Title: Black Lace and Promises.
Written by: Mdmom (Kathy)
Synopsis - Lee and Amanda try to find some time alone and a missing microdot causes the usual problems for the Agency
Disclaimer: The characters are not mine, nor do I profit from them. They belong to Shoot the Moon and WB. I just borrow them for a little while.
Timeline: Follows my story A Spy is Born.
Comments: Love to hear what you think. (email address firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lightening crossed the sky as reporter Marsha Stone sprinted up Pennsylvania Avenue. The storm bearing down on D.C. went unnoticed as she dodged in and out between the late Friday night traffic. A quick glance over her shoulder confirmed that her pursuers were rapidly closing in on her.
Had it just been this morning that Nick Grant had contacted her at the Herald and asked to meet her? She should have known there would be trouble; nothing involving Nick ever went without some kind of a hitch. She had met him when she was doing a story on the McMaster's art theft and she'd soon had the White House breathing down her neck. Since then he had managed to insinuate himself in her life. Worse, it seemed that everything that involved him caused her trouble. She kept telling herself every time he left that she wasn't going to see him again but he always came back, begging to see her. She had gone to meet him tonight prepared to give him five minutes, tell him they were though, and leave, but after hearing what he had to say it had become apparent to her that this time was different. They needed help, and she had known just who to ask. She had notified the Agency immediately and was guaranteed an exclusive on anything that wasn't "need to know", but only if she cooperated with them fully. It hadn't taken them long to put together a plan.
It had started out well; she had met with the contact and was given the microdot. She had quickly hidden it in a place that she hoped no one would think to look and been on her way. Now all she had to do was get it to Monk's and pass it on to Francine. Hearing the pounding of feet, she knew that she was running out of time. A quick look over her shoulder told her that the men were only a block behind her. Kicking off her three-inch heels, she picked up her pace. With a sigh of relief, she saw the door to Monk's start to open and a couple walk out. 'At least they didn't catch me' was her last thought before the bullet hit her and threw her into the arms of the surprised man. His companion's scream echoed through the night, a warning call that told the bar's occupants that something terrible had just occurred. As the bar's patrons rushed out to see what was going on, the two men, who had ducked into a nearby storefront, eased their way out and discreetly worked their way near the front of the crowd.
Marsha's eyes opened slowly and she peered up at the man who had caught her, trying desperately to focus. "Please tell Francine " Then quietly, right before darkness overtook her, she whispered the words, "Nick lace."
"Did you hear what she said, Harv?" whispered the first man, as he leaned closer to the crowd.
"Yes, necklace. It must be hidden in her necklace." With a snort, the taller man looked at his partner. "Amateurs." Looking away, he motioned for his accomplice to follow him away from the crowd.
As they slipped away undetected, Basil looked back worriedly. "Why did you have to bloody shoot her? We almost had her and now there must be fifty people outside that pub." The short, stocky man looked accusingly over at his companion. "We'll never get that microdot back. Wellsford has a lot of explaining to do."
"Calm down, old chap. We will bide our time and wait patiently, then at the right moment we will take back what is ours. Come on, Basil, have I ever let you down?" Harvey said mockingly. Reaching out to shove his companion forward, the tall man continued with a laugh, "Let's get out of here. Besides, if anything goes wrong, we'll just blame that on Grant too."
It was 2:00 am and all the lights were finally out at 4247 Maplewood Drive. After two hours of trying, Lee and Amanda had finally gotten the babies down for the night. The girls were almost two months old now and Lee was still amazed that, after the first week, both boys could sleep through the baby siren while the same wail still had him standing up before he was even awake. Shaking his head, he reached over and pulled his wife up onto his chest.
"Amanda, are you awake?" Rubbing his hands up and down her back. "I guess I seem to be getting my days and nights mixed up too."
A sleepy Amanda smiled down with a feigned look of innocence. "What can I do for you, stranger? I haven't seen you around these parts in a while. I thought maybe you decided you didn't really like mothers."
The look Lee sent Amanda told her without words that nothing was further from the truth. Wiggling his eyebrows teasingly, he grinned down at her and said, "Hey, baby, let me introduce myself. I'm Lee and I heard a rumor by the water cooler today that you were looking for a man with a healthy sex drive. I think that just might be me!"
