Disclaimer: These characters and all references having to do with "Scarecrow & Mrs. King" are the property of Shoot the Moon Productions and Warner Brothers. I borrowed a line from Stemwinder 2 written by Robert W. Gilmer and George Geiger. The intent with my story is just entertainment, not money in any way shape or form.
Timeline: Present day
Archive: Amber's, Anyone else please let me know.
Summary: Amanda reunites Lee with his first love.
Authors notes: This is my first attempt at writing fanfiction so ALL
feedback is greatly appreciated! I want to thank all of my betas for
their hard work. I especially want to thank Toto, (who's writing
first gave me the idea that wouldn't leave me alone) for all of
hand holding and guidance, and my friend Adrea. I wouldn't have
pen name, and y'all would have never seen this story if it
for all of her cajoling, cheer leading and wonderful encouragement.
I hope you enjoy!
Amanda Stetson sat at her desk, looking into her husband's empty office. With Lee out of the office for the day it gave her a chance to check on the arrangements for his not-so-surprise 50th birthday party.
It wasn't Amanda's fault he found out. She may have been out of the field for several years now, but she still had her ways of keeping a secret. When Billy retired, Amanda stayed on as Assistant to the Section Chief. And since Lee was the new Section Chief, the old partnership of "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" (although it was now Mrs. Stetson) was resumed.
The surprise party plans hit the fan, so to speak, when Emily Farnsworth called the office and left an "urgent" message on voice mail. Where Emily made her mistake was that she left the message in Lee and Amanda's joint mailbox, instead of Amanda's individual mailbox.
The message said that Emily needed to speak to Amanda immediately. So when Lee was the first one to check messages, he immediately picked up the phone to call Emily, afraid that she was in some sort of trouble.
When Lee got in touch with Emily, he was so concerned about her that as she was trying to assure him that everything was fine she said "I promise, I was just calling about the party," and oops! The cat was out of the bag.
"It's pretty hard to surprise a spy," was all Lee said, before he started to try and talk Amanda out of having the party. She would have never canceled the party anyway, but she told Lee that too many people were coming in for them to cancel at that point.
At least her husband seemed to be coming around to the idea of a party, not that he had a choice. Amanda smiled as she thought of how they had joked about it last night with their 12 year old daughter, Jennifer. Lee even seemed to be interested in who was coming.
"I made sure to plan the party when there was not a major foreign dignitary visit scheduled; so Francine is not going to be too busy," Amanda had told him. Francine now headed the Department of Foreign Dignitary Security. Amanda couldn't help but smile as she thought of how Francine asked her last week, "Is the party going to be black tie? I'm so tired of having to dress up all the time. I have to be at some formal embassy function every other night." Amanda just mused, "Oh, how times have changed."
"What about Uncle Billy and Aunt Jeannie? Have you been able to contact them, Mom?" Jenny asked.
"Yes, finally! They got back from their trip last week," Amanda answered.
Now that Billy was retired and the years of working nights and weekends and missing vacations were but a bad memory, Jeannie Melrose guarded their privacy with all she had. Vacation destinations were "need to know", and the "need to know" list didn't often extend beyond their daughters.
"I spoke to Jeannie and she assured me that they wouldn't miss it," Amanda concluded with a sense of relief.
"Well if I'm going to have to go to this party, they better be there," Lee grumbled.
Amanda and Jenny just laughed.
"No matter how old I get, Billy will always be older," Lee said with a grin.
"I heard from Lauren this afternoon, and she said she and Phillip would be coming down from New York." Amanda got a special look in her eyes these days, whenever she spoke of Phillip and Lauren, and she had been slightly concerned that they wouldn't be able to make the trip. "The baby is due in four weeks, so they weren't sure if the doctor would be in favor of her traveling so close to her due date. But as of her visit today, the doctor gave them the okay."
"By the way, Grandma called today, Mom. She said that she and Grandpa Curt will be driving up on Wednesday, so that they can help out with the final preparations."
"That just leaves Jamie and Dianne. They have been working for the last three weeks to coordinate their work schedules so that they can both be off for the weekend," Amanda sighed.
"I'm beginning to think it is going to take an act of Congress to get both resident doctors off on the same weekend. Amanda, you know what a sacrifice they will be making if they do achieve this monumental feat? It will mean double shifts to pay back the kids who will be covering for them." Lee took a sip of his Coke and leaned back in his chair. "Did I just do that?"
"Do what, Daddy?" asked Jenny.
"I called doctors 'kids'! Call the nursing home, I guess I'm a lot older than I thought!" Lee said smiling and shaking his head.
Jenny jumped up. "I'll go call Liberty Medical Supply and have the catalogs for 'mature living' supplies sent right away. Oh, and I almost forgot, I'll call the Hoveround scooter company, too."
Lee looked over to Amanda for some moral support. "You started it," was all she could offer between the tears and laughter. Lee rolled his eyes and found the laughter of his girls contagious.
"Don't you think it would be great to think of something special to do for "the children", if they both manage to get off work?" Amanda asked trying to make her voice sound old, even though she was still giggling.
Lee picked up the guest list from the table where Amanda had put it down. "Can you imagine trying to do this at the house in Arlington?" Lee asked trying to steer the conversation back to the subject at hand.
"That is why we're having the party at the hotel, Lee." She got tickled, knowing what Lee meant. "I thought we were crowded back when the boys would come home from school for Christmas." They all loved their home in Rockville, but the house in Arlington would always hold special memories.
"Now we get to add their wives and Curt," Amanda finished.
Jenny giggled, "Not to mention the baby! Well on the next visit at least."
Amanda just rolled her eyes.
Lee shot her a knowing look and smiled, "You know you love it!"
"That's what?" Lee asked Amanda.
"Daddy is your memory fogging up again?" Jenny asked.
"You know, Lee, I'm certain of it now."
"Certain of what?"
