2) Big thanks to Mikki and Kris. I couldn't have finished this without ya!
Just so I don't lose anyone here, the story starts out in first person then
changes to third.
February 13, 2008
the train station
The coffee shop was busy as usual today. I was writing my ninth book and babysitting. It's hard to believe that Lee's been missing for a decade. Everyone has told me that it would get easier as time goes on, but it doesn't. I'm here for all the important things that he should be here for.
Three years ago, Philip got married and Jamie lost his fiancÚ in a F-14 accident on the U.S.S. Sea Hawk. Six months after Philip and Emma's wedding, Emma gave birth to my only grandson, Lee. They had been told that the child was going to be a girl early on in Emma's pregnancy, so they weren't prepared with a boy's name. Emma asked me to name my grandson, and I gave him the first name that popped into my head. At first I couldn't believe that I had said his name aloud, but I got used to it. Even though I could never give Lee the legacy of a child, I could make sure that his name would continue and that he would be a part of my family for as long as I lived.
Jamie and I share a bond other than the mother and son bond; we share the bond of loss, of the loss of someone we dearly loved who wasn't a member of the family. Jamie visits me every August. He says that he just wants to relax before another school year begins, but I know he wants to have some peace to grieve for the woman he loved.
The three-year-old Lee starts to fuss. I think he senses that all is not well with his Grandma. I look at my watch. Emma should be here shortly. She and little Lee were supposed to be visiting with her folks in New York for a while, but something came up and they couldn't make their flight and needed an emergency babysitter. The last three days had been my happiest in a long time and I felt that it was too early to see it end. I guess that's what every grandmother thinks at least once in her life.
"Mom!" I look up as I hear Philip's voice. I smile and pick up Lee to give him one last hug. Philip runs over to me and I get to be on the receiving end of a gigantic bear hug.
"Hello, Sweetheart. Where's Emma?"
"Right behind you, Mom." I hand Lee over to Philip and give Emma a hug. We chat for a while and then it's time for them to leave. They had canceled their flight and decided to take the train up. The conductor gives the boarding call and we say our good byes. I wave to my young ones as the train pulls out of the station then sit down to finish my writing.
A lot has happened to me in the last few years. I was offered Francine's job when she got promoted to New York last year. I tried to refuse, but Francine said that I had better take it. I didn't want to give up my desk in the Q-Bureau, but it was time to move on. I would be leaving it in good hands and it wasn't like I couldn't visit it when I wanted. I accepted the promotion on the condition that I could still take some of the cases. Dr. Smyth agreed to my condition and now I have more than enough work to do. But I still take my week off to write and I continue to look for Lee during the time that I should be sleeping. I take another sip of my coffee and get back to my typing.
The man walked into the train station. His blond hair had turned to a dark blonde or brown color with white speckles in it and was pulled back into a ponytail. His beard was long as well. He stopped at the counter in the coffee shop and asked for a glass of water. His brown eyes scanned the shop and the station outside it. On the bench outside the coffee shop sat a woman with a little blond haired boy who couldn't be more than four years old. The woman was of average height with brown hair. He saw her look up from the boy when a shout came to his ears.
"Mom!" He couldn't make out what the woman said, but he saw her get enveloped by the man.
"Excuse me, Sir. Here's your water." His thoughts were interrupted by the young lady behind the counter. He turned to face her. She handed him a glass of water and a doughnut.
"I didn't order a doughnut, just the water."
"I know, Sir. But the doughnut is from the lady you've been watching. She insists that every one who looks like they need some food, get a doughnut. She'll pay for it."
"Oh. Uh.. thank you." The man looked back at the woman he had seen earlier. The woman turned around and started to gather her things and he gasped, "Amanda."
"Is there a problem, Sir?"
"Uh.. no. I just thought I recognized someone I knew a long time ago."
"Who?" The man continued to observe Amanda. "Oh her. That's Mrs. A. Lee Cumberland. She writes the spy novels that involve a housewife with two young boys."
"She writes spy novels?"
"Yeah. It's kinda strange, though. Most publishers want at least two books a year from an author, but she only writes one book a year. The books usually come out about two months after she comes here."
"How do you know all this?"
"She told me. Say, you wouldn't want to read her first book, would ya?" The man looked at the lady who had been talking to him like she was crazy. "I just thought you would like to see what her books were like since you've obviously have an interest in her. By the way, my name is Linda," she replied to his unasked question.
"I'm Lee. Thank you, I would like that very much." Linda handed him a worn paperback copy of The Man In The Black Hat and he began to read.
