Title by CobraDeathGrip (Chris),
Story by matahari2 (Kathy)
Summary: Someone encounters a little competition for the attentions of the object of their affections. . .hmm. . .who could this be?
Timeframe: Season 3, between Over the Limit and Sour Grapes
Disclaimer: The wonderful original characters from the CBS television series Scarecrow and Mrs. King are the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions; they don't belong to me, nor will I get one dime for writing this story. The story and any new characters, however, are mine. Please don't archive without my permission. This story will be archived at the SMK Fanfic Archive and at www.fanfiction.net .
Feedback: I welcome both praise and constructive criticism, so yes, please, read and review!
Author’s Note: Many, many thanks to Laura (MusicBox83), my primary beta. Her comments and helpful hints really helped me to come up with fresh ideas, which produced some of the story’s best scenes. Thanks also to Stemwinder, who helped me to add more action where it was needed, and helped me to avoid punctuation problems and a few spelling glitches, and to my friend Jamie, who offered a very helpful suggestion for one of the scenes. Thanks to all these ladies for their strong encouragement and support throughout the writing of this story. I’d like to add a special "Danke schön" to paintergirl from the PAX forum, for her invaluable help on the proper use of German words and phrases. Thanks, PG!
Saturday Morning – 4247 Maplewood Drive
Sauntering up the steps to the landing, Dotty West casually sorted through the day’s mail, until one particular item caught her eye. "Amanda!" she called up the stairs, "You have a very interesting-looking letter here! It has a West German postmark, Wiesbaden, I think," she added, putting on her reading glasses to take a closer look.
As Amanda finished tying her shoelaces, she stared at her bedside alarm clock, trying to remember, but she couldn’t for the life of her recall meeting anyone from Wiesbaden. Now Munich, yeah, she’d been there twice last fall, once with Mother and the boys, and. . .that other time. ‘Who could forget being arrested for counterfeiting?’ she smirked to herself, as she let out a small sigh and headed downstairs.
"Morning, Mother," she greeted cheerily, peering over the back of the sofa toward the coffee table. "Where’s this mysterious letter?"
Dotty flipped through the grocery ads as she replied, "It’s right there on the counter, Amanda."
Just then, the teakettle took its cue to whistle, and Amanda turned off the burner and cast a slightly suspicious glance at her mother’s back. Without a word, she rolled her eyes and picked up the letter in the blue parchment envelope, tracing a finger over the return address as she walked around to the other side of the island and took a seat on one of the stools. Silently, she read the vaguely familiar name, ‘D. Volkenauer, 19 D Königstrasse, Wiesbaden’, and her lips formed a smile as she remembered. "Mother! This is from that nice police Lieutenant in Munich!"
"Nice?!?" Dotty huffed, as she put down the grocery ads and went into the kitchen to place a tea bag into her empty mug and pour in the steaming water. "You call someone who arrested you for a crime you didn’t commit, nice?"
Amanda ducked her head and acknowledged, "Okay, well. . .all right, he didn’t seem so nice at first, but then again, he had no way of knowing I wasn’t guilty, not until my friend from IFF came over and helped me to clear my name. And once we—I mean they—found the real counterfeiters, Lieutenant Volkenauer couldn’t have been nicer. He apologized all over himself, Mother—shoot! He even asked me out, to a nice, authentic Bavarian dinner," she recalled with a dreamy smile.
Dotty’s eyebrows rose in anticipation, although her daughter’s eyes seemed to have glazed over, her mind apparently captivated by some special memory. She took a sip of her tea and prompted, "Yes, Darling, and?"
Amanda’s smile vaporized as she shrugged her shoulders and poured cold water on her mother’s romantic notions. "I said no, Mother." Dotty opened her mouth to reply, but Amanda went on to explain, "Now look. . .all I could think about at the time was getting home. I’d already booked the flight, and I was so tired, and. . ."
Dotty’s impatience showed itself as she glared over her reading glasses. "So what does he have to say?"
"Well. . .let's see," Amanda stalled, painstakingly unfolding the sheets of parchment. Knowing she might have to censor the letter’s contents, she scanned the first page quickly, then cleared her throat and forged ahead. "Well. . .he's coming to DC. . .Sunday, October 20th. . .expects to be here a couple of weeks. . .he wants to know if it's okay if he calls me while he's here. . .would I honor him by agreeing to go out to dinner with him. . .hmm," she hummed, pausing to contemplate his invitation.
Her mother’s exaggerated cough caused her to shake her head and refocus her attention on the letter. "Oh, and look!" she exclaimed, underlining the next sentence with her finger. "He apologized again for the mix-up last year." She looked up and smiled, laying the letter face down on the counter. "See? I told you he was nice!"
"Mm-hm!" Dotty accepted with a knowing grin. Lifting her mug and taking the scissors from the drawer beside the refrigerator, she gave Amanda her patented ‘you aren’t fooling anybody, least of all me’ stare. "I bet he’s nice-looking, too!" she finished, turning on her heel and returning to the sofa to start clipping grocery coupons.
Amanda shook her head and pushed away from the island, shouting, "Mo-ther!" over Dotty’s muffled laughter. She’d barely had time to refold her letter and stuff it into the back pocket of her jeans when she heard Jamie’s voice from the stairway.
"She will not, Phillip. No way is Mom gonna let you--"
"Morning fellas!" Amanda called out. She folded her arms and leaned back against the sink, waiting for them to come into the kitchen. "So tell me. What is it that I’m not gonna let your brother do?" she asked, searching each of their faces in turn.
Jamie rolled his eyes and shook his head, then turned to his brother. "You tell her!"
Phillip frowned at Jamie and yelled, "Thanks a lot, Doofus!"
"Phillip! Do not call your brother ‘Doofus’!" Amanda shouted. Stuffing one hand in the front pocket of her jeans and leaning the other against the counter, she zeroed in on Phillip as she asked, "Now. . .what is it you want to do?"
Phillip gave Jamie another dirty look before answering their mother. Then he shrugged, and said simply, "I wanna dye my hair red."
Amanda nearly exploded. "You what?!?"
Preteen angst written all over his face, Phillip spread out his hands and started to explain. "Well. . .see. . .Todd Sullivan has red hair, and Linda seems to pay a lot more attention to him than she does to me, and. . ."
His mother cut off his explanation as she began to get the picture. "Oh. . .so that’s what this is about? Linda Montez?" At Phillip’s embarrassed nod, Amanda came over to his side and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, smiling at her older son with the understanding born of experience. "Phillip. . .Sweetheart, there’s no need for you to do something like that." She turned his head with her hand so she could look into his eyes. "You look perfectly fine, just the way you are. And besides. . .girls aren’t only impressed with a guy’s looks, you know?" she hinted, ruffling his hair and kissing the top of his head.
"They’re not?" Phillip asked, his voice wavering slightly as he pulled away.
"Hm-mm," Amanda confirmed with a shake of her head. "No. . .a girl’s even more impressed by the way a fella treats her. Trust me," she said, lifting up a three-finger, scout-worthy salute. "I was a girl once!" She chuckled softly and went on, "C’mon, fellas, let’s get your breakfast. Your soccer game starts in an hour and a half, right? Okay then, let’s get a move on!" She gave each of her sons a little shove and turned to open the refrigerator and pull out the milk for their cereal.
Once they’d finished their breakfast, Amanda sent the boys upstairs to get cleaned up. She’d started to sponge a small amount of spilled milk from the countertop when a familiar face popped up outside the kitchen window. At her look of panic, the apparition tipped his head toward the back of the house and dropped out of sight. ‘Whew!" Amanda thought, ‘that could’ve been a close one!’
She very nearly jumped out of her skin when Dotty came up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder, saying, "You know, Dear. . .you handled that business with Phillip really well."
"What? Oh. . ." Amanda replied with a nervous little laugh. "Thank you, Mother. I just. . ." she trailed off.
"I know," her mother whispered, smiling proudly. "All right, I suppose I’d better go up and get ready, too."
"All right, Mother," Amanda said quietly, rinsing out the sponge and giving her mother ample time to reach the top of the stairs before she tip-toed out the back door.
She found him leaning against the wall of the potting shed. "Lee! What on earth are you doing here so early on a Saturday morning?"
"Amanda!" he scolded good-naturedly, "where are your manners? Don’t you ever say ‘hello’?"
"Hello," she deadpanned, looking away to hide her smile. Pointing back over her shoulder with her thumb, she warned, "You know. . .you barely missed greeting Mother with your little window routine, and Phillip and Jamie’ll be down here any minute. So, what is it, Lee?"
Looking suitably chastised, he answered, "I just wanted to check and see if you could come in to the office early on Monday morning. Billy’s scheduled an 8:00 meeting. See. . .we have a visitor coming from Interpol—Dieter Volkenauer. . .remember, we met him last year in Munich, on that counterfeiting case? Well, he’s changed jobs. He works for the Federal Criminal Police, the BKA—it’s their equivalent of our FBI. Anyway, he’s on temporary assignment to Interpol, tracking an East German terrorist group called ‘der Blitzstrahl’, the ‘Lightning Flash’. They’re the ones. . ."
"Oh yeah," Amanda broke in. "I read about them in the paper. Didn’t they blow up a plane full of hostages at the Frankfurt airport?"
"Yes. . .yes they did," Lee replied with a quick nod. "And the scuttlebutt is that several of them may have entered the U.S. in the last few days, with plans to destroy a monument, somewhere in DC."
"Lee! There are so many monuments in the District! Does Interpol have any idea which one’s being targeted?"
Lee shook his head. "Not a clue," he answered with a resigned sigh, looking away for an instant before turning back to face her. "All they have is a cryptic note that was sent to the BKA’s office in Wiesbaden, and a phone message about ‘American idolatry’ that was left on Volkenauer’s answering machine early last week. The caller said one of DC’s ‘marble monstrosities’ would fall. . .before midnight, October 31st."
Amanda’s mouth dropped open. "Oh my gosh! That’s terrible!" She cast her eyes downward, shaking her head at the awful possibilities of what could happen if these terrorists were allowed to have their way. She looked back over her shoulder nervously and pulled the letter out of her pocket, gesturing with it as she spoke. "Um. . .Lee, not to change the subject, but. . .I just received a letter from Dieter. . .Lieutenant Volkenauer. He didn’t tell me about any of this stuff, but then again, I guess he wouldn’t, would he? Not in a letter, anyway, but. . ."
"He wrote you a letter?!?"
The mixture of shock and confusion on his face was mildly amusing, but Amanda managed to keep her composure. "Well. . .yeah," she admitted, now almost sorry for having mentioned it. "He told me he was coming to DC on the 20th, and he wanted to know if it was all right if he called me while he was here, and if we could go out to dinner. I guess he’s still kind of, you know, trying to apologize for what happened last year," she said, tilting her head to the side as a telltale blush colored her cheeks.
"Yeah. . .I guess so. . ." he said softly, although his intense stare, tightened jaw and fisted hands said something else entirely. He averted his gaze, pausing to study the pattern of the brick pavers beneath his feet, then looked up into her eyes and gave her a pale imitation of a grin. He took a step closer to her, reaching out to touch her arm. "See you Monday?"
As she whispered, "Sure. . .I’ll be there," he slid the fingers of his left hand down her arm and turned away, disappearing around the corner of the house before she could say goodbye.
Monday Morning – 8:00 a.m.
Lee Stetson hurried down the corridor to the bullpen, heaving a sigh of relief when he realized the meeting hadn’t already started. The conference room door stood open, and Francine Desmond was just coming out of Billy’s office, carrying a stack of files. Lee turned toward the conference room and grimaced at the unwelcome sight of Herr Volkenauer smiling at Amanda and lifting her fingers to his lips in a Continental greeting. He narrowed his eyes, stuffing both of his hands into his pants pockets, as he noticed Amanda smiling back at the German detective. "What the—?" he grumbled between clenched teeth.
Francine brushed past him, giving him a teasing smile as she asked, "What’s the matter, Scarecrow? Somebody beating time with your girl?"
Lee glared at her, gritting out, "Oh please, Francine!" He took a second to straighten his jacket and tug at his tie before following her into the conference room.
Seeing Amanda's sparkling eyes and friendly smile directed at him, Lee couldn't keep from smiling back as he took a seat directly across from her. He knew she'd probably caught his scowl, and he could expect some questions later. Frank Duffy passed Amanda the last two folders containing the information for the meeting, and she passed one across to Lee. Their eyes connected briefly as he accepted it with a whispered "Thanks", just as Billy Melrose closed the door and called the meeting to order.
"All right, people, as you know, our associates from Interpol have informed us that members of the 'Lightning Flash' group may have entered the United States. I'd like to introduce our guest, Mr. Dieter Volkenauer, of the West German BKA, who is on temporary assignment to Interpol with regard to tracking these terrorists. Mr. Volkenauer. . ."