"Jen must be Francine's daughter. She certainly didn't learn to talk like that from me," Amanda batted her eyelashes innocently.
"So that explains it!" Lee chuckled.
"Oh please," Jennifer said rolling her eyes. "What's your idea, Mom?"
Jenny and Lee looked at her expectantly. "I'll reserve a room for Dianne and Jamie at the hotel for Friday and Saturday night. That way if they both get to come they will also get some much needed 'quality time' too."
Lee looked at Amanda and winked, then turned and said, "You know, Jenny, that's why they pay your mom the big bucks!" And the laughter began all over again.
The phone rang, and Amanda's thoughts returned to her work. "Good afternoon, Amanda Stetson speaking."
"Amanda! I'm so glad that I am finally able to speak to you!"
"Emily! It's so good to hear your voice."
"Amanda dear, I am so sorry for spoiling Lee's surprise."
"Emily, I'm just glad that you are coming. You are still going to make it, aren't you?"
"Oh yes dear, it has been far too long since I have seen all of you; especially that precious Jennifer. Thank you for the pictures you sent last month. She is absolutely beautiful and so grown up!"
"Thank you, Jenny is very excited to see you too. And you are right, she is growing up entirely too fast. I hope you are planning an extended stay. We all want a chance to have you to ourselves while you're here. You will stay out at the house with us for a few days, won't you?"
Emily laughed, "Amanda, even after all these years, I don't think I know anyone who can say as much in one breath as you! Now, as far as my staying with you, let's work that out once I arrive. If I'm not mistaken, you have a lot to look forward to next month, Grandma!"
"It sure it hard to fathom that my baby is having a baby of his own," Amanda sighed
"That is one thing I never thought I'd see, Lee Stetson - a grandfather." Amanda could picture Emily smiling with a quiet pride.
"You know, Emily, I worried how Lee was going to handle all of this, the baby being due so close to his 50th birthday. But he hasn't let it bother him one bit. He keeps talking about all the things we are going to do with the baby. He's nearly as excited about this baby as he was about Jennifer."
"I know that must be a sight! Will Lauren be able to travel?"
"Her doctor gave the okay earlier this week. Emily, we really do want to spend some time with you while you're here."
"I know dear and I want to be with all of you, we will work something out. Now the reason I called, do you have any gift suggestions?"
"Your being here will be your gift, Emily!"
"Oh Amanda," Emily sighed, "You're no help. That boy is so hard to buy for."
"You're telling me. Emily! I just had a brainstorm. If you want to give him a gift, I know just the thing." Amanda whispered her idea into the phone.
"But, Amanda, it's May! Are you sure?"
"Yes Emily, take my word for it. Lee will understand."
As the conversation concluded, Emily agreed to see the Stetsons in two and a half weeks.
As Amanda hung up the phone, she made a note to e-mail everyone on the guest list, with her gift suggestion. She knew that most everyone would get the joke.
This brought her dilemma back to mind. Amanda had been racking her brain, trying to come up with the perfect gift to surprise Lee. She had thought of a new saddle, or maybe even another horse. Although she knew he would appreciate them, those were things Lee would rather pick out himself. Not to mention, her allergy to horses would make it an uncomfortable task.
But she wanted to give him something really special. After all, Amanda reasoned, he'll only turn 50 once. Plus in a business like theirs, each birthday is truly a blessing. That was the thing, so much of his life has been this business. That had to be a clue.
"Hmmm…something he enjoys about his job," she thought. "He's always enjoyed the excitement, the rush, the speed. THE SPEED…cars! Oh, but he's had such bad luck with his cars over the past few years."
It all started with the car bomb in the silver Corvette. "That was so close I hate to even think about it," Amanda said to herself.
After the `Vette was destroyed, Lee came across a deal on a red Ferrari. That was some car, all right. The comments that came along with it were pretty funny; although Lee never found them particularly amusing. Amanda didn't know which he disliked more: `Since when are we in Hawaii?' `When are you going to grow a mustache?' or `Hey Magnum, is Amanda's code name Higgins?'
The Ferrari bit the dust when a terrorist tried to run his car right through it while attempting a getaway. Instead, the terrorist's car flipped up in the air and landed on top of the empty Ferrari and both cars burst into flames. It was funny, Lee wasn't all that sorry to see that car go.
Soon after, Phillip bought a 1976 Ford Mustang Cobra II, and introduced Lee to the "muscle car." It wasn't long after Phillip purchased the vehicle, Lee tried to tell him how the car was a "girls car."
"You won't think that after you drive it," Phillip told Lee.
"That's the car the blonde drove on `Charlie's Angels'," Lee said.
"Oh, you don't think I knew that? All those `Charlie's Angels' marathons I wasn't supposed to watch growing up!"
Lee smiled, "I always liked the brunette."
"Jacqueline Smith?" Phillip asked.
"No, the other one. I always liked her brains," Lee answered with a wink.
Phillip was right. Lee was so hooked after driving the "muscle car", he went out and bought a 1971 Barracuda. Some would say that 1996 began Scarecrow's Don Johnson /Nash Bridges period. "Actually, I thought the `muscle car' was sexy," Amanda remembered. "Even though everyone walked around calling him `Bubba' all the time." Of course that didn't sit well with Scarecrow. But he did enjoy the car; until it started breaking down and spending more time in the shop than his Porsche did.
Next, Lee heard about a BMW roadster that was to be offered in an auction of government seized items. Lee purchased the car and not a month later a James Bond movie featuring the exact vehicle was released. As bad as the teasing had been with the other cars, it didn't hold a candle to the never ending Bond jokes. He could not walk through a room without some sort of "007" reference. "I even began to get tired of all the jokes," mused Amanda.
