds, then without flickering an eyelash she kicked him hard between the legs.
He screamed in agony as he collapsed on the floor beside her. After a minute or two the pain receded somewhat and he rose unsteadily to his feet. "Youíre going to be sorry you did that," he hissed furiously, slapping her in the face.
The blow was so forceful that it almost snapped her head off. "Go to hell," she whispered stubbornly, blood trickling from the cut on her lip.
Peteís eyes opened wide with surprise. Usually at this point his victims were promising anything by now. Suddenly he grinned. He always did like a challenge. His eyes glazed over a bit as he was planning just what heíd do to break her.
Suddenly there was a tap on his shoulder.
Pete glanced up in surprise. Heíd been so engrossed that he hadnít heard anyone enter.
Lee Stetson was standing over him, eyes blazing in fury. He quickly gave Pete a right cross followed by a wicked left hook that was so hard you could hear the jawbone break.
Pete sailed across the room, head crashing onto the floor, unconscious.
Lee started to untie Sabrinaís ropes. "You okay?" He asked in concern.
"Uh huh," she answered breathlessly, wishing the room would stop spinning. He was the last person sheíd expected to see. "How did you find me?"
"I got worried when you didnít show up," he admitted, struggling with a stubborn knot. "Xiang told me about this place after a little Ė persuasion." The knot finally came undone and he yanked the ropes out of the way. "Come on. Weíve got to get out of here. Someoneís bound to have heard all that."
She nodded and got to her feet, rubbing her sore wrists.
He grabbed her hand. "Letís go."
Donna came into the room. "Whatís going on in here? Ė " she broke off as she surveyed the scene before her. Suddenly she turned and ran out.
Lee and Sabrina hurried after her.
Donna hurried outside, jumped into a nearby speedboat and sped off.
Lee and Sabrina were close behind on the dock.
Sabrina stared at the boat and froze, all the color draining from her face.
Lee glanced around and spied an unattended speedboat. "Come on!" He shouted, taking her hand to pull her along. He suddenly found himself met with resistance. Surprised, he turned to face her. "Whatís wrong?" He asked blankly.
She stared straight ahead, unmoving.
Suddenly it dawned on him. "Look, you just stay here. Iíll be right back."
She blinked and shook his hand off. "Youíll have to drive." She jumped into the boat and pulling her revolver out.
He shrugged his shoulders and hopped in beside her.
Soon the two of them were chasing the speedboat across the water.
Sabrina fired several shots after them.
Suddenly the boat sped straight ahead into the pier and exploded.
Lee slowed the motor of their speedboat and turned them around. "Hey, nice shooting," he complimented.
She slowly put her gun down and started shivering. The adrenaline was wearing off and shock was starting to set in. She closed her eyes and hugged herself hard, doubling over slightly.
"I didnít know you got seasick," he teased.
"Not really," she whispered.
He abruptly realized what was wrong and put the boat on automatic pilot, then hurried over to her side. "Here, sit down. Iíll be back in a second." He helped her over to the nearby hatch and carefully lowered her to a seating position. He then made his way quickly to the back of the boat, digging through the supplies until he found a blanket. He took it over to her and draped it around her tightly.
She looked up at him gratefully.
He went back to the wheel and gunned the motor. "Weíll be on land in no time."
Suddenly Bosley, Kris and Kelly appeared on the dock.
"Uh-oh," he muttered darkly, not knowing who these strangers were on the dock.
"What?" Sabrina whispered, glancing towards the dock. "The cavalryís arrived."
"You sure?" He asked dubiously.
"Theyíre my friends," she affirmed, nodding.
"Itís about time," he sighed in relief, speeding over to where they were standing and pulling the boat into the slip.
Sabrina got slowly to her feet and went over to the side of the boat. She tried to climb out but her knees started to give way.
Lee put his arms around her and helped her disembark.
She walked straight into Bosleyís arms and started shaking, closing her eyes again.
Bosley held her in his arms tightly, imagining what was going through her mind.
Kris ran over, grabbed the rope and tied the boat firmly to the moorings.
"What happened?" Kelly asked in alarm.
"We saw the boat explode," Bosley added. "Are you all right?"
Lee nodded. "Weíre fine. I think Watsonís operation is closed for good." He looked over towards Sabrina. "I can wait for the police and give them the wrap-up if you want."
Sabrina turned to face him. "That would be great, thanks."
Kris hurried back to them. "Wow! Do you see that kind of action often?"
"Itís all in a daysí work," Lee said confidently, smiling. He glanced around uncertainly. "I guess I should call the local cops. Anyone see a telephone?"
Kris pointed to the arriving harbor police. "There they are now. Want me to wait with you?" She smiled invitingly.
