By: E. Eileen
Summary:This is an answer to the challenge of what would happen if Lee and Amanda’s roles were reversed when they first met.
Disclaimer:These characters do not belong to me. They are the property of Shoot The Moon and Warner Brothers production companies. I have, however, altered them slightly to fit my needs.
Author's notes:Some of the dialogue may sound familiar to you. I wanted to keep some of it intact. Some of the dialogue will be close, but slightly skewed. I have maintained the characters of Billy Melrose, Francine Desmond and Internal Affairs Director Dirk. If you think something is an inside joke, you’re probably correct.
Special thanks to my beta goddesses--you know who you
are! Thank you so very much!
“Hey, gorgeous. Where have you been hiding yourself?”
Amanda King inwardly groaned as she heard the male voice behind her. She turnedaround and flashed a charming smile at the gentleman. “Randall. Hello. How have youbeen?” She didn’t have time for this right now. It was nearly 12:30. She was scheduledto meet Agent Warner in fifteen minutes. If there was one person she really didn’t want todeal with right now (aside from anyone in the KGB, of course) it was Randall.
Randall Babcock scanned Amanda up and down, taking in every inch of her. She lookedstunning. The black evening suit was tailor made to fit her like a glove. Her soft brownhair was pulled up, exposing her graceful neck. The only thing that didn’t seem presentwere her brown eyes. They didn’t hold their usual sparkle, instead they searched the crowd anxiously. “It’s been awhile,” he lamely attempted to gain her attention. “I haven’t heard from you.”
Amanda glanced briefly in his direction. “Yeah, I’ve been out of town. Business. Look, Randy, I’m really sorry, but I’m supposed to meet somebody, so if you’ll excuse me...”
As she extricated herself from Randall’s company, he tried one more time, “Call me?”
She gave him a little smile. “I will. As soon as my schedule lightens up. Goodnight,Randall.”
Amanda made her way through the crowd. She was supposed to meet Warner in the study. She hated these parties. The same people. The same conversations. The only reason she attended as a rule was as part of her job. Tonight was no exception. She glanced around to make sure no one observed her before she entered the room. Warner stood there waiting anxiously for her arrival. “Alice. Finally,” he breathed a sigh of relief.
“Warner, I’m five minutes early. What’s up? What do you have for me?”
“This.” He thrust a package into her hands. “It contains the information we’ve beenlooking for. I think they’re onto me. You need to get out of here. Marigold will be waiting at the usual drop. She’ll get the information to where it needs to go.”
Amanda was about to ask him if he had any more information when they heard the knob turning. Warner pushed her toward the window. “Get out of here,” he whispered.
Amanda bolted out the window and headed for her car, carrying the package in her hands.
Inside the study two men entered and opened fire. Warner was killed instantly. The largerof the two men went to the body on the floor and searched him. “The package isn’t here. He must have handed it off to someone.”
The other man noticed the open window and looked outside. He saw a woman’s figure running across the lawn. “The woman has it!” He raised his gun, but realized that it was too dark and she was too far away to get a clean shot. “Come on. Let’s get her!”
Both men ran from the room in pursuit of the package containing
the vital information they did not want the Americans to possess.
It was a typical morning in the Stetson home. Early morning light filled the kitchen of the modest suburban home. Patricia, ten and Jessica, eight, prepared their lunches for school as their grandfather, Daniel Stetson, watched a local cooking show, taking notes as the woman on the screen demonstrated a recipe for Yankee Doodle Pot Pie.
“Grandpa, are you really going to make that?” Patricia wrinkled her nose. "It looks gross.”
Daniel looked over at his granddaughter and smiled, “Well, someone in this house needsto cook. And it obviously isn’t going to be your dad. I’m sure it’s going to taste a lotbetter than it sounds. Mrs. Welch is a professional. She knows what she’s talking about.”
Jessica looked up at her grandfather adoringly. “Yeah. Trust Grandpa. That pot roast he made last night wasn’t totally gross.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Sweetheart.” Daniel tousled her blond hair affectionately. He looked at the clock. “Where’s your Dad?”
As if on cue, Lee Stetson, dashed downstairs in sweats and a T-shirt. He began searchingthe counter frantically, “Where’s my keys?”
“You’re not wearing that to the office, are you? I’ve heard of casual Friday, but isn’t that going a little far?” Daniel teased his son.
Lee looked up at his father with a weak smile. “No Dad, I’m supposed to take Dorothy tothe train station this morning. I’ll come back afterwards to change. What are youwatching?” He looked at the screen and groaned. “Mrs. Welch again? Oh, great. Can’t wait to see what we’re going to eat tonight. Where are those keys?”
“Did you check your jacket pocket?” Patricia offered helpfully.
“Good idea, honey,” he looked at his daughters preparing their lunch. “Hey, shouldn’t you have a piece of fruit in there? And I honestly think that one cookie apiece is enough.” He gathered the extra cookies they had placed next to their lunch sacks and returned them to the cookie jar. Kissing them each on the head, he dashed to the closet to find his coat.
He had on his denim jacket when he returned. “Got ‘em,” he said, producing his keys.
Patricia grinned. She knew her dad so well.
“When are you going to marry that girl, son? That would save a lot of time on mornings like this,” Daniel pressed Lee.
Not again, Lee groaned inwardly. “I’m just not ready,
Dad. It’s too soon. Look I gotta go. I’ll see you all after work. Have
a great day at school, girls.” He kissed them once again and was out the
door, shutting off any further marriage discussion his father may have
wanted to have.
Standing in front of the train, Dorothy Madison wrapped her hands around Lee’s waist. “My meeting we’ll probably run late, so I’ll catch the train back from New York tomorrow.”
He smiled down at her, “What time do you want me to pick you up?”
“I’ll probably get in around eight, so I’ll just take a cab to your house. You just have dinner ready.” She glanced behind her at the train. “I gotta go. I’ll call you tonight. Besides, you better get home and get changed so you’re not late for work.” She kissed him quickly and boarded the train. “I’ll call you tonight.”
“Bye, Sweetheart!” he called after her as he waved. He
waited until the train left thestation and began to walk back to his station
Meanwhile, Amanda was trying to ditch her pursuers. These guys just wouldn’t give up. So far she had kept them at bay, but now she was on foot. Thank God she had decided onthe pantsuit instead of the dress! And against wearing heels. They were gaining on her. Amanda knew that if she boarded that train to meet Marigold, they would follow her on. Then there would be no way that she could pass the information successfully. The information had to get on that train!
She only had one option and she knew it. There was no other way, unorthodox though itmay be. She searched the crowd wildly. She had to find someone.
Yes! She spotted him almost instantly. Unassuming, pleasant looking, and--if his eyes said anything at all about him--trustworthy. She quickly floated into the crowd trying to lose herself. She reached the man in the denim jacket, grabbed his arm and turned him around to walk with her in the opposite direction.
Lee Stetson was stunned. Who in the world was this woman? Her momentum carried them along and forced him to walk with her. “Excuse me?” he said incredulously.
“Walk with me.”
He looked down at this woman amazed, “What?”
“Walk with me,” she repeated in a tense voice. “I’m in trouble.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t.” He attempted to extricate himself from her grip. Man, she was strong. “I’ve got to go.” He was able to break free and began to walk away, but she caught up with him again and grabbed his arm, stopping him.
“Please. Just give me one minute.”
“I’m sorry,” Lee began to pull away again.
The woman maintained her grip, her brown eyes pleading with him, “Just one minute. I’m in trouble. Please?”
Lee looked at her closely. She certainly did look like she was in some kind of trouble. She was wearing some kind of evening pantsuit, the leg had a big rip in it. Her brown hair, which had at one time obviously been clipped up very neatly, was now disheveled. He was inexplicably drawn in. He knew he had to help her.
His hazel eyes softened and he gave in. “All right. What do you want me to do?”
The woman let out a relieved breath. She handed him the package that she had been holding protectively. “Take this. Get on the train. It’s a matter of life and death.”
