It was hard to believe that they had worked together in this office for more than seven years now. They had shared many things in this office. They fought, they laughed, they cried. If these walls could talk they could tell a tall tale! Most people wouldn’t believe the tale at all. Amanda almost didn’t believe it herself, even after all this time.
She glanced at her watch and saw that it was time to wake her partner from his afternoon nap. He had been up all of the past 36 hours in search of the key to their latest puzzle. An all night stake out followed by 7 hours of grueling legwork and research had made for a very grumpy Scarecrow by 3pm this afternoon. In light of their family dinner this evening, she had tersely instructed the grizzly bear to hibernate for the rest of the day while she typed up the day’s reports.
She wished that she had been with him for the stakeout. He hated working stakeouts without her. But she had already promised to assist with the arrival of the diplomatic liaison from Russia. By the time the man was settled into the Agency hotel, it was too late to join Lee at the site. She could have blown the whole cover by appearing. Therefore, he spent the night in the van with the guys from surveillance and she slept alone. She had anticipated a day in the field with him this morning, but that had not been fated to take place either.
As she typed, she thought about this morning’s emergency with the computer system in the Q Bureau. For some reason they couldn’t access their files. So, instead of going into the field with Lee, she had to remain in the office with the Agency technician who was working to retrieve their lost files. It took the young man nearly 6 hours to complete the task, what with incessantly questioning her about the infamous Scarecrow in between frequent breaks! She shook her head as she thought about how her husband was idolized by the freshman agents. My goodness, if he ever found out about the fame he had acquired he would be a terror! Amanda sighed to herself, “Well, he is the best there is, even if I am a little partial!”
Now through with the typing, she neatly stacked the folders containing the sum of today’s work into a pile in the out box of Lee’s desk. She turned off the computer, pushed her chair into place and crossed to the sofa. Smiling, she perched on the edge of the sofa and lightly ran her fingers over Lee’s brow. As if sensing to whom the touch belonged, he smiled, captured the fingers in his own and pressed them to his lips in a gentle kiss.
“Hello, sleeping beauty.” She leaned in to brush a butterfly kiss across his lips.
“Oh, you’re the beauty, Mrs. Stetson.”
“Why thank you, Mr. Stetson. So are you ready to go home now? That is, are you ready to go home and be pleasant now?”
“Uh yeah, I am. I’m really sorry about yelling at you earlier.” She raised one eyebrow in speculation and he continued, “And Francine and Billy. I suppose I was really bad, huh?”
“Very bad. But they understand, just like I understand. You always get wrapped up in this job. That’s what makes you the best.”
“And you always know just when to unwrap me from this job. That’s what makes you the best.”
“Well, we’re just a couple of the best around, huh?”
At the door Francine groaned her disgust with the sickeningly sweet exchange. Lee and Amanda looked up at her unexpected interruption. The blond agent stood at the door with an armload of files to be placed in the vault of the Bureau.
“Do you two ever stop? This is really quite disgusting! Fawning over each other like two lovesick teenagers.” She tapped one foot impatiently, waiting for a response to her pointed barb.
Surprisingly, Lee didn’t rise to the bait. He merely stood from his reclining position, grinned insolently, and replied, “No Francine, we never stop. And I hope we never do.” He pulled Amanda into his embrace and kissed her lips softly.
Francine muttered an unintelligible sound, dumped the files on Amanda’s desk, and left as quickly as she arrived.
“Lee, will you never tire of baiting her?”
“Nope, I hope not anyway. It sure is fun!”
“Oh, you.” A well-placed slap on the stomach had Scarecrow grinning at her impudence. “Let’s go. Our family is waiting on us. Phillip called and he’s home already. Jamie just got there and Mother has dinner started.” They made their way out of the office and down the stairs to the foyer. They gave Mrs. Marston their badges and walked into the parking lot. Lee started the conversation as they drove toward Arlington.
“Amanda you know very well what. Did Phillip bring her home with him?”
“Oh, that. Well, I believe he did say that she was with him.”
“Amanda Stetson, you can’t hide it from me! You are dying to meet this girl who stole your baby’s heart and you know it!”
“Me? You’re the one who asked if she came! You are just as curious as I am.”
“Let’s just agree that we want the best for him and leave it at that, okay?”
“Alright. I agree. Now let’s go check this girl out, shall we?”
The rest of the drive home was occupied with talk of inconsequential things. They liked to unwind like this before they went home each night. It kept the stresses of the day from spilling into their family time.
Later at the Stetson-King household…..
“Dotty, dinner was wonderful, as usual.” Lee rose from his chair, took his plate and Amanda’s to the kitchen, stopping to kiss his mother-in-law on the cheek in passing. Following his lead, Phillip rose, taking the plates from his spot and that of the small blond sitting next to him.
Dotty beamed in response to her handsome son-in-law. “I’m glad you enjoyed. You boys can have KP tonight while we girls get better acquainted.”