'It all started when I was taking my boyfriend, Dan, to the bus station. Dan was a weather man and had insisted that because there was a thirty five percent chance of rain, that I had to drop him off at the station so his car wouldn't get rained on. ---' Lee started to smile. The book reminded him of how he first met Amanda at this train station. She was dropping her boyfriend off here and he just picked her out of the crowd to give that package to. Lee continued to read the book every now and then looking up to observe the author. The more he looked at her, the more she looked like the Amanda that he left behind nine years ago and the more scared he became. He didn't know if she had moved on with her life or if she had waited for his return. He hoped for the latter, but he couldn't be sure.
When he finished the book, he asked Linda, "Do you know anything else about this Mrs. Cumberland?"
"Yeah. She's been coming in here for nine years now. I'm thinking of giving her a gift for being my most loyal customer. Why?"
"I was thinking of trying to say hello to her and to thank her for the doughnut. I want to know what I may be getting myself into." Actually Lee was getting very restless sitting at the counter instead of marching over to Amanda, but he needed to know if she had moved on with her life.
"Oh. Well, let's see. Like I said, she has been coming in here every February 13, for the past nine years. She sits in the corner booth with either a pad of paper and a pen or her laptop and writes for a few hours. Then she sits outside on the bench where she is now and stares out into the crowd for the remainder of the day. I asked her why she only came for one day a year a couple years ago and she told me that she came here to 'remember happier times and where it all began.' The only time that I've seen her smile was when she was writing or today when she greeted her family.
"I've tried to get her to open up, but nothing seems to work. I think she lost a friend or something a long time ago and she keeps it bottled up inside her for the year and then comes here to remember that friend. That's all I know."
"Thanks. You wouldn't have anything that I can give her, sort of an ice breaker?"
"Not really, just her lunch. Tell you what... I normally deliver her lunch, but why don't you do it. I'll give you a lunch to eat in return. Hold on a second." Linda disappeared into the kitchen for a few minutes. When she returned, she had a bottle of wine, two wine glasses, and a picnic basket. "Here's her bottle of wine and glasses and here's the food. There's enough for both of you to have something. Good luck, Lee."
"Thanks, Linda." Lee took the things and headed out to meet the love of his life. He stood a few feet away from her trying to get the courage to speak to her. 'God, she looks more beautiful than I remember.' After a few minutes, he walked up next to her and said, "Pardon me, Ma'am. But have you seen a man in a red hat? I have this package for him and it's a matter of life an death."
Amanda looked up at the sound of Lee's voice. She thought that she was hallucinating. 'He's come back to me. After all these years, he's come back to me!' Before her was a man that had a long beard and hair and was wearing a trench coat that was dirty and patched. It was the twinkle in his eye, though, that told her that her best friend, lover and husband was standing before her with a bottle of wine and a picnic basket. "Lee?" she asked softly not trusting herself completely.
"Yes, Amanda. It's me." Lee placed the things in his hands on the bench and reached out to her. Amanda took his hand and stood up. "It's really me, Amanda."
"Oh. Lee." Amanda's voice cracked when she said his name. She hugged him and cried. Her search was over. Lee was standing before her and was alive and well. Last month she had heard that the Chinese had an agent in one of their prisons. She had set up a sting operation to rescue that agent. Her leads in the search for Lee had all fizzled out until she heard of the activity in northern China. They were looking for something or someone. The only information she managed to get was that the Chinese had been holding an agent for nearly five years and that the agent had recently escaped. "Lee, I heard that an agent escaped from one of the prisons in China. Was that you?" She had to know. She had to know if her gut feeling had been right when she heard the news.
Lee looked at her surprised and then smiled as it dawned on him that his Amanda never left the Agency and had probably spent the last nine years looking for him. "Yes, that was me. I never stopped trying to get out of there. I had a promise to keep." Amanda started to cry again. Lee held her close to him, tears threatening to flow from his own eyes.
"It's been so long. I've never given up hope that you were alive. It's been so hard for me to just live without telling anyone my secret."
"Don't cry, Love. I'm here, where I belong." Lee continued to hold Amanda. He didn't know what else to do. "I read your book."
Amanda looked at him with wide eyes. "You read my book?"
"Yeah. Linda gave me the first book you wrote earlier this morning. It's good."
"This morning? When did you get in?"
"Amanda, could we sit and eat for a bit. I'll tell you everything."
"Oh. Yes, of course. You must be starved." They sat down on the bench and opened the picnic basket and began to eat. Amanda brought out a tape recorder and set it between them. "We might as well make this official. I don't want to hear this story twice in one week."