“Life and death?” This sounded to crazy to be real.
“Give it to the woman in the red plaid shirt,” she continued. She was running out of time.
Okay, this was getting ridiculous. “Is this for real?” Lee asked, maybe his father was playing some weird practical joke on him.
There was no time for any more discussion. She repeated the instructions pointedly and pushed him toward the train. “Just get on the train. Give the package to the woman in the red plaid shirt. You get off at the next stop, but just do it.”
Once the woman was sure he was on the train, she dashed off down the platform. She had to make sure her pursuers still thought that she possessed the package.
Lee watched the woman run off and then noticed two men run after her. His hazel eyes bulged when they tackled her. What in the world was going on?!!! The train began to pull away from the station. There was no turning back now. But that woman... Those two men looked pretty dangerous. He hoped she was all right.
Lee repeated his instructions to himself as he walked into the passenger car, holding the package. “Give it to the woman in the red plaid shirt.” He looked up to scan the crowd, his eyes widening in horror. In the car sat about twenty-five women in red plaid shirts. This was a nightmare. What else could go wrong this morning?
The conductor approached Lee, “Ticket, please?”
Amanda walked into the Georgetown foyer of the Agency, known as International Federal Film to the outside world, holding an icebag to the back of her head. Mrs. Marsten, the guardian to the counterintelligence espionage agency, sat at her reception desk, looking at the agent’s state of disarray. “Tough night?”
“You don’t know the half of it. The word is lamppost,” she said, giving the password that would allow her into the inner sanctum.
Mrs. Marsten handed Amanda her identification badge. “Billy Melrose is looking for you.”
“I’ll bet he is,” Amanda grimaced, accepting the ID and pinning it to her evening jacket. “I’m on my way. Thank you, Mrs. Marsten.”
She opened the door to the closet, which was in actuality the elevator that would take her down to the Operations Unit. On the ride down, Amanda mulled over the events of the past twelve hours. Her head was throbbing. Those guys had really nailed her. Billy Melrose was waiting for her as she stepped off the elevator.
“My aren’t we a mess,” the black man greeted her. He looked at her torn outfit and his eyes filled with concern. “You okay?”
“Oh yeah, I’m just terrific. Can’t you tell?” she replied sarcastically. Lack of sleep had made the agent more than just a little grumpy.
“So, I hear you lost the package?” Billy stated as the walked down the hall towards the bullpen.
“Don’t I get any credit for escaping?” Amanda asked.
“How did you get away?”
“Being a woman does have its advantages. You can always scream rape. What do you think?”
“I’m not the one you have to explain it to.”
Amanda groaned. She knew what that meant.
Francine Desmond, Billy’s assistant was waiting for them at the bullpen entrance. Francine looked Amanda up and down and smirked. “I hear that you two have to reportto the principal’s office.”
Billy gave her a stern look. “You’re coming along.”
“What did I do?”
“You’re my assistant. Part of the job description is that you get to share in the blame.”
The three of them continued down the hall to the Internal Affairs Office. The director was waiting for them, grimly sitting behind his desk. Dirk looked up and eyed Amanda with contempt. “So, I hear you misplaced our package.”
“I didn’t misplace it,” Amanda replied defensively. There was no love lost between Dirk and herself.
“Oh really? Well, what exactly was in this package that you didn’t misplace?”
“As I’ve already stated, I’m not sure.” Amanda reiterated the preliminary report she had already submitted earlier that morning. “Frank Warner contacted me. He told me he was being slipped a package of information at an embassy party. I attended the party. We met, he gave me the package and I left through the study window. A moment later he was dead. I was to deliver the package to Marigold. Now, I didn’t get a chance to see what was in the package, but it supposedly contained information that would help in plugging our leak.” Although the details of the evening were given in a very professional manner they seemed to fall out of her mouth in one breath.
Dirk stood up from his desk and looked at Amanda in the eye. “Leak, Alice? I’d say that it’s a little more than a leak. A full scale flood is what it seems like to me. We can’t make a move without the KGB somehow finding out about it. Russian Intelligence seems to know our movements almost before we do. Wherever we are, they’re right behind us. We have lost four agents in the last two weeks!”
“Dirk!” Billy interjected, trying to take the focus away from his top agent. “Let me remind you that finding those leaks is my job. Not yours.”
“Usually that would be true Melrose,” Dirk said turning his anger toward the Operations Chief. “But when your boys--and girls,” he said looking pointedly at Amanda and Francine. “Can’t seem to do their jobs. It’s Internal Affairs responsibility to find the weak link.” Dirk’s eyes focused specifically on Amanda.
She closed her eyes in frustration. “I really wish you wouldn’t look at me when you say ‘weak link.’”
Billy was getting fed up with Dirk’s attacks. “Dirk, we have been doing our jobs. We’re monitoring every communications systems in the D.C. area. The KGB isn’t using any of them.”
“Well, that‘s great Melrose. “ The sarcastic tone of Dirk’s voice caused Amanda to wince. “So how exactly have you determined that they are getting their information? Are they using flags and mirrors to signal our Russian friends. And now I find out that we might have had the information that could have filled this leak, but your quarterback here,” he said, pointing to Amanda. “Fumbled the ball.”
There was a light knock on Dirk’s door and the secretary entered. “Excuse me, Sir,” she said to Dirk. “But a call just came in. Ms. King, they have just recovered Special Agent Guthrie.”
Amanda smiled triumphantly at Dirk, “Well, it seems as
if the quarterback just retrieved the ball.” She knew Marigold would come
through. Thank God that guy had gotten her the package.
The morgue worker pulled the sheet back over Agent Guthrie’s body and wheeled her away. Billy and Francine looked over at Amanda, who was looking dejectedly at the ground.
Dirk was the first one to speak. His tone full of accusation., “Your ball carrier?”
“I was being chased. I handed it off to her and she was supposed to go in for the touchdown. Why are we talking like this? I don’t even like football!” Amanda said xasperatedly.
Billy looked over at the doctor, “Did she have a package or anything on her?”
“Come on, Billy, they probably took it from her when they killed her.” Amanda couldn’t elieve this was happening. How could things have gone so wrong?
“She didn’t say anything about a package,” the doctor answered Billy.
Amanda’s head snapped up. “She was alive when you brought her in?”
“Yes. Just barely. She did say that she was supposed to meet you, but you never showed up.”
All eyes focused on Amanda. “Oh, God! I bet he didn’t give it to her,” she mumbled.
Dirk was growing impatient. “Who didn’t give it to her?”
“The guy I gave the package to.”
“You gave vital information to a civilian!” Dirk was incredulous. “Do you have any idea.how many rules that violates?”
“I didn’t have any other options. I didn’t want to lose the package.”
Francine could see that Amanda was struggling. “It was the same tactic that Amanda used successfully in Munich. It may not be textbook, but Alice always delivers the goods.”
Amanda looked at Francine, a little surprised at the support. Francine was her friend, but it was not like her to challenge her superiors. “I owe you a drink.”
Francine looked back at Amanda pointedly. “You owe me a shopping spree.”
“So, where’s the delivery? Where is the package and where is the guy she gave it to?” He looked at Billy sternly. “And I expect a report on what happened in Munich.”
Billy ignored Dirk and looked closely at Amanda. “Who is this man?”
“I don’t know.”
Dirk was furious. “What do you mean you don’t know?”
Billy glared at Dirk disapprovingly. God, he hated the guy.
Amanda looked distracted, “Whoever he is... If he still
has the package, he is in a really tight spot.”
Lee Stetson had gotten home ten minutes ago. Thank God the conductor had allowed him to pay for the ticket with cash. More importantly, thank God, he had enough money in his wallet. He had called into work and told them he wouldn’t be able to make it in. His mind was reeling. What had happened this morning? He’d pinched himself, more than once, to reassure himself that it wasn’t a dream. The proof was sitting on his kitchen table. Something told him, that whatever was in the package was going to get him into trouble. He’d come close to opening it, but he stopped himself. What force had stopped him, he wasn’t sure. He had a feeling that if that woman came back for it, she’d want it intact and unopened.