The Beamer was destroyed just a few months ago in a shoot-out and high-speed chase that dragged the Section Chief out of his office and into the fray. During the shoot-out, a bullet hit the engine damaging the oil pan. As the chase ensued, Lee, not knowing the engine was damaged, pushed the car so hard that the engine ran hot and out of oil. Rebuilding that car was never an option.
Things had been so hectic over the last couple of months at the Agency that Lee hadn't found the time to look for another car. To make matters worse, not a single rental car agency would allow Lee to rent a car, considering his driving history. This resulted in Lee driving a beat-up 1992 Dodge Dynasty from the motor pool. Amanda laughed out loud as she remembered how just last week Jenny refuse to ride in it. "I'd rather walk," was her comment.
"With all the bad luck he's had, I couldn't begin to know kind of car he would want." Amanda thought. "He really loved that `Vette." She paused. "No," she corrected herself, "what he loved was that Porsche! That's it, I've got to get my hands on a 1963 Porsche convertible," she sighed, "Like that is going to be easy!"
"Who can I get to help me find a 1963 Porsche convertible, in time for Lee's birthday no less? Phillip might have an idea of where to start. He's always been interested in cars."
She picked up the phone and dialed his work number.
"Good afternoon, Law Offices of Clemens & McNeill. How may I direct your call?"
"Phillip King, please."
"Thank you," said the receptionist.
"Hi, Sweetheart. Am I calling at a bad time?"
"No. Actually I was thinking of giving you a call."
"Is everything all right? You don't sound so good. Lauren's okay, isn't she?"
"We're fine. I'm just…I guess I'm just being a baby," Phillip said dejectedly.
"What's up? That doesn't sound like you."
"I finally got an e-mail from Dad today."
"Oh." Amanda began to get an idea where this was going. "What did he have to say?"
"Mom, do you realize the last time I heard from him was after we wrote and told him about the baby? And that was a two line e-mail that said little more than congratulations."
"I'm sorry, Sweetheart. You know how busy he stays, traveling all over Africa."
"Mom, I'm not 10 years old anymore. It's not your job to try and cover for him. Besides, you and Lee are the busiest people I know, but you always have time for us. Both of you."
"What did he say?"
"I had asked him when he planned his next trip home. I was sure that he would be coming sometime over the summer to see the baby."
"I don't know why I'm surprised. He's never been there for me. Why should he start now? He said that he hoped to come back to the States for Christmas."
"Oh, Phillip. I'm so sorry. I wish I could make it all better."
"I wish you could, too. Hey, what did you call about? I'm sure it wasn't to here me whine."
"I'm glad you told me about it. You haven't whined for a long time. Anyway, it wasn't important."
"Oh don't give me that, Mom. You hardly ever call me at the office. What's on your mind?"
"I had a brainstorm, about a present for Lee's birthday, and I thought you might be able to help me."
"Could you help me find a classic car?"
"What kind of car?" Phillip asked, perking up a bit.
"I want to find a 1963 Porsche convertible. Lee had one a long time ago."
"Do you know what model? I could put out some feelers up here, but it's probably a long shot."
"Do what you can. I'll have to get back to you about the model. Are you sure you're okay? Do you want me to try and talk to your dad?"
"I'm fine, just needed to vent a little. And the last thing I want is for you to talk to Dad about this. If he doesn't want to come see his first grandchild, I don't want him here."
"I love you, Phillip."
"I know. I love you too."
"Call me if you want to talk some more."
"Okay, and I'll do some checking about the car."
"Thanks, Sweetheart. Bye."
Amanda hung up the phone with a little more force than she intended. Francine was walking by and it caught her attention.
"What's up with you? More party problems?"
"Not exactly," Amanda said with a scowl.
Francine came around, and sat on the side of the desk. She and Amanda would always spar verbally, but they had been friends for a long time.
"It's one thing for a man to walk away from his wife, but to hurt his children over and over…"
"What's Joe done now?" Francine asked folding her arms in front of her.
"We don't have time for this right now," Amanda said shaking her head.
"Look, you're not going to get much done in this state of mind, and I was looking for anything to do besides work. So come on, we can go into Lee's office and talk about it or we can go down to the shooting range and you can take your frustrations with Joe King out on the targets."
"I'm not that mad yet. Lee's office will do fine."
After a short visit and couple of Francine's chocolates, Amanda tried to get back to work, but her mind kept wandering. Tapping her pencil on the desk, she continued thinking, "A classic Porsche is not your 'run of the mill' gift. I really think it is going to take some connections. Possibly someone from the Agency? Hmmmm...Leatherneck!! He would have the contacts to find the car and find it at the right price."
Amanda immediately went upstairs to track down their resident gadget man. Although Leatherneck didn't have any direct contact with the motor pool these days, he was the man to see if a special item was needed for a case.
"Leatherneck! I'm so glad I found you," Amanda began as she entered his office. "I have a 'need to know' assignment for you, and you and I are the only ones who 'need to know.'"
"What are you up to Mrs. Stetson?" asked Leatherneck.
"Leatherneck, how long have we known each other? Please call me Amanda. And as to what I'm up to, just a little covert birthday operation," she replied.
"What can I do for you, Amanda?" he asked.
"Well, I need to find a 1963 Porsche convertible."
"You know Leatherneck, I'm not sure."
"Isn't that the same year Porsche Scarecrow drove?" Leatherneck questioned.
"Yup, same car that went over the cliff in 1984."
Leatherneck remembered first hand how much Lee loved that car. "That car was a Porsche 9350."
"I'm so glad you remembered," Amanda sighed.
"So am I correct in assuming that we don't just need use of this car?"
"Correct. I want to buy one. And I need it in time for Lee's birthday."
"So how long does that give me to find it?"
"Just over two weeks," Amanda continued, "Do you think you can help me? I really think this will be the perfect gift."
Leatherneck smiled, "I've got some contacts that may be able to help us out. I'll give it my best shot, but I may need your help."
"Whatever you need, it's yours!" Amanda exclaimed happily.