"Danke schön, Herr Melrose. . .my fellow agents," Volkenauer greeted them. "Fräulein Desmond, bitte?" he prompted, as she acquiesced and doused the lights. Immediately, the screen at the front of the room was filled with the horrifying picture of the flaming remains of a jumbo jet. "I am sure you are all aware of the recent failed hostage crisis at the Frankfurt airport. The people we believe to be responsible for this incident call themselves 'der Blitzstrahl', auf Englisch, 'the Lightning Flash'. We have been following the movements of several members of this group for the last three months, but so far we have remained several steps behind them. We now have reason to believe that some of them may have entered your country. In the last two weeks, we have received two messages. The first was received in the BKA office."
He pressed the remote control for the slide projector, and an enlarged picture of a small tear-off from a yellow legal pad appeared on the screen. The words ‘Ihr solltet in den Spiegel sehen’ were scrawled across it in red ink. Volkenauer scanned their faces as the agents in the room fixed their eyes on the cryptic message. He pointed over his shoulder toward the screen and stated, "The basic translation of these words is: 'you should look in the mirror'." Seeing the disgusted frown on Lee Stetson's face, Dieter went on with an indulgent smile. "You are quite right, Herr Stetson. This simple statement tells us very little."
"Right," Lee interjected, impatiently drumming his fingers on the table. "You said something about a second message." He gestured with his hand to indicate their section chief as he went on. "Billy. . .Mr. Melrose, here, told me you'd had a message on your answering machine, correct?"
"Yes. . ." Volkenhauer replied, his voice tinged with irritation at Lee’s impatience. He cast a sweeping glance around the room as he went on, "Yes, that is correct--one week ago today, in fact. Without troubling you to listen to the message, we have transcribed it in English, as you see here," he pointed out, as he clicked the remote to bring up the translation: "Do not think you can hold back the Lightning Flash, and neither can your friends, the Americans! Their golden idols and their greed are unmatched! We promise you. . .one of their capital city’s great marble monstrosities will fall, before the stroke of midnight, 31 October! Do not think you can stop us!"
"So they've basically dared you—us—to try and stop them?" Lee put in.
"Quite right," Dieter replied with a rueful smile. He nodded to Francine to turn the lights back on, then continued, "And we have ten days. . .possibly less than that, to prevent a disaster here in your beautiful city."
Billy Melrose stood to take charge of the meeting once more. He shook their guest's hand and said, "Thank you, Mr. Volkenauer. Now, first off, the rest of you are to pair off and become tourists for the next three days. Visit all the best-known sites, and keep your eyes and ears open. Your assignments are listed on page two in your folder. We'll meet again, same time, Thursday morning. All right, people, let's get out there!"
As the rest of the agents dispersed, Lee motioned to Amanda to follow him out to the corridor. She framed a question with her eyes before she asked out loud, "Okay, Lee, what’s this all about? And why were you so bent out of shape just now?"
"What? Me? I don’t know what you’re talking about, Amanda," he parried defensively. He touched her elbow and turned her to start toward the closet elevator as he went on, "I’m fine. . .really. Now, why don’t we go on up to the Q Bureau and go over our assignment, hm?"
As they came to stand in front of the elevator, Amanda turned and looked up into his eyes. "Um. . .Lee? You haven’t looked at page 2 yet, have you? See, it looks like Mr. Melrose partnered you with Francine on this one. He paired me with Dieter. . .Mr. Volkenauer."
"He did what?!? Why?" He took his vengeance out on the elevator’s ‘up’ button, then pushed back his suit coat and stuffed a hand in his pocket as he kept on, his voice lower now. "I don’t like it Amanda! I don’t like it at all!"
"What d’you mean, Lee? You’ve worked with Francine before," Amanda inserted, pushing the coats aside as they entered the elevator. After they’d crossed under the bar and straightened up, she asked, "What’s the big deal?"
"It’s not so much my assignment as yours that bothers me," he admitted, wincing at the level of truth in what he’d said.
Amanda fisted her hands at her sides and looked up at him defiantly. "MY assignment?!? What about it? Look, I may not have the training that you or Francine have, Lee Stetson, but I’m perfectly capable of acting like a tourist! That much I can do!"
With a hurt look, he searched her eyes as he came back with, "Hey! You know very well I didn’t mean it like that, Amanda King! I know better than anybody. . ." he hesitated, softening his tone, "how capable you are. I just don’t like the idea of you partnering with. . .him," he finished, casting a fleeting glance at the ceiling.
When the elevator doors opened, Amanda did her best to contain her grin. Each of them nodded to Mrs. Marston, then ascended the stairs silently. As soon as she was fairly sure they were out of the receptionist’s hearing range, Amanda asked, "Now, Lee. . .why should you be upset about that? I mean, Mr. Melrose is just being practical here. After all, Mr. Volkenauer and I have at least met before, and I know my way around the DC tourist sites as well as anybody, so. . ."
"I know, I know," he said softly, granting grudging acceptance to the hardwood floor. He lifted his eyes as he held the door open for her, saying seriously, "It’s just that. . .Amanda, those terrorists called him at home. They most likely know him on sight, and who knows? They might’ve even followed him here." He paused, taking hold of her arms and turning her, so he could look directly into her eyes. "Just promise me you’ll be extra careful, okay?" he asked plaintively.
"Always," Amanda answered with a warm smile.
Lee gestured for her to take a seat in the captain’s chair that faced his desk, and the two of them leafed through the materials in their assignment folders. "Ah. Francine and I are going to the Capitol building. . .we’ll have plenty of ground to cover there. So where are you and ‘Dieter’ supposed to go?"
She was slightly distracted, as she’d been reading through the captions on the photos of the suspected terrorists. She looked up from the folder as she responded, "Hm? Oh. . .we’re going to the National Mall, gonna cover the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument today, and the Jefferson Memorial tomorrow or Wednesday."
"Mm," he nodded.
Amanda's eyes took on a faraway look, and for a fleeting moment, she seemed to be reliving an unpleasant memory. She returned her focus to the present as she heard Lee calling her name.
"Amanda? Are you all right?"
"What? Oh yeah, I’m. . .I’m fine," she answered with a slight wave of her hand. " I just remembered something that happened there once, at the Jefferson. . ." She stopped herself, affecting an air of nonchalance before continuing, "It’s nothing, really."
Resting his elbows on the arms of his chair and leaning forward slightly, Lee connected with her eyes before asking, "So. . .have you and Herr Volkenauer made plans for your ‘hot date’?"
"No, we—" she started to answer, then squinted her eyes at him and retorted with a touch of irritation, "so what’s it to you if we have?"
"Nothing," he replied too quickly. In response to her determined glare, he back-pedaled, tilting his head to the side. "Well. . .you mentioned something Saturday about him wanting to take you out to dinner, and then this morning. . ."
At that, her mouth dropped open and she frowned at him in earnest. "What about this morning?!? He was just being nice and saying hello—okay, in his own way—but anyway, you know, it’s really none of your business if I do go out with him while he’s here. I mean, he’s a very nice man, and you’ve got no right to act like a je—"
Lee’s mouth dropped open and his eyebrows lifted in a silent question as he realized where she was headed with this. He cut in before she could finish, asking, "Like a—?"
"Never mind!" she ground out through gritted teeth, darts flying from her eyes as she grabbed her purse and folder and swept out of the Q Bureau. It was a wonder the glass didn’t shatter, she slammed the door so hard.
Lee flinched at the sound, and thought about how close she’d come to calling him a ‘jealous person’. . .again. She didn’t know how right she was this time, he admitted to himself. He knew he was attracted to her, probably had been for a long while. . .so why hadn’t he acted on it? He kicked himself mentally, knowing what she’d said was true. He had no right. . .no right at all.
Surprised at her own anger, Amanda flinched at the sound of the door slamming
shut behind her. She slowed her pace and took a few calming breaths before
opening the door at the top of the stairs, while a jumble of confused thoughts
ran through her mind. "Why do I let him get to me that way? What right does he
have, anyway, acting like a jealous person? It’s not like we’re dating or
anything. Okay, ‘or anything’ is probably going too far. It’s true. We have been
getting closer lately, haven’t we? Spending a little more time together, off the
clock? Oh. . .I don’t know. . .one minute he’s friendly and sweet and even
tender, and the next he’s irritated with me, or he’s being overprotective for no
good reason, like he doesn’t believe I can take care of myself and ooh! That
makes me so. . .so. . ."
With a shake of her head, she straightened her shoulders and twisted the doorknob, transforming her countenance into the best smile she could muster, at least for long enough to get down the stairs and past Mrs. Marston. The steely-eyed receptionist fixed her with a sidelong glance, but Amanda did her best to ignore it as she stepped into the elevator.
When she walked out on the third underground level and started down the corridor toward the bullpen, she came face to face with Francine Desmond.
Amanda’s smile had lost its luster, and Francine seized on the chance to taunt her. "What’s the problem Amanda, trouble in paradise?" She stuck out her lower lip and asked, "Are you disappointed you won’t be working with Scarecrow on this one?"
"Disappointed? Ha!" Amanda countered with an ironic laugh. "Not this time, Francine!" She shook her head and raised her hands in surrender as she went on, "Oh no! He’s all yours!" She gave her blonde sometime-nemesis a saccharine smile and said in a sing-song voice, "Have a nice time!"
Amanda’s uncharacteristic response caused Francine’s blue eyes to widen in disbelief. After she managed to close her mouth, she stood there staring as Amanda nodded to the guards and walked into the bullpen.
Dieter Volkenauer stood in the open doorway to Billy Melrose’s office. Amanda
heard Mr. Melrose telling him, "She may be upstairs in the Q Bureau with
Stetson. Just take the elevator to the Georgetown foyer, and our receptionist
can direct you from there. Good luck on your mission, and be careful out there!"
"Yes, of course, Mr. Melrose. Thank you!" He bowed slightly, then turned around as he pulled the door closed. His eyes brightened when he looked up and saw Amanda’s face. "Ah! Frau King! Here you are! I was beginning to wonder what had become of you."
"Oh. . .sorry about that," she said with a shy smile. "Lee and I—Mr. Stetson and I—just took a few minutes to look over the assignment sheets and photos. I guess he hadn’t taken a look at the assignment run-down before he. . ."
"He had assumed the two of you would be working together, just like. . ."
"Just like we usually do, yes," she answered. She cleared her throat and went on with a shrug and a slightly nervous wave of her hand. "Anyway, I pointed out to him that he was assigned to work with Francine—Ms. Desmond, and that I’d be working with you this time."
He narrowed his eyes slightly, as though he might want to hear a bit more of that story, but he didn’t press her, so she opted to change the subject. "So. . .how are we going to handle this? I mean, we’re both probably a little overdressed to look like tourists," she said, lightly touching the lapel of his neatly-pressed suit and waving a hand down over her silk blouse and skirt. "Why don’t I go on home and change, and then I can come by your hotel, say. . .about an hour from now?"
He smiled at her smart practicality and replied, "Yes of course, certainly, Frau King. Amanda. . .may I call you Amanda?" At her brief nod, he leaned forward and took hold of her arms as he said, "I will see you at my hotel--the Jefferson--you know the place? Shall we say, 10:15?"
"Sure. I’ll just put this away here and be on my way," she answered, ducking her head and slipping her arms out of his grasp to walk over to her usual work station and place the assignment folder into the small drawer. She looked up and clasped her hands together as she asked, "Oh, by the way, Mr. Volkenauer. . .Dieter? Do you have a camera?" At his slightly questioning look, she spread her hands and said, "Never mind. I’ll bring one, and we’ll get some extra film later. Okay then, see you!"
"Auf wiedersehen, Amanda!" he said with a friendly smile.
She didn’t look back, but she could feel his eyes following her as she headed out of the bullpen and down the corridor. It was a nice feeling. She could do without mixed messages for a change.
Lee had finished reviewing his assignment folder and the suspects’
photographs when he heard Francine’s heels clicking in the hallway outside the Q
Bureau. He closed the folder and stood up behind his desk as she came into the
"There you are," she said with a broad smile. "I was beginning to wonder if you’d forgotten me."
"Not a chance," he smirked, rolling his eyes slightly. He rounded the desk and touched her elbow as he asked, "So. . .are you ready to go?" Gesturing back and forth between them with his hand, he suggested, "Why don’t we both go home and change into something a little more casual, and I’ll come by and pick you up in about an hour, all right?"
"Sure, that’s fine," Francine agreed as they left the Q Bureau and headed for the stairs. Before they came to the door at the other end of the short hallway, she looked back over her shoulder at him and cracked, "Boy! I don’t know what you said to Amanda this morning, but you are definitely not on her ‘A-list’ today!"
"Yeah. . ." he began to admit with an apologetic smile, then caught himself and shut his mouth abruptly. This was Francine, after all—he ought to know, anything he said could be all over the Agency by nightfall. "It was nothing, really—just a little disagreement, that’s all—a misunderstanding," he stated with a dismissive wave of his hand.
"Mm-hm? Right. . ." she said with an exaggerated nod, stretching out the last word as a sly grin spread across her face.
His lips formed a tight line and he narrowed his eyes at her as they neared the bottom of the stairs. "I’d button it if I were you, Francine," he said, being careful to keep his voice low. He pinned her with his glare, then darted a quick glance at Mrs. Marston, signaling that the receptionist did not have a need to know about this particular subject.