"Come here, pal," Amanda purred as she lovingly placed both of her hands on his face and drew him toward her.
A millisecond before their lips made contact, the phone beside the bed began to ring. With a deep sigh, Amanda rested her forehead on Lee's, then reached over and grabbed the telephone receiver. With a look of disappointment, she passed the offending object to her husband. Lee's own frustration was soon evident as he barked into the phone. "This had better be good!" No sooner were the words out of his mouth then the wail of the baby siren went off at full blast. "Can you hold on a minute?" Running his hand through his hair, he gave Amanda a look that told her how sorry he was that they had been interrupted.
"It's all right," Amanda whispered as she got out of bed and put on her robe. With a look of regret, she blew him a kiss and left the room.
Since Billy had decided to take the position left open in the New York office after Catherine Nielson's departure, Lee had inherited the job and title of Section Chief in D.C. While the new job was challenging, it came with a lot of headaches. Over the last two weeks, his bottle of Rolaids had become nearly as good a friend as Amanda. Two days ago there had been a theft at the Smithsonian involving a painting on loan from the British Museum of Art. Because of rumors of a terrorist connection to the theft, the agency had become involved. Then this morning the President himself had called Lee and told him to make locating the missing art piece a top priority.
"Lee, did you hear me? I need you to come down to Monk's right away. Something went wrong and Marsha Stone was shot. Mayfield and I have questioned everyone but no one saw anything," Francine said impatiently.
"Damn! How did that happen? Never mind, why don't you let Mayfield wrap up things at Monk's and meet me in my office in forty-five minutes. By the way, how's Marsha?" Lee asked as he stood and started searching for something to put on.
"She's still alive. They've taken her to Parker General." Francine hesitated a moment then went on. "This is my fault. I should have been the one to meet with the contact but "
"Stop. She knew the risks when she came to us with the information. We'll need to send a team over to the hospital for security. When whoever did this finds out Marsha is still alive, they might try again. I'll make the necessary arrangements from the car and see you shortly." Hanging up the phone, Lee quickly dressed and headed out of their bedroom toward the nursery, intending to tell Amanda where he was going. Instead, he stood transfixed in the doorway, watching as his wife lovingly finished nursing one of the babies back to sleep.
Quietly, Lee whispered, "My Amanda " As she looked up with a questioning gaze, he remembered why he was standing there and cleared his throat. "Um, I have to go into the office. Something went wrong tonight and Marsha Stone was shot."
Biting her bottom lip, Amanda frowned. "Oh, no. Wasn't she involved in something with Nick Grant?"
"The one and only," he said, shaking his head as he walked toward her.
"Lee, the last time that man was here, you were grazed by a bullet, lost a painting worth two million dollars, and almost got in trouble with the White House. And if those things weren't bad enough; he almost single handedly ruined our wedding." Standing up, she put the sleeping baby back in the crib and reached for Lee. Hugging him tightly, she spoke quietly. "Please, be careful, sweetheart. From what I've seen and heard from you, he always gets you into trouble."
"I'm always careful, Mrs. Stetson. Now go back to bed while you can. I'll be home before you know it and hopefully we can pick up where we left off. Besides, I think I'll stick Francine with Nick. There are some perks to being the boss." Lee was chuckling as he kissed Amanda on the forehead before reluctantly heading down the stairs to leave.
One hour later Lee was sitting at his desk with a frown on his face. As he looked up from the file he was reading, he asked with disbelief, "You're telling me you interviewed everyone at Monk's and no one saw a thing? What about the couple who were coming out the door?"
"Lee, no one saw anything unusual. The only thing we have is what Marsha told the man who caught her. She said 'tell Francine' and 'necklace'." Francine frowned as she stood at the right side of his desk. "The problem is, she wasn't wearing a necklace. We know that whoever was chasing her never caught up with her and I have a team out searching every square inch of the surrounding area, but so far, nothing."
"Do we know exactly what was on that microdot?" Lee slammed the file closed and dropped it on the desk. "And how does Nick Grant fit into all this?"