What if she did come back for it! He ran his left hand through his hair nervously. Who exactly was she? The whole thing made him incredibly uneasy. He was a normal person. Things like this didn’t happen to normal people.
If nothing else, he had to put it somewhere safe. What was he going to do?
“Dad, does Grandpa really need all this stuff?” Patricia asked, looking at the bags of groceries waiting in the cart.
“That’s what he said,” Lee smiled down at his daughter. He paid the cashier and started pushing the cart to the door. “Hey, I bought you guys ice cream, didn’t I? If dinner doesn’t turn out, we can always have that.” The girls started whooping at the mention of ice cream and started running for the car. “Hey! No running in the parking lot.”
“Hello, Sir, why don’t you let me help you with that?” a woman’s came from behind him.
“No, that’s all right,” he said turning to face the voice. “You!”
“Yes, sir. It’s my job to help you load up your car. We don’t want you straining yourback, do we?” Amanda ignored his shocked expression and took the cart, pushing it toward his car. “You didn’t deliver the package,” she said in a low voice.
“There were twenty-five women in red plaid shirts on that train!” he said trying to get the cart away from her. The reached the car and he opened the trunk.
“I want that package!”
“Good. I don’t.”
Jessica looked at Lee in cofusion. “Why are you arguing with that lady, Dad?”
Lee looked anxiously at his daughter. “We’re not arguing, Sweetheart. You girls get in the car.”
Amanda was persistent. “So, I’ll come to your house and get it.”
“No, you will not!” He quickly shut the trunk. “I’ll send it to you. Give me your address.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Fine.” He got into the car and locked the door. “Goodbye,” he called through the open window as he turned on the ignition.
Amanda grabbed hold of the drivers door. “Wait. Wait. Hold it. I have to meet with you.”
“No! Let go of my car!”
Lee began to pull out of the parking space. Amanda desperately fumbled for her business card and attached it to Lee’s windshield wiper. “Call me.”
The car pulled away and Amanda watched him drive off.
Her intuition told her that she would be hearing from him soon. She smiled
to herself as she walked back into the store. She needed to return the
uniform before anyone missed it.
Lee paced his bedroom floor staring a the business card in his hand. He turned to the phone and began to reach for the receiver. Before he got there, he quickly decided against it. What was he thinking? He couldn’t call this woman. She was obviously mixed up in something dangerous. He wasn’t going to get involved. But he was involved. The package was sitting downstairs on his dining room table, wasn’t it? He didn’t want it in his house. He wanted it and this woman out of his life. How had she found him anyway? Well, at least he had one piece of information--her name. Amanda King.
His curiosity got the better of him. He sat on his bed and picked up the phone. He quickly dialed the number before he lost his nerve. A woman’s voice answered. “5-1-2-4. Who’s calling, please?”
There was a click and a moment later he heard a familiar voice. “I thought you’d be a little curious about what was going on.”
“I called to tell you to leave me alone,” he stated firmly.
“Mr. Stetson, have you noticed any strange cars parked outside your home?”
“What? Why would there be strange cars parked outside my house?” he asked worriedly.
“It’s very possible that someone is watching you.”
“Excuse me?” This was not news he was prepared to hear.
Amanda was all business. “Look, we need to meet. I have
to speak with you and this is an unsecured line. Five o’clock.” Amanda
gave him an address and hung up before he could argue.
Lee walked into the kitchen to find his father once again glued to the television. “Don’t tell me. Let me guess.”
Jessica looked up from her homework, “Yep. He’s at it again.”
“You know, son, if it really bothers you that I watch this, you could always send me for private lessons. And believe me I wouldn’t mind. She’s quite a looker.” Daniel smiled.
“No. No. You just keep watching.”
Daniel looked at Lee curiously. “What’s going on? Your not dressed for soccer practice? You’re wearing your good sweater.”
“No, I’ve got to meet someone. I’m going to drop the girls off at their practice. Mrs.Cummings will bring them home. I may be a little late for dinner.”
“Do you want me to save you a plate?”
Lee contemplated the offer and quickly answered, “No. That’s all right. I’ll probably eat there. But I’m sure whatever you make will be terrific. Come on girls, we’ve got to go. And don’t forget, there’s ice cream in the freezer for dessert. Just in case.” He smiled at the girls conspiratorially.
Just before Lee and the girls made it out the door, Daniel stopped him. “If Dorothy calls, where should I say you’ll be?”
“At my club.” And Lee was out the door.
Lee dropped off the girls at their soccer practice and drove to the address that Amanda had given him. He exited his station wagon and the valet took his keys, looking at the car with unhidden distaste. He entered the building and encountered a sight that he wasn’t prepared for. A crowd of people in costumes mingled together, chatting amiably. He couldn’t see her and positioned himself at the bottom of a circular staircase, deciding that would be the best place for her to find him.
The voice. Her voice. She was behind him. “Yes?” He turned around and there she stood at the top of the staircase. His breath caught. She was stunning. Her elegant white gown clung to her, accentuating her dark hair and eyes. He had noticed that she was attractive before, but now... She was captivating. He looked down quickly at his own attire and realized he was horribly underdressed. Why hadn’t she told him that this was a formal function?
Amanda descended the staircase to join him. He offered her his hand. “Hello, Ms. King.”
“Amanda.” She smiled graciously, taking his hand and shaking it. She took his arm and led him into the ballroom. “I thought this may be a nicer place to meet than our previous encounters. And since we’re among friends, we can talk openly.”
Lee looked around at the crowd in amazement. “These people are your friends?”
Amanda simply smiled warmly. They arrived at the buffet table. “Would you like something to eat? Caviar?”
“No,” Lee answered uncomfortably. “I’m really not very hungry.”
Lee was about to ask her what was really going on, when an extremely handsome man, in a tuxedo approached Amanda. “Darling, it’s been ages.”
Amanda looked the gentleman up and down, “Nice tux, Calvin. New?”
“Paris. I was hoping you’d join me in a dance tonight.” Calvin didn’t seem to even know that Lee was standing right there.
“I’ll have to pencil you in for later, Calvin. I’d like to introduce you to Lee Stetson. Lee this is Calvin Shepperton.”
Calvin looked at Lee disdainfully, but extended his hand. “Hello.”
Lee shook his hand, smiling weakly. “Hello.”
Calvin inspected Lee’s casual attire. “And what are you supposed to be?”
Lee looked uncomfortably at Amanda, not knowing what to say.
“Calvin, would you excuse us. Mr. Stetson and I have some things we really need to discuss.” Amanda pulled Lee away before Calvin could react. “Let’s dance.”
“Are you always this bossy?” Lee asked a little taken aback.
“Yes,” Amanda answered simply. “But I’ll let you lead.”
They began to dance. After a few moments, Lee could no longer stay silent. “So, are you going to tell me what this is all about?”
“Of course, what do you want to know?”
“Well, first of all, how did you find me?”
“We have our ways,” Amanda answered matter-of-factly.
“That sounds like something from a cheesy spy movie.”
Amanda avoided his eyes. “Well, sometimes even ‘cheesy spy movies’ get it right.” Lee stopped dancing. Shock filled his eyes. His knees began to buckle. “Come on. Let’s get you sitting down.” Amanda led him off the dance floor to a nearby table.
Amanda grabbed two glasses of champagne. “Here drink this.”
Lee looked at her with wide eyes. “So, you’re a spy?”
“Actually, we don’t say ‘spy,’” Amanda corrected him.
“I thought you were... Well, I don’t know what I thought you were, but I definitely neverthought you were a spy.” This was not happening to him.
Amanda couldn’t suppress the little laugh that had been sitting in her throat. She then looked at him pointedly. “You do know that you can’t mention me or any of this to anyone. Not to your best friend. Your therapist. Not even your wife.”
“Girlfriend,” he corrected. “I think I get it.”
“I don’t only bring this up because of national security. Knowing any of this information could put your family in a very vulnerable position. If they don’t know anything, then they can’t be targets.”
