Summary:Occurs before Lee finds the man who killed his parents. Lee comes across some old files and makes an interesting discovery. Mid-third season.
Disclaimer:Scarecrow and Mrs. King and all characters and situations afiliated with it belong to Shoot the Moon and Warner Brothers Productions. I simply enjoy borrowing them for my own entertainment purposes.
Author's Notes:I do not always follow the series exactly. If this bothers you, please refrain from reading. Constructive criticism and comments are always welcome, but if you just don't like the story simply because it's not in line with the series, please keep it to yourself. Thank you.
Special Thanks to my beta readers, Snuffy94 and KrisCatherine, for your invaluable suggestions and assistance!! :)
Hanky Alert: Yes, you may need some tissue or a hanky handy during certain segments of this story.
"Amanda!" Dotty called for her daughter for the third time, again getting no response. "Phillip, where is your mother? I need help with the groceries."
"She's up in the attic, Grandma," Phillip answered.
"What's she doing up in the attic?" Dotty asked, a perplexed look on her face.
"She's looking for Dad's old train set. She said we could set it up. Dad said it would be okay," Jamie said excitedly.
"Oh. Well, you boys run out to the car and grab some bags for me."
Up in the attic, Amanda was covered with dust and sneezing. Her eyes were watering, and as she wiped at them, her hand came away stained with mascara. "Great," she muttered under her breath.
She reached for a box she was sure was the train set, but it came loose before she could grab it. It toppled, the contents spilling out around her. It was not, however, the train set.
She began picking up the items and re-packing the box. She realized that these must have been her father's things. There was an old shaving kit, a few photographs, a hat, some clothes and a journal, among other odds and ends.
Her attention was fixed on the journal. Had her mother read this, she wondered.
Temporarily giving up the search for the train set, she carried the journal downstairs with her.
Walking into the kitchen she saw that Dotty had returned from the market. There were several bags on the counters and floor, and Phillip and Jamie were busy hauling in even more.
"Oh, good, Mother, you're home," she said, sneezing again.
"Oh, Amanda! You look awful!" Dotty exclaimed, brushing off Amanda's shoulder.
"I know, Mother," she said distractedly. "Mother, I found these things in the attic, and I was wondering why you had them up there?"
"Oh, honey, I didn't want reminders of your daddy all over. I mean I have pictures, but that's all I need besides my memories. Oh, the journal!" Dotty took it from her daughter laughing softly.
"What's so funny?" Amanda asked.
"Oh, your father always kept a journal. He had this for years. He wrote so small, and look at all the pages. It was nearly full." Dotty smiled at the memory as she flipped through the yellowed pages.
"That's funny?" Amanda was confused.
"No, dear, what's funny is that your father evidently had quite a vivid imagination. He wrote these...little stories that I know weren't true!"
"Little stories, Mother?" She asked, reaching for the journal again.
"Yes. I never read the thing while he was alive, of course. But a few months after he died, I decided I wanted to read it, so I did." Dotty's eyes were misty with memories of her husband.
"May I read this?" She held the journal close.
"Oh, sweetheart, of course you can," Dotty patted her arm. "But first help me put these groceries away."
"Okay," she agreed, kissing her mother's cheek.
"Hey, Mom! Jamie said he sees the train set up in the garage!" Phillip said excitedly as he set down two more bags of groceries.
"Oh, my gosh! Okay, we'll get it down in a few minutes, sweetheart."
Later that evening, Amanda changed for bed and got in beneath the covers. It was early, but she was curious about her father's journal. She opened the book, and began reading. Much of the first several pages were about Dotty and Amanda, whom he had called 'Munchkin'. He wrote about his involvement in the navy and other things of normal life.
Carl West had died when Amanda was four years old, his car skidding off the road for no apparent reason, but with enough force to kill him on impact. There had been no witnesses and no other cars involved. From what Dotty had told her, he'd been a Lieutenant, Junior Grade, in the Navy He and Dotty had been very much in love, and when Amanda came along, they couldn't have been happier.
With a sigh, she found herself wishing once again that she'd had the chance to know him better. She remembered him as a big man, tall and strong, very affectionate and always reading stories to her.
She found herself wondering again about the manner in which he had died. Dotty had said he was an excellent driver, and she'd always wondered how he could lose control of his car that way, when it wasn't even raining.
One entry caused her to sit up and adjust the light. It was dated July 5. For some reason, he had not recorded a year.
'Hello, Walter (he had so named the journal). I won't give names or details, but I had the most fascinating experience of my life today. A young couple approached me and handed me a thick envelope. They told me to give it to Colonel Samson when he was alone. Then they asked me to meet them the next day outside Wilson's Drug Store. Then they left, fast as they'd come.
So I gave the envelope to the Colonel and he thanked me, told me I'd saved his life, and said to tell 'Mr. S' as I'll call him, that all was well, and that Green Valley had an inch of rain.
I write this because one day I will wonder if it really happened or not! Well, Walter, the Munchkin is clamoring for a story (the same one the third night in a row!) so for now I'll close. Can't wait for tomorrow.
Well, I went to Wilson's at the designated time. The S's were there as they said they'd be. They were out walking like any normal family. They have a munchkin too as it turns out. A little boy named Lee. I relayed the message from Colonel Samson and they thanked me. I asked if there was anything else I could do, and they said, no. But if there was they'd be in touch, that they knew where to find me.'
Amanda re-read the passages again. She knew Lee's parents had been agents. This was no coincidence. Her father, Carl West, had been recruited to assist Lee's parents! The very idea sent a shiver down Amanda's back. This was too strange...