"Marsha called me this morning. She told me that he had contacted her and arranged to meet her for lunch. He said that he needed to talk to her and that it was urgent. It seems Nick and Marsha met sometime during the McMasters' case and have developed some sort of relationship. He told her that he had a lead on the missing painting and that he was in trouble. Evidently some time ago he crossed paths with an English count by the name of Wellsford. Something to do with his wife and a missing sculpture."
"Yeah, that last part sounds like the Nick I know." Lee pushed his chair away from the desk and leaned back. "Go on."
"Well, Marsha told me that she did some checking into Wellsford after she had talked with Nick, to make sure everything he was telling her was on the up and up. She found out that he's been having money problems and boasting for weeks that he had found a way to get even with 'that Grant chap' and to make a lot of money at the same time."
Before he could respond, the telephone on his desk rang. "Stetson great when can we talk to her? All right. Please call if her condition changes. Thanks."
Looking over at Francine, he picked up a file and stood; walking around to the other side of his desk, he let out a sigh of relief. "Marsha's out of surgery. The doctor says she should recover completely. Hopefully we should be able to talk to her this afternoon. But first we need to find Grant and get his sorry butt in here." Pacing back and forth in front of his desk, he stopped and looked down at Francine as he handed her the file. "He's your responsibility. He's slippery and he could sell heaters to the devil, so be careful. Here's his P22."
"Lee, I'm a trained senior agent. I would think by now you would know that I can handle anything or anybody," Francine said with an air of authority.
"O kay." Lee chuckled to himself as he walked around his desk and grabbed his suit jacket off the back of the chair. Turning to face Francine, he paused and said, "Look, Billy once called me an expert on Nick Grant and he still managed to get me into some pretty sticky situations over the years. I'm not questioning your abilities, but the man is a first class con artist. He's trouble. Now, I'm going back home. Call me when you find him."
Lee was whistling quietly as he let himself into the house. He was in luck, it was only 6:00 am and no one would be up for another hour. Amanda was waiting for him and oh was he going to love waking her up this morning. Rubbing his hands together, he started for the stairs when he heard a noise. Walking toward the kitchen to investigate, he turned the corner and literally ran into Jamie.
"Hey, sport, what are you doing up?" Lee asked as he looked over Jamie's shoulder at the mess in the kitchen.
Walking back to the counter, Jamie picked up his backpack and started gathering up his lunch. "I'm going on a field trip and I've got to be at school really early. Mom was going to take me but she's still sleeping and I didn't want to wake her up until the last minute." He rambled as he put the brown paper bag into his backpack. Turning to his stepfather with an expectant grin, he asked, "Do you think you could take me in the 'vette? That way we wouldn't have to wake up Mom."
"Sure, let me write her a note and then we'll go," Lee said as he picked up a pen and searched for something to write on. Finally, finding a notepad, he quickly jotted down a note telling Amanda where he was going as he mumbled to himself about never getting a break. He turned with a smile and dropped his arm around his stepson's shoulders. "Let's go, sport."
Amanda tiptoed down the stairs and into the kitchen. It was so peaceful; she wished Lee were here to enjoy it with her. Reaching to turn on the coffee pot, she saw the note on the counter and picked it up to read. With a small smile on her face, she pulled down two coffee cups and went to the refrigerator to get out the cream. It was wonderful how close Lee had become with both of the boys. While he and Philip had hit it off right away, with Jamie it had taken some time and a thirty-five millimeter camera to cement their relationship.
Lost in thought, Amanda stood with her empty coffee cup in her hand. A light tapping sound brought her back to the present. There was only one person who ever knocked at that window. A secret smile broke out on her face as she thought of all the times Lee had caught her attention this way over the years. Turning toward the window, she called, "Come and get me, big fella."
The smiling eyes that stared back at her were brown, not hazel. "Any time, Mrs. Stetson, but I do believe your husband would kill me."
A look of horror crossed her face. "Oh Oh my gosh!" Closing her eyes for a second and taking a deep breath, she walked over and opened the patio door.
"Come on in, he's not here right now but you're welcome to wait for him. Would you care for a cup of coffee?" Seeing the affirmative nod of his head, Amanda poured her visitor a mug of the hot drink and offered him a seat at the table in the breakfast nook.