"Whatever you say, Scarecrow!" she said with a wink, as she turned in her ID badge and exited the building. Lee looked up and lifted his hands as if to say, "Why me?", before dropping his ID at the front desk and heading out to his car.
As Amanda and Dieter walked side-by-side up the incline that led to the base
of the Washington Monument, she smiled and said, "I’m glad it turned out to be
such a nice warm day. You know, if we weren’t working, we could have had a great
time here at the Mall. I mean, there are so many interesting places to visit.
Take the Smithsonian, for instance. You could easily spend a couple of days
there, just at the ‘castle’. Well, it’s not really a castle, but it looks like
one, and then there are the monuments. They’re terrific, too, aren’t they? See,
here we are at the Washington Monument, and if you look straight to the west you
can see the Lincoln Memorial, and just over that way, on the other side of the
Tidal Basin," she extended her hand slightly to their left, "that’s the
Jefferson. We’ll probably go there either tomorrow or the next day."
Dieter nodded and tried to insert either a "Ja" or "Mm" at each of her examples, but he hadn’t quite managed every time. He did his best to keep up with her pace and to look as though he understood everything she was saying, but for some reason, he wasn’t able to keep his amusement from showing.
She reached out to touch his arm, saying, "Oh, Dieter, I’m so sorry! I tend to babble when I’m nervous. I don’t know why I should be so nervous, really. . .I mean, I know the area here, and I know you. . .well, sort of. . ."
She stopped abruptly and averted her eyes, studying the walkway beneath their feet. "I’ve done it again, haven’t I? I hope I’m not annoying you too much already."
Dieter tipped her chin up with his finger, assuring her, "No, indeed, Amanda, not at all." He smiled and leaned forward, taking both of her hands in his as he continued. "I find your enthusiasm for this place quite charming."
"Oh? Well, thank you," she said softly, a sweet smile beginning to light up her face.
When they’d come to the front of the queue, Amanda handed the attendant their tickets for the elevator ride to the top of the Egyptian-style obelisk. When they reached the observation deck, Dieter took in the panoramic views of the capital city and the surrounding area, and Amanda helped him to spot several of the landmarks. At one point, when they moved from one window to another, Amanda saw someone out of the corner of her eye, someone she’d seen before. Could it be one of the terrorists? She wasn’t absolutely sure, and before she could get Dieter’s attention to point the young man out, he was nowhere to be seen.
Lee and Francine milled around in Statuary Hall along with the other members
of their Capitol tour group, both of them doing their best to look mildly
interested in the tour guide’s droning spiel while examining everyone’s faces
and looking for areas of vulnerability in building security.
The guide’s chatter continued, "The Hall was rebuilt between 1815 and 1819. Unfortunately, the smooth, curved ceiling promoted annoying echoes, making it difficult to conduct business. . ."
‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ Lee thought, ‘let’s get on with it!’ He pulled Francine aside, slipping his arm around her waist and whispering in her ear, "I don’t know, Francine. Maybe taking this tour wasn’t such a good idea."
She slid her hand across his back and tilted her head up to look into his eyes. In a hushed tone, she replied, "Why not, Lee? We’ll at least get to see all the public access areas, and you can take a few pictures as we move through the building." She gave him a bright smile and went on, "We can make arrangements to come back later, if you like."
Lee had noticed that a sweet looking, silver-haired lady was watching them. The woman smiled and whispered something to her companion as she pointed in their direction. At that, he smiled down at his partner du jour and said, under his breath, "Just play along with me on this." Then, in a tone of voice just loud enough for their audience of two to hear, he said, "All right, Honey, whatever you say," giving her a quick kiss on the cheek. Immediately, he turned his attention back to the tour guide, placing his hand at the small of Francine’s back and giving her a gentle shove towards the rest of their group. "Oh good. . .it looks like we’re moving on," he said, flicking a quick glance at her and smiling to himself at her somewhat befuddled expression.
She recovered quickly, placing a little distance between them as she expressed wonder at the grandeur of the Capitol rotunda. She spread her hands and backed away from him, ogling their surroundings as she said, "Lee! Would you look at this place? It’s enormous!"
"It is indeed," the red-coated guide interjected, not missing a beat. "The diameter of the rotunda is 96 feet, and the height from the floor to the canopy of the dome is 180 feet. Now, let me draw your attention to the sepia toned images in the band just below the curve of the dome. The frieze you see there was designed by an Italian immigrant, Constantino Brumidi, and is done in true fresco. . ."
Although he tended to zone out on the commentary, Lee had to admit the place was amazing, if only in sheer size, not to mention all the elaborate artwork in the canopy and the frieze. He found himself looking up and around, trying to figure out how someone might attack this high point of the Capitol complex. ‘Marble monstrosities,’ they’d said. "Francine!" he called out in a loud whisper, out of the corner of his mouth.
She came over to him and replied quietly, "Yes, Lee?"
"The dome. . .what about the dome, as a target?" he asked with urgency, keeping his voice low and darting his eyes from side to side to make sure they weren’t being watched.
She looked off to the side, considering his suggestion. "Well, it’s huge, and depending on when they brought it down, it could be devastating, but there’s just one thing. It’s not made of marble. The outer shell of the dome is cast iron."
"True. . ." he agreed reluctantly, stretching out the word and casting a quick glance upward as he realized he might have missed something by not paying attention. Then he looked back to her and added with a bit of defiance, "But they might not know that!"
Keeping her back to the others, she looked at him with an air of superiority and said, "Lee, please! These people must’ve done their homework, and they know what it’s made of, and exactly how much of an explosive charge it will take to bring their targeted structure down. Trust me. They know."
With a smile that was more akin to a grimace, he answered, "Okay, okay. . .we’ll forget the dome," his eyes becoming slits as he strained out the words. Why had they decided on this ‘couple’ cover? They hadn’t been at it for twenty minutes yet, and he wasn’t sure he could endure the rest of the 45-minute tour, let alone the next two and a half days.
Dieter unfolded the large plaid blanket and laid it out on the grass between
two of the huge old elm trees. Kneeling in front of the small cooler, Amanda
started to pull out the lunches she'd taken the time to pack when she’d stopped
at home. "All right, we’ve got ham and Swiss on rye. . .here you go. I spread a
little mustard on. . .I hope you like it," she offered, smiling and reaching
across to hand Dieter one of the sandwiches.
"Of course," he replied, returning her smile. He folded back the wrapping on his sandwich and took a bite, savoring the combination of salty, tangy flavors. "Mmm. . .excellent!" he exulted, continuing to chew as he spoke.
Amanda used her napkin to wipe away a bit of mustard from her lip and waved off the compliment. "Oh. . .well, I don’t know as I’d go that far. I just thought it’d be nicer, and probably less expensive, than going to one of those concession stands, you know?" She let her eyes wander down the expanses of green along either side of the Reflecting Pool as she went on, "And it’s such a nice day, and with the leaves beginning to turn all golden."
"Yes, Amanda, this was a wonderful idea," he interrupted, his gaze taking in their surroundings. "You are quite right, it is beautiful here. So. . .do you come here often?"
She nearly choked, trying to hold back her laughter, quickly recovering control when she realized from his innocent look that he didn’t mean it as a pick-up line. She gave a slight cough and answered, "Hm? Oh. . .you mean, do we. . .my family and I, come. . .here?" she asked, pointing down to the ground. "Well, Jamie’s class came here to the Memorials last spring, and we took the Junior Trailblazers to the Air and Space Museum once, but, often? No, not really. I guess it’s true, the cobbler’s children have no shoes," she finished, chuckling softly.
"Bitte? I beg your pardon?"
"It’s just an old saying," Amanda explained. "I mean, we live here, but we don’t often take advantage of what we have right on our doorstep. It’s really too bad, when you come to think of it," she mused aloud, looking down for a moment. She lifted her eyes and smiled again as she said, "So. . .we’ll just have to get as much out of our casual surveillance as we can for the next couple of days, huh?"
"Jawohl. . .yes, yes we shall!" he chimed in, before a slightly puzzled look came over his face. "Excuse me? Casual surveillance?"
"Yeah, well, that’s what Lee calls it, you know, when we’re—well, when we’re ‘keeping our eyes and ears open’, but we’re not on a stakeout, as such, like where you’re stuck sitting in a car for hours, if you know. . ."
"Ah. Yes, I understand," he said, an amused sparkle in his eyes. After they'd finished their sandwiches, Dieter cast a quick glance at his watch, then looked up to Amanda and said reluctantly, "My dear Frau King. . .Amanda, as much as I have enjoyed our repast, I suppose we should move along."
"Right," Amanda agreed, and the two of them picked up the small cooler and the blanket, discarding the sandwich wrappings and napkins in one of the trash bins on the way back to her station wagon. When she turned the key in the lock, she noticed something on the front seat.
Her mouth dropped open, and she whispered, "Oh my gosh," as she opened the door and revealed the torn half-sheet of lined yellow paper with something written on it, in German, she was sure. "Dieter! What does this mean?" she asked quietly, taking a tissue from her purse and using it to lift the scrap of paper for his inspection.
"Let me see," he began, "In zwei Tagen wird euer Tempel zusammenbrechen. . .in two days, your temple will come crashing down." Their eyes connected then, and all thoughts of their pleasant lunch under the trees vanished. "They have moved up the timetable. We must let the others know."
Amanda nodded, pulling a leftover zippered plastic bag from the cooler and slipping the warning note inside it before shutting and locking the station wagon. She looked back up the hill and started walking toward the Reflecting Pool, saying, "We might as well go on to the Memorial. We’ll be able to find a telephone there, and we can call Mr. Melrose."
She was still a step or two ahead of Dieter, when all of a sudden, she whipped around to face him. "Dieter! Wait!" she called out in a loud whisper, placing a hand on his arm to stop his progress.
"What is it?" he asked with a slightly puzzled look.
Amanda looked up to him and tried to explain. "You see those two people talking to each other, over by that park bench on the left there?" She indicated them with a slight toss of her hair, trying very hard not to be too obvious. "See? The dark-haired girl, all dressed in black, and the blond guy with those cold, ice blue eyes?" A momentary spark of fear showed itself as she went on to tell him, "I don’t know about the girl, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that guy before."
Dieter made a good job of viewing the young man without appearing to look at him. He looked into Amanda’s eyes and smiled pleasantly as he answered, "I’m not surprised, Amanda. He’s one of them. In fact, he’s their leader, Gunther Heller. And that charming vision in black leather is his chief lieutenant, Giesele Hofmeier."
"Mm-hmm? Well, I sure wouldn't want to meet her in a dark alley," Amanda replied, grimacing at the thought. "So. . .what do we do now?"
He glanced past her shoulder once more, then took hold of her hand and started moving toward the other side of the Reflecting Pool. "Just walk with me, " he whispered.
Amanda's heart skipped a beat at the eerily familiar words--the first that Lee had spoken to her, just over two years ago. She stood still for a moment, her mind reeling with the memories those four words evoked, of how her life had changed since then, and how important, how dear to her, a certain person had become.
Dieter nearly tripped on the path. He let go of her hand and turned around to look over her slightly flushed face. "Amanda, are you all right?" he asked.
"What? Oh sure, I'm fine. . .it's nothing, really," she replied with an embarrassed smile. She flipped her hair back with her hands and continued, "Someone. . .else I know said the same thing once. . .that's all. It's. . .really, it's nothing," she finished, in a futile attempt to wave it off as just that.
"All right, then, shall we?" Dieter asked, offering his hand to her as they started walking again. With a trace of a grin showing on his face, he darted a quick glance in her direction and commented, "Whoever this ‘someone’ is, he must have made quite an impression on you."
Amanda nodded and let out a soft chuckle as she replied, "Yeah, you could say that."
Francine stormed ahead of Lee as they walked across the Capitol grounds
towards the Peace Monument. She turned to face him, frowning and throwing up her
hands in angry frustration. "A cafeteria! In this whole area, we couldn't do
better than that--please!"
"Oh come on, Francine!" Lee shot back. "The food was just fine! Of course, the 'ambience' may have left something to be desired," he smirked, "but look, there was no way I was gonna go back and move the car, just so you could have lunch at the Blue Fox, not when we needed to cover at least one more building today. Just get over it, all right?" He didn't wait for a response, simply squared his shoulders and kept on walking.
"Oh. . .all right," she grumbled, her low heels clicking on the pavement as she picked up her pace to catch up to his long strides. "What d'you say we split up and roam through the Gallery separately?"
"What? You mean, each of us? Alone?" With a sardonic grin, he went on, "Well, believe me, I'd like nothing better! But as tantalizing as that idea is, Francine, we'd better not." He thrust out his hand and reminded her, "What if someone from our Capitol tour group should see us? No. Sorry, it just wouldn't work," he finished, shaking his head and gripping her hand as they walked up the marble steps to the National Gallery of Art. With every step, he kept thinking, 'Billy Melrose. . .I'm gonna get you for this!'