Later passages indicated that their relationship grew and was stregthened. Her father had started referring to the Stetsons as friends. One entry in particular caught Amanda's attention.
'S. saved my life today. Things got pretty hairy, and
he pushed me out of the line of fire. I am in debt to him. I will repay
the favor someday if need be, even if it costs me my own life. He warned
me that this could be dangerous...'
Amanda continued to read, astonished at what she had found. Obviously her mother didn't know any of this was true. The phrase Dotty had used, "little stories," kept running through Amanda's head.
In subsequent entries, Amanda's father had gone on to relate several incidents wherein he assisted the "S's". Soon it started sounding like he had become a contact, though he never gave specifcs. He did, however, make mention of going on a couple of "milk-runs", which Amanda immediately identified with.
The entries about his assistance to the Stetsons were scattered here and there throughout the journal, meetings with contacts at odd hours and even odder places, and sketchy descriptions of meetings with members of 'the family'. It almost did sound as if he was writing down little fictional events to amuse himself. He always did like spy novels, Amanda remembered Dotty saying as much. That's where I get it from, she smiled.
If not for her own experiences, Amanda would have simply accepted her mother's explanation; but she knew that there was far more to this than met the eye. She leaned back, recalling her own gradual involvement with the Agency. She could easily identify with her father's innuendo and vague references.
She glanced at the clock. It wasn't all that late. She reached over to pick up the phone and dial Lee's number, when it rang, startling her.
"Hello?" she answered.
"Hi there!" Lee greeted her with a smile in his voice.
"Hi, Lee," she returned, smiling herself. The sound of his voice always made her heart beat twice as fast as normal. "I was just reaching for the phone to call you!"
"You were?" Lee was delighted that Amanda had been planning to call him.
"Yeah, I think I''ve found something interesting," she told him, tracing the word JOURNAL with her finger.
"Oh," Lee was a little disappointed. "So this isn't a pleasure call?"
"Oh, it's always a pleasure to talk to you," Amanda flirted.
"Likewise, Mrs. King," he flirted back.
Lately they had developed an easy, flirtatious banter. They were both enjoying this added element to an already close and trusting friendship. Both Lee and Amanda enjoyed the other's company, always wanting to be together. Quiet dinners, lunch at the diner down the street from IFF, and frequent phone calls when they were 'off the clock' were becoming more and more common.
Neither one of them was able to put their finger on when exactly their relationship had evolved to this flirtatious stage. Neither one of them questioned it, either. They were simply enjoying themselves immensely.
"Thank you," Amanda said lightly. Then her tone became serious. "Lee, I think we need to get together tomorrow, because it'd be hard to discuss at work on Monday," she said, not sure how much to try and explain over the phone.
"My pleasure," Lee agreed, a smile in his voice again. "Let me take you to lunch."
"How about breakfast?" Amanda asked, not wanting to wait that long.
"Even better," Lee said. He didn't want to hang up. "So what are you doing?"
"Oh, just reading. You?" Amanda responded. She could tell he wanted to chat, and that was fine with her!
"I was watching t.v. but I got bored. That's why I decided to call you," Lee told her.
"Ahhh," Amanda smiled. "I'm more entertaining than television, huh?"
Lee laughed a funny little laugh. "You're more entertaining than a lot of things," he confirmed.
Amanda felt a thrill at his words. "I'll take that as a compliment," she grinned.
"It was meant as one," Lee said seriously.
They talked for a few more minutes, feeling like high school kids. Then, reluctantly, Amanda said, "I guess I'd better let you go, and I'll see you in the morning."
"Okay," Lee was reluctant to end the conversation too. "I'll pick you up at eight?"
"How about seven-thirty?"
"Even better," Lee said again, grinning.
"Goodnight, Lee," Amanda nearly whispered.
"Goodnight, Amanda," Lee whispered back.
After hanging up, Amanda tried to read further in the journal, but her eyes were tired, still stinging from all the dust and sneezing. Besides, she couldn't get her mind off Lee and the sound of his voice when he said 'goodnight'.
On his end, Lee hung up the phone and sat on his couch, thinking about Amanda. It was silly, in a way, but he wished he could have kept her on the phone longer. They didn't even need to have a specific topic for conversation. He just liked the connection, having her on the phone made her seem so close.
More and more, he was finding her impossible to live without.
He wanted to be with her all the time. It was no longer enough to have
her as a partner and a friend. He wanted more...so much more.
The next morning, Lee pulled his Corvette up in front of Amanda's house and watched as she close the front door and come outside. She looked over at him and smiled as she gave him a little wave.
As she walked towards the car, Lee took in the sight of her in off white slacks and matching cable-knit sweater. He wasn't sure why, but he could swear she became prettier every time he laid eyes on her.
Amanda opened the car door and got in. "Good morning," she smiled at her partner.
"Good morning," Lee greeted her, and had the urge to lean over and kiss her on the cheek. Instead, he sat immobilized and asked, "How did you sleep?"
"Pretty good, thanks, how 'bout you?"
"Fine," he told her.
She set her father's journal on her lap and placed her hands over it. Lee's curiosity was piqued, but he decided to wait until she was ready to talk. He looked at her and asked, "Where do you want to go for breakfast?"
"How about the little coffee shop right around the corner?" she suggested.
"Okay by me," Lee agreed.
Once at the restaurant, Lee ordered coffee and Amanda ordered coffee, toast and cantelope.