Before she could say anything else, the sound of running feet had her turning her attention to the stairway.
"Mom," Philip called as he rounded the corner into the kitchen. "Oh, hi." Turning toward his mother, he smiled and asked, "Mom, is it okay if I buy lunch today? They're having taco bar and it's my favorite."
"Sure, sweetheart." Amanda walked over and took two one-dollar bills from the cookie jar on the counter and handed the money to her son. "Have a good day at school today."
At the sound of a horn blowing outside, Philip kissed his mother on the cheek and called over his shoulder, "Thanks, Mom, see ya."
It was 7:15 before Lee again found himself walking through his front door. It had taken him a lot longer then he had expected to let Jamie off at school but now there was nothing to get in his way. Grinning to himself as he walked up the front walk of his house, his mind was taking account of all its inhabitants and where they would be at that very minute. 'Philip should have left for school by now, Dotty is at the train station meeting her sister Lillian, and the twins usually sleep until at least eight.' It was his turn to have some of Amanda's undivided attention and he was going to make sure she enjoyed every second of it.'
Hearing the front door open, Amanda called from the kitchen. "Lee, I'm in here "
Smiling, Lee turned toward the kitchen, meeting his wife at the bottom of the stairs. As soon as he saw her, he pulled her into his arms and leaned down to kiss her. Pushing back against his shoulders, Amanda tried to get his attention. "Lee, wait a minute, sweetheart "
"I have waited as long as I can. It's just seemed to be one thing after another, my new job, the babies, the boys, your mother. These last eight weeks have been a nightmare." Rubbing his hands up and down her back, Lee kissed the top of her head then moved down to nuzzle her neck as he murmured. "It's been worse then when we were pretending not to be married. For two weeks now we've been trying to find time to be together and this time it's gonna take a natural disaster to stop me!" Before their lips could touch, he heard a familiar voice.
"Am I interrupting anything, old chap? No one's ever called me a natural disaster before. If you want I can leave and come back at a more convenient time. Though I do believe you've been looking for me."
With a frustrated sigh, Lee dejectedly dropped his head onto Amanda's shoulder. After a moment of self-pity, he lifted his head and looked into her eyes, whispering, "Later, I promise." He gave her a quick hug. Then turned a disgusted look on the intruder. "Nick, what the hell are you doing in my house?"
"Easy you're the one who sicked that blonde haired Attila the Hun on me. What did you expect me to do? I gave her the slip as soon as I could and here I am," Nick said with his palms held out in front of him, trying his best to look innocent. "By the way, what did you do with Marsha? I haven't been able to get a hold of her since last night. She was just supposed to pick up some information and pass it on. That evidence can clear me."
"Francine didn't tell you?" Lee asked as he walked over and poured himself a cup of coffee.
"Tell me what? What's going on?" Standing, Nick sent a worried glance at Lee.
"Mr. Grant " Amanda said as gently as possible, "last night Marsha was shot before she could pass on the information."
"Sh-sh-shot? The microdot ?" Nick asked worriedly.
"We never found the microdot. But the surgeons expect Marsha to make a complete recovery. Right now she's still unconscious," Lee said as he dropped into a chair and poured some cream in his coffee. "Level with me. Do you know what's on that microdot?"
Nick walked back over to the table and sat down across from Lee. With a deep sigh, he looked up and said, "Almost fifteen months ago, I was in the British Museum of Art and ran into an old friend. We spent some time together and her husband didn't like it. I didn't know she was married. I swear."
"Yeah, right. Don't forget who you're talking to Nicky," Lee snorted before Amanda walked up behind him put a hand on his shoulder. Reaching up to cover her hand with his, he sighed. "Sorry, go on."
"I didn't sleep with her. I know what you're thinking; Lee, but we really were just old friends. While I was there a sculpture was stolen from the BMA. Someone told the police that they saw me outside the museum the night it was stolen, and with my reputation; I thought it best to leave England in a hurry. I didn't think I'd like English prisons any better than I did that hell hole in Turkey." Nick looked up at Lee and frowned.
"Nick, what does this have to do with the missing painting?" Lee questioned.
