Amanda sighed deeply and stood up to gaze out the window into the falling snow. Scarecrow, left to his own devices, stood and began to pace the confines of the cheery waiting room. He had never been in a waiting room like this one, with its baby pictures on the walls and stuffed animals on the backs of the sofas. He felt big and awkward and very unsure as to how he was supposed to feel about the situation they now found themselves in. Billy’s last phone call had revealed that two helicopters had been attempting to enter the air space over the estates at the exact time that the fake delegation had been slated to arrive. Once grounded, the choppers had been found to be loaded with nerve gas. Piotre had planned to decimate the entire area. The pilots had known little to nothing about the cargo they carried. They knew only that they had been paid well to ask no questions. They didn’t know who hired them or where to find him. Natasha had been telling the truth. She had risked her life to warn them. Now she and the child she carried could be in danger of dying.
“Mr. Stetson? Mrs. Stetson?” A short, balding man in green hospital scrubs stood at the door of the waiting room with a chart in his hand. “Are you the couple who accompanied Natasha Redcolme in?”
“Yes, yes, we are. How is she? What can you tell us? Can we see her?”
“Uh, well ma’am, she is stable right now. She’s had a few contractions since we put her on the monitor but they weren’t very strong and they followed no pattern. We aren’t concerned with them at this time.” He held his hands up in what was supposed to be a calming gesture.
“So you think they were Braxton Hicks contractions?”
“Yes, more than likely. She is at that stage of her pregnancy.”
“But she is only 5 months. That is a bit early for Braxton Hicks, isn’t it?” Amanda pressed the conversation even further.
Lee, thoroughly confused by the conversation that was taking place before him, interrupted. “Whoa, Amanda. What are you talking about?”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. Braxton Hicks are false labor pains. They usually start about the seventh month. At least that is when I had them with Phillip and Jamie.” She looked to the doctor before her for confirmation.
“Yes, that’s right Mrs. Stetson. But I don’t understand something. You said she was only five months. She told us that she was at seven months gestation…..” His voice rose on a questioning note before trailing off to wait for a reply. This entire situation wa off kilter somehow. First, this young woman had been brought to him covered in blood that wasn’t hers and now these two people were telling him that what the patient had told him wasn’t true. Not to mention the strange man who had cornered him in the hall outside of her room demanding to speak to her before he even discussed her condition with the pair before him now.
“Well, Dr…?” Lee waited for a name to go with the man he was talking to.
“Dr. Mahone, we have a few things to discuss with you about her care. You see, Natasha is a suspect in a federal investigation.”
“Amanda, you know this has to be done.” His tone was gentle but firm.
To Dr. Mahone he continued, “She will have to be under guard at all times and we need to speak to her as soon as safely possible.”
“But, Mr. Stetson, I was under the impression that you were family to this girl? She gave your name and number as a contact for our records.”
“Yes, we are family, sort of. At least we’re all she has. We’re also the officers investigating the case she is involved in. Now I can’t divulge any more than that at this time. I have arranged for guards to be outside her door and outside the door to the ward she will be on if you keep her. No one sees her without proper identification and the guards at the door will know who they can allow in and who they can’t.”
During the exchange Lee had showed the physician his federal ID. “Very well, Mr. Stetson, I understand the need for security. What I don’t understand is why Natasha would lie about how far she is in her pregnancy. The symptoms she has could be very serious at five months.”
Lee left the doctor and went to hold Amanda’s hands in his own before speaking. “I think we need to consider the fact that she may really be seven months pregnant.”
“But that isn’t possible. She hasn’t known Phillip that long.” Understanding dawned in her eyes as she uttered the last statement. “Oh my gosh, Lee. The baby isn’t his.”
She laid her head against his chest and took in the latest development. Her shoulders shook with pent up emotion.
Sensing the private turmoil they were going through, Dr. Mahone excused himself to check on the patient. “You may see her whenever you are ready. Just stop at the desk and the nurse will show you to her room.”