"Make this official? Amanda, why would I want to make this version my official story? I'll tell Billy when I go to the Agency tomorrow."
"Well, that would be hard to do since I'm Section Chief. Billy retired a little over five years ago and Francine is the head of the New York office, which left me as the most likely candidate for Section Chief in DC." Amanda rambled having gotten over the initial shock of seeing Lee for the first time in so many years. "Of course, since I am on vacation, I'll do the written report and turn it in to Dr. Smyth when I get in next week."
"Slow down, Amanda. You're Section Chief? How did this happen?" Lee asked shocked.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to just dump this information on you, Lee. You know how I get when I'm excited."
"Yeah, I do," Lee smiled remembering all the times that she could just ramble on about almost everything at the drop of the hat. "How about you tell me about everything that has happened and how much you know and when we get back to the house, I'll fill you in on what happened to me nine years ago."
"OK." Amanda opened the bottle of wine and poured both of them a glass before filling Lee in on what happened since his disappearance.
Inside the coffee shop, Linda watched as the strange man and the woman that she knew as Mrs. Cumberland held onto each other for a long time, then sit down and talk like old friends. 'I guess he really did know her.' Linda shook her head and poured a cup of coffee for a customer. Five hours later, Linda was closing up shop and Lee and Amanda were still sitting on the bench. Amanda had tired herself out talking and was now content to sit with his arms around her.
"Uh, Mrs. Cumberland?" Linda asked not sure if she should disturb her and Lee.
Amanda raised her head off of Lee's shoulder and looked at Linda. "Yes, Linda. Is there something I could help you with?"
"No, I, uh, I just wanted to give you this and say thank you for being a great customer." Linda held out a package to her wrapped in red paper. Lee smiled when he saw the paper remembering when he first met her.
Amanda opened the gift to reveal a metallic blue thermos with the names of the two main characters of her books engraved in red and gold on it. "Oh, Linda, this is beautiful. Thank you." Amanda started to tear up. This was the best anniversary she'd had in a long time.
"You're welcome, Mrs. Cumberland. I'll see ya next year?"
"I don't know. Maybe." Amanda wiped away the few tears that were on her face as she cast Lee a questioning look. Lee gave her a small smile and nodded his head. He couldn't think of a better way to spend an anniversary than with his wife at the place they first met. "Yes, I do think I'll be here next year, Linda."
"Okay. Take care of yourself, Lee, Mrs. Cumberland." Linda went on to her car. In the nine years that she had known Amanda, she had never seen her as happy as she was now sitting beside a total stranger.
"Amanda, it's getting late. Why don't we go home? I'll drive." Lee held out his hand for the keys to her jeep.
"Sure, but I'll drive." They got up and walked to Amanda's car arm in arm. Amanda turned onto the beltway going the opposite direction than what Lee was expecting.
"Amanda, I know I've been gone for a while, but isn't your place back there?"
"Oh. I forgot to tell you that I moved."
"You moved?" Lee was puzzled. Amanda had told him a lot of what happened at the Agency, but she didn't tell him much of what happened to her. 'Well, that explains why the house was dark last night.' he thought.
"Yeah. Lee, can I tell you about it when we get home? I would rather be sitting on my couch telling you than in the car. Please?"
"Sure." Lee placed his hand on her's and squeezed it lightly. They remained that way for the rest of the trip. When they reached the gate to the ranch, Jerry, Amanda's security guard that the Agency insisted she get a few years ago, walked over to her car.
"Ma'am. Ms. Desmond is at the house waiting for you. She's been here for a few hours."
"Thank you, Jerry." Amanda looked at Lee trying to decide how she would handle the situation. This was a rare occurrence. Everyone knew that Amanda was not to be disturbed on her vacation unless it was life threatening or, now that she was Section Chief, if something happened on the international scene. "Uh, Jerry, could you escort Mr. Steadman to your place? I'll come down when I conclude my business with Francine."
"Of course, Mrs. King. Sir?" Lee opened his mouth to protest when Amanda cut him off.
"Lee, if you come in with me, I'll never get rid of Francine. I want some time with you alone before the Agency gets involved and if she sees you, Francine will make sure that agents get down here to take you for a debriefing. Understand?" All Lee could do was nod his acceptance. This was, a new side of her, a professional side that came only after years of hard work. Before he got out of the car, Amanda put her hand on his arm to stop him. He looked down at her hand then at her. In her eyes he saw the regret and the love that she had for him. He knew that more than anything she wanted him to come in with her, but he understood that she needed to keep Francine and the Agency in the dark as long as she could.