"Two weeks ago, Countess Wellsford contacted me. She said that her husband was here in the states and that she had inadvertently discovered that the painting that he had loaned to the Smithsonian was a fake with secret plans for a new British guided missile hidden on a microdot underneath it's frame." Nick stopped and took sip of his coffee. With a smile full of devilment, he looked up at Amanda and grinned. "This is great coffee, Mrs. Stetson. Can I call you Amanda? Marriage is certainly agreeing with you; you're more beautiful than the last time we met."
Seeing the rosy pink flush appear on his wife's face, Lee felt his green monster roar to life. He cast a threatening look at his old adversary, before snarling under his breath, "Ni ck."
"Sorry. As I was saying, the microdot was to be sold to the highest bidder and I was to be the scapegoat for the missing painting. He would get insurance money for the painting and money from the highest bidder for the plans. I have an acquaintance that works at the Smithsonian and she was able to get the microdot off the painting before it turned up missing. Her husband was the one who met Marsha. I can only guess that they were spotted near the painting and followed once the microdot was discovered to be missing. I didn't think it would be dangerous or I never would have gone to Marsha," Nick said as he jumped up from his seat and walked over to the window. "Lee, you've got to believe me, I haven't been involved in any state secrets since the fiasco with that McMasters woman. I didn't take that painting!"
"Let's say I believe you," Lee said as he to stood up and began to pace the kitchen. "Do you trust her? Is it possible that she's setting you up for her husband?"
A look of weariness crossed Nick's face before he could replace it with his usual cocky grin. "I'd trust Countess Wellsford with my life you see, she's my half sister."
Before Lee could say anything the telephone on the counter began to ring. Amanda walked over and answered it. "Hello Hi, Francine. Yes, he's here." Amanda held the receiver out to Lee. "It's for you."
Lee walked over and reached for the phone.
Hesitating, Amanda covered the mouthpiece with her hand and whispered quietly to Lee. "Sweetheart, I think he's telling you the truth this time, but be careful. I don't like that man." Sending a quick glance over at Nick, Amanda frowned as she handed the phone to Lee. "I need to go up and check on the girls."
Lee chuckled as he dropped a quick kiss on his wife's lips. "Don't worry, I can handle him." He watched until Amanda had disappeared up the stairs before putting the telephone up to his ear.
"Francine, what have you been able to find out from Nick?" Lee asked
"Lee, I traced him to the Washington Hyatt. He was staying there under the name of Grant Nicholson. So I put on my red dress and staked out the lobby. I finally nabbed him when he was leaving the hotel for dinner and told him he needed to come with me. He asked if he could check his messages at the front desk first and I told him there wasn't time for that. He started yelling for security and the next thing I know hotel guards had me smashed against the wall and he was gone," a very frustrated Francine whined into the phone. "They arrested me for solicitation, Lee!" Her voice got so quiet that he had to strain to hear her. "I tried to tell them I was an Agent but that creep lifted my purse and took my Agency ID. I just now got out of the police station."
"Calm down, Francine. I've got him. How about meeting us here at my house in a half hour." Lee said, trying hard not to laugh.
"Only if I get to shoot him when I get there. I don't like that man," Francine complained.
"You'll have to stand in line. I think for, some reason, my wife would like to have a shot at him first. Oh, Francine, don't tell anyone that he's here or where you're going. The less people who know about this the better."
"Count Wellsford, we lifted the painting just like you asked, only the microdot wasn't there. You promised us those plans and we want them. Our buyers are getting impatient." Harv leaned toward the count threateningly.
"Yeah, if we don't get those plans, we're dead," Basil added. "By the by, we want to know how that newspaper woman got involved in all of this."
"See here, gentlemen, it was your job to retrieve that microdot. I wiped my hands of it once I got it into the country. You owe me one hundred thousand pounds," the count said as he looked down his nose at them. "I think you need to be concentrating on locating those plans, not hassling me. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a luncheon engagement."
Basil reached out to grab the count's arm as he sauntered by but was stopped by his partner. "Let him go for now. As soon as we get that microdot back, we'll make sure he doesn't live to double cross anyone else. Come on; I found out what hospital they took that newspaper woman to."
"Yeah, we'll be right there." Hanging up the phone, Lee walked over to the family room. "She's awake and asking for Francine."