"Well then, I guess I've got a job to do. I'll be in touch. I've got to get back downstairs. I am supposed to give a demonstration on the use of `Thermowire' and a few other goodies in a freshmen agent seminar," Leatherneck concluded.
"Thanks," Amanda called as he headed for the stairs. Leatherneck waved as he walked into the stairwell.
As if through a deep fog, Amanda began to hear a pounding, no, a beeping noise.
"Is anyone going to shut that off?" she wondered. As she slowly became aware of her surroundings, Amanda realized that the noise was her alarm clock. As she turned off the alarm, she heard the radio announcer say "Happy Wednesday!" Wednesday?!
"I'm supposed to meet Leatherneck this morning," she said aloud, not realizing Lee was around the corner in the bathroom.
"Why are you meeting Leatherneck?" Lee asked coming into the bedroom.
"What are you doing back from your run already?"
"Oh, I woke up early and couldn't get back to sleep, so I got an early start."
"I seem to remember a time that if you couldn't sleep, you wouldn't let me sleep either," Amanda said with a coy smile.
Lee closed the distance between them and enveloped Amanda in a warm, loving embrace. Amanda sighed, "That feels so good."
"Amanda, you looked peaceful and you've been so tired lately, I didn't want to interrupt your rest."
"That was very thoughtful. But next time feel free to interrupt," she said, giving Lee a squeeze. "Oh, it's getting late! I've got to get a move on."
"Where's the fire?" Lee asked.
"What fire?" Amanda returned.
"Oh Amanda, even after all these years, when you're trying to cover something up, you answer a question with a question… and that's the second time you've done it since you've woken up."
"Who me? Cover? It's only two days until your un-surprise birthday party. I have every right to cover!"
"Okay, how about giving me what I want for my birthday right now?
I'd be happy to help you with your cover, as long as we are under the covers," Lee offered, wiggling his eyebrows.
"Lee, you already had your chance this morning and chose to go for a run instead, now I have a very pressing meeting to get to. You'll get your birthday present on Friday."
"You've got a date Mr. Stetson."
"I'm gonna hold you to that," Lee smiled.
"You'd better! Now I've got to get moving to get out of here, so I can get back before Mother and Curt arrive, or else I won't have a clue what's going on around here when I do get back.
"You win," Lee chuckled and gave Amanda a kiss on the head, as she turned and headed for the shower.
As Amanda pulled her car into the parking lot she looked around for either Leatherneck or his car, but there was no sign of either. Amanda glanced at the clock on her car stereo and saw that he was only a couple of minutes late. "I'm sure he'll be here any minute," she said to herself. But she was beginning to get one of those uneasy feelings. After checking to make sure the car doors were locked, she picked up her cell phone. "I might as well get some work done while I wait" she said to herself.
"Good Morning, Francine."
"Morning, Amanda. Where are you? I've been looking for you for the last half hour."
"I'm meeting Leatherneck in the warehouse district about Lee's birthday present."
"Oh, well once this birthday party is over with maybe we can get back to getting some work done around here again." She said in her usual sarcastic tone.
"Believe me, Francine, I'm looking forward to that too."
"I'm sorry Amanda, I know this has been really stressful for you. Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Well if you can get the preliminary security reports for Tony Blair's visit next month to me by the end of the day tomorrow, I'd really appreciate it."
"Believe it or not, that's what I wanted to ask you about. Have they notified Lee as to whether or not his family will be traveling too?"
"Yes, he is planning to bring them. Hey, here's Leatherneck now. I hope to be into the office in a couple of hours and if I'm not I'll check in with you."
"Aman-" Click. "I guess we were in a hurry, now,weren't we" Francine said as she hung up the phone.
When Leatherneck pulled into the lot Amanda was surprised to see him driving the Porsche. She unfastened her seat belt and quickly got out of her car, oblivious to the man that had pulled Leatherneck's car up behind her own.
The unidentified man awkwardly crept up behind her. He closed his eyes and said, "I'm sorry Amanda," as he hit her over the head with a metal object. She never knew what hit her.
"Francine, have you heard from Amanda this morning?" Lee was anxious, and Francine could see the tension as he paced in front of her desk.
"Lee, she is due in anytime now. What's got you so worked up?"
"Why the hell do I have to have a birthday anyway?"
"I'm tired of your birthday too. So let's just hurry up and get it over with! But what has got you so worked up?"
"Of course she's here, she lives here."
"No, I mean she is HERE!"
"Heaven help us! It took us 3 weeks to straighten everything out the last time she was in the office. `A neat office is a productive office' I believe she said. What in the world is she doing here? I had the privilege of witnessing Amanda running her own mother out of the office that day."
"That must have been something to see. It took her 3 years to come back."
"Lee, yes, that was great, but what do we do with her NOW?"
"Well, Francine, that IS WHY I WAS LOOKING FOR MY WIFE!"
"Cool it Lee! I'll try and get Amanda on her cell phone."
"Good Luck, I've been trying for the last 10 minutes. I've left Dotty alone too long already. I'm going to try and rescue my office. You let me know when you find her."
"I'm on it. Lee, try to stay cool."
"Yeah right. I should send you in to try and entertain Dotty." Lee muttered as he turned to go back to his office.
"He must really love Amanda" Francine said as she began dialing the phone. "Wait a minute, it's noon?" She thought as she looked on the clock on the phone. Amanda should have been back or at least checked in over an hour ago.
"Oh, Amanda, I really didn't want it to be this way." A contrite Conrad said as he caught her before she slumped to the ground.
"Hey, Leatherneck, go get that kid out of the car before his screaming draws anymore attention," he said, he held Amanda with one arm and aimed a gun at the child with the other. Suddenly, Conrad seemed to slip away. "You know I'm not a bad person. I just need Amanda," he said, as he carried Amanda's limp form into the warehouse and gently laid her down. Conrad looked at Leatherneck and slipped back into his thoughts, seemingly talking to himself.