"I love you," he whispered as leaned over to her and gave her a light kiss. He got out of the car and walked over to where Jerry was standing. They shook hands and started to head for Jerry's cabin. Lee looked back at Amanda and saw her mouth "I love you too."
Amanda drove through the open gate and steeled herself to face Francine. Although Francine and Amanda never became the best of friends, Francine knew Amanda well enough to know when something was up. Amanda wanted to be ready for anything that may happen.
Francine paced back and forth in Amanda's living room. She had been waiting for three hours for Amanda to show up from who knows where. 'Come on, Amanda. Where are you?' Francine thought. She knew that Amanda needed this time alone to "remember and reflect" as Amanda told her once, but this was important. Billy told her about how he let Amanda use Agency contacts to search for Lee because of a gut feeling. Now it looked like Amanda's feeling was right after all. Francine stopped pacing when she heard Amanda's car pull to a stop in front of the house. 'Finally," she thought as she headed to the front door.
Amanda got out of the jeep hoping that she could handle what Francine had to tell or show her.
"Amanda! Do you know how long I've been waiting for you?" Francine said as she exploded out of the front door.
"Hello, Francine. I'm fine, thank you for asking, " Amanda said.
"I'm sorry, Amanda. It's just that I have some news about Lee."
"Lee?" Amanda said weakly. She nearly dropped her laptop at the mention of Lee's name. Francine hurried over to Amanda assuming that she was about to faint or something and grabbed the laptop. After making sure that Amanda was steady on her feet, Francine guided her into the house.
"Billy told me when I took over for him, that he was allowing you to search for Lee on your own time. Since then I've had one agent looking into his disappearance, but until now I've doubted your," Francine paused. "Your gut feeling."
Amanda was glad that she was sitting when Francine told her this. To know that someone else was looking for Lee shocked her. She thought that she was the only one who could be bothered to look for Lee. "You have?" Amanda paused briefly, "What... Francine, what did your man discover?"
Francine took a deep breath, "A small boat was found docked next to the Mata Hari early this morning. The security guard reported seeing a man that matches Lee's description hanging around the ships that night. Amanda, this is important, do you know of any place that he could have gone to? Anything would help us."
Amanda thought for a moment. "I assume you've got people at my old place and at Lee's apartment?" Francine nodded. "Right, well, he might have gone to the park across from the reflecting pool or to the Memorial."
"Uh... the Jefferson Memorial. We often took walks near it."
"Thanks, Amanda. Oh, Amanda, I really hope this is Lee, for all our sakes. I'll see myself out and if I find anything, I'll call." Francine stood up. Despite her calm exterior, Francine was extremely worried about Amanda. During the entire time that she had known Amanda since Lee's disappearance there had been something missing in her eyes that she couldn't identify, now she knew what it was. It was hope and love. Francine gave a silent prayer that Lee would be found soon; she didn't know if Amanda could handle losing Lee again.
"Francine?" Francine paused at the door and looked at Amanda. "How did you confirm that the man the security guard was Lee?"
"The boat had a few partial prints and in one of the lockers was a red hat and some straw."
Amanda smiled slightly and looked at the red hat on her mantle. "Thank you, Francine." Francine nodded and left Amanda alone with her thoughts.
Back at Jerry's cabin.
Lee saw the fear in Amanda's eyes when he looked back at her. He knew what she was thinking; it was the same thing he was: is this the last time we'll be together? Then he saw the look of determination to face Francine and lie to her if it meant that he would still be at Jerry's. Lee followed Jerry to his cabin. 'May be I can get a shower and a shave' he thought stroking his long beard.
When they arrived at the cabin, Jerry set Lee down at the dinning room table. The cabin was somewhat bigger than Lee expected it to be. The entered through the front door and Lee had noticed the living room to his right. To his left there was a couple of steps that went to the dinning room. Off the dinning room was a normal sized kitchen. Next to the living room was a pocket door that led into what Lee assumed to be a den. Across from the den were two doors. One door was closed and the other one was slightly ajar revealing a staircase. Jerry returned with a plate of food and something to drink.
"I thought you might like something to nibble on, while waiting for Mrs. King." Lee smiled his thanks. After a few minutes, Lee asked, "Could I use your shower? I haven't had much time to, uh," Lee paused. Jerry smiled at Lee's discomfort. Lee looked a lot like the older version of the man in some of the pictures Amanda had around the house when he stopped in to make sure everything was fine.
"Sure. The bathroom is down the hall and the first door to the left. I'll get you some fresh clothes, a razor, and some towels." Jerry got up and headed for his bedroom leaving Lee stunned.