"Big breakfast," he teased after the waitress left the table.
"Speak for yourself," she teased back. Lee only winked at her.
"Lee," Amanda folded her hands on the table, not knowing how to start. "I found my father's journal in a box in the attic. I read most of it last night. I think you should read it."
"Why?" He asked as she slid the time-worn book over to his side of the table.
"I think he was involved with the Agency, Lee. There are several things that point to it pretty conclusively."
Lee laughed. She has a vivid imagination, he thought. But when her expression remained serious and became reproachful at his laughter, he cleared his throat and said, "I'm sure there's a logical explanation, Amanda. I mean, it's highly improbable..."
"Why? It's improbable for me, too, but here I am." Taking the book back, she opened it to the page where her father mentioned meeting Lee's parents outside Wilson's Drug Store. "Read this section," she pointed. "Then over here," she flipped two pages over.
He took the book and read, smiling; but after a few seconds, his smile faded and was replaced by a questioning frown. "Okay, okay. That's kind of strange, I guess." He was more affected than he cared to let on. After all the research he'd done on his parents, not to mention a full background check on Amanda when she first joined the Agency, it was not likely that something would turn up in a journal. And Lee had seen some pretty odd coincidences in his time. Still, Lee was shaken by the possibility of it all.
"Kind of -" she began.
They were interrupted by the arrival of Amanda's breakfast. "Thank you," she said to the waitress.
"It's more than 'kind of strange'. My father knew your parents, Lee, he calls them friends. Your father saved my father's life!" She reached over and touched Lee's hand. She looked him in the eye, then went on. "You need to read the whole thing. There's more."
Lee could tell Amanda was convinced. If this were true...no, it was too fantastic!
While she ate her toast and fruit, Lee read the pages she had marked. He didn't say a word, and seemed to be concentrating intently on what he was reading. Amanda watched him silently.
"I think you're right," he said slowly. "Your mother has no idea?"
"She thinks he had a vivid imagination and was writing down little stories. He was into books about spies and espionage and that kind of thing," she explained.
"Like father, like daughter, huh?" Lee grinned.
Amanda smiled too. "Yeah, I guess so!"
Lee became serious again. "It's strange, isn't it? That even that far back, when we were just children, we're connected."
She smiled softly at him. "It is pretty strange," she agreed nodding.
"Lee," she said, "I don't know if it's related or not; but my father died in a kind of bizarre accident. He went off an embankment one night, but there were no other cars involved and it wasn't even raining. The police report said that the damage to the car indicated that he must have been traveling really fast. But he was always a safe driver."
She remembered Dotty telling her about her father's death when she had gotten older. She had spoken with such conviction and love in her voice. Amanda knew that something must have happened to cause him to run off the road like he did.
"Well, I'll run his name through the computer and look through some of my parents' old files. Maybe foul play was involved," Lee shrugged.
"That's what I was wondering." she relaxed visibly and closed her eyes. Then she continued, "I feel better now that you know about it too. I didn't want to say anything to Mother."
"No problem. I'm interested now to see if there's anything else to back this up," Lee patted her hand and then held it across the table.
"Well, I guess we'd better get going," Amanda said, squeezing Lee's hand.
"Yeah. Look, do you have to be home right away?" he asked.
"No, Mother knew I was going out for breakfast and when I left no one else was even awake yet," she said. "Why?"
"Well, I have copies of all my parents' files at my apartment and I thought if you want to come over we could look through them together," he said.
"Okay, sure," she agreed with a smile.
Lee paid the bill and left a tip on the table. Hand in
hand, they walked out into the morning sunshine.
Three hours later, Lee and Amanda were sitting side-by-side, shoulder to shoulder at Lee's dining room table with files spread out everywhere.
Amanda had called her mother and told her that she had been called in to work to do some emergency research, to which Dotty had responded with a knowing, "Yeah, right. Have fun!"
Lee watched Amanda out of the corner of his eye as she studied the contents of the folder in front of her. A lock of hair fell down into her eyes and she absently brushed it back, so involved in the file that she didn't even once notice that Lee was staring at her.
After a moment, Lee brushed aside his fascination and picked up yet another file and began reading. "Look at this," he exclaimed suddenly as he rested his hand on her arm.
Amanda leaned in closer to Lee, their shoulders brushing. She read the file aloud:
'Met contact at Wilson's again. We may have been followed. CW has been most helpful. Is going to try to find out why Colonel Samson is missing.'
As she read, Lee quickly became mesmerized, his eyes focusing on her lips. WIthout realizing what he was doing, he slowly reached for her hand and intertwined his fingers with hers.
"That's it," Amanda said, removing her hand from his and excitedly turning the journal to nearly the end page. "What?" It ws Lee's turn to lean closer to her, putting his arm around the back of her chair and taking in the intoxicating scent of her perfume.
Amanda had to rip her attention away from Lee's proximity and focus on the task at hand. Clearing her throat, she read aloud:
'Walter, Samson is gone. Just all of a sudden. I don't know why. I asked and was told that he has the flu. It's July. There's something odd going on. I hope to find out the truth. S. needs to know and I don't want to let him down. I feel like this could get dangerous. I have a bad feeling about what may have happened to the Colonel. Must end for now. I can hear the Munchkin giving Dot a hard time about going to bed.'
Lee smiled at the last line. "The Munchkin, I like that," he chuckled.
"Dont get any ideas, buster," Amanda teasingly warned and tickled him in the ribs. Lee laughed and withdrew his arm from the back of his chair to defend himself. He grabbed her hand and set it up on the table, away from his sensitive ribs.