"I've always loved her, you know, ever since high school. She was always willing to talk to me." He just stood there, looking at Amanda. "Even when no one else would talk to me." The crying child brought Conrad back to the present.
"I thought I told you to make him shut up!" Conrad said, as he ripped the boy from Leatherneck's arms. "If you can't make him be quiet, I will!" Conrad said, shaking the boy.
"Wait, wait, please don't hurt him! Give him to me and I'll quiet him down, I promise." Leatherneck said, as he took his grandson back into his arms.
"You keep him quiet! Do you understand?" Conrad yelled as he paced back and forth, agitated. "Now, I want you to come with me." He said, as he motioned for Leatherneck to follow.
"Oh, just a second," he said as he stopped and slipped a pair of handcuffs on to Amanda's wrists. "I really am sorry, honey. I won't be like this anymore, now that you're mine." Then he turned and said, "And a pair for you too, Leatherneck. Now follow me." Conrad secured Leatherneck's hands in front of him, so that he could continue to the child.
Once Leatherneck and his grandson were settled, Conrad went back to Amanda. He gently picked her up and carried her into the room, laying her down in the corner opposite Leatherneck. "This should keep you here while I'm gone," he said as he closed the door and locked it.
Francine got up and walked over to Lee's office, motioning for him to come out.
"Francine, that was quick!"
"Slow down there Stetson. I don't think you're going to like this very much."
"What's the problem? Is Amanda OK?"
"Amanda's a lot better than you are."
"What, why?" Lee asked as the realization dawned on him. "I'm going to have to deal with Dotty on my own, aren't I?"
"Way to go, Sherlock! Amanda sends her apologies and asks that you take her mother to lunch. So may I suggest you get Dotty out of here as soon as possible, and take a very l-o-o-ong lunch."
"Thanks for all your help, Francine."
"Anytime boss!" Francine said with a smile. "Now, what have you gotten yourself into Mrs. Amanda-ma'am? Lee is going to kill me if I don't have you back here by the time he gets back."
Amanda opened her eyes. As her head pounded, she tried to figure out where she was and why she felt so bad. Suddenly Amanda realized that she had been here before, well probably not "here", but in this situation more times than she cared to remember.
Amanda was lying down in the corner of a dark, damp room. As she started to sit up, it quickly became apparent that her hands were bound. Amanda rolled over onto her side, using her elbow to help her sit up.
"Amanda, are you awake?" Amanda heard a familiar voice.
"Leatherneck, is that you? It's so dark in here."
"Yes ma'am, it's me. Your eyes will adjust in a minute. How's your head?"
"Pounding. Hey, are you okay? Did they jump you too?"
"I'm fine. Amanda, I'm really sorry about all of this."
"What are you talking about, Leatherneck? You didn't have anything to do with this."
"That's not entirely the case."
"He took my grandson Jonathan, and told me that if I didn't deliver `Mrs. Scarecrow' to him that he would go after Jennifer. I apologize. I just didn't know what to do. I couldn't let him hurt Jonathan. He's only-"
"He's only 4." Amanda finished for him. "I remember the pictures you showed me last week. Leatherneck, don't blame yourself for this. You didn't have a choice."
She worried that whoever this was might still go after Jenny, but pushed that thought aside. "Let's concentrate on getting out of here. By the way, where are we?"
"We are in the sub-basement of one of the warehouses."
"Sub-basement, huh? That explains the low ceiling."
"I had no idea there was such a thing. Amanda, I don't think we can be found."
"We can be found. Lee and I found a courier of his in a place just like this, but that was a long time ago. Let's concentrate on getting ourselves out of here. That way if the cavalry doesn't come… well, let's just get out of here!"
"Amanda, I really am sorry."
"Leatherneck, please forget it! You know I'm handcuffed, but they left my hands in front. It's been a very long time, but you've always said it's like riding a bike. Can you hand me a lock pick?"
"Sorry, I don't have one on me."
"That's okay, I think I can get to mine if I really work at it. It's right here in the hem of my – left – sleeve. Lee makes me keep one stashed in most of my clothing. Just in case. There. Now to visualize the tumblers."
"You're doing great, Amanda!"
"You taught your student well." Click. "Oh, that feels much better!"
"You're already out?" Leatherneck asked, a little stunned.
"Sure am. Now, let's find a way out of here."
Francine pulled out of the parking garage and headed toward the warehouse district. She thought to herself, "Lee is going to kill me for keeping this from him, and I am going to kill Amanda, as soon as I find her and she is `safe and sound'."
As Francine approached "Warehouse Row" she slowed her car, and looked in each parking lot and alley way for Amanda's Jeep Cherokee. "Amanda, where the hell are you?! I don't have all day for this."
As if on cue, her cell phone rang. "Desmond" she answered.
"Francine, this is Jenny. I was trying to get through to my mom, and when I couldn't reach her I called Dad. He told me that you knew where she was and gave me your number. Can you tell me where I can reach her? It's pretty important."
"Jenny, slow down a minute." "There's no doubting whose daughter you are" she thought to herself. "Your mom can't take any calls at the moment, but I'd be happy to pass on a message when I speak to her."
"Well, I already left her a message on her voice mail, but if you promise not to tell my dad."
"That won't be a problem."
"I'm keeping plenty of other things from him today," she thought to herself.
"What's the message?"
"Phillip called and said that she should go ahead and purchase the Porsche she found here in D.C. He looked at the one in New York and said that she would not be interested in that one."
"Jenny, do you remember what model and year Porsche she was looking for?"
"No, but it's the same as the one Dad used to drive. I do remember it was an old one."
"Thanks Jenny. I'll pass on the message. I've got to run. See you Friday."
Francine slammed on the brakes and threw her car into reverse. There was a classic Porsche a few warehouses back!