When Amanda and Dieter had gone about half way down the length of the
tree-lined pathway that flanked the Reflecting Pool, he turned to her, his eyes
beginning to light up as he called her name. "Amanda?"
"Do you still have your camera with you?"
"Well, sure, but. . .um. . ." she sputtered, her eyes forming a question as she shrugged her shoulders.
"We are tourists, correct? Shouldn’t we take some pictures?"
Amanda’s eyebrows rose and she began to smile as she caught on. "Oh. . .right. Okay then, here you go." She handed him the camera and walked a little distance from him, standing with her back to the water and striking a pose. "Now. . .how’s this?"
Dieter smiled and motioned with his hand to show her where to stand as he clicked off shot after shot. "Very good, Amanda, but could you move this way, just a little. . .now over this way. . .yes, that one is a keeper. . .all right, let’s turn so your back is toward the Washington Monument. . .oh yes, very nice!" he gushed. Anyone passing by would assume he was just taking pictures of his girlfriend. If they’d taken a closer look, they might have noticed that he was using the telephoto lens.
Slipping the camera back into her handbag, Amanda asked, "So. . .you think the folks back home will like those?"
"I certainly do, Amanda, " he replied, taking her hand again as they resumed their westbound trek. "We have at least four or five clear pictures of the both of them, which, sadly, will confirm for your Mr. Melrose that they have arrived on American soil."
Giesele Hofmeier paced behind the park bench. "I don’t like this, Gunther.
You saw them take the note from the American woman’s car. Now look at them—they
look as calm and relaxed as a couple on holiday! "
Gunther placed his hands on her shoulders and tried to calm her. "Relax, Giesele. . .it’s all an act, nothing more. They can’t know our plans yet, and we have most likely thrown them off by moving up the deadline." He laughed to himself, "dead-line. . .how appropriate. All right then, let’s go, shall we?" he prompted, leading her down the hill toward the spot where he’d parked his motorcycle.
Lee turned around slowly in the wide-open space of the National Gallery’s
East Building Atrium. He looked up through the enormous skylight and whispered,
"I don’t know, Francine. This place doesn’t seem like anything the Lightning
Flash would want for a target." He looked down to her and spread his arms out as
he went on, "I mean, look around us! Except for that one small guided tour group
up on the second level there, it’s almost empty."
Francine was flipping through the pages of a small guidebook she’d picked up at the entrance. At Lee’s comments, she looked up at the expansive, bright red Alexander Calder mobile above them. She closed the book and nodded. "I suppose you’re right about this building, Lee. Maybe we should go on through the tunnel to the West building. That’s where they house the Rembrandt’s and the donated Mellon collection."
"Yeah, that sounds a lot more likely."
As they walked through the concourse, Lee took a look at his watch, then asked Francine, "What time is it we’re supposed to check in with Billy?"
"Well, the assignment run-down said 2:30," she answered, checking her own watch as she finished, "that’s about half an hour yet. What’s the matter? Hot date?"
He gave her a look that would melt butter, but all he said was, "No, Francine, I was just checking. Hopefully we can find a phone then. And if any of our other teams have turned up anything, it would be nice to know, that’s all," he finished with a slight shrug.
She smiled knowingly. "ANY of the other teams? You’re sure this isn’t just about one team in particular? I’m almost sure there’s nothing to worry about, Lee. Look. . .Volkenauer’s a trained policeman, and Amanda can take care of herself." She pointed a finger in his direction as she added, "You quote me on that and I’ll deny it!" Taking a sideways look at his twitching jaw muscle, she kept on, "Her safety’s not the only thing you’re worried about, is it? Oh come on, Lee! A dashing Interpol agent and an American housewife? Please! And besides, why would you--" she stopped herself short, snapping her mouth shut and rolling her eyes.
At that, he squinted at her and turned away. He could hear her soft laughter behind him as he stalked toward the entrance to the West building, but he wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of looking back. He cleared his throat and held out his hand, saying, "Well? Are you coming, or what?"
When they came to the foot of the stairs in front of the Lincoln Memorial,
Dieter paused to look over the magnificent structure, awestruck by its imposing
size and neoclassical style.
"Impressive, isn’t it?" Amanda whispered. "Wait ‘til you get inside."
Almost reverently, they made their way up the last of the steps to stand before the fatherly statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln. Amanda’s eyes widened as she read the inscription above the statue: "In this Temple, as in the hearts of the people, for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever."
She touched Volkenauer’s shoulder and pointed up to the inscription. "Dieter! Do you see what that says? In this Temple. . ."
"Yes, yes, I see," Dieter answered softly, as he turned away, briefly staring into the distance beyond the towering Doric columns. He looked back to her, spreading his hands before him as he remarked, "I believe I read something about this memorial being modeled after the Parthenon of ancient Greece. You are quite right, Amanda. This place could very well be the ‘temple’."
"Right," she whispered, nodding slowly and looking over to the side of the central chamber. "I’m almost sure there’s some sort of bookstore or gift shop here. They’ll probably have a public telephone. Let’s go and browse a little, and then I’ll try to call Mr. Melrose, okay?"
Dieter followed her lead as they worked their way around to the tiny bookstore, wedged in behind the North wall of the memorial chamber. Amanda picked up a few sets of postcards, a miniature statue of Lincoln and some free fact sheets about the monuments and memorials in the area. she "Excuse me," she started, pausing to read the shopkeeper’s name tag before asking, "Mr. uh. . .Bauer? Could you please tell me where I could find a pay phone around here?"
"Certainly, madam," the shopkeeper replied. "Unfortunately, there aren’t any public phones inside the Memorial, but if you go out through the front opening, down the steps and across the street, just catty-corner there to the right, you’ll see a snack bar and souvenir shop, next to a tourist trolley stop. Sorry, but that’s the closest one."
She waved her hand through the air and smiled as she deflected his apology. "Oh, no, that’s all right, it’s not your fault. Thanks." Turning her attention to Dieter, she took the camera from her purse and slipped it into the bookstore bag, asking him to hold it for her while she went out to find the telephone. "Thanks, Dieter. Just give me a few minutes. You stay here and check out the Memorial. I’ll be right back," she assured him, waving back to him as she started down the steps.
The small telephone kiosk consisted of little more than a shelf with narrow walls on either side. It stood in a dimly lit hallway at the back of the snack bar, near the restrooms. Amanda was less than thrilled to be there, but she went ahead and dialed the main number for IFF, keeping a watchful eye on the open end of the hallway while she waited to be connected to Mr. Melrose.
"Melrose here," Billy answered.
"Sir! It’s Amanda," she began, standing up straighter as she proceeded to give her report. "Sir, we, Dieter and I, have some news. We’ve seen them, two of them--the Lightning Flash people, that is--a Gunther something, and. . .anyway, Dieter took several pictures of them," she paused, smiling to herself. "He was really good, you know? Made it look like he was taking pictures of me, and. . ."
Billy burst in, "Amanda? Is there more?"
"Sorry," she apologized, embarrassment sounding in her voice. "Yes sir, there is. You see, sir, we found another note."
"You found a note? Where?"
"In my car, sir," she admitted. "You see, we’d stopped to have a little lunch I’d packed, and when we came back to put the cooler away, it was there. . .the note. . .on the front seat."
"What did it say, Amanda?"
"Well, sir, it was in German, but Dieter told me it said something like, ‘in two days, your temple will come crashing down’."
Billy slammed his hand down onto his desk. "Two days?!? And just what is this ‘temple’ they’re talking about?"
"Well of course, we don’t know for sure, Mr. Melrose, but Dieter and I have a pretty good idea that it might be the Linc—"
Her voice stopped abruptly, and Billy yelled into the phone, "Amanda! Amanda, are you there?" But the only answer he received was a sharp click, followed by a dial tone.
Monday – Later in the Afternoon
Lee checked his watch every five minutes. He paced across the exhibition room, tapping his fingers against his leg and not really paying attention as Francine stood there and commented on the lack of security in the National Gallery.
She broke through to his consciousness as she cleared her throat and remarked, "Well! Since you’re obviously not listening to a word I say anyway, why don’t you go ahead and make your phone call?"
"What? Oh. . .yeah, I’ll just. . ." he paused, pointing back over his shoulder, "go check in with Billy. I’ll be back in a minute." As he turned to go and find the phone, he could see Francine shaking her head at his distracted behavior. He couldn’t blame her, really, but he couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling he had about his partner and her German detective.
The section chief picked up on the first ring. "Melrose here."
"Billy, it’s Scarecrow. Francine and I. . ." Lee started to report.
Billy cut in, "Never mind the report, Lee. I have some news, and none of it’s good."
"What is it, Billy? What’s happened?"
"Well, for starters, Amanda and Dieter Volkenauer found another note from the terrorists," Billy explained. "They found it in her car. It said that in two days our ‘temple’, whatever they mean by that, would come crashing down."
Lee’s eyes widened as he thought about the effect of the shortened timetable. "Two days? And we still don’t know what their target is? Did you talk with Amanda? What did she have to say?"
Billy swallowed and steeled himself to take the brunt of Scarecrow’s wrath as he confessed, "I’m sorry, Lee. That’s the rest of the bad news. I talked to Amanda just a few minutes ago, and she told me about the note, and that Dieter had managed to get some pictures of two of the Lightning Flash people, Gunther Heller and one of his accomplices. She started to tell me that she and Dieter were almost certain that the ‘temple’ might be the ‘link’, and then we were cut off."
"Oh my God. . .Amanda! So you’re telling me we don’t know if she’s hurt, or. . .or even where she is?" His eyes took on a hollow look, briefly revealing the fear that gripped his heart. But fear wouldn’t help Amanda, he told himself, as a surge of anger welled up within him. He slammed his hand against the back wall of the phone booth. "Damn it, Billy! I had a bad feeling about her working with that guy, and this just proves I was right. Heller must’ve followed them from the hotel! How else would he have known to put the note in her car?" He paused, slowly circling his finger in the air as he tried to remember. What was it Amanda had said? "Wait. . .she told me this morning. . .she and Volkenauer were supposed to hit the Washington Monument and the Lincoln. . ." He paused again, then slapped the phone book with his hand as he went on, "That’s it! That’s gotta be where she is--the Lincoln Memorial." Utter desperation sounded in his voice as he shouted, "We have to find her, Billy!"
"I know, Scarecrow, I know. Look. . .I’ll send someone else for Francine. Go find your partner," Billy ordered. "As if I could stop you," he finished, after Lee had severed the connection.
Dieter had spent the last twenty minutes surveying several locations within
the Lincoln Memorial for possible places where the terrorists might plant
explosives, but he hadn’t seen any areas that seemed especially vulnerable. He
walked out through the front entrance, then stopped to check his watch. Amanda
should have been back by now, shouldn’t she? He paced across the width of the
Memorial, peering around each of the columns, but he didn’t find her anywhere.
Where could she be? He looked out to either side of the Reflecting Pool, when he
caught a flash of something that looked like the sweater Amanda had been
wearing, white, with large gray and pink geometric shapes. He strained his eyes,
trying to get a better look, when he thought of the camera. He pulled it out of
the bag and selected the telephoto setting, then zoomed in on the sweater. The
wearer had shaggy, dark hair, and she wore tight-fitting black leather pants. He
noticed that this woman appeared to be helping someone onto a tourist trolley.
He watched as the second person’s head lolled to the side. Catching sight of her
face, delicately framed by soft, dark chestnut curls, he cried out, "Amanda!" as
he stashed the camera in the bag and started running down the steps.
The ‘Memorials and Monuments’ tour-mobile had just pulled away as Lee Stetson pulled the ‘Vette to a screeching stop at the curb in front of the Memorial. He stood there on the sidewalk for a few seconds, examining the area with a searching gaze, but saw no sign of Amanda. His fists clenched at his sides involuntarily as he spotted Dieter Volkenauer coming down the steps. He ran up to meet him, asking, "Well? Where is she? Did you find her yet?"
Dieter cast a quick glance in Lee’s direction, then returned his gaze to the departing trolley and its passengers. "Mr. Stetson! No, not yet, I am sorry to say."
Lee’s hands shot up angrily, and he yelled, "How’d you do it, Volkenauer?!? How’d you manage to lose her?"
"I am sorry. Amanda went to find--" Dieter began, then cut off his own explanation. He did his best to ignore Lee’s pointed stare as he continued to charge down the steps. "I assure you, Mr. Stetson, there will be time enough for recriminations later." He extended his arm, pointing off to the right. "At the moment, we have to follow that tourist trolley!"
Lee followed him down to the car and they rushed off after the trolley. The warm fall day had brought out a horde of tourists and DC area residents alike, and traffic was anything but cooperative as the two agents tried to catch up with their quarry.
Scarecrow pounded the steering wheel in frustration. His anger had settled down to a slow boil, but he still seethed as he gritted out, "Seriously, Volkenauer, what happened? Where’d she go? And why didn’t you go with her?"