"Lee, do you think we'll ever put all of the pieces together?" Amanda asked, serious again, reaching for his hand again.
"I don't know. We may not," He said as he absently he rubbed her hand. "But at least you know a little something about your father that you didn't know before. It's still amazing to me that my parents knew him. He was their contact, their friend."
"Yeah," Amanda sighed. It was incredible; like Lee had mentioned before, they now had a connection that went back much further than just a few years.
Amanda looked into Lee's eyes; he was looking at her seriously, apparently deep in thought. She was a little disconcerted, and looked away. Playful flirting was one thing, but when Lee lookedat her like this, she didn't know how to interpret it.
'Is he thinking about kissing me right now? Cause that's sure how he looks. How would it feel if he kissed me? What would I do? Or is he just lost in thought, no thinking about me at all?
"Well. I guess I'd better get home and fix the boys some lunch. I think they want to go see a movie this afternoon. Some space thing." Amanda stood up to leave.
Lee stood too. He didn't quite understand why she looked and acted so flustered all of a sudden. "Okay, I'll uh, just see you tomorrow at work then," he said, not wanting her to leave.
"Okay. Bright and early," Amanda smiled. Implusively, she leaned closer and kissed his cheek. He wanted to pull her into his embrace and really kiss her, but he held back once again. 'That's not the kind of relationship we have', he thought to himself for the thousandth time.
After she'd gone, Lee stood with his back to the door. Sighing, he ran a hand through his hair. 'How can I already miss her?' Lee questioned himself as he noted the time, sighed at sat down on the couch.
Lee opened the newspaper, but he found he couldn't concentrate
on anything he was reading. His mind was going back and forth from the
situation with Amanda's father and his parents to Amanda. Mostly to Amanda.
Who was taking the boys to a movie...
Lee navigated his way through the sea of kids and parents in the lobby of the theater. He had checked the paper for when the movie was playing at the theater he knew Amanda took the boys to.
Then he had driven over to her house and waited for them to leave, and followed them. He'd been extra careful so that Amanda wouldn't see his car.
Lee spotted Amanda and the boys in line at the concession stand. He smiled at the strange thought of the four of them watching a movie. It was certainly not typical Stetson behavior! He came out of his thoughts to see that Phillip and Jamie had an arsenal of popcorn, soda and candy and were headed for theater four. Lee smiled, congratulating himself for his plan, and went in after them.
Amanda chose a row towards the back of the theater and was about to sit down. "Mom!" Phillip cried. "The Millers are here!"
Susan Miller walked up the aisle towards Amanda. "Hello, Amanda! Your boys are dying to see this one too, huh?"
"Oh, yeah, Susan. They've been bugging me since last weekend."
"Well, Simon and Nicky would love for them to sit with us, if you want to join us," Susan offered.
Lee, who had been hovering at the back of the theater, muttered to himself, "Great, just great." He'd been prepared to deal with the boys, he could have introduced himself as a friend of their mom's, no problem. But he'd put her in an awkward position with a friend being there.
He was thrilled, however, when Amanda said, "Well, I don't care if the boys go up there, but I can't sit that close myself."
"Yeah, all right!" The boys hollered and raced up to the front of the theater.
Amanda rolled her eyes. "You don't know what you're getting yourself into," she chuckled.
"Well, enjoy the movie," Susan laughed.
Amanda sat down and sighed. Well, this should be fun, she thought to herself.
"Is this seat taken?" Lee asked with a grin.
Amanda looked up, not believing her ears. "Oh, my gosh, Lee! No, sit down!" She had the biggest grin on her face.
She scooted over so he could be on the aisle. Lee noted that she scooted two seats, however, leaving a seat between them.
Perplexed, he said, "I don't bite, you know," and his eyes dropped down to the chair between them. He patted it and raised his eyebrows at her, Groucho Marx style.
"Oh, sorry!" Amanda laughed. "Habit, I guess. Joe used to like his elbow room. I tend to leave an empty seat by me."
Joe must have been out of his mind, Lee thought. To not want this woman as close as possible was just...not fathomable.
Amanda stood up and sat back down beside Lee. Idly she wondered why Lee had made an issue out of the empty chair. Surely it didn't matter to him if she was just one seat away.
"I *thought* I saw your car!" She looked at him. "What brings you to the movies?"
Lee cringed. She'd seen his car! He decided not to acknowledge the remark. "I just didn't feel like being at home," he said. "I hope you don't mind. But when you said you were taking the boys to a movie, it kind of sounded nice."
"I don't mind. But if I was you, I'd have gone to see something else. This is not reported to be the greatest movie, you know," she whispered confidentially. The feel of her breath in his ear sent chills down Lee's spine.
"Well," he whispered back, wondering if he inflicted the same effect on Amanda, "I didn't exactly have the movie so much as the company in mind."
He was pleased when he saw Amanda shiver slightly, then she responded, "Well, thank you. I wasn't exactly looking forward to watching this alone."
They smiled at each other, and the lights went down. Lee took Amanda's hand in his own, and previews began playing.
Amanda loved the feeling of her hand in Lee's. He took her hand a lot lately, almost out of habit. But sitting in a darkened movie theater, the sensation was heightened, and she felt like a teenager out on her first date.
After about an hour of 'watching' the movie (when they were actually watching each other), Lee got up to get something to drink.