A half hour passed and there still wasn't any sign of Amanda. A clean and freshly shaven Lee paced Jerry's living room, wondering what Francine had to tell Amanda. Jerry had gone out on patrol ten minutes earlier satisfied that Lee wouldn't doing anything rash.
Lee was nervous and with Amanda taking her time, he worried even more. Suddenly he stopped and looked out the front window. 'Where are you Amanda?' he asked himself as he noticed movement and a glance of something white moving through the trees. Lee looked around the room for something to defend himself with just in case.
Suddenly there was a soft knock at the door. Lee grabbed the poker from the fire place at the far end of the room and cautiously made his way over to the front door. His grip on the poker loosened when he saw Amanda's face and he opened the door.
"Hi." He said as he looked at his wife.
"Hi" She returned as she walked by Lee and into the foyer of the cabin. Lee guided her into the living room and she looked at him and a small smile started at her lips making its way across her face as Lee put the poker back where it belonged.
"I missed you." He said as he made his way towards her side and gently rested a shaking hand on her waist. Amanda looked up into his eyes; "I missed you too, Lee, so very much." She finished in barely a whisper and leaned her forehead against him.
Lee moved his hands up her back in lazy circles, trying to make her relax and calm down. This was very hard on both of them being away for so long; Lee knew he couldn't just walk back in where they left off, everything was so different. After a few moments Lee spoke, "Hey, Amanda."
Lee looked down and she hadn't moved, so he gently lifted her chin with his finger to make her look at him, "I love you."
Amanda smiled and held him even tighter, "I love you too."
"We need to talk about... about everything."
"I know we do, let's go back to the house and we can." Amanda said as she reached down for his hand and intertwined her fingers with his.
Back at the house, Lee made his way to the living room and started a fire as Amanda went to get dinner for them both.
Lee sat in the living room in front of the fire, just resting and thinking of how the last years of his life had gone. He had done nothing but think of ways to escape, ways to come back to his Amanda, back to his life. She was the only thing that really kept him alive through those years. Lee sighed and leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
Amanda walked into the living room, tray in hand, and noticed Lee sitting on the floor in front of the fire. The sight warmed her heart, she loved him so much, and she was so happy to have him back here with her.
Slowly Amanda set down the tray and walked over to Lee. As she knelt down next to him and brushed a few stray hairs off his forehead and leaned down to kiss him there. "I love you, Lee." She whispered. Lee stirred under her and he reached for her. Amanda moved closer to him, inhaling his scent, craving his touch. Suddenly he moved a bit and was able to lean up and kiss her. They both gave in to the physical need at that moment; the only thing that mattered was to know that the other was there, physically.
When they came up for air Amanda spoke first, "I have something to eat, then we can talk."
Lee nodded in acceptance, "As long as you don't leave me. I don't want to be away from you for the rest of my life."
Amanda turned her head so that he wouldn't see the blush the rose to her cheeks. It had been a long time since she heard something that romantic from any man. When she turned around, she handed Lee a hot plate of mashed potatoes, gravy and shaved turkey. She then got up and went to the study. She returned with the bottle of wine that she had bought for her solo celebration, a small tape recorder, and a package of tapes. Lee looked at her questioningly.
"I want to get as much of the Agency business done with before this day is over," Amanda said opening the bottle of wine and pouring each of them a glass. Lee took a deep breath, not sure of how he should begin. Amanda saw him hesitate and placed her hand on his arm. She knew it wouldn't be easy for him to tell her what happened to him, but she needed to know, both as his wife and his boss. "We don't have to start right now, Lee." Lee nodded his thanks and started to eat. They sat in front of the fire and ate, occasionally adding a log to the fire when it started to die down. Half a hour later, they had finished eating. Lee pulled Amanda closer to him so that he could hold her and try to summon the same courage to tell Amanda about his abduction that she had when she finally told him what happened during her captivity by Adi Birol so many years ago.
Amanda knew that soon she would have to become a professional while she debriefed Lee, but for now she as content to be in his arms on their anniversary. She heard Lee make a sigh, signaling her that he was ready to tell her what happened. She put a tape into the recorder and looked up at Lee.
Lee felt rather than heard her get the tape recorder ready. He only hoped that he could make it through the debriefing without breaking down, not that anyone wouldn't understand it if he did. "All right, I'm ready."
Amanda pressed the record button and spoke into it, "February 13, 2008. Debriefing of Agent Lee Stetson; codename: Scarecrow." She paused briefly and in her best 'Section Chief' voice asked Lee to describe the events of his capture nine years ago.