Lee nodded his understanding. Suddenly a major flaw in this discussion occurred to him. “What about me?”
“More champagne?” Amanda avoided the question and his eyes. “Look, it’s very important that I get that package. Whatever is in it could very possibly stop a leak and save a number of lives.”
“I understand. We do have one minor problem.”
Amanda stormed into the parking garage followed by Lee, who was desperately trying to explain his position. Amanda threw up her hands in frustration and spun around to face him. Her eyes were blazing. “You knew that I needed the package! Why didn’t you just bring it with you?”
Lee was becoming a little annoyed at this woman, a complete stranger, reading him the riot act. “Look, I didn’t know who you were. What if you were one of the bad guys? I figured if I didn’t bring the package, then you wouldn’t kill me, if you needed me to get to it.”
“That’s the way your mind works? You obviously watch too many movies. Most people would have been more than happy to get rid of the package.”
Now Lee was getting mad. “Most people wouldn’t have taken the damn thing in the first place! Most people wouldn’t have even called you or met you at some dumb party! A party I might add that I was completely underdressed for! So would you please stop yelling at me!” Lee looked around at the parking garage. “Why are we down here?”
“There is no way that I am going to let those valets manhandle my brand new Lambourgini! No one touches that car, but me!” Amanda took a deep breath to calm herself down and looked him in the eye. “Look, I’m really very sorry. The package is just very, very important and I’m under a lot of pressure to get it back.”
“I understand. It’s been a kind of rough day for me, as well.”
“Look, let’s just go to your house and you can give me the package and I will be out of your life. Okay?”
“Fine.” Thinking about the package, sitting on his dining room table, Lee suddenly realized the mistake he almost made. He began to chuckle softly.
“What’s so funny?”
The chuckle became a full-blown laugh. “Oh, it’s nothing. I just almost did something really stupid with your package.”
“Oh, it’s nothing, really. You’d just laugh.”
Amanda smiled good-naturedly. “Come on, let’s go, you can tell me on the way.”
As they began to walk toward her car, a large black Sedan came barreling down the ramp. Amanda grabbed Lee’s arm and pulled him behind a row of parked cars. The Sedan screeched to a halt and two men emerged. Amanda recognized them immediately and instinctively touched the bump on the back of her head. “Damn!” Lee looked at her curiously. “They ‘re looking for the package.”
“Just stay close behind me.” Amanda continued her journey behind the cars, keeping one eye on the two men. She suddenly spotted an empty cart a few yards in front of them. Its driver was emptying a garbage can nearby. She grabbed Lee’s hand. “Come on.”
She ran for the cart and jumped on. “Get in!” she instructed Lee. At this point, the two men spotted them. Lee jumped in the cart behind Amanda. The two men quickly got back in their car and began chasing the cart. “Hold on!” Amanda yelled.
“This can’t be happening!” Lee yelled, as they barreled towards the exit. He looked behind them and saw that the black car was gaining on them. “Faster!”
“I’m going as fast as I can! This thing doesn’t have a lot of power!”
Lee stifled the scream that was threatening to escape his lips. He was scared, but there was no way he was going to let her know that. As they emerged from the parking garage, he spotted a limousine headed right for them. “Hit the brakes!”
“I don’t think this thing has brakes!” Amanda screamed back. It was too late. She swerved to miss the limo as it swerved in the opposite direction to miss the cart. The limo crashed right into a fire hydrant. Water spouted up from the ground dousing the limousine and the cart. A crowd quickly developed around the accident. Lee instinctively tried to use his coat to protect them from the onslaught of water.
From inside the car the larger of the two men said, “There
are too many people. We’ll get them later.” The driver nodded and sped
Daniel Stetson shook his head, trying to suppress his laughter at his son’s drenched state.
“Thanks, Dad,” Lee grimaced. “I’m glad you find this amusing.”
“I’m just trying to figure out what kind of club this was that you were at? Is this part of the initiation? Stay on the newspaper, would ya?”
“Sorry, Dad,” Lee apologized. “Could you get me another towel?” Lee asked, wringing out his sweater in the sink.
“Sure thing.” Daniel left the kitchen.
Making sure that his father was gone, Lee threw a couple dishtowels outside to Amanda, who was crouching in the bushes, clutching Lee’s jackets around her for warmth. “Here, use these. Careful of the flower bed.”
Amanda rolled her eyes and took the dishtowels. They’d have to do. “The package,” she said through clenched teeth.
“Here you go,” Daniel said returning with another towel.
Lee spun around to look at his father. “Thanks,” he said accepting the towel. As he dried himself off, he walked into the dining room.
“You missed Dorothy’s call,” Daniel stated. “She really wanted to talk to you.”
Lee came back in the kitchen distressed. “Where is it?”
“The package that I had sitting on the dining room table.”
“Oh, that.” Daniel put the kettle on the stove for tea. “I mailed it.”
Outside the window, Amanda’s eyes widened in horror as she heard this piece of information.
“you mailed it?”
“Well, you had it all addressed and ready to send to Aunt Lillian, so I figured I’d save you the trouble.” Daniel looked at Lee concerned. “You’re going to catch your death. I’m going to go get you a dry shirt to put on.”
As Daniel left, Lee peered out the window and looked uncomfortably at the woman in his bushes. “I didn’t know who you were and I didn’t know what it was, so I figured that I would send it someplace safe.”
Amanda stood up and glared at him. “Don’t tell me. This is the ‘stupid thing’ that you almost did with the package.”
Lee nodded, unable to meet her gaze. Things were continuing
to get worse. How was that possible?
Amanda hung up the phone in frustration. Suspended! How could she be suspended. Billy was furious with her. He had refused to call the postmaster, so that she could search through the mail and find that package that Lee had mailed off. It wasn’t as if she had planned that accident with the Assistant Chief Justice’s limousine. But they obviously blamed her for it. No amount of explaining would pacify Billy was he was in this kind of mood. She’d talk to him in the morning and make him understand. Well, if she couldn’t get to the package through normal channels, she would simply have to take care of it on her own. Well, almost alone, she was going to have to use Stetson one more time.
She stood up and handed the phone back through the window to Lee. “Well, I’m going to have to ask for your help with two more things.”
He looked at her skeptically. “What?”
“First, we have to go to that post office and find that package. And second, I need some dry clothes.”
He simply stared at her for a moment. Why was he agreeing to any of this? What was it about her that made him throw all logic out and follow her lead? “Okay, but we can’t leave until I’m sure Dad and the girls are asleep.”
Amanda sighed, she should have known. “Fine. Just get me some clothes. I can change and wait for you in your garage.”
“Okay, I’ll be right back. Just get back down.” He pushed
her head down, so that she was again crouching in the bushes.
The arrived at the post office after midnight. Amanda handed Lee a flashlight. “Shine this on the knob.”
Amanda kneeled down, pulled out the lock pick she had brought from her car and began to pick the lock. Lee’s mouth dropped open. “You’re breaking in? Isn’t that illegal?”
Amanda heard the locking mechanism click. She stood up and opened the door. “Yes. Since I’m on suspension, I have to do things they hard way.”
“It’s nothing. I’ll work it out in the morning. Meanwhile,
we’ve got a package to find. Come on.” Amanda guided a very nervous Lee
through the door.”
Later, they were surrounded by letters and boxes, but there was no sign of the package. Amanda was increasingly worried that someone had gotten here before them. “Any luck?” she looked over at Lee, who was sifting through packages on the other side of the room.
“Nothing,” he said, exhaustion and frustration beginning to take hold. “We’ve been at this for hours. I don’t think we’re ever going to find your package.”
“Well, you wrapped the darn thing. The reason I brought you along was because I thought you’d spot it.” Amanda threw down the package in her hand. “We’re wasting our time. It’s not here. They must have gotten here before us.”
Amanda opened her mouth to respond, but before the words could make it out, a bright light hit her face. “Hold it right there! Put your hands in the air!”