When he returned, he handed her her beverage. "Thanks," she whispered. She wondered if he would take her hand again, but he didn't. Instead, he put his arm around her shoulders and rested his hand on her arm.
"Does this bother you?" he asked, willing her to say...
"No," she shook her head, her heart racing.
Neither was concentrating on the movie. They were just relishing the feel of being so close.
Right before the movie ended, Lee said reluctantly, "Well, I guess I'd better go so the boys don't see me."
"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow," Amanda said.
"Bye," he said, and leaned over to peck her on the cheek.
Then he was gone.
Later that evening, Amanda was in the kitchen fixing dinner with Dotty. "Amanda," Dotty said.
"Yes, Mother?" Amanda looked up from preparing her chicken casserole.
"I've been thinking, was there a pocket watch in that box of your father's things?"
"No", Amanda said. "Why?"
"Well, I remember one night he came home, and he was terribly upset. I asked him what was wrong, and he said he couldn't talk about it and to trust him. Anyway, he was emptying out his pockets, and he laid the pocket watch on the dresser. I asked him where he got it, and he said that it belonged to a friend. So I asked him why he had it, and he said he was going to give it back, but that his friend had died that night. He never said another word about it, and I haven't seen it since. I just remembered that out of nowhere."
Amanda remembered a passage that at first she had thought was insignificant, near the end of the journal. After she put the casserole into the oven, she went upstairs and opened to the back of the journal. Finding the page she was looking for, she read:
'Went to meet S. Didn't have my watch, so he lent me his. I forgot to give it back. Will do so when I see him next time.'
The next entry now made sense, whereas before it had not.
'Cannot return the watch. I can't even believe what has happened. Dead. Will the same thing happen to me?'
Amanda wished her father had been more specific. Although she now knew that the entries referred to what had happened to Lee's parents, there were still so many questions. How did he find out about their deaths? What made him think he too would die? The questions crowded her mind and she found it difficult to sort them out.
Amanda flipped to the last page. It seemed especially thick. As she examined it more closely, she discovered that two pages were stuck together, maybe with glue. She stuck a finger nail between the edges and gently pried the pages apart. A small key fell out onto her lap.
Amanda picked up the key and held it to the light. It bore a number, 505. Along with the key, a folded up note fell out of the journal. Amanda's hands were shaking as she opened up the paper and read.
'Dear Dot or Munchkin:
I don't know if you will ever find this note. Perhaps I am being too careful, but you never know. If you are reading this, then it means my fears have been confirmed and I am now dead.
The truth is, I never told you, but I have been assisting some agents. Yes, Dot...like spies. Last night, they both were killed. I had come to regard them as friends, Dot you would have like them. I fear for my own life. The stuff I've been doing is pretty dangerous. But I feel that I am helping to save a lot of lives.
Please know that I love you both very, very much. You both are my life. Dot, I never thought I would love any woman as much as I love you. You will always be my one and only true love. Remember the good times. I love you always. Take care of my Munchkin.
Mandy, I love you, Munchkin. Never forget our special times together reading at bedtime. Be a good girl. I know that if you are grown this sounds silly. But I only know you as a little girl. You are my special angel.
Whether or not either or both of you end up reading this depends on what happens in the next day or two. You may never read it at all, if all turns out well.
Enclosed you will find a key. It is to a safe deposit box at Bank of DC. The contents of the box will belong to one Lee Stetson. As the time of writing this he is but a child. About your age, Munchkin.
In fact, the two of you have met. You were with me one day walking down the street, and I met up with my friend Mr. S. He had Lee with him and as we talked for a brief moment, Lee winked at you, pulled your pigtails, and stuck out his tongue. You responded by turning up your nose and hiding behind my back.
Anyway I am straying from the point. At whatever point you come across this, the contents of the box belong to Lee Stetson, as I've said. There is a pocket watch that belonged to his father, and a letter from his parents.
You see, I can't go into details. But they entrusted me with a letter to their small son, as they feared for their lives. Their fear was justified, but now I too am in fear for my own life. I must leave it in your hands to finish my business, fulfill a vow I made to my friends.
I hope you will be able to find Lee. He should be living with an uncle, though I can't tell you his name.
Again, be assured of my love for you both. Take care of each other always if I am not there to do it.
Carl and Daddy'
Amanda was in tears. Her eyes had blurred, making reading difficult. Now she sat, weeping for the father she had lost so long ago.
She noticed a name penciled in down in the corner of the opposite page. It said: Thomas Blackthorne. Amanda gasped. That was the man who had murdered Lee's parents!
When she had recovered to some extent, she cleaned her face off. She had to get in touch with Lee. The bank would be closed by now; they'd have to go first thing in the morning.
Dotty knocked at her door. "Amanda honey, dinner's ready."
"Mother, could you please go ahead without me? I need to go out," Amanda called from the bathroom.
"Okay," Dotty said, knowing something was going on. She could hear the muffled sound of Amanda's voice and knew she'd been crying. She headed downstairs, worried and curious.
Amanda sat down on the edge of her bed. With trembling hands she dialed Lee's number, willing him to be home.
"Hello?" He answered.
"Lee..." Amanda's voice was unsteady and she paused.
"Amanda, what is it?" Lee could tell she was upset by the way she said his name.
"I need to see you. Could I come over there?" she asked.
"Of course! Do you want me to pick you up?" Lee asked anxiously, having heard threatening tears in her voice.
"No, I told Mother I needed to go out. I should drive."
"Okay, Amanda. Just calm down and head over right now," Lee told her.
"I'll be right there."