Francine circled the warehouse for a third time. Amanda's jeep was parked in the front parking lot and a Porsche along the side, but there were no other signs of life. Francine realized that she should call in some backup, but calling in backup would mean alerting Lee. And Francine knew Lee would have her head if he found out Amanda had been missing all this time and she hadn't told him.
"Leatherneck, here's my lock pick. I'm going to look for a way out, while you free yourself."
"He brought us in through a trap door in the ceiling, if that helps any."
"Thanks, now I have a place to start." Amanda got up and began to explore the walls and the ceiling with her hands.
"Bingo! I think I've found the trap door here in the ceiling. Please hand me your acid ink pen. I think I can use it to penetrate the lock on the door."
"Amanda, I don't have one on me."
"And mine is in my purse, wherever that is. That's okay. We'll figure something else out. While we are figuring things out, do you know where they are holding Jonathan?"
"He's asleep here in the corner. He was causing such a ruckus when we were brought in that Mr. Barns was afraid Jonathan was going to draw someone's attention. So he gave Jonathan to me, so that I would keep him quiet."
"Well, that's another mark in our favor. You know Leatherneck, you never have told me about who is doing all of this. Is it someone seeking revenge on Lee and me?"
"I guess it's something like that. I don't recognize him, but then again I probably wouldn't. I'm not usually personally involved with the bad guys."
"True." Amanda nodded.
"He sure does know a lot about you, especially your personal life. Actually, when he carried you in here, he said something about you finally being `his' after all these years. I guess he is one of the dealers that handles items that have been seized by government. My contact that found the car, called me yesterday and said that a Mr. Barns was going to meet me with the car in the morning. When I got to the meeting place, this man had Jonathan. He told me to drive the Porsche, that he would follow in my car, with my grandson."
"Well if it's me that he wants, maybe he'll stay away from `my Jenny'. Enough of this, let's find a way out of here. Are you out of your handcuffs yet?"
"Good, you can help me find our way out of here. Hey, do you have any thermowire on you? Maybe we could use it to burn through the hinges."
"Look, Amanda, I don't have a lock pick, an acid pen, or any thermowire! I teach you field agents how to use that stuff. I'm not supposed to be out here with the `bad guys'."
"Look Leatherneck, I haven't been a field agent in over 13 years. I'm not supposed to be out here with the `bad guys' either. So let's just calm down and find a way out of here!"
Francine was back in her car as she watched a man return to the warehouse. The car he was driving looked strangely familiar to her. As he got out of the car, she grabbed a digital camera from the glove box and snapped his picture. A few minutes earlier Francine had completed a walking surveillance of the very warehouse the man went into. She felt confident that he was the only one holding Amanda.
Francine uploaded the digital picture onto the Agency computer, via her cell phone. She then called in and reported her location to her assistant, and requested an ID on the picture she sent in.
"Hold on Ms. Desmond. I'll have that ID in just a moment."
"Listen, Jeffery, I don't have much time! What's the verdict?"
"Barnhill, Conrad Barnhill. Is there anything else you need?"
"No, that's it. Except that if I don't check back in an hour; you send a posse. But under no circumstances, unless you want to wind up in Iceland, are you to notify the Section Chief until that hour is up! Are we clear?"
Francine hung up the phone and got out of the car. "Why am I always willing to lay my butt on the line for a Stetson?" Francine cautiously approached the warehouse, taking one more, good look at the car Conrad parked in front of the door. She realized why the car looked familiar. It looked like Leatherneck's car. Francine wondered if he was being held inside as well.
"There's only one way to know for sure," she thought as she drew her gun and approached the front door. Carefully concealing her firearm as part of her plan, she banged on the door.
"Help! Is anybody in there? I really need some help!" Francine found the door to be unlocked, so she continued to holler for assistance and entered the warehouse.
"Is anybody here? I saw the cars parked out front when my car stalled." Conrad realized that whoever was banging and yelling wasn't going away on her own; so he headed back upstairs to try and get rid of her. As he reached the top of the stairs, he put on his best smile and asked the attractive blonde what he could do to help.
"I could really use some help out here. My car stalled and the battery is dead on my cell phone, " Francine said, as she smiled her best "damsel in distress" smile.
"I don't know much about cars, but I have a phone out in my car you are welcome to use." Conrad decided it would be best just to give the lady what she wanted, rather than get anyone else involved.
As Conrad Barnhill reached into his car, Francine snapped handcuffs on the hand that was behind his back. Conrad jumped as the cuffs snapped tightly around his wrist. He hit his head on the roof of the car and knocked himself out cold.
"It doesn't get much easier than this," Francine said as she bound Conrad so he could not escape. As she re-entered the warehouse, she heard a commotion coming from down the stairs.
"Is that a baby crying?" Francine wondered. "Amanda, Amanda Stetson, where are you?" she called.
"Francine? Francine, we're right here!" Amanda said as she and Leatherneck reached the top of the stairs.
"Are you two all right?" Francine asked before she saw Jonathan in Leatherneck's arms.
"What in the world are you doing with a baby?" she asked.
"I'm NOT a baby!" replied Jonathan.
"This is my grandson, Francine."
"Where's Lee?" Amanda asked.
"He's with your mother. He doesn't know anything about this, and it better stay that way!!"
"That suits me just fine. What is he doing with Mother?"
"It's a long story, that you will hear a lot about! Just not right now. I've got to call and check in before our little secret is blown! I've got our man out in the car now. His name is Barnhill, Conrad Barnhill."
"Conrad?!?" Amanda screeched. "Conrad Barnhill?"
"That's the one." Francine replied. "I don't know much about him yet. Let's get outside and make sure he's still where I left him."
Not wanting Jonathan to be further exposed to the situation, Leatherneck took him over to Francine's car.
"Francine, it couldn't be Conrad Barnhill. We've been friends since high school." Amanda gasped as she recognized the man passed out in Leatherneck's back seat.