“Oh, great,” Amanda muttered to herself as she complied
with the man’s orders. She looked over at Lee, his hands were also raised.
His eyes met hers questioningly. She turned away, how could she have gotten
him involved in this?
Lee paced uncomfortably, outside the door marked “Internal Affairs.” The shouting that had emanated from the room, when Amanda and Mr. Melrose entered earlier, had ceased five minutes ago. He wondered if Amanda was okay. Her boss looked pretty upset with her when they were escorted in by the guards. Amanda had begun to explain, but was cut off. “Dirk’s office. Now!”
So here he stood helplessly, being “baby-sat” by a blond who had been introduced to him as Francine Desmond. She was sitting on the bench opposite the door, reading a fashion magazine. The silence was killing him. He sat down next to her, rubbing his exhausted eyes. He hadn’t gotten any sleep all night. He decided to attempt a conversation with the woman, who up to this poiint, had barely acknowledged his prescence. “So, do you enjoy your work, Ms. Desmond?” Francine looked up at him with disdain. She was really hoping she could avoid a conversation with this guy. Sure, he was attractive, but she had no interest in becoming friendly with this suburban father. “I mean, do you get out a lot, or is it mainly just tapping phones?”
Civilians. Francine pasted a smile on her face, “What is it exactly that you do?” she asked, steering the conversation away from herself.
“Well, I work for a computer company.” Francine eyebrows shot up suddenly. Maybe he wasn’t so bad. “I’m a sales rep.” Francine’s smile faded. Nope. Her first impression was correct. No future in sales reps. She looked back towards her magazine. “I know it sounds a little boring, but it’s not so bad.”
“I’m sure it isn’t.” Francine didn't even look up from her magazine.
“I also coach my daughters’ soccer team and help out organizing events for the PTA, when I have time. I keep myself pretty busy.”
Lee was saved from trying to make any further conversation. The door to the office opened and Amanda exited, followed by Mr. Melrose. “Drop off Mr. Stetson and get back here. I’m not finished with you.” Billy headed back to his office. “Francine, are you coming?”
“I’ll be right there, Billy.” Francine stood up. “How’d it go in there?’ she asked Amanda.
“Oh, you know...” Amanda was vague. She didn’t want to discuss this in front of Lee. “I’ll catch you up later.”
“Oh, before you go, I have a question.”
“Well, I’m cooking dinner for Jack in Purchasing...” Francine began.
“Hold it!” Amanda could barely suppress you amusement. “You’re cooking? Since when do you cook?”
“I decided it was about time. I’ve been seeing Mrs. Welch for private lessons. She’s great.”
Lee grinned. “Mrs. Welch? My father watches her show all the time.”
“Well, she’s legendary. The First Lady even asks for her advice. Anyway, I’m making this new recipe. I wanted your advice on a wine to serve with duck.” She looked at Amanda expectantly.
“Well, you can’t wrong with the ‘81 Pomard.” Amanda smiled. “But we are talking about Jack. I don’t think you need to ply him with expensive wine.”
“I know. I just want this to be nice. Thanks.” Francine headed to Billy’s office.
Amanda turned towards Lee and shrugged. “Francine’s a
mystery. Even to me. Come on. Let’s get you out of here.”
Lee and Amanda walked briskly along the Capitol Mall. Amanda’s first thought was getting him out her life and getting back to her job. However she had this nagging feeling, deep inside of her, that he was exactly what she needed. No, she thought. She didn’t need anyone. He would only cause complications. What if he got in trouble? She couldn’t face losing someone else and having it be her fault. She’d lost too many people already. She had to get rid of him before he got too close.
When they reached the top of the Jefferson Memorial steps, Amanda turned to him. “I’m really sorry to have gotten you involved in all of this.”
Lee looked a little surprised. “That sounds like a good-bye.”
“Well, that’s because it is. You have another life to get back to.”
Lee knew that she was right, but for some reason he didn’t want for this to be over. “Well, what about you? Don’t you have a life that you need to get back to?”
Amanda was reminded of her suspension. “Not so you’ve noticed. My life is my work, and that’s been placed on hold.”
“No boyfriend? No close friends?”
“You know the word ‘loner?’” Amanda pointed to herself.
“Well, I hope you don’t go to any of those singles’ clubs. You’ll never meet a decent guy...”
Amanda cut him off, chuckling at his concern. “Don’t worry about it, okay? I can take care of myself.”
“What about the holidays? Do you have someone to be with?”
This had been a little amusing at first, but now he was getting a little too personal and she was becoming uncomfortable. “Stetson! Let it go! I happen to like being on my own. You’ll notice that I don’t even have a partner.”
“Actually, I hadn’t noticed that. But that’s probably because we’ve been working together.”
This was unbelievable. “No. No. No. You are not a partner. You were convenient. A partner is someone who laughs at your jokes. Backs you up with your boss when you cross the line. And then one day dies in your arms, because he won a coin toss.” Amanda’s voice rose as she fought to hold back the memories.
Lee saw Amanda struggling to push the emotions back down. She was fighting to keep her cool. He wanted to be there for her. “Were you two friends for a long time?”
Amanda steeled herself. “Not long enough.” Amanda stuck out her hand to Lee. She had to get out of there. “Good-bye Lee. Have a good life.”
Lee accepted her hand. “Will I see you again?”
“No.” Amanda’s answer was final.
“What are you going to do now?”
“I’m going to get myself off suspension. Solve this case. Clear my name. And then I’m going to go to Nedlinger’s and have a couple of drinks.” Amanda said in a business-like tone.
Lee could tell that she had closed herself off again. “Oh. Well, good luck. I hope everything works out for you. Good-bye.”
Amanda looked back at him one last time and quickly walked
away. Lee followed her with his eyes. Even though she had said that they
would never see each other again, something told him that wasn’t necessarily
the case. Something told him that this far from over.
Lee and Dorothy were snuggling on the couch that evening, after having a lovely dinner. It was good to have her back home. She had brought the entire family presents from the media convention. The girls had loved their autographed pictures that Dorothy had managed to get for them. Lee still didn’t understand what they saw in that Pierce Brosnan guy.
Lee snuggled in closer to Dorothy, kissing her cheek. “I missed you.”
Dorothy smiled happily, “I missed you, too. Especially, when you weren’t here last night, for me to talk to.”
“Oh, well, I was at my new club...” he fumbled. He hated lying to her. He hated lying period, but he’d ended up doing a lot of it in the past thirty-six hours. He had managed to explain his absence last night to his father. He had told him that he had gotten an emergency phone call from the office and had to go in to fix a problem. Daniel looked a little skeptical, but seemed to accept the explanation.
Lee’s main problem right now was that even though he was lying on the couch with Dorothy, his mind kept drifting back to Amanda. He was imaging her sitting at home alone on Christmas or fighting off unwanted advances from some leech. He wasn’t sure why he was bothered by this. She was no longer a part of his life. A brief encounter. That’s all it was.
He heard one of the girls clear their throat. He sat up suddenly. He saw both girls standing behind the couch. Patricia looked very uncomfortable and Jessica looked smugly at her sister. “What’s going on? Shouldn’t you girls be in bed?”
Jessica nudged her sister. “Patricia has something to tell you.” She looked at her sister, “Now you’re going to get it.”
Lee looked Patricia. She looked a little green. “What’s going on?”
Patricia fumbled for the words to confess to her father. “I, um... “ She looked to Jessica for help, but quickly realized that she wasn’t going to get it. “I opened the present.” She knew that her dad was going to be upset.
Lee sat up even straighter. “What present?”
“The one on the dining room table.”
“You mean, the one I put out to be mailed?”
“Uh-huh.” Patricia nodded.
“Remember? Just like you did last year.” Jessica added helpfully. Patricia was such a snoop.
Jessica...” Lee warned. Then he turned his attention back to Patricia and posed the question again. This could be the break that would help Amanda. “Was that the present you opened?” Patricia nodded, not able to meet her father’s gaze. “How much of it did you see?”
“All of it, I guess,” Patricia confessed. “It was just a music box.”