Lee paced back and forth waiting for Amanda to arrive. He felt helpless. She shouldn't be alone, driving in her car. She should be here, in his arms, where he could kiss away her sadness.
Nervous energy propelled him and he picked up the newspaper from the couch, took his dinner plate into the kitchen and tidied up the living room. He glanced at the clock every two minutes amazed at how slowly time was moving.
Finally he heard her knock on the door. He made it to the door in three strides and opened it. She stepped without the slightest hesitation into his waiting arms.
Neither said a word as he held her, his arms wrapped around her. She clung to him, crying softly and quietly. He was so relieved that she was here, in his embrace.
Finally she pulled away slightly. "I'm okay," she sniffed. "Could I have some tissue?"
Lee nodded, squeezed her hand and said, "Sure. I'll be right back."
When he returned, she was sitting on his couch. He crossed the room and sat right next to her, handing her the wad of tissue and putting an arm around her shoulders. She leaned into him and rested her head on his chest.
After a few minutes, she felt she could trust her voice. She haltingly told him what her mother had said, about the entry in the journal, and the letter and key which were hidden between two pages.
She read him the note out loud, and Lee was affected by the fact that his parents had left him a note. "I'll call Billy and tell him we'll be busy in the morning," he said gruffly. Amanda knew he was curious about the contents of the safe deposit box.
She continued reading and Lee smiled softly as she read her father's account of her real first meeting with Lee. "Well, I hope you were flattered," he teased lightly. "I must have thought you were a real doll to give you that kind of treatment!"
"Oh, yeah," Amanda laughed, dabbing at her eyes. "I'm sure I was impressed."
Lee swept hair out of Amanda's eyes with a gentle finger. "I'm amazed at this whole thing, Amanda. I wonder if somehow I subconsciously recognized you that day at the train station."
"I don't know about that, but it's a nice thought," Amanda smiled at him.
"Yeah, it is," he agreed.
They talked for a little while longer and Amanda showed Lee the small inscription her father had made in the corner, Thomas Blackthorne's name.
Lee stared at it for a moment, lost in thought. "Well, maybe we'll find some more answers tomorrow morning."
"Maybe," Amanda agreed. "I should really get home now. Mother thinks I'm some kind of a lunatic."
"Okay. If you want to hold off showing her the journal, we can talk about it tomorrow," he suggested.
"I think that's best," Amanda nodded.
Lee stood up and held out his hand to help her up. She stood up and they were face to face. Lee thought briefly about leaning down and kissing her lips. But he was hesistant to start something he wasn't certain she wanted, wasn't certain he could deal with even though he knew he wanted it. It wasn't the right time, anyway.
So he drew her into his arms for another embrace. He held
her tightly for a moment, feeling so close to her. They were both going
through strong emotions regarding the present situation and their blossoming
relationship. At this moment, all they needed was the reassurance that
they were there for each other.
Lee picked Amanda up the next morning. She looked like she was feeling better than the previous night, and Lee said as much.
"Well, I do feel better," she gave him a little embarassed half-smile. "I'm sorry for my...behavior last night. I didn't mean to..."
"Hey," Lee took her chin between his thumb and forefinger. "Don't apologize for that. I completely understood."
She smiled again, looking gratefully into his eyes. He smiled back, and for an moment their eyes locked. There was so much there that was unspoken, yet they both understood perfectly. Theirs was a bond that went deeper than words.
"Well," Lee said, breaking the moment. "Let's get to DC. The bank opens at nine."
"Are you nervous?" Amanda questioned, taking a sidelong look at him.
He hesitated before answering. "Yeah," he confided, reaching over to take her hand in his. "I am."
At the bank, Amanda filled out the necessary paperwork. Her father had authorized her to open the safe deposit box as long as she was over eighteen. The clerk led them back to the room with rows and rows of little lock boxes.
Lee held onto Amanda's hand the entire time, the connection relaying their mutual support and friendship.
Ten minutes later, they were sitting at a picnic table at a park down the street from the bank. Lee opened the manilla envelope and a gold pocket watch slid into his hand. He held it for a moment, overcome by the knowlege that it had belonged to his father. An inscription of his initials, M.S., was on the back.
He locked eyes with Amanda, drawing strength from her as he pulled a smaller envelope out of the larger one. It was addressed, 'To our son, Lee Stetson'. His hands trembled slightly as he tore open the flap and withdrew the stationary from within.
"Would you like to be alone when you read the letter?" Amanda asked, trying to gauge his mood.
Lee's hand shot out and grabbed Amanda's, a gesture that spoke volumes. Looking into her eyes, he shook his head. "Stay," he said. She nodded, squeezing his hand.
Already, his emotions were racing, and as he tried to read, his eyes blurred with tears. He released Amanda's hand to impatiently wipe them away with the back of his hand.
"Dear Lee," he read aloud, his voice shaking. "Your mother and I fervently hope that somehow this letter will someday find it's way into your hands. We want you to know that we love you very much."
Lee stopped, closing his eyes. 'I can't do this', he thought to himself. His eyes pleaded with Amanda's as he simply handed her the letter.
Unsure of her own emotions, Amanda took the pages from him and picked up where he'd left off.
"At the time I am writing this, you are but five years old. We would give anything to be there with you now, but if you are reading this, we are no longer alive. You will by now know that we are agents, and currently involved in a very dangerous case. Several attempts have been made on our lives, and we fear not for our safety, but yours.