"Billy called me on February 12, 1999 and told me that I had to go to Italy to investigate the disappearance of Agent Danny Weatherspoone," Lee started, throwing his mind back to the events of nine years ago. "When I was changing planes in Barcelona, I felt a prick in my neck. I didn't think anything of it until about four minutes later, I started to get dizzy. I then started to black out, but not before three men grabbed and dragged me to the nearest exit. I recognized two of the men as henchmen from Adi Birol's gang, Sadid Abada and Angel Domini. The other man was about six feet, two inches tall, weighed about 160 pounds, had dark hair, skin, and eyes, and had a scar that ran from just below his left eye to his jaw." Lee had his eyes close so he didn't see Amanda's startled look at the description of the third man. He had just described Adi Birol's nephew, Safar Birol. "They tossed me into a dark van. After that, I was unconscious. When I woke up, we had stopped. One of the men blindfolded me and then forced me out of the van. We waited for ten minutes before someone met us.
"We were told to follow him. We arrived at a tent and my blindfold was removed."
"How did you know it was a tent?" Amanda interrupted. She fought hard to control her voice and sound professional. Lee opened his eyes and looked at her. He could tell that she was having a difficult time hearing his story.
"I could the tent flaps moving in the distance and about twenty men shouting," he answered evenly. Had it been anyone other than Amanda asking him the question, he would have delayed his answer a bit, but he couldn't do that to her. Lee continued with his story, "The tent housed a military strategy room. At the far end of the tent was another man. When he turned around, I was shocked to find a very young version of Adi Birol. Apparently he had a son before we, that is, before Amanda and I took him into custody." Lee continued to tell Amanda of the torture that has inflicted upon him at the hands of Safar and Adi, Jr and of the moves of location. Lee had also given Amanda all the information that he could gather in between beatings about Birol's operation and how he strived to avenge his father. When he got to the events that surrounded his escape, Lee paused.
"I had heard through the prison grapevine that the Chinese were about to kill the enemy agent they had. I assumed that it was me and waited until dark before I made my escape attempt. When the guard came in to give me my evening meal of rice and water, I jumped him and took his gun. I then tied the guard up using strips of cloth from my cot and locked him in my place.
"I knew that there was a ship yard about a ten miles away and I headed that way, thinking I could find a boat or maybe a seaplane."
"How did you know that there was a ship yard?" Amanda asked, interrupting him for the fifth time since he started talking. She wanted to make sure that she had all the details before giving his testimony to Dr Symth.
"The last month or so, I and a few of my prison mates were brought to the ship yard to help with the loading and unloading of shipments," Lee replied. "When I got to the ship yard, I stowed away on one of the large freighters that was headed to Seattle. From Seattle, I hitched a few rides into Quebec. I arrived in Quebec two nights ago. Yesterday afternoon I found a small boat with a motor and a sail at a public dock and took it down to Annapolis. I docked the boat near the Mata Hari last night and left a few clues as to who I was, but only what a few people would know about. After leaving the boat and ship yard, I found a homeless man who had died recently and took his coat to disguise myself. I took the first bus to DC that I came across.
"I, uh, stole a car from the bus station and drove to Amanda King's house in Arlington."
"Why did you go to my house first?"
Lee thought for a moment trying to phrase an answer to her question without jeopardizing their secret, "I... I needed to let her know that I was alive before I turned myself into the Agency. Amanda's house was deserted so I tried to think of other places that she might have gone to. I eventually ran into you at the train station where we had first met." It was nearly eleven o'clock by the time Lee finished his account of the last nine years. He had tried his best to give his report in impersonal way, especially where it concerned Amanda, but he was getting tired.
Amanda stopped the tape recorder and wrapped her arms around Lee as if she
could take away the pain of the memories that still gripped him. She knew it
would take a long time for Lee to live with what had happened and she would be
there to help him as he was for her on numerous occasions.
February 14, 2008
The shrill of the telephone woke Amanda up from a sound sleep. She had been having a wonderful dream that Lee had come back to her. As she reached for the phone, she realized that she hadn't dreamt Lee's return; he had really come back and was holding her in his arms in her living room. The answering machine picked up the phone call and she heard Francine say that they had found something and were going to check it out later that day. Amanda stared at Lee, tracing the lines the contours of his face with her eyes. After Lee finished his debriefing, Amanda made a mental note to call Francine to pick up the fifteen cassettes that held the account of Lee's last nine years. They spent the rest of the night rediscovering each other, and talking about anything not related to the Agency.