"Francine, it is Conrad! Don't you remember him?"
"He looks vaguely familiar, but I haven't been able to place him."
"Conrad Barnhill helped Lee catch the Mongoose in London. I think it was 1984 or 85." Amanda informed her.
"Do you know what he was after?"
"Leatherneck said something about him being after me…we went to high school together. Why in the world would he do this? We've always been friends." "You know Amanda, we are going to have to figure out what charges we are going to take him in on, if we are going to be able to keep this quiet."
"You're right. What about kidnapping Jonathan?"
"How do you suggest we keep that little boy from mentioning that you were locked up with him?"
"Good point. We'll think of something. You know, Conrad did tell Leatherneck that if he didn't catch me that he was going to go after Jennifer. We could use that angle…"
"Amanda, you realize Lee is going to kill both of us for not notifying him immediately about this threat to his daughter."
"Yes, but she is my daughter too. We will have to make it crystal clear that the whole situation went down so fast, we didn't have time to try and track him down."
"Not to mention the fact that we knew he was with Dotty. We couldn't worry her now could we?" Francine smiled coyly.
Amanda walked over to Francine's car to reassure Leatherneck that everything was going to be okay.
"Amanda, I can't believe I let this happen." Leatherneck hung his head while he spoke.
"Listen, it's not your fault. I meant what I said, I don't blame you."
"You may not, but Lee sure will," he replied dejectedly.
"Now, you listen to me, Leatherneck, and listen good! Lee is not going to find out about this. He will kill Francine and I both, if he learns what really happened here today. You got it?"
"What are you talking about?" Leatherneck questioned. Amanda proceeded to fill Leatherneck in on the "official" story.
"You realize we won't be able to bring him up on charges for kidnapping Jonathan, but I feel certain we will be able to put him away on the threats he made against Jennifer. Are you willing to go along with our plan?"
"Sounds good to me. Hey, I'm really sorry for lashing out at you down there. I was angry with myself, more than anything else. Amanda, you did a great job."
"Thanks, I had a great teacher."
"This time the student outshined the teacher," he said as he looked at the ground.
"Hey, let's drop it and get out of here," Amanda said as she stooped down to look him in the eye. "I know a little boy that needs his mother."
"I'm going to take him home and then meet you back at the agency. Let's say about 4:00 PM?"
"Sounds good. What should we do with the Porsche?" Amanda asked.
"I've got the keys right here. You can decide what needs to be done with it. See you at 4."
Amanda waved goodbye to Jonathan when Leatherneck drove away in Francine's car. Then she walked back over to Francine at Leatherneck's car. "Francine, are you ready to go? I need to call the Agency impound to come and pick up this Porsche."
"Yeah, Amanda, let's make that call and get out of here. I actually have a job to do, other than saving your butt."
"I know. I really appreciate all you've done for me. I promise, I will make it up to you."
"You bet you will!"
Amanda sighed as she thought of the close relationships she would be forming with the D.C. area gourmet chocolateers. Francine would keep the debt alive forever.
"Amanda, I think I would be best if I handle the debriefing of your friend back there," Francine said as she pointed to Conrad, still passed out in the back seat. Amanda agreed, and Francine dropped her off at the Georgetown entrance of the Agency. Then she pulled into the garage and had security move Conrad to an interrogation room. After parking the car, Francine entered the building too.
When Francine arrived at interrogation room #3, she called Amanda.
"Amanda Stetson," she answered the phone.
"Hey, I've got him down here in room 3 if you want to take a peek."
"How are you going to get him to go along with our story?"
"Oh, Amanda," she laughed. "You'll have to come watch to find out."
"I'll be down in a few minutes. You go ahead and get started."
"Okay, but don't take too long, you don't want to miss this. Who knows you may learn a thing or two," Francine told her with that air of supremacy that only she could manage. She hung up the phone and walked into the interrogation room.
Sitting down on the table in front of Conrad, Francine leaned over and began patting him on the cheek.
"Wake up Sleeping Beauty! I don't have all day for this. Come on, Conrad. Do you need some water?"
His head rolled around and his eyes fluttered open.
"Where am I? What happened? Who are you and where is Amanda?" he asked, each question sounding more desperate than the last.
"Well you should consider me your best friend! I saved your life this afternoon."
"Eloquent, aren't we."
"How did you save my life?"
Amanda stepped into the adjacent room and watched through the one way mirror. "This ought to be good," she thought to herself, although she was terribly sad that Conrad had `gone off the deep end'. She listened as Francine continued.
"Lee Stetson is going to kill you very slowly when he finds out what you did to his wife today."
"He wouldn't kill me, he has too much to lose. He may send me to prison, but I'm sure he wouldn't kill me," Conrad said with a quiver in his voice.
"If I were you, I wouldn't be worried about going to prison. You won't live that long. He has some very powerful connections these days. You will probably just disappear off the face of the earth."
"Francine is quite persuasive! We may just pull this off yet," Amanda thought as she picked up the phone. She still needed to pull some strings so she could purchase the Porsche and get it ready to give to Lee.
"So I take it you'd like to live to see tomorrow?" Francine continued, "Why don't you listen to a story I have to tell you and we'll see what we can work out?"
After the "story" and vivid description of how angry Lee will be to find out that his daughter was threatened and how much more upset he would be that Conrad had kidnapped Amanda; Conrad agreed to go along with Francine and Amanda's version of the day's events.
At about the same time Francine finished with Conrad, Amanda completed her calls.
"Oh, thanks so much. I realize that I haven't processed this through the customary channels. I really appreciate your help. I'll be by tomorrow to pick up the car and drop off the check."
"I'm glad to help you out, Mrs. Stetson. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. Goodbye."
"Thanks again, goodbye."
Francine looked into the mirror and asked Amanda to turn on the recorder.