"Let's go," Nick said as he stood up and headed toward the door.
"NO you stay here with Amanda. I don't want you anywhere near this until we find that microdot," Lee ordered.
"But " Nick stammered.
"You're in a lot of trouble right now, old pal. If you want my help, you'll stay here out of sight. Hey, if Marsha's up to it, I'll let her call you." Lee looked over at Amanda motioned with his head for her to follow him.
When they reached the door, he leaned down and whispered, "Don't let him out of your sight. I'll call you as soon as I know something." He smiled and dropped a quick kiss on her lips. "As soon as we wrap this thing up, you and I have a date." Reaching out with his index finger, he touched the tip of her nose and grinned. "I miss my partner."
Smiling back, Amanda kissed his finger. "I miss you too. I have a surprise for you tonight and I promise you're going to love it. Now go take care of this. I'll find something to keep Nick busy."
"I love you." Lee gave her a dimpled smile, then he called to Francine, "Let's go."
After the car disappeared down the street, Amanda closed the door and turned toward the kitchen. She and Nick both started talking at once.
"Amanda, I "
"Mr. Grant, would "
"Go ahead, Amanda," Nick said.
"Mr. Grant, is there a special necklace that Ms. Stone wears? When they found her, there was no evidence of one with her, yet she said necklace." Amanda unplugged the coffee pot and took the carafe to the sink to rinse it out.
"That's what's been bothering me. Marsha has an allergy to metals. They break her out in hives. There's no way she would have had a necklace on." Nick looked at Amanda with a frown.
Turning around to look at him, Amanda tilted her head and asked, "What if what if she didn't say neck but Nick? Nick lace. I'll bet she was trying to tell you where she hid the microdot. Does lace mean anything special to you?"
Nick's eyes widened as he looked up at Amanda and snapped his fingers. "By jove, that's it the black lace bustier. I gave it to her for her last birthday. She was wearing it when we met for lunch yesterday. I saw it when she uh, never mind." As he turned toward the door, Nick looked over at Amanda and said, "Sorry, but I have to run. I need to get to the hospital."
"Wait, Nick. I can't let you leave here. Wait!" Amanda grabbed for his arm as he went by her, but missed. "Why does this always happen to me?" she sighed to herself.
He hurried across the room, stopping only when he reached the front door. He twisted back to look at her and with a wave said, "Ciao, Amanda." As he turned to leave, the door swung in with a jarring force and hit him right in the face, sending him flying back into the wall. Grabbing his forehead with a groan, he staggered and looked up to see two older ladies come rushing past him into the house.
"Amanda, we're here. Aunt Lillian is so excited about seeing the babies that we just grabbed everything we could from the car and rushed right in. Wait till you see the quilts she made for the girls. She embroidered their names on them, with their birthdays and weights and heights, it took her days " Taking a breath, Dotty looked over at Amanda and smiled, then noticed for the first time the man holding his nose in the middle of the entranceway. "Oh, I'm sorry, you have company. Amanda, darling, I think this man is hurt. Would you like some Tylenol? You really should be more careful. Lillian, do you remember when Uncle Raymond tripped over that chicken and got a brain hemorrhage? By the way, darling, where is Lee?
"Mother, I know you just got here, but could you and Aunt Lillian watch the girls for me?" Not giving her a chance to object, Amanda headed toward the door, grabbing Nick's arm as she went by him. "Mr. Grant and I need to go meet Lee. The girls ate about two hours ago and there's milk in the freezer. I won't be gone long. Nice to see you, Aunt Lillian," Amanda said in one breath, as she grabbed her purse and pulled Nick out the door, not waiting for a response.
"Wait, Amanda, where are you ?" Dotty said to the closed door. Realizing that her daughter was gone, she turned toward her sister and shrugged her shoulders. "I guess some things will never change." A blissful look passed over Dotty's face as she turned toward the stairs. "Oh, wait till you see how they've grown."
Lee and Francine walked into the entrance of Parker General Hospital and headed toward Marsha's room. As they rounded the corner, Francine grabbed Lee's arm and pulled him back.
"Lee, those two men by the elevator were in the crowd at Monk's. I'm sure of it. I distinctly remember seeing the taller one; I remember thinking how much he looked like Jonathon."