Amanda's mind was still astounded that he had survived the last nine years as well as he did, but her heart had known that he would come back and that everything would be alright. In his sleep, Lee looked more at peace than she could remember him being since she first met him. Timidly, Amanda leaned forward and lightly touched her lips to his, almost afraid to kiss him, should he wake.
Lee opened one eye when Amanda kissed him. 'God, I've missed her kisses,' he thought as he responded, surprising Amanda. They broke the kiss and huddled close to each other. Lee decided to break the silence, "I guess we fell asleep, huh?"
"Yeah. Uhm... I know it's a bit early, but do you want breakfast?" Amanda asked as she got up and stretched the kinks out of her back. This simple act brought back memories of years past when she would get up in the middle of the night to make a snack after they had made love to Lee.
"Sure. Uh... do you have something I can change into?"
The question startled Amanda back into reality. She had forgotten that he hadn't been living here and didn't know where everything was. She simply nodded and took his hand to help him up off the floor.
Lee was given the grand tour of the house. He was surprised to see that all his clothes were hanging in the closet of the master bedroom. He didn't know what to say when he saw the study where Amanda's search for him was very evident so he hugged her and kissed the top of her head. Amanda understood his gesture as a thank you and smiled. It may have been nine years, but the last seventeen hours of being in his presence had seemed like he had never left despite the awkwardness she had felt less than twelve hours ago. When they finished the tour, Amanda suggested that they take a shower and insisted that he go first.
When Lee got into the shower, Amanda went back into the living room and picked up their dishes and the tapes and set them on the counter. She got everything mixed together for pancakes and eggs, then found a small box to put the tapes into. When she was satisfied that everything was ready, she called Francine at her office.
"Good morning, Francine."
"Amanda! Where were you this morning? I called to let you know we got a lead as to where Lee might be."
"I know, Francine. I was a little groggy when you called, so I let the machine pick up," Amanda lied. "But I didn't call in about that. I need you to come out and pick something up from the house."
"Amanda, I can't. I'm swamped with reports and getting everything ready for today's tracking job..."
"Francine, please? I'll make you breakfast. Complete with chocolate chip pancakes." To Francine Amanda sounded desperate, very desperate if she was resorting to a chocolate bribe.
"All right. I'll be there in forty five minutes." They hung up and Amanda got the chocolate chips out of the pantry. All of a sudden, Amanda was grabbed from behind by a freshly showered Lee.
"Lee! I wish you wouldn't do that to me." 'Even after all these years, he hasn't lost his ability to sneak up on me,' Amanda thought as she turned to face him. Before she could open her mouth to speak again, Lee kissed her passionately. A minute later they broke the kiss, breathless.
"I love you," they said at the same time. Lee chuckled and Amanda smiled. It was like they had never been apart. Lee looked around the kitchen and same the fixings for breakfast.
"So, when are we going to eat?" he asked.
"In forty five minutes." Amanda heard his stomach growl in protest. "We have to wait for Francine. Now, you be good while I take my shower." Lee gave her a mischievous grin and started to follow her into the bathroom.
"No, Lee. Not this time. You get dressed," Amanda ordered. More than anything she wanted Lee to join her, but now wasn't the time. Lee was disappointed, but understood that she needed some time to get used to having him around again, so he didn't push it. Just the fact that she had said 'not this time' gave him hope that soon they would. Amanda was still taking her shower when Lee finished getting dressed. He looked at the clock on the dresser, it was now 5:45. Francine would be at the house in fifteen minutes. 'Better hurry Amanda up,' Lee thought smiling at the prospect of surprising Amanda again. Unfortunately he didn't get to surprise her; instead, Amanda had managed to get out of the shower and put her robe on before sneaking up and giving him a hug.
"What!" Lee jumped off the bed in shock and turned to see his attacker. "Where did you learn how to do that, Amanda?"
"Oh, I picked it up somewhere."
"Oh? Where exactly did you pick it up?"
"Can't tell you, it's classified," Amanda teased. Secretly she was ecstatic that she had managed to sneak up on the infamous and original Scarecrow.
"Classified? Come now, Mrs. Stetson. You know nothing is classified between us." Lee was happy that they had found their feet and could tease each other.
"Yep." Amanda gave him a light kiss. "But I'm your boss, remember."
"Ah, that's right. Tell me, 'boss', is there any way that I can gain the security clearance needed to learn that secret?" Lee gave her a kiss. A few moments later they heard the door bell. Amanda broke the kiss and hurried to get dressed. Amanda told Lee to start cooking breakfast while she answered the door.
Francine got held up at the office briefly with some questions. Amanda had her worried. When she left yesterday evening, Amanda had been almost devastated and now on the phone she almost sounded normal. The sudden change in moods had caused Francine to worry more about her friend and she sped as quickly as she could to Amanda's ranch.