"As I said before, Mr. Stetson, I am very sorry. In retrospect, you are quite right. I most definitely should have gone with her," he admitted with a rueful look. "However, at the time. . ." he paused, turning and spreading his hands as he went on to explain, "You see, the shopkeeper in the bookstore told us that the nearest public telephone was across the street, in the snack bar on the corner, next to the tourist trolley stop. Amanda went in search of the telephone there, and she urged me to stay at the Memorial and continue to observe the place. She told me she would be back in a few minutes, so I did as she asked. But now, I am so sorry," he finished, turning his gaze back to the traffic in front of them.
Lee’s voice boomed in the small space. "Sorry!?! Sorry doesn’t cut it, man! Not if she’s been hurt!"
"Do you honestly believe I wanted this to happen?" Dieter countered, his expression showing a mixture of guilt and defiance.
"No," Lee allowed, grudgingly. He spared Dieter a pained glance as he said, "No, I’m sure you didn’t. But look, Dieter. . .you had to know you were being followed today. Billy told me about the note you found in her car. Didn’t that tell you anything?"
"Ja, ja, ja, it should have, yes," he admitted with a grim nod. He looked out the side window as he continued, "There are probably many things I should have noticed today. I admit, I was quite distracted." A trace of a smile flickered across his face as he confessed, "Frau King seems to have that effect on me."
As small as it was, the smile wasn't lost on Lee, but somehow, he managed to hold down the bitter jealousy he felt at Dieter’s revelation. He cleared his throat, but didn't bother to reply in words. Instead, he tightened his grip on the steering wheel and tried to peer around the five or six vehicles between them and the tourist trolley. He let out a slow sigh of relief when he saw the trolley coming to a stop about a block ahead of them, along the side of the Jefferson Memorial.
The group of twenty or so tourists disembarked and started up toward the
Memorial. They’d nearly reached the top by the time Lee and Dieter came to the
base of the stairs.
"Mr. Stetson! There they are!" Dieter called out, pointing toward the left side of the entrance. The two men dashed up the steps after Amanda and her captor, just in time to see them disappear into the elevator.
"Let’s take the stairs!" Lee called back to Dieter, pulling open the metal door and scurrying down to the basement. Slowly, carefully, he opened the door to the lower level. Off to the right, he saw the entrance to the museum and gift shop, with several tourists milling around. He leaned forward slightly to chance a look to the left, and noticed the door to the ladies’ room swinging shut. He stepped out into the hallway, pointing to the left and nodding for Dieter to follow him.
Lee and Dieter stood on either side of the door, and Lee tapped on it twice. There was no reply, and Lee reached for his gun and held it up as he swung around and kicked the door in. Both men were shocked and saddened to find. . .nothing. Nothing, that is, except Amanda’s sweater, hanging on the coat hook in the last stall. Lee grabbed the sweater and showed it to Dieter as he stormed out of the ladies’ room and they found their way to the lower level exit.
As soon as they came outside, Dieter spotted Gunther Heller and Giesele Hofmeier speeding away on a motorcycle. He pointed the two suspects out to Lee, and the realization hit both of them at the same time. They looked at each other and shouted, "Amanda!"
Lee started back into the Jefferson Memorial and commented as they walked, "Yeah. . .it stands to reason, since Giesele doesn’t have her, she must still be here someplace, right?"
"Right," Dieter acknowledged. "Where should we start?"
"We could look in the museum, but I thought I remembered seeing a utility closet or something, down there close to the restrooms. Let’s try that first," Lee suggested.
While Dieter stood guard, Lee worked on the lock. As he felt the last tumbler click into position, he heard a soft moan. His heartbeat quickened as he yanked the door open and saw Amanda’s frightened face. He released her from the twine that bound her hands and loosened the scarf that covered her mouth, before taking her in his arms and whispering into her hair, "Amanda."
"Lee! I’m so glad you found me," she whispered in reply, as she reached her arms around him and pulled him closer.
Lee pulled back and held her at arm’s length, taking a visual inventory as he asked, "Now. . .are you all right?"
Amanda backed away and touched a hand to her forehead as she answered, "Yeah, outside of this headache. And I’m a little woozy from whatever that stuff was she held over my mouth, but. . ." she interrupted herself, finally realizing they had company. "Oh, hello, Dieter!"
She turned to her temporary partner, then looked back to Lee and pointed between the two men as she asked, her eyebrows raised in confusion, "But when. . .how did you two--?"
With a soft chuckle, Lee replied, "Well. . .I checked in with Billy. . .and he told me your phone conversation was cut off, and you'd tried to tell him about a "link" something." He pressed his lips together and tipped his head to the side as he went on, "And then I remembered you'd told me this morning that you were supposed to go to the Lincoln Memorial sometime today, so. . ."
"So you went on over there," Amanda inserted with a quick nod and a warm smile.
With a dimpled grin, Lee picked up the string, saying, "Yeah, as fast as I could, and. . ."
"Ah, and that's when you two. . ." she cut in again, crossing her hands one over the other as she pointed to Lee and Dieter.
"Yes, yes, yes," Dieter interrupted, pointedly ignoring Lee's presence. "And you see, already I had started looking for you when Mr. Stetson came, and we saw you and Giesele boarding the trolley. . ."
Lee broke in after darting a less-than-friendly glance at Dieter. "And we followed you here." He stroked the outside of her arm and admitted, "You nearly scared me to death, you know that? When all we found was your sweater. . ." he trailed off, looking away for a moment. He circled his arm around her back and supported her as he began to lead her to the exit. "All right, shall we?" he offered.
As they walked, Amanda cast her eyes to the floor and said, "I’m sorry, Lee. I guess I really screwed things up this time, didn’t I?"
At that, Lee tipped her chin up with his free hand and looked deeply into her eyes, assuring her, "No, Amanda, you did no such thing. You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s all. It could’ve happened to anyone, really."
She accepted his assurance with a quiet nod and a small smile as they headed back to his car, with a nearly forgotten Dieter trailing after them.
After the three of them had managed to arrange themselves in the low slung
Corvette, Lee dialed the number for the Agency on his car phone. He waited on
hold for thirty seconds, impatiently tattooing the mouthpiece of the receiver
with his fingertips.
"Scarecrow?" Billy Melrose presumed.
"Billy?" Lee replied, stilling his fingers. "We have good news, and not so good news. The good news is, we’ve found Amanda," he said, a smile reflected in his hazel eyes as he stole a brief glance at her across the front seat. "She’s okay, but I think we’d better bring her in for Doc Kelford to check her out, just in case."
Smiling in relief, Billy acknowledged, "Good idea. You be sure and tell her I’m glad she’s all right. Now. . .what’s the bad news?"
"We saw Heller and Giesele Hofmeier getting away on his motorcycle, and we don’t know where they were headed."
"Oh well, no use crying over spilled milk, Scarecrow," Billy stated sensibly. "Just get yourself back in here. Several of the other teams are checking in, too, so hopefully we can put the pieces together and figure something out."
"Okay, Billy," Lee answered. "We’ll be right in." He placed the phone back in its cradle and fired up the ‘Vette.
They made a brief stop at the snack bar by the Lincoln Memorial to inquire about Amanda’s purse. Luckily, another patron had found the purse lying on the floor in the small hallway, and had brought it to the proprietor.
After they went back to the car, Amanda riffled through the purse’s contents. "Oh, good!" she exclaimed. "My wallet and credit cards are still here, and my driver’s license and car keys, too." She twisted in her seat to look back at Dieter. "The film! That must’ve been what she was looking for! Only, I didn’t have it. I gave the camera. . ."
"To me, yes," Dieter put in. "It’s right here, Amanda."
Lee caught Dieter’s eyes in the rearview mirror and nodded, saying, "Good. We’ll get it down to the lab as soon as we get back to the Agency."
In short order, they arrived in front of the Georgetown façade of IFF. Half an hour later, they sat around the conference room table, listening to Francine’s summary of the field agent reports they’d received so far. "Duffy and Jenkins reported several sightings of two of the Lightning Flash members, shopping at various drugstores and convenience stores. Frank told me the kind of things they were buying included bicarbonate of soda, distilled water, glycerine, and. . .ice, bags and bags of ice," she said, rolling her eyes slightly, obviously not quite sure what to make of the odd combination of items. She consulted her notes and started in again, "Fielder and Margolis tracked two of the. . ."
Billy held up a hand and interjected, "Wait. Beaman!" he said, addressing the lanky agent. "Let’s put those ingredients into the computer and see if that combination sends up any red flags. . .and run ‘em by the bomb squad, too. They might catch something we’d miss."
"Yes sir, I’m on it, " Effram answered, hurrying out to the bullpen and picking up the first available phone.
"All right, Francine, what else do we have?" Billy asked, motioning with his hand to indicate the small stack of remaining reports.
"Fred Fielder and Sandy Margolis tracked two more suspected terrorists to the Econo-Dollar Motel near Alexandria. We’re setting up a stakeout, keeping it as low key as possible."
"Mr. Volkenauer, you have the second note, I believe, correct?" Billy prompted.
"Ja, ja, here it is, Mr. Melrose," Dieter replied, taking the plastic bag out of his jacket pocket and laying it out on the table.
"And Amanda, you and Mr. Volkenauer believe that this ‘temple’ they refer to could be the Lincoln Memorial?"
"That’s right, sir," she answered with a quick nod. She counted off the reasons one by one. "First of all, there’s an inscription up over the statue of Abraham Lincoln that starts with ‘In this temple. . .’, and then there’s the fact that the Memorial was modeled after the Parthenon in Athens, and then, we should remember the first note, too."
With a questioning look, Lee asked, "Excuse me? How does the first note tie in to all this?"
Amanda spread her hands in front of her and explained, "Lee! That’s really simple. . .don’t you remember? The note said we should look in the mirror. It’s not that much of a stretch to figure it out. The mirror is the Reflecting Pool. And what do you see when you look into the Reflecting Pool? One of two things, right?"
A smile spread across Lee’s face as he caught up to her logic. "Right. . ." He pointed right, then left as he went on, "Either the Washington Monument. . .or the Lincoln Memorial. And only one of those would qualify as a temple, wouldn’t it?"
Just then, they heard a soft knock on the conference room door, and Billy shouted, "Enter!"
Agent James Robinson brought in a large brown envelope and handed it to Francine, saying, "These are the photos from Mrs. King’s camera."
"Thanks," Francine replied, as she took the photographs out and spread them across the table.
Dieter started to identify the suspects, pointing to each of their faces as he spoke. "The young man here is Gunther Heller, and this is Giesele Hofmeier. Ah. . .Amanda! I didn’t even notice this one. Do you see this bespectacled, nervous looking young fellow sitting on the next park bench over from where Giesele is standing?" At her nod, Dieter looked from Amanda to Lee and went on to tell them, "That one is Erich Bauer. Until just last year, he was a chemistry major at university in . . ."
"Wait a minute," Amanda interrupted, lifting her index finger as she tried to place the name. "Bauer. . .the bookstore, Dieter, the bookstore at the Lincoln Memorial! Remember, I asked him where I could find a phone? Well he was wearing a name tag that said ‘Bauer’."
Lee looked across the table at Amanda and gave her an indulgent smile before saying, "That’s all well and good, Amanda, but there are plenty of German immigrants in this country with the name ‘Bauer’. I hate to stifle your enthusiasm here, but it’s really a very common name."
Billy’s eyes darted from Lee to Amanda as he said, "Nevertheless. . .we should probably see what we can find out about this Bauer person. . .see if there’s any connection to Erich or anyone else in the Lightning Flash group." He turned his attention to Francine then, wrapping up the meeting with some last minute orders. "Okay, Francine, let’s pull everybody off of the rest of the sites and concentrate on the Lincoln Memorial. Check with the National Park Service on any permits for either celebrations or demonstrations. Make sure we get feedback from Fielder’s folks out at the motel at least every two hours. And let’s see what Beaman’s found out about those odd ingredients from the drugstore."
Right on cue, Effram Beaman turned the doorknob and entered. "That’s an easy answer, sir, but you’re not gonna like it. Those ingredients, along with small amounts of highly concentrated nitric and sulfuric acids, can be whipped up into a generous batch of nitroglycerine."
Lee’s eyes locked with Amanda’s as they both realized the frightening possibilities. His voice husky with emotion, he said, "Well. . .I guess we really have our work cut out for us now."
"Right," Amanda replied, her voice barely above a whisper. She swallowed and looked to Mr. Melrose. "Sir! We can’t let them put that recipe together."
"No, we can’t," Billy agreed sadly. Heaving a weary sigh, he adjourned the meeting. "All right, people, let’s call it a night. We’ll meet again at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow."
After the meeting, Lee rounded the table and caught up to Amanda, placing his hand at the small of her back and leading her out to the corridor. "Come on, let's get you back to your car, and then I'll follow you home, all right?" he offered with a tentative smile
"Sure. Thanks," Amanda answered, continuing to walk toward the elevator. "But Lee, you really don't need to follow me." She turned to look up to him as she pushed the 'up' button. "Look. . .you've had a long day, too. It's not that far, anyway, and besides, I can. . ."