Lee peeked around the corner just in time to see the two men get on the elevator. "Let's go. If you're right, they're probably headed for Marsha's room."
Hurrying toward the elevator, they watched to see where it stopped. As Lee headed toward the stairwell, he called over his shoulder, "You take the elevator and I'll take the stairs. We can't wait for back up." Taking his radio out of his pocket, he depressed the button and called the Agency guard standing outside of Marsha's room. Hearing no reply, he picked up speed, slowing only when he reached the door to the fourth floor.
Peering cautiously out the door, he saw nothing out of the ordinary except the guard's absence. Pulling his gun from its holster, he held it down by his leg and crept out into the hallway. Silently he moved toward Marsha's room. When he reached the doorway, he heard the elevator chime and saw Francine step onto the floor. Motioning for her to grab a chart as she walked by the Nurse's station, he put the chart on top of the hand holding the gun and pushed open the door.
"Good morning, Ms. Stone," he called as he stepped into the room appearing to be engrossed in her chart. "How are you feeling this morning?" Looking up in surprise, Lee continued, "Oh, I didn't know you had visitors. Gentlemen, you'll need to step out of the room while I examine Ms. Stone. I'll call you when you can come back in."
"I'm sorry, old chap, but we can't do that. We're security and she's not to be left alone," Harv said as he moved closer to the bed, casting Marsha a threatening glance.
Lee slowly worked his way between the two thieves, rattling on. "Look, I am really going to have to insist!" As the last word left his mouth, he took the metal chart and shoved it in the shorter man's stomach, making him double over and gasp for breath. "Freeze," Lee demanded.
Hearing the commotion, Francine entered the room and brought her elbow down between Basil's shoulder blades, knocking him to the floor. She held her gun on the downed man and struggled to handcuff the panting man to the bathroom door.
At the same time, Lee turned to deal with the other man. Harv kicked the gun out of his hand and threw a punch at his nose; the resounding smack could be heard throughout the room. Lee shook his head to clear it and began circling to find an opening to bring the man down.
Suddenly, the door opened and Amanda and Nick joined the fray. Seeing immediately that her husband was in trouble, Amanda grabbed the bedside table and shoved it at Harv with all her might. It struck him in the middle of the back, sending him stumbling off balance. With a groan, he straightened up and half turned toward Amanda.
The diversion was all Lee needed to gain the upper hand and he quickly launched an all out attack. With a quick punch to the jaw and then a kick to the stomach, Harv was out cold before he hit the floor.
Shaking his head as he looked over at his wife, Lee muttered, "Why does she never listen to anything I say." Reaching up, he pinched his nose to staunch the flow of blood.
"Lee, we figured it out. Marsha didn't say necklace," Amanda said excitedly. "She said 'Nick' and 'lace'."
"That's right." A quiet voice came from the bed. "It's hidden in my black lace bustier." Marsha closed her eyes before continuing. "I'm sorry, Lee. I just couldn't shake them. They were on me from the beginning."
Francine quickly went over to the clothes closest and rummaged through the bag. With a smile of relief, she held up the black bra and handed it to the newspaper reporter.
"Here, get this thing away from me. I don't want anything more to do with it." Marsha said, as she held up the microdot. She frowned. "And you " she said to Nick. "If I ever see you again, it'll be too soon."
"Thankfully, now that we have the microdot, we should be able to get this all straightened out," Lee said as he tried to smile, only to grimace at the pain in his nose.
"Let me look at that, sweetheart," Amanda said as she walked over to him and gently examined his quickly swelling face. "I think we need to get you down to the emergency room and have someone take a look at that. You might need an x-ray. The last time you got hit like that "
"Yes, Amanda, I remember what happened last time. Your boyfriend tried to knock out my teeth."
Biting down on her bottom lip, Amanda grabbed his arm and dragged him over to the door. "He wasn't my boyfriend, he was a criminal who picked me out because of my association with you. And if I remember correctly, you could barely stand to be in the same room with me at the time."