You have been our constant source of joy. We will always love you and be with you in some small way. Though we are no longer in your life, know that there is nothing we wanted more than to watch you grow up, someday marry and give us grandchildren. We can only hope that you will find a woman with whom you will be as happy as your mother and I have been. That kind of love is rare, Son, and if you find it, hang on with all you've got.
The watch was a wedding gift from your mother to me. I glanced at it every few seconds on the day we were waiting for you to come into the world. I want you to have it, and one day give it to your firstborn son.
We have entrusted the letter and the watch to a good and trusted friend, Carl West. We fear for his safety also. But he has sworn to get these things to you, as a favor to us. We are confident that someday these things will wind up in your hands. Things have a way of working themselves out, we have found.
There are so many things that we will miss out on sharing with you, and this is our regret. Please don't feel that we died in vain. All our love to you forever,
Your loving father and mother."
Amanda exhaled slowly, wondering how she had gotten through it all without crying. She dared to look at Lee. A tear had traveled down and rested on his lip. He was valiantly trying to stay composed.
"Lee," she said quietly. "It's okay to cry." She slowly brought her finger up and traced his lower lip, wiping away the tear.
Lee leaned forward and buried his face in her neck, putting his arms around her. She held him for a long time, feeling closer to him than she ever thought possible.
Her own emotions threatened to overpower her; she was on the brink of tears. The letter from her father, the letter she had just read for Lee, and the very fact that Lee was here crying on her shoulder contributed to a very strong need to cry.
However, she stifled her own feelings, not wanting Lee
to feel the need to comfort her. She knew had to be there for him, so she
gulped down the urge to break down and focused on the man in her arms.
When Lee broke away from her embrace, he wiped his face dry with his sleeve. "I'm sorry," he mumbled, clearly embarassed.
"Lee," she took his hands in hers. "You told me not to apologize for showing you my emotions. Don't you do it, either."
He gave her a grateful smile, then turned his attention back to the letter, keeping hold of Amanda's hand. She said, "I'm just sorry I didn't come across the journal sooner. My father obviously didn't have time to take care of it himself, and knew it." She paused, the words sinking in. "He must have figured that Mother would have found it long before now; but you know how she is."
"It's okay. The important thing is that you did find it."
"Lee, I know how hard it is to lose a parent. I lost my father, remember? He was so...strong and big. I always felt so safe when he was home. He used to read to me every night, I wouldn't let Mother read to me, because she didn't do the voices like he did. Even though I lost him when I was so young, I still feel the loss."
"Yeah," Lee nodded, looking at her thoughtfully. "Thank you," he smiled.
They stood up and headed for the car. "Let's get in to work and see if we come up with anything else," Lee said.
Lee slid the letter back into the large envelope and felt resistance. He pulled out another envelope from the bottom of the larger one. "Hey, Amanda?"
"There's something else in here," he told her.
"What is it?" she asked, stepping closer.
Lee pulled out a black and white photograph of a small boy and girl. The boy was dressed in knickers, a white shirt and cap, and the girl was wearing a plaid dress, Mary Jane shoes with frilly white socks and a bow in her long dark hair. The two were holding hands, albeit reluctantly, given their facial expressions. The little girl was leaning away from the boy with a demure smile that was only for the camera. The little boy, however, had his eyes trained on the girl with a devilish grin.
"That's me," Amanda gasped.
"You're kidding?!" Lee looked at her, astonished. He pointed to the boy. "That's *me*," he said, looking at the picture with a bemused expression.
Lee and Amanda looked at each other for a long moment. "Is there anything written on the back?" she asked.
Lee turned the photo over. He read: "Lee Stetson and Amanda West. Taken August 14. Lee - this was taken when we ran into the Wests at the fair. A photographer insisted on photographing the two of you, and sent us a copy. You were sweet on Mandy, though you can't tell from the rakish look on your face. Thought you'd like to have this; Carl West and his family mean a lot to us."
Lee looked at Amanda again, who was shaking her head in disbelief. Suddenly, it seemed more important to Lee than ever that he protect this woman and never let her out of his life. He realized he was staring at her, and smiled.
Amanda saw something new and indefinable in Lee's eyes. She almost undeniably knew that someday they would be together. She could see their future as clearly as she could their past as represented by the old photo. It seemed that destiny had played a hand in bringing them back together after meeting as children so long ago.
"Pretty amazing," was all Lee could think to say as he looked deeply into her brown eyes.
"Yeah," she agreed, equally at a loss for words.
Lee carefully replaced the photograph in the envelope, saying, "We'll have a copy made and we'll buy matching frames."
Amanda was deeply touched by his display of sentiment. "What a good idea," she smiled as they walked toward the car hand in hand.
"I think it's time to tell my mother," she said. "Do you think we have time to do it before we go into the Agency?"
Lee looked at her for a long moment. "Are you sure you're up to it?"
She nodded. "Then let's go," he smiled and squeezed her hand.
They told her the whole story from beginning to end. Amanda showed her the letter she'd found in the back of the journal.
"I can't believe I never figured it out," she mused. "There were so many funny things...so many secrets. He'd dash off without -" she stopped talking, recognizing in her words her daughter's actions and behavior. Looking from Amanda to Lee, she pointed at them and said, "There's more, isn't there?" The connection became apparent to her. "You're a spy, too!" she exlaimed.
"Yes, Mother," Amanda confirmed.
After Dotty's initial amazement, she claimed to have been suspicious of Amanda all along. "Well, you always were your daddy's little girl!"
Once they arrived at the Agency, Lee released Amanda's
hand and they walked in together, heading for Billy's office where they
filled him in on all that had been going on.