Lee held up his hand and cut in, "Just humor me, all right?" His eyes made a quick sweep of the hallway before he leaned down to face her at eye-level, taking hold of her arms as he pressed his point. "You've already been hurt once today, Amanda King, and I'll feel a lot better when I know you're safe at home."
She knew the look in his eyes, the same penetrating stare he'd given her that day a few weeks ago, when she'd come within inches of being killed by Serdeyich. There was no point in arguing with those eyes, so she gave in, ducking her head and whispering, "Okay. . .for you."
Lee accepted her agreement with a nod and a relieved smile, as they heard the soft 'ding' announcing the elevator's arrival.
Immediately after the meeting, Dieter placed two phone calls from one of the
workstations, one to his Interpol contact and one to the BKA in Wiesbaden,
bringing each of them up to date on the status of the investigation. He asked
that they pass any additional background information to William Melrose at the
Agency, especially anything having to do with Erich Bauer's relatives who might
have emigrated to the United States. As soon as he'd finished, he looked over
toward the conference room, then out into the empty hallway, finally peering
through the blinds into Billy Melrose's office.
The door to the office stood open, and Billy stood up behind his desk. He asked, "Mr. Volkenauer, may I help you with something?"
Dieter stepped just inside the doorway and waved his hand to the side. "No need to trouble yourself, Herr Melrose." He cast a quick glance back over his shoulder as he went on, "I was just looking for-"
"Mrs. King?" Billy assumed. At Dieter's slight nod, he told him, "You were probably on the phone when they left. I overheard Scarecrow saying something about taking her back to her car and then following her home."
Dieter smiled in a vain attempt to cover the pensive look that passed over his face at the mention of Lee Stetson's code name in connection with Amanda. "Ah," he said simply. "He was concerned for her safety."
"Yes. . .I'm sure he was," Billy agreed with a knowing grin. "Now, why don't I give you a ride back to your hotel?" he offered, rounding the desk and flicking off the light switch.
"Danke schön," Dieter replied, as the two men made their way out through the bullpen.
On the drive over to the south side of the Mall where she had parked her
station wagon, Amanda was unusually quiet. Once, when they came to a stoplight,
Lee shifted in his seat to take a good look at her. She stared straight ahead,
and her worried look was unmistakable. Tenderly wrapping his hand over hers, Lee
waited for her to meet his gaze before he asked, "Hey. . .are you all right?"
"What? Me?" she asked, pointing to herself and waving off any concern about her well being. "Oh yeah. . .I'm fine. I still have a little headache, but yeah, I'm okay. I was just wondering. Lee, what about my family?"
He gave her hand a gentle squeeze and assured her that she didn't need to worry. "Amanda, everything's all right on the home front, so just relax, okay? While you were in with Doc Kelford before the meeting, I had a little talk with Billy. Agents are already watching your house."
"Oh? Well, thank you," she replied, a small smile appearing on her lips.
The stoplight turned green and Lee looked ahead and released her hand as he moved the car forward in the early evening DC traffic. Several seconds passed before either of them said anything.
"Amanda. . ." Lee began, and realized he'd heard her say his name at the same time.
Each of them smiled at the verbal collision, and Amanda deferred to him, saying, "You first."
Lee took a slow breath and said, haltingly, "Amanda. . .about this morning. . ."
Amanda turned in her seat, holding up her hands as she broke in, "Lee, you don't have to say anything. . ."
"Yes I do, Amanda," he insisted. "I want you to know. . .I'm sorry. I was way out of line. You were absolutely right. Volkenauer's a decent guy. I can't argue with you about that. And if you want to go out with him, well. . .that's your decision, and it's. . .it's none of my business." As he finished, he looked away for a moment, then focused his attention on the road in front of them.
Amanda was crestfallen, feeling as though she'd had the wind knocked out of her sails. 'None of his business? Is that what he thinks?' she pondered sadly. She felt an overwhelming urge to tell him it was all right, that she was glad he cared. She reached across to touch the sleeve of his jacket as she tried to say, "But Lee. . ."
He darted a quick glance in her direction, refusing to let himself off the hook. "No buts, Amanda. It's your decision, and I had no business being a jerk about it."
"Okay. Apology accepted," she replied with a weak smile, but her downcast eyes and sagging shoulders showed the disappointment she felt.
Absently rubbing her fingers over the leather armrest, she turned her head to look out of the window for a moment, then returned her gaze to her partner's profile. "Lee? May I ask you something?"
"Mm," he assented, tipping his head to her.
"All right, just for the sake of argument. . .say for instance, that I'd concede that it's important to me that you care, well. . .that you have a certain concern for my welfare," she began, hesitating like someone gingerly stepping through a minefield. "If I were to ask your advice about whether I should go out with Dieter. . .what would you tell me?"
Lee's breath caught at her question. He was silent for a moment, uncertainty clouding his features, as he pulled the 'Vette to a stop behind her station wagon. Taking his silence to mean either indifference or embarrassment, Amanda fiddled with the door handle nervously, in a hurry to let herself out of the car. She'd already opened the door to the station wagon by the time Lee caught hold of her arm and pleaded with her, "Amanda! Wait. It's not what you think."
Amanda turned her face to him, and the hurt look in her eyes nearly tore him apart. She pulled her arm out of his grasp and held up her hand, shutting out his explanation. "It's okay, Lee. Never mind. I shouldn't have brought it up." She seated herself in the car and pulled on her seat belt, then gave him a tense smile. "Anyway, thanks for the ride. See you tomorrow," she finished, closing the door and turning the key in the ignition before he could say another word.
As he started his car and began to follow her home, Lee slapped the steering wheel with the heel of his hand, cursing himself and wishing he'd been able to say the words in time. Shaking his head slowly, he whispered to the lonely car, "No, Amanda. . .I'd say, no, don't go."
The Agency hadn't picked up any new leads before the 8:00 a.m. meeting, with the exception of the lamentable fact that the National Park Service had issued permits for what was expected to be a very large 'Family Values' rally, for all day Wednesday.
Billy had doled out assignments that seemed to Lee like nothing more than busywork. He hated sitting in the office when they all knew the terrorists were probably within shouting distance, but the truth was, Billy was right. They needed to know more before they could take action. Amanda was down in the bullpen checking immigration records from INS on the computer, and he was stuck upstairs in the Q Bureau, re-reading the dossiers of several suspected members of the Lightning Flash group. After a while, his eyes began to glaze over, and he pinched the bridge of his nose and pushed away from his desk. He walked over to the window and stood there a moment, looking out at the sunlit red maple trees, when an idea struck him. His eyes brightened as he said to himself "T.P." He turned around and hurried out of the Q Bureau and down the steps, removing his ID badge and laying it on the receptionist's desk.
"Mrs. Marston, if Mr. Melrose asks for me, would you tell him I've gone over to the Library of Congress? I have a contact there who may be able to help us."
"All right, Mr. Stetson," she agreed, as the door closed behind him.
Amanda's neck was starting to ache, and she felt the need to get up and
stretch a bit. She took a walk down the corridor, and had just finished taking a
drink at the water cooler when she saw Francine out of the corner of her eye.
"Francine! Any news yet?" she asked hopefully, almost running to catch up with
"Nothing good," Francine replied. "I talked to some of the people in charge of the rally, but they said it was too late to postpone it. Most of the people are already on their way-busloads of them-from all across the country," she finished, with a sweep of her hand.
"Oh, Francine, that's terrible," Amanda sympathized.
As they turned to walk into the bullpen, Francine asked, "What about you? Are you up to your ears in Bauers yet?"
"Well, I wouldn't exactly say that, but I've come across quite a few," Amanda answered with a wry grin. "Lee was right-it's a pretty common name. I was beginning to think I'd never find the right Mr. Bauer-I mean I couldn't see the forest for the trees, if you know what I mean." Amanda could see Francine's patience waning with each word, so she tipped her head to the side and rushed on to add, "So anyway, I called the number for the Lincoln Memorial bookstore, and they told me that Otto Bauer wasn't there today. He only works there on Mondays and Wednesdays. That's as much as they would tell me, but it gave me a place to start."
"Mm," Francine acknowledged with a quick nod, calling back over her shoulder, "Well, good luck!" as she went into Billy's office.
Amanda spent the next hour pulling cross checks on social security numbers from the INS records to follow up on employment histories for Bauers in the DC area. All of a sudden, her eyes were riveted to what she saw on the screen. She underlined the last entry for 'Otto' with her finger, before hitting the print screen button. Picking up the page from the printer, she walked back across the bullpen and rapped rhythmically on Mr. Melrose's door.
"Come in, Amanda!" he called.
As she swept into the office, Amanda nodded first to Francine, then to Billy. "Sir! I know this may not sound like much, but I just checked through Mr. Bauer's employment history, and look what I found," she started, showing the printout to both Francine and Billy. "This says that Otto Bauer worked the last ten years before he retired as a high school chemistry teacher. Wouldn't that mean he'd have access to. . ."
"Right. . ." Billy stretched out the word, understanding lighting his features, "he'd have had access to chemicals like sulphuric and nitric acids, for instance? Very good, Amanda. Why don't you see what else you can find out about this Otto Bauer."
"Yes, sir!" she said with a smile, whirling around to go back to her computer.
"Francine, take a trip over to this high school and see what they have to say about Mr. Bauer. They ought to remember him-he just retired last year."
"All right, Billy, I'm on it," Francine replied, taking the printout and heading out through the bullpen.
Lee perched on the edge of a high-backed leather chair, across the book-strewn desk from his old friend and former Agency instructor, T. Percival Aquinas. "So. . .T.P., what can you tell me about the Lightning Flash group?"
"Ah yes, der Blitzstrahl, a nasty bunch of misfits, indeed," T.P. replied. He pushed his glasses up to the bridge of his nose and leaned forward with his elbows on the desk and his hands folded in front of him. "Their leader, Gunther Heller, is as cold and calculating as they come. . .hates the West in general, and Americans in particular. You'll note there were over 100 Americans on that unfortunate 747 at the Frankfurt airport," he pointed out, shaking his head sorrowfully.
"Yeah, I know" Lee commiserated. "You know, we ran afoul of Heller, actually one of his associates, Giesele Hofmeier, just yesterday."
"Ah. The iron maiden," T.P. mused aloud.
Lee cleared his throat and tried not to think about what the 'iron maiden' might have done to Amanda if she'd had the time. He ran his finger down the binding of a 17th century volume of Milton's Paradise Lost, then lifted his eyes as he asked, "T.P.? Do you know anything about an Erich Bauer?"
"Oh yes, Lee. Erich Bauer is-was-a promising young chemistry major at the university in Dresden until last spring. He was inches away from completing his degree program when Heller recruited him. Although I'm not sure if one should call it recruitment when it's done at gunpoint, so to speak. You see, young Mr. Bauer has a few relatives who emigrated to the U.S. at the end of World War II, before the Soviets closed the door on such activities. One of those relatives, Uncle Otto, was a chemistry teacher for years, and would have been able to put his hands on numerous bomb-making essentials. It would be just like our Mr. Heller to threaten Erich and his dear old uncle to enlist their help."
"Yes, I'll bet it would," Lee agreed with a rueful smile. He stood and reached across the desk to shake his friend's hand. "Thanks, T.P. If you hear anything else, you can reach me at this number. See you later," he said, laying his business card on the desk and turning to leave.
Lee rapped on Billy Melrose's door and proceeded to enter. He was somewhat surprised that what appeared to be a meeting had already started without him. Francine and Amanda occupied the two chairs that faced Billy's desk, and Dieter Volkenauer stood behind Amanda, leaning his arm against the bookshelf.
Francine had started to tell Billy about her conversations with the principal and some of the teachers and students at Hamilton High School in Alexandria, when Lee started through the door. "Billy, I. . .oh. I'm sorry," he said, with a sheepish grin. Vaguely circling his hand in the air, he questioned, "Am I interrupting something here?"
"No, no, it's all right, Lee. I'm glad you're here," Billy assured him. He turned his attention to his blonde assistant, saying, "All right, Francine, you were saying?"
"Well, Billy, if the faculty and students at Hamilton High are to be believed, Mr. Otto Bauer should be on the short list for Man of the Year," she said with a smirk. "He seems to have been well liked and respected by students and teachers alike. None of the people I talked to could imagine him being involved in any kind of illegal activity."
Amanda nodded and looked from Francine to Billy as she chimed in, "That squares with what I found out, too, sir. Mr. Bauer emigrated to the States right after the war, and became a U.S. citizen in 1953. He's been an active supporter of charities and disaster relief organizations, collecting food and clothing for poor people and giving his time to teach young children to read. I just don't see how a man like that. . ."
"How a man like that could get involved in something like this?" Lee asked. "I have a pretty good idea, Amanda. My friend T. P. Aquinas just told me that Erich Bauer didn't exactly volunteer to be a member of the Lightning Flash. You might say he was 'drafted' to help with Heller's DC mission. And good old Uncle Otto could have been pressured into. . ."