Giving her a 'we'll talk about this later look', Lee turned to Francine. "The Agency teams should be here at any minute. Once you get those two downtown, find out if they know where we can find Wellsford. Then get this mopped up. I'll expect the paperwork on my desk within the next forty-eight hours. Have Mayfield help you," Lee called over his shoulder.
Four hours later, Lee was propped up on a cot in the emergency room of Parker General Hospital, holding an ice pack to his face. His nose was swollen three times its normal size and he had two very black eyes. He was impatiently waiting for the doctor to clear him to go home. "I fail to find this in any way funny, Mrs. Stetson."
Trying very hard not to laugh, Amanda sat down next to her husband and took his hand in hers. "Oh, sweetheart, I'm sorry, but having to spend a few hours in the hospital isn't going to kill you. The doctor says you have a slight concussion as well as a broken nose." Biting her bottom lip, she reached up and caressed his forehead. "They just need to have your C.T. scan read and as long as everything's all right, you can go home. I'm worried about you." Amanda whispered as she gently reached behind him to fluff up his pillow. "Besides, I'm still the best bedside bluebell any hospital ever had and I'm all yours."
"I have a headache and my nose hurts. I hate hospitals and I hate needles and I hate doctors!" Lee complained, sounding suspiciously like one of the boys. "If I didn't know better, I'd say Nick Grant planned this from the beginning."
"I agree, he does seem to always try to put a crimp in our plans, but he didn't ruin our wedding and he's not going to ruin the plans I have for you this weekend."
"Oh, and just what did you have in mind?" Lee asked as he reached out and grasped his wife's hand, the ice pack falling forgotten to the floor.
"Well, while you were having your CAT scan, I talked to mother; she and Aunt Lillian are doing fine with the girls and she said that we need some time alone and that she knows how to reach us in an emergency. Joe should be picking up the boys for the weekend as we speak; they said to tell you that they hope you feel better. Now if you can behave yourself until we make sure everything checks out all right, when the doctor releases you, I promise you forty-eight hours of my undivided attention. The St. Regis Hotel; twenty-four hour room service, great views, lots of T.L.C. and when you feel up to it "
"Amanda, trust me, the only thing broken is my nose," Lee said as he motioned for her to come closer. "I think my headache is feeling better already."
"Really?" Amanda said with a growing smile on her face. "Have I told you lately how much I love you?"
As she leaned down to gently kiss his lips, there was a commotion and the curtains to the cubicle swished open. Startled, they jerked apart.
Not waiting for an invitation to, Francine barged in and walked up to the gurney. Engrossed in the file in her hand, it was a second before she realized Lee wasn't alone. Seeing the couple so close together, she frowned, dropping the file onto the bedside stand. "Can't you two wait until you get home? Try to remember, this isn't the Q-bureau, you can't just lock everyone out when you want to have a little fling. Besides, with his face like that "
"Fran cine!" Lee said wearily.
With a frown, Amanda quickly straightened up and walked over to Francine. "Goodnight, Francine. I'll have Lee call you in the morning," she said as she pushed the startled agent out of the cubicle and pulled the curtain, blocking them from her prying eyes. She couldn't hide the look of disappointment that crossed her face as she turned and looked over at her husband. "I hate to say this, but Francine's right. We might have to wait."
"I know but the prospect of forty-eight hours all alone with my wife, could be just what the doctor ordered to speed up my recovery." Lee looked at her with a lopsided grin slowly appearing on his face. "There is one thing that makes this sort of bearable."
"Are you talking about Nick?" Amanda asked with a giggle as she balanced the ice pack on Lee's face and settled back beside the small hospital bed next to her husband.
"Yep. Remind me to thank your mother. She sure does swing a mean door. It saved me from having to punch him myself. I don't believe I've ever seen Nick with a black eye before." Lee gave a satisfied chuckle as he pulled Amanda closer into his embrace. "It was kind of funny seeing him trying to talk himself back into Marsha's good graces."
"Lee, you know that little bit of black lace that Marsha hid the microdot in? I have one just like that packed in my overnight bag, and if you're really good, I promise you I'll let you search mine to see if there are any hidden secrets in it," Amanda teased.
"Hmm, black lace and promises. I like the sound of that, Mrs. Stetson, I surely do like the sound of that." Lee was laughing as he finally got to kiss his wife properly.