For long moments they stood in the middle of the room. Finally, Amanda lifted a tear-streaked face to look him in the eyes. “What are we going to tell Phillip?”
“I don’t know. First, let’s see Natasha and see what she tells us.”
Nodding agreement, Amanda wiped the moisture from her eyes and walked with her partner to the doors leading to the labor and delivery unit. “I had Phillip and Jamie here, did you know that?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Gosh, those were such long nights! Until they actually got here. Then it seemed like it had gone by in a snap. It seems like yesterday sometimes.” She snuggled against the arm he had placed around her shoulders.
Stopping at the entrance to the room where Natasha was being observed, Lee turned her to face him and put both hands on either side of her face and said, “Whatever happens Amanda, I promise you we will get through it together. Just like always.”
“Of course we will. Come on. Let’s go see Natasha.” They flashed their ID to the guards who were already present and then entered the room. The lights were off and the girl lay on the stark white hospital sheets covered by a light blue blanket. A monitor beeped at the bedside in time to the beat of the heart of the child in her womb. She appeared to be sleeping.
Lee and Amanda stood near the door and watched her breath. Suddenly her voice spoke to them softly. “Please come in. I need to talk to you.” They exchanged glances then crossed the room to stand on either side of the bed.
She spoke first to Amanda. “I’m so sorry for betraying your trust and hospitality, Amanda. You took me in and made me feel welcome. I will never forget your kindness.”
“I treated you as I would treat anyone else who came into my home invited by a member of my family. Phillip brought you home with him. He loves you. He wants to marry you. He is the father…he thinks he is the father of your baby.” She broke off unable to continue without becoming very emotional.
Lee, as if sensing her distress, spoke for the first time since entering the room. “Natasha, why don’t you start at the beginning? I can record it and we might even be able to consider this your statement.” He pulled a pocket recorder from his jacket and sat it on the bed and turned it on. “Whenever you’re ready, go ahead.”
Natasha thought for a few moments then began to speak in a soft but unwavering voice. She had vowed to herself to take her punishment as she must. She would do all she could to stop Piotre from further disrupting Soviet relations with the US.
“I am Piotre Rominav’s half sister. I hadn’t seen him since I left Russia years ago, when my mother died. My aunt wanted me and my mother begged my father to send me to her as she lay dying in the ambulance. She loved him, but knew he had become very different in the years since they married and left the US. She feared for my life and my future if I stayed in the Soviet with him and Piotre. I know this because she had kept in touch with my aunt over the years and had confided in her. Aunt Stella gave me her letters when I was old enough to understand and I’ve read them over and over. I lived a very happy life and was deliriously in love with Andre when I became pregnant with his child. I am so sorry for lying to you and to Phillip. I truly care about him, too. He is the perfect gentleman. If only I had met him first, perhaps this would all have been avoided.” She paused as if in thought then continued, “But, no, then I wouldn’t have loved Andre and conceived my child.”
She closed her eyes and grew silent. Lee had just started to call for the nurse in alarm when she began to speak again. “I’m sorry. I am very sore from falling earlier. I have bruised ribs the doctor said. I just needed a moment. Anyway, I was going to meet Andre and tell him about the baby but Piotre found me first. He said if I didn’t do as he demanded I would not see Andre again and that he would hurt our baby. I had no other choice. I arranged to meet Phillip. I seduced him and convinced him that I was pregnant with his child. We only slept together once. He said that he loved me too much to treat me in a way that was improper.”
Her voice wavered only once, now when she thought of what her betrayal
was going to do to Phillip. “ He was devastated when I told him I
was pregnant. He blamed himself and begged me to marry him.
I refused but I kept using him to come to your house. I got into
your office and I gave Piotre whatever information I could find.
I betrayed you and Phillip and the country where I was raised as well as
the country where I was born. I will do anything I can to help you
catch him.” She paused to rest again, then she told them of her plan
to help them catch Piotre.