Dieter had watched the other agents' interaction and listened to their comments with increasing interest. "Pardon me," he cut in, holding up his hand and looking directly at Lee before turning his eyes to Billy. "But from what we know about Erich and his Uncle Otto, it would seem that we might find one or both of them helpful as well, that is, if we can find a way to communicate with them."
Billy nodded slowly, as he started to process Dieter's suggestion. "All right, but how can we get to either of the Bauers without Heller and company finding out?"
Amanda piped up, "Well, he doesn't work on Tuesdays, but there's a big craft sale going on in the Hamilton High gym after school today, to raise money for a new homeless shelter." At everyone's quizzical looks, she waved her hand through the air and said, "I saw it in the paper this morning, okay? Anyway, I'll just bet Otto Bauer will be there."
He looked as though he thought it was little more than a shot in the dark, but Billy sighed and said, "Well, I suppose it's worth a try. All right, Lee. Take Amanda over there with you and see if you can talk with Uncle Otto. Find out what they're holding over him and his nephew, and see if he knows anything about Heller's plans."
Lee looked a bit like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, but he nodded and said, "Okay, Billy." He held out his hand to Amanda, but she made it quite clear she could manage to get out of the chair without his aid, so he withdrew his hand, turned and headed out of the office.
Amanda nodded to Billy, then to Dieter and Francine in turn, as she said softly, "Sir. . .see you all later." She hurried out to catch up with Lee in the hallway. She touched his sleeve but didn't turn to face him as she started to speak. "Lee? Maybe it'd be a good idea if we take my car, you know, since we're going to a neighborhood craft sale."
"Yeah," Lee agreed, without looking in her direction either. The truth was, he didn't know what to say to her, not after last night. He'd tried to apologize, but somehow, he'd only succeeded in hurting her, the last thing he wanted to do. He felt like he was treading on eggshells, afraid to say anything for fear of making things even worse between them. On the way to the school, both of them said very little, confining their conversation to the case and the pleasantly mild autumn weather.
Lee followed Amanda's lead as they circulated among the various booths at the
craft sale, booths offering everything from crocheted bookmarks and folksy
sayings embroidered on dish towels to painted wood lawn ornaments, the kind that
portrayed Farmer Jones' derrière and were meant to hold the garden hose. When he
saw those, Lee leaned over and whispered in Amanda's ear, "Where are the
flamingos? There ought to be flamingos!"
Amanda couldn't help chuckling herself, but she gave him a swift jab with her elbow when she caught him beginning to double over in laughter. She rolled her eyes at him and moved on to the next booth, secretly thankful that he'd broken the ice.
Finally, they worked their way to the far end of the labyrinth, where Amanda spotted Mr. Bauer. He was busy at the moment, selling a beautiful handmade quilt and graciously thanking his customer. "You enjoy that quilt, now, and be sure to take one of Mrs. Ferguson's cards. Thank you again!" he said, as the customer walked away with her treasure.
Amanda cast an admiring gaze over a blue and white wedding ring patterned quilt, lightly touching the delicate patchwork. She held it up and turned the corner over to inspect the painstaking handiwork, waiting to be sure they didn't have any spectators. She leaned her hands on the table and said, "Mr. Bauer? You probably don't remember me, but. . ."
The old gentleman looked over her face as she spoke, then lifted a finger to interject, "Oh yes, yesterday at the Lincoln, you came to the bookstore, yes? And you asked where you could find a. . ."
"A phone, yes," Amanda continued for him.
Bauer asked, "Did you find it all right?"
"Oh yes, I found it," she answered with a sardonic grin, tipping her head to the side as she remembered what else she'd found in the bargain. "Mr. Bauer," she began again, casting another quick glance around the area before going on. "My name is Amanda King, and this is my friend, Lee Stetson," she said with a wave of her hand.
Lee nodded to their new friend and reached out to shake his hand. He flashed his badge quickly and replaced it in his jacket pocket, then said quietly, "Mr. Bauer, is there someplace we can talk?"
Otto Bauer's hands trembled slightly, but Amanda noticed that his face seemed more relaxed than when they'd first seen him. He motioned for the two of them to follow him as he walked toward the back of the bleachers. "I can't be away for long, but how may I help you?" he said, keeping his voice low and looking back toward the quilt table.
"Well, actually, we were hoping we might be able to help each other," Lee said. "You have a nephew visiting with you, from East Germany, Erich, correct?"
Otto hesitated before answering, "Y-yes, my nephew Erich is here."
"We had reason to believe that he came here as part of the Lightning Flash terrorist group," Lee began, holding up a hand to stop Bauer's threatened outburst, "but. . .we have since discovered that he may have been forced into that role. . .and, because of your past career, the group might have drafted you, too."
Amanda added with a voice full of kindness and concern, "Mr. Bauer, we know what a good life you've lived since coming to this country, and how you're actively involved with good causes, and you're well respected in the community. We can't imagine that you'd be involved in anything like this, not without. . ."
"Not without serious pressure from outside, " Lee finished for her. "What can you tell us, Mr. Bauer?"
Otto's shoulders drooped, and he looked away for a few seconds before replying, "I honestly don't know all of the circumstances of Erich's recruitment, but I do know why he is here, still working for that demon. Three weeks ago, they kidnapped Erich's mother, Hilda Bauer, in Dresden. She went out to the market one day, and never came home. Heller called Erich that night, threatening to kill Hilda if he failed to cooperate with their plans."
Lee and Amanda locked eyes briefly, each of them silently acknowledging the gravity of the situation. Lee looked to Otto again as he asked, "Has Heller tried to involve you in any way?"
"I'm afraid so, yes. You see, I still have a small chemistry lab in my basement, and Heller has raided my supply cabinets. And then, of course, there is my part time job."
"At the Lincoln Memorial?" Amanda prompted. "What did they want from you there, sir?"
"That is very strange, ma'am." Otto shrugged his shoulders, adding, "All they seemed to want was to borrow my keys to the downstairs storeroom."
Lee looked to Amanda, sliding a hand down her arm as he commented, "I guess we'd better have a look at that storeroom." He returned his attention to Otto Bauer, asking, "Is there another way out of here? We'd better be going." Otto pointed the way before waving goodbye and returning to the quilts, just as a new potential customer came to the table.
After he'd found a pay phone across from the school and made a call to the
Agency to tell Billy what they'd learned from "Uncle Otto", Lee pulled Amanda’s
station wagon out of the parking lot and started the drive from Alexandria to
DC. He took a quick look at his watch, saying, "Amanda, it's getting late. Are
you sure you don't want to just drop me off at the Agency and go on home to your
She checked her own watch and told him, "Oh no, Lee. It's not even five o'clock yet, and I told Mother this morning I might have to work late tonight. Besides, we've come this far, and I'd kinda like to see this through, you know?"
"Yeah, I'll just bet you would," he answered with a slow nod, smiling to himself at her persistence. He caught himself wondering if her mother was still buying the 'editing room' story, when he heard her call his name.
"Lee? I sure hope they find Erich's mother in time."
"Me, too," Lee agreed. "Billy told me he'd already sent some of our people to check up on anyone who might be close to Erich Bauer. . .family, neighbors, close friends. So. . . hopefully, they'll find her real soon."
"Right," Amanda replied, as they pulled into a parking space close to the Memorial.
The uniformed Park Service security guard was there at the base of the steps waiting for them. Lee flashed his badge and made the necessary introductions, and the guard led them around to the lower level entrance. He opened the door marked "Storeroom - Authorized Personnel Only" and led the way into a vast, wide open space.
Lee and Amanda took their time, each looking high and low in the relatively small area that appeared to be used for storage. In the corner closest to the doorway, there were a few tall metal shelves stacked with books, pamphlets and other supplies for the bookstore upstairs. Amanda stooped down to look at a large bag on the bottom shelf. "What do you make of this, Lee?" she asked, reaching inside the bag and picking up a small handful of crystals. "It's rock salt, the kind you use to make homemade ice cream, you know?"
"No. . .I mean, I'm not all that well versed in making ice cream," Lee said, shrugging his shoulders, as he kept walking past the shelves. At the end of the last shelf, he stopped and turned around to face her. "Wait. . .what are all these coolers doing here?" He counted six large picnic coolers, stacked three-high.
With extreme care, Lee lifted the lid off of one of the coolers, only to find it half filled with ice water, with two large glass beakers floating in it. A thermometer rested in one of the two containers. Amanda came closer and touched Lee's arm as she said, "Ice. Remember, Lee? Francine said our people had tracked some of the terrorists buying lots and lots of ice. But why would they need rock salt and ice?"
"Well, I think it's safe to say they're not making ice cream," Lee answered with a hint of irony. He replaced the lid and took hold of her hand to start them toward the open doorway. "It's the nitro, Amanda! They've already mixed up the nitroglycerine. I just hope we're not too late."
On the way out, they thanked the guard and Lee gave him his business card, asking him to let them know about any suspicious comings and goings in and around the Memorial.
As they made their way back to the car, Lee noticed that Amanda had picked up something on the way out of the storage area. "What's that you've got there?" he asked.
"This? It's one of those soft-sided backpacks, you know, like the ones some students use," she answered, as she hurried to keep up with his long strides. "There were three or four of these on the bottom shelf, next to the rock salt. Oh, look, Lee! There's a patch, with a lightning bolt on it, see?"
"Yeah. . .", he said, drawing the word out slowly. He stopped their forward progress and looked off into the distance for a second, then turned back to look into her eyes. "Those backpacks, Amanda. . .what if they're planning to use those to plant several small bombs all around the Memorial, instead of planting one or two large ones?"
Amanda shuddered at the thought of any bombs, but she said, "I suppose they could, Lee, but how will we be able to stop them?"
"I don't know. . .not yet," Lee admitted, "but I do have a few ideas. Come on, let's get back to the Agency."
After he helped her into the car and started to walk around to his side, Amanda smiled. She had to admire his 'man with the plan' attitude. When he was like this, she believed he could do almost anything.
At about 9:00 a.m., Lee casually strolled past the entrance to the bookstore at the Lincoln Memorial. He caught sight of Otto Bauer, making eye contact for a brief instant and moving on. He waited for Otto's sole customer to come out, then went in and started browsing. After a few minutes, he took one of the small books on Lincoln's early life and took it to the counter. With a friendly smile, he said, almost under his breath, "I'm just a customer. We've never met. Now. . .when I hand you the money for this book, I'll also hand you a miniaturized two-way radio. If you see Heller, or any of the others you recognize, just depress the red button to talk into it. If they come too close, press the button and hold it down, and we'll pick up the signal."
Otto nodded, saying, "That'll be $7.50, sir," and accepting Lee's twenty-dollar bill and the small device. As he counted back the change into Lee's palm, he asked quietly, "You have more people here?" At Lee's almost imperceptible nod, he smiled, and said, full voice, "Thank you very much, sir! Have a good day!"
Lee walked out of the bookstore and scanned the faces of several visitors to the central Memorial chamber as he pretended to read the engraved quotations on either side of the imposing statue of Mr. Lincoln. Twenty minutes later, when he turned to exit the Memorial, he narrowed his eyes as he saw Dieter and Amanda holding hands and walking up the steps, apparently enjoying each other's company, going by the smiles on their faces. His fists clenched at his sides involuntarily, but he took a deep breath and squared his shoulders, quickly assuming a practiced air of indifference as he passed by them on his way down to the Reflecting Pool.
By 10:00 a.m., the visitors coming for the Family Values rally had begun to congregate near the Reflecting Pool and at the base of the steps. In amongst the many family groups were numerous federal agents, clad for the most part in khaki pants and golf shirts, and fitting in seamlessly. Several of them carried soft-sided backpacks, presumably for the purpose of carrying sandwiches and soft drinks for an impromptu lunch later. The rally was scheduled to kick off at 10:30, with a speech by a well-known minister. A large lectern stood outside the Memorial chamber, centered in front of the Abraham Lincoln statue, and technicians were just finishing the sound check. Lee walked past Francine Desmond without looking at her but saying, "Anything?"
"No, no transmissions. Otto hasn't seen them yet," she answered, smiling at Frank Duffy and offering him a can of soda from her backpack as she continued to talk to Lee. "We've been watching the front and all the way along the south side, in and out of all the columns, but so far, nothing."
"Just keep your eyes and ears open, and watch your backs," Lee said as he meandered through the crowd toward the right side of the Memorial. When he'd moved far enough around to be able to see between the columns, the muscle in his jaw began to twitch. "Giesele," he whispered to himself, then pulled the small walkie-talkie from inside his jacket. "Amanda? Dieter? You two still inside?"
"Lee?," Amanda whispered into the low-tech communicator.
"Yeah, it's me, Amanda," he responded. "Look, I just saw Giesele going down the steps on the north side. It looked to me like she'd just laid something down. Take a look over there, but be careful, okay?"
"Okay, we're on it," she answered, clicking off and sliding the walkie-talkie into her purse. As nonchalantly as possible, she and Dieter slipped across behind the speaker and walked hand-in-hand to the north side of the Memorial. About halfway back, sitting at the base of one of the marble columns, they spotted it. . .a small black backpack with a lightning-bolt patch.