“Yeah, the uh, the music box, “ Lee covered, hoping he didn’t sound surprised at the package’s contents.
Patricia’s voice became emphatic. “But I’m not the one who broke it. It didn’t work before I shook it and the card fell out.”
“Card?” Lee asked. “What kind of a card?”
“Just a little card with writing on it.” Patricia admitted,
filling Lee in with the rest of the details. After she completed her confession,
Lee ushered the girls back to bed. When he got back downstairs, he made
an excuse to Dorothy, explaining that he had gotten up early to go into
the office and asked if they could get together tomorrow night. After she
left, he went to the phone.
Amanda paced outside the Capitol Building. She looked at her watch. Where was he? He sounded desperate on the phone. “Psst!” she heard behind her. She looked around trying to determine the direction the noise came from. She spotted Lee peeking around a corner. “Psst!”
Amanda shook her head and walked over to him. If the situation wasn’t so dire, it would almost be funny. Lee emerged from his hiding spot. “Hi.”
“Cute place,” Amanda indicated their surroundings. “Do you come here often?”
Lee looked a little hurt. He’d been so proud of himself for establishing the perfect meeting place. “Isn’t this where you people usually meet. You know, kind of dark and isolated?”
Amanda chuckled. “Now, I know you’ve been watching too many movies.”
“All right. You caught me.” Lee had to laugh, as well. “So, I wrote this down just the way Patricia remembered. Man, she’s got a great memory. You know, she gets that from me.” He saw the slightly annoyed look in Amanda’s eyes and cut his reverie short. “Sorry. The card in the music box had ‘Duck a la Nathan Hale, Valley Forge Flapjacks and Pilgrim’s Peach Puff’ written on it.” Lee looked at her with a pleased smile on his face, thinking he’d helped solve the case.
Amanda, on the other hand, was nonplused. “That’s it?”
“What do you mean ‘that’s it?’ Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
“No.” Amanda shook her head.
His disappointment was evident. “Look I’ll run it through crypto and see if they come up with anything... But to tell you the truth, it doesn’t help much.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought it would.”
Amanda could see that he was really trying. And although the information didn’t help that much she was touched. “I know you did. And believe me, I appreciate your help. But, I really think you should just stay away from all of this and forget you ever met me. People in my business have years of training. This could get dangerous. You could end up getting yourself hurt. Even worse, you could end up screwing things up.”
Lee’s facial features darkened. He was only trying to help. Why did she insist on insulting him. “Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to ‘screw’ anything up, now would I? You think this is fun for me? You think I’m having a good time? My life has been in utter chaos since I met you! I was only trying to help you get your job back!”
Amanda’s tone was calm. “I have my job back. Billy called me right before you did. There was another murder tonight.”
Lee’s jaw dropped, forgetting his previous anger. “Another agent was killed?”
Amanda’s tone remained business-like, “Jeffries. A really nice guy, too. The night before last it was Fielding in Portland. Billy’s giving me another assignment tomorrow.”
Lee all of a sudden felt very concerned. Something was nagging at him. He looked her in the eyes, his voice soft, “You’ll be careful, won’t you.”
His caring tone startled Amanda, but she didn’t let it
show. “Of course. Stetson, I told you before. I can take care of myself.
Thanks for your help. Now, it’s time for you to get back to your family.”
She patted him on the arm and was gone.
The next morning, Lee still could not shake the feeling
that something was wrong and that he had the answer. If only he could focus.
The girls were at the park and his father was at a neighbor’s house. He
decided to go to the garage and lift weights. That always seemed to help
him come up with answers to difficult questions. He started with the bench
press. Lying down on the bench he started his set. Lifting up, he muttered,
“Duck a la Nathan Hale.” He lowered the weight and lifted again. “Valley
Forge Flapjacks.” He lowered and lifted. “Pilgrim’s Peach Puff.” He lifted
and lowered “Duck a la Nathan Hale...” It suddenly hit him. Recipes. They
were all recipes! He replaced the weight it its cradle and quickly ran
for the house.
Daniel Stetson entered the house and found the kitchen counter littered with recipe books that his son was searching through. Lee was oblivious to his presence. “Have you decided to take up cooking, too?”
Lee looked up from the cookbooks. “Dad!” He picked up two notecards that he found. “These two recipes? I found them in the recipe box, but I can’t find them in any of the cookbooks.”
“Well, of course not. They’re original recipes from Mrs. Welch’s “Colonial Cookery” show.”
“Mrs. Welch?” Somehow that didn’t surprise Lee. “Did you watch her program today?” There was still one recipe that Lee couldn’t find and he had a feeling that he knew what would appear on today’s program.
“No. Mrs. Patterson had a clogged drain and asked if I
could take a look at it for her. She’s such a lovely woman. “ He saw the
disappointment in his son’s eyes. “But if the VCR worked, I should have
it on tape.”
Daniel and Lee sat in front of the television, watching the opening credit’s for “Colonial Cookery.” Daniel looked back at his son curiously, a little surprised at his sudden interest in the show he’d been teasing him about for so long. Lee simply smiled back. Mrs. Welch’s voice interrupted their thoughts.
“Welcome to my home.” The pleasant looking woman smiled at her audience. “Now, I want you to set those ovens at exactly 400 degrees. And the time is important here. We will be baking for exactly one hour. ‘And what is this dish?’ you ask.” Lee leaned closer to the television mouthing the words he knew she was going to utter. “Pilgrim’s Peach Puff.”
Lee’s suspicions confirmed, he quickly left the couch and headed for his bedroom to make a very important phone call.
“Doesn’t that sound delicious?” Daniel turned to find his son no longer there. “Lee?”
Upstairs, Lee attempted to call Amanda to tell her what
he discovered. The operator informed that he wasn’t answering the phone.
The nagging feeling was becoming unbearable.
Amanda parked her metallic blue Lambourgini in the alley behind the old apartment building. She was scheduled to meet her contact here at four o’clock. She looked cautiously around, the hairs on the back of her neck bringing to stand on end. Something didn’t feel right. She pushed the feeling to the back of her mind. This was just a simple meet. She adjusted her leather jacket, closed the door to her car and headed for the fire escape.
As she ascended the ladder, a man sitting in a car across from the alley spoke into a walkie-talkie. “Pilgrim’s Peach Puff is entering the building.
Amanda reached the window to the third floor, pulled out
her gun and carefully entered the building. She made way down the hall
to apartment 312. Right before she knocked on the door, her world went
Lee stood in the reception area of the TV station. He cradled the telephone between his ear and his shoulder as he kept an eye on the girls from the soccer team. They were running wildly around the room, but he was too busy on the phone to do more than occasionally repremand them. The operator from the Agency finally got back on the line and explained that Ms. King was not answering her phone.
“Could you try her one more time, please?”
The operator was adamant. “I’m sorry, sir. I’ve already tried her line twice.”
“Well, could you see if she’s picked up any of messages?”
“Hold on one moment and I’ll check for you.”
As he waited, Jessica came up to him, holding her soccer ball. “Dad, could you show me that knee bounce again?”
“Just one second, Sweetheart. I’m on hold. I promise, I’ll get to it as soon as I’m done.”
The operator returned. “No, I’m sorry, sir. She hasn’t picked up her messages.”
Lee was growing concerned. “Isn’t that unusual? She told me that she picks up her messages every two hours, without fail.” He heard a click. “Hello?” The dial tone buzzing in his ear told him the operator was no longer on the line. He replaced the phone in its cradle.
Lee heard a man clear his voice. He looked up to see the receptionist in front of him holding a printout. “Here are the broadcast dates of each of Mrs. Welch’s recipes that you asked for.” The man gave him a quizzical look.
Lee accepted the printout. “Thank you very much. These recipes will be perfect for our soccer team’s bake sale.”
“Uh-huh.” The man didn’t seem convinced.