Francine arrived right on time, but it took Amanda five minutes to answer the door and usher her in.
"Ok, I'm here. What is so important that you couldn't have had a courier come by to pick up?" Francine asked smelling the delicious aroma of chocolate chip pancakes wafting out of the kitchen.
Amanda went into the kitchen to get the box of tapes and stole a kiss from Lee as she went by. When she returned she gave Francine the box and her instructions, "I need these to be transcribed ASAP. I'll have the official report done next week. Now, why don't you take off your jacket and sit down at the table for breakfast."
Amanda turned to head back into the kitchen leaving Francine's jaw hanging in shock. This was not the Amanda King that Francine had left last night. Something was up and Amanda knew what it was, but Francine couldn't figure out what it in the world that it could be.
Francine followed Amanda into the dinning room and saw that the table had been set for three people for the first time in many years. For a couple of years after Lee disappeared, Francine would drop in to check up on her partner and usually found that Amanda had set out enough placing for two people. Slowly, though, Amanda had gotten used to eating alone and the dinning room was set for one person on a regular basis.
Amanda turned to face Francine, "Yes, Francine?"
"Why is there three plates out? Are you expecting someone else for breakfast?"
"As a matter of fact, she is." Lee's voice came out of the kitchen shortly followed by him carrying a platter of pancakes and syrup. Francine didn't know what to say or do so she just stood there watching Lee place the food on the table and ask if everyone wanted some juice. Amanda answered for Francine and when Lee went back into the kitchen, she led Francine to the table.
"Amanda, tell me that I'm hallucinating," Francine said quietly after she sat down.
"No, Francine, you are not seeing things. That was really Lee," Amanda said as calmly as she could.
"How long has he been here?" Francine asked regaining her composure and voice.
"He came home with me yesterday." Amanda paused briefly and continued before Francine could say anything. "He approached me at the train station yesterday afternoon. I was going to tell you, but I wanted some time with him before the Agency got involved."
As Amanda told Francine everything, well almost everything, that had happened the previous day, Lee stood in the doorway watching. Everything was almost like a dream to him, a dream come true. He was still alive, his wife was there to welcome him with open arms, and she could still talk the ear off a donkey. Things had changed in many ways as well: she no longer lived at the house in Arlington; his apartment had been leased at least a dozen times since he left; Amanda was essentially his boss, but only if he came back to the Agency.
Lee noticed that Francine was starting to get annoyed with Amanda now that the shock of seeing him had worn off. The skeptic in her was about to come out, so he decided that it would be a good time to bring in the rest of breakfast, including his special potato cakes that he made as a surprise for Amanda.
"I don't know about you, ladies, but I, for one, am famished," he said entering the room.
"Yes, let's eat," Amanda agreed quickly, thankful for Lee's timing. "Francine, how many pancakes do you want?" It took Francine a few moments to realize that Amanda had asked her a question. Francine didn't know what to make of the rapid developments in Lee's case, but she hoped that it would, for Amanda's sake, continue to go quickly and everything turned out right. Amanda didn't get to the package that she had given her, but Francine reasoned that it could be the tapes of Lee's debriefing that needed to be transcribed.
Breakfast went smoothly between the three of them. Lee promised that he would report to the Agency as soon as he had physically recovered from his escape after being badgered by both Francine and Amanda. A couple of hours later, Francine left satisfied that the man claiming to be Lee Stetson was indeed the one and only Scarecrow.
When Francine drove off, Amanda asked, "Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?"
"No, it wasn't," Lee answered amazed that after all this time Amanda could still read him like a book. Putting the Agency and everything else that happened to him he asked, "What ever shall we do with ourselves, Mrs. Stetson?" Amanda smiled.
The week went by quickly with only minimal interruptions from Francine who was checking up on him until Amanda returned to work.
February 21, 2008
the Stetson's ranch
"Are you sure you want to come in with me, Lee?" Amanda asked as she got dressed for work.
"Yes, Amanda. I really want to come in with you. I got bored with watching television yesterday and the doctor said that I was cleared to go back to 'whatever it is that I do at IFF.'"
"Ok, but you better be ready for some hard work." Amanda smiled. It would be nice to have Lee back at the Agency. His desk had been getting a bit dusty of late and cluttered with stuff that she was putting off to later.
Forty-five minutes later, Lee and Amanda walked through the doors of IFF and was greeted by Dr. Symth.
"Ah, Mrs. King, Scarecrow. So nice of you to finally join us."