Amanda leaned against the column and shielded Dieter from view as he began a slow, careful inspection of the backpack. He tugged lightly at the velcro that held the flap in place, then lifted it open gingerly. He held his hand up to Amanda and asked for the walkie-talkie. Pressing the button, he called, "Scarecrow?"
"Yeah," Lee replied, "What've you got?"
"It looks to be a bottle of clear liquid, with a fuse, connected to a timer."
"How much time?"
"If I'm reading this correctly, we have about 15 minutes," Dieter answered, folding the flap down and sealing the velcro closure. As he stood up back-to-back with Amanda he asked, "Now. . .what do you want us to do?"
"Switch that backpack for the one Amanda brought, then take that one to the back side of the Memorial, and hand it off to one of the bomb squad guys. Their truck is back there, marked DC Plumbing Supply. And be careful!"
Immediately, Lee checked in with Francine and found that Otto had radioed her about Giesele, and that he'd also spotted Gunther Heller going out the other side. Francine dispatched several agents to find the remaining bomb-laden backpacks. They found ten in all, and the bomb squad had managed to defuse them before the crowd was any the wiser. Fred Fielder caught the 'iron maiden' as she was trying to hail a cab on 23rd street. Agents rounded up seven others of the group as they'd tried to mix into the crowd after leaving their deadly packages.
While all of this was happening, Lee made a run for the 'Vette, which he'd parked at the back of the circular drive that encompassed the Memorial. When he passed Amanda, she started to follow after him. He turned back, pointing a finger at her and ordering, "You stay here! I'm gonna try and catch up to Heller. I'll meet you back at the Agency!" he called out, then folded his tall frame into the 'Vette and drove off.
Before she'd had time to protest, Amanda saw Billy Melrose pulling up in a brown sedan, with Erich Bauer in tow. "Sir!" she called out, running out to meet him.
Amanda looked to the young man and then to Billy. At her questioning look, Billy said, "We found Erich, here, bound to a chair at the motel. He filled us in on what he knew about the plan, and he's coming in to make a formal statement. Now. . .where's Scarecrow?" he asked.
"He just took off that way, sir," Amanda replied, extending her arm and pointing to her left. "He said he was after Gunther Heller."
Francine came down the steps then, and filled Billy in on the rest of the suspects and how the agents had apprehended each of them. "All right then," Billy said, "Lets get back to the office, and. . ."
Amanda cut in, "But sir. . .what about Lee?"
"Look, Amanda, he's a trained agent. He'll call for backup if he needs it—just trust him, all right?"
"But. . ." she started to say. At Billy's no-nonsense look, she caved in and said, "Okay. I'll see you back at the Agency."
Lee’s eyes narrowed as he caught sight of Gunther Heller on his motorcycle,
about a hundred yards ahead of him on Independence Avenue. He thumped the
steering wheel in frustration at the unusually heavy mid-morning traffic, as he
watched Heller cutting between two cars and making a sharp left turn. "Come on,
come on!" Lee shouted to the driver in front of him as the slow moving vehicle
finally moved out of his way. He gunned the ‘Vette’s accelerator and wheeled
around the corner, tires squealing, as he raced ahead, switching lanes to take
advantage of every chance to catch up to the runaway terrorist. He barely missed
hitting a tour bus at Constitution Avenue as he sped through the intersection,
finally overtaking Heller and cutting him off in front of Union Station. Lee
gasped as he looked back to see Heller spinning out of control and falling to
the ground. He pulled the ‘Vette over to the curb, running to kneel beside
Gunther’s broken body. He pressed his finger to Heller's neck and felt for a
pulse. Discovering a weak one at best, he sprinted back to his car and grabbed
the cell phone, quickly punching in the number for Billy Melrose.
Billy had just opened the door to his office as the phone rang. "Melrose."
"Billy, Scarecrow. I've got Heller, but he's in pretty bad shape. Call an ambulance and have 'em come to the corner of Independence Avenue and First Street, okay?"
"Consider it done," Billy replied. "As soon as they get there, come on in, and we'll tie up all the loose ends."
"You've got it, Billy," Lee said before hanging up the phone. A sad expression came over his face as he looked down at the fallen terrorist. He shook his head, wondering how someone so young could have built up so much hate.
Thursday Morning – 10:00
Billy Melrose smiled and said, "Thanks, Peterson! That’s great news. Good work! All right, I’ll talk to you later." As he placed the receiver back in its cradle and seated himself behind his desk, he beamed like a proud papa.
Lee twisted the doorknob and leaned into the office, asking "So what’s the good word, Billy?"
"They’ve rescued Mrs. Bauer, and she’s safe and sound," he replied.
"That’s great, Billy," Lee said with a bright smile. "What about the guys who took her?"
"We captured all three of them--with the help of the local Dresden police, if you can believe it."
With a sardonic grin, Lee countered, "Will wonders never cease?" His eyes brightened as he anticipated his partner’s reaction. "This is really good news, Billy. Amanda’ll be glad to hear. . ."
Billy’s smile faded slightly as he broke in, "Oh. . .didn’t she tell you? She was planning to meet Volkenauer over at the Jefferson Memorial this morning. . .you know, kind of finish up their interrupted tour, before saying goodbye."
"Oh," Lee said with a sick smile. He cast a fleeting glance out to the bullpen, then pointed out over his shoulder, saying softly, "Okay then, I guess I’ll just be. . ."
"Go on, man! Get out of here!" Billy snarled.
Thursday Morning – 10:30
Amanda and Dieter Volkenauer strolled around the Jefferson Memorial, pausing here and there to marvel at the writings of Thomas Jefferson that were etched into the interior panels, and to look up at the amazing bronze statue.
Shifting his gaze to appraise her delicate features, Dieter said, "Amanda. . ."
"Mm?" she responded, turning to face him.
He smiled and began again, "Thank you for meeting me here today. This is a truly remarkable place. I only wish I could have stayed here longer." His downcast eyes revealed the deep disappointment he felt as he went on to say, "It is most unfortunate, but it appears our ‘typical Bavarian meal’ has been put off once again."
Amanda shrugged and smiled sympathetically, saying, "Yeah. . .I’m afraid so. But it just couldn’t be helped, you know? We had a lot of loose ends to tie up last night, with all the interrogations and debriefings, and. . ."
"Yes, yes, I know, Amanda," Dieter interjected with a wry grin. "I was there, too."
She cleared her throat in embarrassment, then looked down at the small bouquet of yellow roses she held in her hand. She looked up and gave Dieter a friendly smile. "I want to thank you again for the roses. They’re beautiful."
Dieter leaned forward in a courtly bow and returned her smile as he said, "You are more than welcome, my dear Amanda, but they simply cannot compare to y—"
"Aww!" Amanda cut in, chuckling softly and waving off his over-the-top compliment. Searching for a way to change the subject, she looked out between the columns for a moment, then turned back to him to ask, "So. . .when do you have to leave?"
Dieter looked at his watch and replied, "Very soon, I’m sorry to say. In fact, I should probably go back to the hotel now, to be able to check out and get to the airport on time." He connected with her eyes and his voice held a note of sadness as he said, "I would say ‘wiedersehen’, Amanda, but will I? See you again, that is?"
"No," she blurted out, then backtracked to say, "I, uh. . .I honestly don’t know, Dieter. Anything can happen." She waved a hand through the air, gesturing as she went on, "I mean, look at me. I’d never been to Europe before in my life, and I ended up going there several times last year, and two of those times I landed in Munich. . .so I guess you never know. Maybe?" she finished, tipping her head to the side.
He shook his head and smiled, then lifted her hand to his lips. "It’s all I can hope for. Auf wiedersehen, Amanda."
"Goodbye, Dieter," she said with a sweet smile and a small wave of her hand, as she watched him walk away.
Thursday Morning – 10:30
Lee Stetson parked the ‘Vette at the curb alongside the Jefferson Memorial a few spaces behind Amanda’s station wagon. He took his time climbing the steps and working his way around the double circle of columns, until he heard two familiar-sounding voices. He stepped to the side of one of the columns, to a point where he could see the two speakers, but remain unobserved.
He could only pick up bits and pieces of their conversation, but he found himself paying close attention to Amanda’s face, especially her eyes. He saw their accustomed warmth and friendliness, their sense of fun, even a little, what, embarrassment? He had to admit to himself, if to no one else, that he was pleased, very pleased, at what he didn’t see. Magic. There was no magic, no special glow in her eyes. A slow smile spread across his face, that is, until he saw Dieter kissing Amanda’s hand. The muscle in his jaw twitched as he thought, ‘Oh, please! Give it up, man!’
Then the German detective turned to leave, and Lee backed up slightly, doing his best to stay out of sight until Dieter had passed by. He stepped forward again to see Amanda waving goodbye. Still no magic. . .a touch of regret, maybe, but no magic shone in those beautiful chocolate eyes. He smiled to himself then, and quietly closed the distance, stepping up to her side and whispering, "Hi."
"Oh. . .hi!" she said softly, turning to look up into his eyes. "Been here long?"
"No, not long," he said, then looked away before he finished, "but long enough."
She formed a little ‘O’ with her lips before starting to speak. "Oh, so you saw us saying. . ."
"Wiedersehen," Lee interrupted.
"Goodbye," Amanda corrected, almost simultaneously.
"Mm," Lee accepted, tipping his head to her. He took a closer look at the yellow roses, indicating them with his hand as he said, "Very pretty. Are they from. . ."
"Dieter? Yes they are." She glanced from the roses to Lee and added with a smile, "They are nice, aren’t they? I like yellow roses—I’ve always liked yellow roses, but you know what?"
"No. What?" Lee questioned in return.
"I like red ones a lot better," she answered with a sly grin.
Lee tilted his head slightly, smiling with his eyes as he said, "Is that so?"
"Mm," Amanda answered simply. She cleared her throat and asked him, "So. . .what brings you here, anyway?"
"Good news, Amanda," he said, as he placed his hand at the small of her back and started them walking across the Memorial. "We found Mrs. Bauer, and she’s doing just fine."
"Oh, Lee! That’s wonderful! Gee, I hope the Agency can work something out for Erich and his Uncle Otto, too. They weren’t to blame, you know? And they did what they could to help us, too, and. . ."
"Amanda, we’ll do everything we can, okay?"
"Okay," she answered with a small smile.
As they came outside, sunlight reflected off of a small white card that was tied to one of the roses with a tiny piece of ribbon. "Lee! Look, there’s a card here," she said, as she took it out of its miniature envelope. "I hadn’t even noticed it before. Could you read it for me, please?"
Reluctantly, Lee took the card from her hand and began to read, "Ich werde dich vermissen, Amanda, mehr als du glaubst. Roughly translated, he’s saying he’ll miss you."
"Oh yeah, I can kinda see that part, the vermissen, right? But what are these last four words?"
"More than you know, okay? He says he’ll miss you, Amanda," he paused and looked down for a moment, then returned his gaze to her eyes and continued in a voice just above a whisper, "more than you know."
Their eyes locked, and her voice cracked slightly as she whispered, "Oh."
They stood still for a moment, and Amanda looked as though she was trying to read something in his expression as she asked, "Lee? Would you?"
"Hm?" he responded with a slight tilt of his head, his eyes never leaving hers.
"Would I miss you? Oh. . .you mean if we were never going to. . ."
"See each other again, yes," she finished for him.
Lee closed his eyes and pursed his lips, as if he had to consider the question. . .as if there could be any doubt, he told himself. He opened his eyes and gave her a teasing grin as he replied, "Well, since I have gotten kind of used to having you around. . ." he paused, circling his hand in the air, "and since we’ve been, you know, working together so closely, I uh, I suppose I would. . .yeah," he finished with a nod and a wink.
Lee flinched at Amanda’s playful ‘thwack’ on his arm, then answered, "Of course I would, Amanda, and you know it." He gave her a dimpled grin and tipped his head, offering his hand to her and saying, "Shall we?"
Amanda took hold of his hand as naturally as if they’d been doing it for years, and the two of them made their way down the steps to her car. Lee held the door for her as she got in and laid the roses down on the seat beside her. She smiled up to him and said, "See you later?"
"You bet," he answered with a smile. As he turned and walked back to the ‘Vette, he thought, ‘Would I miss you, Amanda? More than you know.’
Author's Note: This story refers to situations, events and some of the
dialogue from these episodes (writers’ names in parentheses): "Our Man in
Tegernsee" and "Affair at Bromfield Hall" (Juanita Bartlett); "The Mole" (Chris
Gould); "Service Above and Beyond" (Peter Lefcourt); "The Times They Are A
Changin’" (Bill Froehlich and Mark Lisson); "There Goes the Neighborhood" and
"The First Time" (Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming); and "We’re Off to See
the Wizard" (Whitney Wherrett Roberson). All rights associated with these
episodes belong to the original series writers and the production companies.
This is a work of fiction written for entertainment purposes only, and no
copyright infringement is intended.
Honorable mention: Broadway musical fans will also notice a tiny little homàge to Stephen Sondheim.