Billy stared at the photograph of Lee and Amanda with an enormous grin on his face. "You see? I knew it! You see?!"
"See what, Billy?" Lee asked, grinning himself. Rarely had he seen his friend and boss 'giddy'.
"This is amazing, you two! You've had time to get used to the idea, you've come across these things gradually. But you've just dropped it on me all at once, and I'm flabbergasted!"
"Flabbergasted about what, Billy?" Francine asked as she walked in without knocking.
"Check this out, Francine," Billy handed her the picture, winking at Lee and Amanda.
"It's an old picture. So?" she shrugged indifferently.
"It's Lee and Amanda," Billy smiled as he said the words.
"Get out!" Francine turned the photo over and her narrowed eyes scanned the words. "You knew each other?"
"Well, we were pretty young, but yeah," Lee said, not able to suppress a grin. He briefly filled Francine in with the details.
Francine did her best to appear unimpressed and handed the picture back to Billy. "Well, isn't that cozy?" she muttered as she left the room. Amused smiles were exchanged between Billy, Lee and Amanda.
"Lee," Billy said seriously. "I know that one day you'll find peace regarding what happened to your parents. I hope all this has helped."
Lee nodded in the affirmative. "Yeah," he said quietly. "It's been a voyage of discovery in more ways than one."
He didn't look at Amanda, but tried to put some meaning into his voice to relay a message meant only for her. Amanda felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickle. 'Am I imagining things, or is Lee trying to tell me something?' She didn't know why she felt that way, but it seemed like he was speaking right to her heart. 'Of course, I could be mistaken, as I have in the past,' she thought philosophically.
"Well, you two, Lee and I have a meeting to get to in about five minutes," Billy said, standing.
"And I have some reports to go over," Amanda stood as well. Lee gave her a wink. As Billy headed out of the office, Lee leaned over and whispered, "Will you be at home tonight?"
Mutely she nodded. He smiled and was gone, following Billy out the door.
Later that evening. . .
Amanda sat on the couch in her den, attempting to read a book and failing desperately. Dotty and the boys had long since gone to bed. Lee had never called or come by, as he'd indicated he would. Amanda figured he'd gotten busy and forgotten or been unable to make it.
Not feeling tired, she had changed into pajama bottoms and a t-shirt and sat down on the couch to read; but quickly began dozing off. She laid down on the couch, wanting to read just a few more paragraphs to end the chapter; but soon her eyes closed and she succumbed to sleep.
Lee snuck around to the back of Amanda's house, hoping she'd still be awake. He had become bogged down with work at the Agency, then had to meet a contact which let to a glorified wild goose chase.
He had used the time to think about his parents and all that had happened the past few days. He knew that he wouldn't rest until he found Blackthorne, but now he felt a sense of peace that he'd never known before. The whole experience had shown him how much he had and which had been in front of him all along; Amanda.
He could see that there was a light on in the den. Knocking gently, he tried the door, but it was locked. Picking the lock, he quietly opened the door and stepped into Amanda's kitchen. Everything about her home was familiar to him and he almost felt like when he was here he was home.
He crept into the den and smiled when he saw her. She was laying on her side on the couch, her legs curled up, one arm acting as a pillow for her head, the other resting on her hip. A book had fallen to the floor.
He knelt down beside her. "Hey," he whispered softly. "Hey, Munchkin." Amanda stirred and rolled over, opening her eyes and blinking.
"Lee," she said, smiling as if it was the most natural thing in the world to wake up and see Lee crouching bedside her. "What time is it?"
"Late," he said. "Sorry, I was busy with work until just a little while ago."
"It's okay, Lee. You should have gone home to bed. I would have understood," she sat up, straightening her t-shirt.
"I didn't want to go home. Not without seeing you," he told her as he sat beside her on the sofa.
"Oh," she smiled a funny half-smile, at a loss for words.
"Amanda, a lot has happened between us in the last few days, and-"
'Oh, no - here it comes. I knew it!' Amanda thought to herself. 'Well, I'm going to beat him to the punch this time.'
She interrupted him. "I know. You don't have to tell me."
"Tell you what?" Lee looked confused. "What do you know?"
"Some strange things happened, we were both emotional, it meant nothing, we're just friends, yada, yada, yada."
Lee looked stricken. "Is that how you feel?"
"It's what you were going to say, isn't it?" Amanda cocked an eyebrow at him.
"No," Lee shook his head sadly.
"What were you going to say?" she asked curiously, her voice a whisper.
"I was going to say that I've realized how much your friendship means to me. That I can't imagine my life without you, and I can't remember how I got along without you before. I was going to say that some pretty strange feelings passed between us and that...I'd like to explore those feelings further."
She was mesmerized, staring at him as he spoke. She swallowed hard, blinked, and continued to stare. 'Did he just say what I think he said?' she asked herself.
"Amanda?" Lee prompted, wondering if he'd upset her and feeling more than a little nervous. 'Please don't let her say she doesn't feel that way about me!' He silently prayed.
"I...I think that's a good idea," she said slowly. A small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she spoke, a bemused look upon her features.
Lee gazed at her lips. It was so tempting...He found himself leaning towards her. He looked into her eyes as he approached, his eyes asking if he should proceed.
Amanda's answer was to lean towards Lee slightly. What followed was the world's most painstakingly slow approach to a kiss. When their lips finally met, they both thrilled at the sensations it produced.
It was a kiss that was thirty years in the making.