Lee moved away from the man’s desk and went to sit on
the couch in the waiting area. He tried one more time to calm the girls
down. “We’re almost finished here and then we’ll head for the field.” Lee
scanned the printout for the specific recipes. He found exactly what he
was looking for. Duck a la Nathan Hale was broadcast the same day that
Fielding died in Portland. Valley Forge Flapjacks was aired the same day
Jeffries was killed. Pilgrim’s Peach Puff was on today. His mind raced.
Amanda had a mission today and she hadn’t checked in yet. His mind was
going in a direction that he really didn’t like. He had to help her. But
how? “This is none of my business,” he muttered aloud.
Daniel met Lee and the girls outside the TV station. “Oh, Dad, thanks a lot. I really appreciate this. Could you just take the girls to the field and supervise practice today?”
“Of course, I will. But where are you off to? Is something wrong?” Lee was not acting like himself.
Lee tried to appear calm. “Everything’s fine. Just supervise practice. Take the girls home when you’re finished. I shouldn’t be home too late.”
“Don’t forget, Dorothy’s coming over for dinner,” Daniel reminded his son. “You know, if you don’t mind me saying so, you’ve been acting a little weird lately, Lee. Is there anything you need to tell me?”
“It’s really nothing. I just have an emergency I have to take care of... At my club.” Lee hurried off toward his station wagon.
“Another initiation, son?” Daniel called after him.
Amanda slowly regained consciousness. Her head was killing her. She started to reach up and rub it, but quickly discovered that her hands were handcuffed behind her. She took a moment and let her eyes focus. She had to assess the situation. Dark room, no windows, and the damp and musty smell--she was in a basement somewhere. One door leading out. She braced herself against a wall and pulled herself to a standing position. She’d been in tighter situations than this before. She couldn’t reach her lock pick. She had to find something else. She looked around, straining her eyes in the dark room, looking for something to use on the handcuffs.
The door to the room suddenly opened. One of the thugs
from the train station entered. “Well, well, well... It looks like you’re
awake and ready to talk...”
Lee drove up to the front gate of Mrs. Welch’s estate. He looked around, trying to think of a way to get inside. He spotted a man unloading fruits and vegetables from a truck and placing them next to an open cellar door. That seemed to be the easiest way to enter the house. Now all he had to do was come up with a distraction.
Enter the house?!! What was he thinking?!! He put his fingers on the key to start the car back up. The nagging feeling was still there. Amanda was in that house. He just knew it. He had to help her. “I hope one day, I can look back on this and laugh,” he muttered to himself as exited the car.
The vegetable man was kneeling by a crate on the ground, inspecting the produce. Suddenly, Lee came up with an idea. He picked up a cantaloupe that had fallen on the ground. “Excuse me, sir?” The man looked up at Lee. “You dropped your melon.” He handed the melon to the man, who didn’t make a move to accept it. Lee decided to plunge ahead. “Do you know if Mrs. Welch is in? My daughters’ soccer team is looking for local celebrity sponsors...”
“Mrs. Welch doesn’t see unannounced guests. You’ll need to call and make an appointment.”
“Oh, of course,” Lee started to back away. The man turned around to get back to what he was doing, before the interruption. Seeing the man wasn’t looking at him, Lee placed the cantaloupe back on the truck, so it was teetering on top of a bunch of oranges. This caused the oranges to spill off the back of the truck and all over the ground. “Oh, I’m sorry.”
“You idiot!” The man scooted around the ground trying to retrieve the oranges. Lee helped for a moment until he saw that the man was engrossed in his task. He then slipped down the cellar stairs unnoticed. From behind him he heard the man yelling, “Hey mister, where did you go?”
Lee ducked behind a corner in the cellar to avoid being seen. The man came down the cellar stairs and started searching for Lee. Lee scooted around the corner and found a new hiding place. After a few moments of searching without success, the man gave up and went back upstairs to try and find Lee there.
Lee quietly began to search the cellar. Something deep inside told him that Amanda was down here. He began to round a corner, but stopped short when he heard voices. The He followed the sound through the halls. The door at the end of the hallway he was in seemed to be where the voices were coming from. As he was about to walk closer, he saw the doorknob turn. He ducked into a nearby room. He watched through the tiny diamond shaped window in the door as the door at the end of the hall opened. A tall man emerged. Behind him, staring stoically at her captor, was Amanda. "I'll be back, Ms. King. I think you're lying. I don't think there is any Operation Pinnochio."
Amanda looked at him, her voice showing no emotion, “Maybe. If I’m not lying, you were very smart in not killing me. If I am, then I’ve bought myself a little time.”
“Yeah. About twenty minutes. I’ll be back.” The man closed the door behind him. Lee ducked down and heard the man’s footsteps pass by the door. Lee was about to see if he could help Amanda when he felt the floor he was standing on shift. When the room began to ascend, Lee realized he had hidden in some kind of an elevator. A moment later, the room lurched to a stop. He cautiously stood back up and peered through the window again. Apparently, it must have been a dumbwaiter of some kind, because he stared out into a kitchen. He vaguely recognized it as the one from "Colonial Cookery," though he wasn't sure if it was because of the kitchen or because he saw Mrs Welch standing in the middle of it, talking to someone in a chair across the table. Lee couldn't tell who she was talking to because the older woman blocking his view
“Always remember dear, cooking is an art form,” he heard Mrs. Welch instruct. “And our tummies are nature’s museum.” Where did she come up with this stuff?!! Mrs. Welch picked up something from the table and walked toward the door. Lee ducked down out of sight. The door opened and something was placed on the rack inside. “The soufflé is delicious!” She closed the door.
“I feel a little woozy, Mrs. Welch,” a familiar voice complained. Lee stood back up and looked through the window again. He shifted positions to get a better view. He couldn’t believe his eyes! The voice belonged to Francine Desmond!
“Not to worry,” Mrs. Welch soothed. “It’s probably the 200-year-old sherry we put in the sauce. Just relax.” Francine looked odd to Lee. Her head began to slump forward.
Mrs. Welch took Francine’s face in her hands. She looked over at the other woman who was in the kitchen and beckoned her over, “Olga.” Mrs. Welch turned her attention back to Francine. “Now, Francine, the last time you told us that the Agency codes in the Tampa, Florida zone were going to be changed.”
“Special Agent Elwood Davis will be arriving in Tampa tomorrow.” Francine slurred.
Olga checked her clipboard and looked at Mrs. Welch. “You refer to Agent Davis as ‘Pears Paul Revere.’”
“That’s very good, Francine. Now, the usual Tampa rendezvous in the rear of the Furniture Mart?”
Francine seemed to be thinking through a fog. “Yeah.” She was slipping away.
Mrs. Welch tried to get her to focus. “Francine! The time? What about the time?”
Mrs. Welch looked at Olga. “300 degrees.” She regarded Francine again, “Will he have a partner?”
Shaking her head, Francine answered sleepily, “No... no partner.”
Mrs. Welch let go of Francine’s face and turned to Olga. “Bake for one hour. Add whatever else you need to make the dish edible. Our people in Tampa will be tuning into the show tomorrow morning to get the data.”
Olga looked over at Francine. “What about her?”
Mrs. Welch’s voice was icy, “Don’t worry about her. She won’t remember a thing. She never does.” The women left the kitchen.
Lee leaned back in the elevator amazed at what he’d just
seen and heard. He had to get back down to Amanda. He had to save her and
let her know what was going on. He frantically searched for a button that
would get him back down to the basement.
“Come on!” the KGB agent pulled Amanda roughly alongside him toward the waiting helicopter. Mrs. Welch followed close behind. Lee observed all of this from his hiding place just inside the cellar. Mrs. Welch gave the agent some instructions, waved unceremoniously to Amanda and strode back to the house. Lee knew that he had to come up with something fast. He spotted the car in the driveway. That was probably their getaway car. An idea popped into his head. He carefully crept behind the waiting car.
The KGB agent thrust Amanda into the passenger side of the helicopter. “Get in!”