Jamie groused good-naturedly but joined his brother and stepfather in the kitchen, taking the remaining dishes with him. Since he had moved out several weeks ago to be closer to campus and to try and reacquaint himself with his father, he had missed the evening chatter and even the clean-up that he had shared for so many years with his brother and stepfather. Soon, male laughter floated out through the kitchen door and the female members of the dinner party moved to the family room. Dotty and Amanda sat in the chairs, Natasha on the couch.
Dotty turned her attention to the petite blond and started, “So, Natasha, tell us all about yourself and how you came to know Phillip.”
“We met in freshman orientation. He sat next to me and introduced himself. I looked into his big, brown eyes and well, here we are.”
Lee spoke up from his position in the doorway. “That seems to be a family trait. His mother’s big, brown eyes did the same thing to me!”
Amanda threw a small pillow in his direction and effectively banished him back to the kitchen. “Please, don’t mind him. He’s suffering from sleep deprivation. Of course, that’s not much of an excuse. He always has to put his two cents worth in.”
Faintly from the kitchen door, “I heard that!”
“See what I mean?”
Laughing, Natasha visibly relaxed. “Phillip said I would like you all. He was right. I feel so at home here.”
“Oh good, sweetheart. We want you to feel at home, right Mother?”
“Of course we do, dear.”
“Thank you for opening your home to me, Mrs. Stetson, Mrs. West.”
“You’re very welcome.”
Dotty, not one to be sidetracked, questioned her again, “Natasha, where did you say your were from?”
The petite blond sitting across from the mother and daughter interrogation team took a deep breath and seemed to consider where to start. She visibly tensed as if steeling herself for an unpleasant task.
Sensing the young woman’s discomfort, Amanda tried a bit gentler approach. A class c interrogation, she felt would be more effective in this endeavor. She threw her mother an admonishing glance and went to sit next to the girl on the couch. She leaned back against the cushions as if to indicate this was just a pleasant chat, not an inquisition!
‘Natasha, have you been in this area long? Phillip said that you were a Russian student but you don’t have an accent.”
Sighing, the soft-spoken girl began her explanation. “Oh, I think that Phillip meant that I was studying Russian. I hope to be a linguist, specializing in Russian dialects someday. I was raised here, although I was born in the USSR.”
Intrigued now, Amanda continued her questioning, “So you have family here and in Russia?”
“Well, I did have family here. My Aunt, who raised me, died recently and I’m living on campus now until I decide what to do with her house and belongings. She left them to me but I’m not sure I want to live there.”
Ever inquisitive, Dotty butted in at that point, “What about your parents? Are they alive?”
“No, Mrs. West. They died when I was very young. That is why I came to the US to be with my Aunt. You see my mother was American. Her family has always lived here in the Virginia area. My Aunt pulled some old, family ties and I was allowed to come to her.”
Now sympathetic, Dotty patted the slim beauty on the knee, “Well, my dear, you are welcome here for as often as you like. A friend of Phillip’s is always welcome!”
Natasha excused herself to join Phillip in the kitchen after this warm
welcome and after exchanging meaningful looks and ensuring that the girl
was out of earshot, Amanda and her mother put their heads together to discuss
“Well, Amanda, what do you think?”
“Mother. I think she is a very charming and intelligent young woman.”
”Well, yes, I do too. But I mean what do you really think? Is she good enough for our Phillip? After all, she is a foreigner.”
“Mother, is that prejudice I hear? She is not a foreigner. She was raised here and she is just as American as you and me. I am surprised at you!”
“Now darling, I was not being prejudiced. I was merely voicing a concern about her background. One can never be too sure of these things. Why she could be a terrorist for all we know! And I would think that in your particular line of work you would be more aware of that.”
“Mother, we work on federally funded documentary projects. We are not government agents.”
“Still, you probably have access to more sensitive information than you realize. Why else would IFF have insisted on the security measures it did when you put in that office downstairs?”
From his position near the door Lee realized that his mother-in-law
was about to launch herself into an all out digging excursion into their
jobs, again. She was just not satisfied with their explanations anymore.
Knowing that she may have to be told but not willing to go that far yet,
he intruded on the private conversation by announcing that he had been
relieved of kitchen duty and was ready to whisk his wife away for some
Grateful for the escape, Amanda excused herself for the much needed time with her husband. Lee, following behind his wife up the stairs to their room, replayed both of the conversations he had overheard from the kitchen door. Natasha sounded like a nice enough girl. But considering her Russian heritage, he knew he should run a background check on her. It was Agency policy to clear all new acquaintances who would be frequenting the home of field agents. He reminded himself to remind Amanda, no doubt needlessly, as the detail work was her area of expertise, to put this into action, but when he rounded the corner into their room, he met abruptly the soft wall of his wife’s body. When her smooth arms found their way around his hard body, he forgot everything but the moment and the background check was lost in the heat of the moment.
Three hours later……
Natasha stood in the kitchen, with the phone pressed against her ear. “Hello, Piotre. Yes I’m here. They’re very friendly. Yes, I think I can get into the office. No, not the Agency. They have a home office. It’s locked but I think I can get in. I have to go now. I must return to my room. Phillip may look for me.”
She returned the phone to the hook and crept back to her room thinking
how convenient it was that the recently renovated basement contained the
guest room as well as the home office. Now she just had to get inside!