"Sure." After a few seconds he turned to Sabrina. "Could I talk to you for a minute?"
She took a deep breath. "I guess."
Bosley squeezed her encouragingly.
She smiled faintly and walked a few feet away with Lee, her back to the water.
"You really did a great job out there," he complimented sincerely. "Would you be interested in coming to the Agency? Weíre always looking for new recruits."
She smiled faintly. "No, thanks. DCís too cold for me. I was going to ask if you wanted to come work for Justice."
He shook his head. "Thanks anyway. Oh, um, your friend Kris."
She rose her eyebrows in surprise.
"Is she seeing anyone?"
Sabrina smiled. "No, sheís single."
"Are you sure?" He asked dubiously.
"As she says, single and ready to mingle."
"Good," he sighed in relief. Suddenly he took her hand and shook it firmly. "Maybe weíll work together again some time."
"Maybe," she agreed.
They walked back over to the others.
"Are you ready?" Lee asked. "I donít know much about the nightlife here. Can you recommend someplace?"
"Sure," Kris answered eagerly, taking her hand in his. They walked off together towards the Coast Guardís cutter.
"He is cute," Kelly commented after they were out of earshot.
"It would be like dating Clint Eastwood," Sabrina replied, rolling her eyes.
"I think we should take you to the emergency room," Bosley stated worriedly, taking his handkerchief out of his pocket and gently brushing the dried blood off of her swollen cheek.
"Iíll be all right, Bos," Sabrina answered wearily. "I just need to go home and unwind."
"Are you sure?"
"Iíll go get the car," he said as he walked off.
"He could make my day any time," Kelly grinned.
"Well, he does have a cute butt," Sabrina was forced to admit. Suddenly her cheek throbbed painfully. "Iím getting too old for this," she sighed wearily.
Bosley pulled up alongside them.
Kelly took Briís arm and helped her to the car. "Come on. You know how Bos hates to be kept waiting."
Sabrina laughed. "Some things never change."
* * * * *
About six weeks later Lee was at the Amtrak station in Arlington, Virginia, trying to catch his breath and get his bearings and maintain his firm grip on the package. He didnít know what was in it, but it had to be important or Ron wouldnít have been killed smuggling it out of the mansion.
Suddenly he thought he spied a familiar face in the crowd. ĎSabrina!í He thought in relief, smiling as heíd thought he had unexpected help. He watched her for a few seconds and realized that he was mistaken. This woman bore a slight resemblance to her in the shape of the face but the body language, hair and entire demeanor were all wrong. He stayed on the side of the stationary Amtrak train and watched carefully. He had to do something! There were too many people around and an innocent bystander might get hurt.
The woman watched her male friend get on the train and then waved as the train pulled out.
He came to a decision. After all, her counterpart had great instincts. Hopefully this stranger would as well. He looked around again and saw those two goons gaining on him.
He slipped under the stationary train and waited until the woman was coming towards him. He grabbed her and spun her around, putting his arm around her and dragging her with him in the opposite direction.
"Excuse me!" She snapped angrily, trying to pull away.
"Just walk with me." He pleaded, glancing over his shoulder anxiously.
"I certainly will not!"
"Please, Iím in trouble."
"No! Iíve got to go." She jerked away from him and started walking in the opposite direction.
He grabbed her again and forcibly turned her around to face him again. "Wait! Just one more thingÖplease."
"No!" She stared at him in disbelief. Couldnít he take the hint already?!
"Iím in trouble. Please!" He begged.
Her gaze wavered as he seemed sincere enough.
"What is it you want me to do?" She asked resignedly.
He urgently shoved the package towards her and put her hands around it in relief. "Just take this. Get on the train. Itís a matter of life and death."
"Life and death?" She repeated suspiciously. Was this some kind of joke?
He nodded. "Hand it to the man in the red hat."
She stared at him for a few seconds, trying to figure out what was going on. "Is this for real?"
"Look!" He exploded, running out of patience. Time was running out and he noted that the two thugs spotted him and started making their way towards him again. "Just get on the train. Hand it to the man in the red hat. You can get off at the next stop and forget all about this. But do it!" He hurried off before the thugs realized that the package had been handed off.
She watched in a mixture of amusement and disbelief.
He waved her on the train furiously. ĎDamn her! Why doesnít she just do it already?!í
She waved at him unsurely and finally started boarding the train.
He sighed in relief and hurried in the opposite direction, pretending that he still had the package tucked securely under his jacket.
The end? It was only the beginning.
(Note: The above scene was taken word for word from the pilot episode of "Scarecrow and Mrs. King", original air date October 3, 1983, written by Eugene Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner. Many thanks, guys!)
* "Teen Angels" (aired episode)
** DOD = Department of Defense