“Well, it’s good to see that chivalry is not dead,” Amanda muttered as she looked at the agent in disgust. Looking past him, she spotted a man peering above the car in the driveway. Oh, my God, it was Stetson. What in the hell was he doing here? The agent noticed that she was looking at something and turned to see what it was. Lee had ducked back down before he was spotted. “Hey,” Amanda said getting his attention. “Where are you taking me?”
“You’ll find out soon enough,” he growled.
Lee slowly crept up behind the man. Amanda kept a neutral face, but inside she was horrified as she saw Lee produce a Swiss Army Knife. “Freeze!” Lee screamed at the agent, hoping he sounded more confident than he felt. The man whipped around to face Lee, brandishing his gun. A slight smile crossed his face as he realized this man was no threat. He turned back to Amanda, who had whipped her legs around and soundly kicked him in the face. The man fell to the ground, unconscious. Lee ran to Amanda with a smile on his face. “That is what you say isn’t it? Freeze?”
Amanda looked a him with shock and amusement. “Yeah, but it usually helps when you have a gun. What are you doing here?”
“I’m rescuing you.”
“How did you know where to find me?” It was a strange time to ask, she realized. But she had to know.
“Well, as soon as I realized that you were ‘Pilgrim’s Peach Puff’...”
“Wait a minute! I was... Oh, God!” Amanda saw Mrs. Welch and the other agents coming out of the house. “Get in! Get in! Give me that knife, it has to have something I can use to pick the lock on these handcuffs.”
Lee got into the driver’s side of the helicopter and passed her the Swiss Army Knife.
Amanda began to fumble around with the different implements on the knife and looked squarely at Lee. “Okay, now, feet on the pedals. Right hand on the stick. Left hand down on the throttle.”
“Why?” Lee wasn’t sure he wanted the answer to this question.
“Because we’re going up.” When the agents began firing on the helicopter, Lee didn't hesitate any further in following Amanda's instructions. The helicopter rose from the ground tentatively. “Look, you focus on the stick and the throttle! I’ll handle the pedals. We’ve got to get this thing off the ground.”
The helicopter continued it’s shaky ascent. The agents and Mrs. Welch ran for their car and got in.
The helicopter was weaving around, wobbling back and forth, out of control. “Oh, God, this can’t be happening!” Lee shouted as he fought with this contraption he was trying to maneuver. It certainly wasn't as easy as driving a car!
As Amanda worked the pedals, she found the corkscrew attachment on the knife. It would have to do. She began to work the lock on the handcuffs. She looked out the window in front of her. “Why are we heading back to the house?”” she shouted at Lee.
Mrs Welch and her cohorts heard a strange sound coming from the car as they drove. “Something’s wrong.” The woman peered out the side of the car. “The tires have been slashed!” She spotted the station wagon at the end of the driveway. “There’s another car! Let’s go!”
Amanda continued to scream instructions to Lee. He was becoming increasingly flustered. This helicopter made no sense to him! Amanda peered down and noticed Mrs. Welch and the men running from their car. “It’s a lucky thing their car isn’t working.”
Lee grinned at her. “Lucky nothing. I slashed their tires.” He nodded to the Swiss army knife in her hands. Suddenly the helicopter began spinning around. “Oh, God, what am I doing wrong?”
Amanda grimaced. If only she could get these handcuffs off. She almost had it. The motion of the helicopter was making her ill. She closed her eyes so she wouldn’t have to look.
“How am I doing?” she heard Lee ask.
“You’re doing just fine,” she said, gritting her teeth.
Lee looked over at her. “Open your eyes!”
Amanda’s eyes flew open just as they began to drop suddenly. “Oh, God!”
From the ground below Mrs. Welch and her goons were following the helicopter in Lee’s station wagon. Mrs. Welch leaned out the passenger side window and began firing at Lee and Amanda.
“Look out! More pedal!” Amanda screamed at Lee. “No, not that pedal!”
“I don’t know which pedal!”
Amanda looked over at him and for the first time noticed the soccer coach’s hat and jacket that had the name “Bombers” embroidered on them. “What are you wearing?!”
“What do you care?” This woman was crazy! He was trying to keep them in the air and she was commenting on his sense of style!
“look out!” The helicopter changed directions suddenly and plunged down. They were practically on the station wagon’s level. The car was headed right for them. “There’s got to be a better way! Get this thing back up! More throttle!”
Lee fumbled with the helicopters control. They could see Mrs. Welch’s gun aimed right for them. Suddenly the helicopter lifted and the station wagon, not being able to stop in time, careened into a ditch.
Lee looked down, screaming in delight, “We got them! We got them!”
Amanda looked down at the passengers stumbling out of the wrecked vehicle. “Gosh, I’m really sorry about your car.”
“My car?” Lee asked as he glanced down and saw the damage. “Oh, God, what am I going to do?”
Amanda heard the click that she’d been waiting for. She
was free. She removed the bindings and smiled at Lee. “Why don’t you give
me the controls? We need to land this thing.”
Daniel Stetson and the girls watched the evening news. They couldn’t believe it! Mrs.Welch, the beloved cooking lady, was being led into a police station in handcuffs. The news report stated that she was an international spy and had been captured this afternoon.
Lee rushed in the door, out of breath. “Hi, I’m home!”
he called to his family. He dashed into the kitchen, placing the carryout
bags on the counter. He swiftly set the table, lit thecandles and put the
food in the oven to warm Daniel, Patricia and Jennifer stared at Lee in
amazement. He was finishing pouring the wine when the door opened and Dorothy’s
voice rang out cheerfully, “Hi, honey. I’m here. You wouldn’t believe the
day I’ve had! How was yours?”
Amanda stood in the corner of Billy Melrose’s office and listened as Lee excitedly informed Billy of how he figured out the case and saved her. Her ego was still bent out of shape over that one. At least she’d gotten her handcuffs off before the clean-up team had arrived. She looked over at Francine, who stood silently in front of Billy’s office window. Although she had been absolved of any wrong-doing, the guilt she had over the information she'd let slip was still evident in her eyes.
Lee finished his tale excitedly, the adrenaline still coursing through his body. Billy grinned proudly at the younger man, “But had you ever flown a whirlybird before?”
Lee’s eyes sparkled, “No, but it was just like my lawnmower. You give it a good kick and it’ll go just fine.”
Amanda was desperate to get out of the office. Her dignity was hanging on by a thread. ”Uh...we’ve got to go, Billy.”
Lee stood up and shook hands with Mr. Melrose. “Nice meeting you, sir.”
Billy smiled. This Stetson fellow impressed him. “If there’s a need, I trust we can count on your help on occasion?”
Amanda was shocked at the request. “What?”
Billy turned his attention to Amanda, “Well, we do use civilians from time to time. He’s responsible, idealistic, thinks on his feet... And besides, having him around, might help you to be more careful.”
Amanda glared at him. Lee, on the other hand, was bursting with pride at the older gentleman’s compliments. “Well, sir, if you really need me, I’d be happy to help in any way I can.”
Amanda took Lee’s arm and guided him toward the door. “Say goodbye, Stetson.”
Lee nodded to Billy and Francine. “Goodbye.”
“Alice,” Billy’s voice stopped Amanda in her tracks. She turned to Billy and saw him grinning at her. “I think we’ve finally found you a partner.”
“That’s not funny, Billy.”
“Oh, but you two make such a cute couple,” Francine smirked. “I think we should warn all of our enemies about our new formidable duo.”
Amanda stared daggers at Francine. “Your shopping spree
is in serious jeopardy, Loose Lips.”
Amanda and Lee walked to her car. She was taking him to the body shop to pick up his station wagon. Lee's mind, however, was on Mr Melrose's offer rather than his vehicle. “So, if I work here, does that mean that I work with you? I mean, that’s what you do, isn’t it? You have partners?”
Amanda stopped and turned him around to face her. “Whoa! Hold it. I don’t work with a partner. I’ve told you that before. Besides that, before this goes any further, you need to promise me two things. First of all, don’t quit your day job.”
Lee nodded. “Okay. And?”
Amanda grinned. “You’ve got to stop watching those spy movies.”
They exchanged a warm look and continued on to her car.