"Mr. Barnhill is ready to give us his statement."
Amanda signaled Francine that she had turned it on, and left the room to go meet with Leatherneck and then head home.
Amanda, Jennifer and Dotty were working away in the kitchen on Thursday afternoon. Even though the party itself was going to be at a hotel in D.C., they were still going to have a house full of people over the weekend.
"Mom, why are we doing all this now?"
"Jen, if we don't do it now, we'll just be stuck in here missing all the fun after everyone arrives."
"But then Phillip and Jamie would have to help too!"
Dotty answered her granddaughter. "Jenny, dear, if my grandsons wind up in here your dear, sweet grandma will go and hide! Speaking of hiding, Amanda, you never did tell me where you were yesterday, when I went by your office. I mean, I know I was trying to surprise you and all, and Lee was so sweet to drop what he was doing to take me to lunch, but I don't think he even knew where you were."
"Mother, I was tied up with preparations for the party. I am so thankful you are here, because I've been so swamped! I really appreciate Curt taking care of getting the car detailed," Amanda said as she put her arm around her mother and leaned her head against Dotty's.
"Speaking of that car, Amanda… I realize that it is probably none of my business, but isn't that quite an extravagant gift?"
"I love you, Mother. You are absolutely right. It is none of your business."
"Seriously, don't worry about it. It didn't cost nearly what you might think, and before you ask anymore about it, the rest is `need to know', okay?" Amanda hugged her mother tightly.
The sound of the kitchen door closing drew the attention of the three ladies.
"Daddy, you're home early!"
"Well, without your mom around to hold our noses to the grindstone, we all just goof off and come home early."
Amanda just shook her head as Lee scooped her into a bear hug that concluded with a gentle kiss. Then he gave Dotty a kiss on the cheek and Jenny one on the head.
"It looks to me like my three favorite ladies have been working hard in here most of the day. What do you say to an early dinner out?"
"Curt is out running an errand for me, but should be back soon. Phillip and Lauren are due in after 8. Do you think we can make it back by then?" Amanda asked.
"Sure. As long as no one pulls any disappearing acts, like you did yesterday." Lee quipped, with a small smile on his face. "I'm going upstairs to change."
"I think I'll come with you. I want to clean up a bit before we go." Amanda said as she grabbed Lee's hand and led him up the stairs.
Amanda closed the bedroom door, and Lee noticed the click as she locked it.
"Hey, I thought we were on a schedule?"
"And aren't you the man that taught me that schedules are made to be broken?" Amanda asked as she removed his tie. "Curt isn't back yet, so we have a few minutes." Amanda whispered as she traced the outline of his ear with her fingernail. "I've missed you, today."
"I've missed you…" Lee stopped speaking as he heard the commotion of Phillip and Lauren's arrival. "I guess I'll have to wait `til later to have you to myself," Lee whispered as he placed small kisses on her neck.
Amanda sighed as she pulled away and headed to the closet. "Lee, you're going to laugh when I say this, but I'm ready for our lives to get back to normal."
"Or at least our version of normal," Lee chuckled as he hugged Amanda from behind. "It sounds like Curt is back. Let's hurry up and go to dinner and then maybe we can head to bed early. You know I'm starting to feel really tired." Lee said with a wink.
Lee and Amanda came down the stairs hand in hand. "Hey, where'd everybody go?" Amanda called.
"Phillip, Jenny, and Curt went outside for a few minutes. They should be right back," Dotty said as she came out of the kitchen.
"I think I'll join them."
"Oh no you won't, Stetson," Amanda said as she held her hand up to stop him.
"Birthday?" Lee asked.
"Birthday," Amanda, Dotty, and Lauren answered in unison.
"Hi Lauren," Lee greeted.
"How are you feeling, Sweetheart?" Amanda asked as she gave her a hug.
"I'm pretty tired from the drive, but otherwise everything seems okay."
"Are you up to going to get something to eat, or would you rather us order in?" Lee asked.
"Oh, it really doesn't matter," Lauren said as she rubbed her lower back.
"What are you hungry for?" Amanda asked as she pulled a large stack of to-go menus out of the kitchen drawer and handed them to Lauren. "Lauren, I want you to decide what you want to eat and then go upstairs and get in the Jacuzzi in our bathroom. What I would have given to have had that tub late in my pregnancy with Jen."
"Oh thanks Mom, that sounds heavenly. My back is really aching. And if you don't mind, pizza sounds great to me."
"Then pizza it is," declared Lee.
As Lauren headed upstairs, Jenny, Phillip and Curt came through the kitchen door.
"Hi guys!" Amanda greeted them as she hugged Phillip hello. "I want you to come with me, young man. We are on a mission to make your wife comfortable."
"That's a pretty tall order these days, Mom."
"Well then we'd better get busy. Lee, you go ahead and order the pizzas and I'll be back down in a few minutes. Oh and Stetson, you'd better not try and go outside for anything. I have plenty of eyes watching you," Amanda added over her shoulder as she went upstairs.
Just then, Jamie and Dianne burst through the front door yelling "Surprise!"
"That's not until tomorrow." Lee laughed as he came into the entry. He pulled Jamie's head under his arm and mussed his hair. "So are you two playing hookie or what?" Lee added, releasing Jamie with a pat on the back and putting his arm around Dianne. "Amanda just went upstairs with Phillip and Lauren, and we were about to order pizza," Lee said as he led them into the kitchen, to be greeted by the rest of the family.
"The guys have `KP' tonight," Jamie announced as he began clearing the table.
"That's just like you, Jamie, to be so thoughtful and clean up after pizza on paper plates!"
"Oh hush, Squirt. You'd better appreciate what you get. Brilliant doctors, like myself, don't normally stoop to such domestic chores," Jamie said with a bow.
"It's the creed he lives by: our apartment is proof," Dianne chided.
"So that's the excuse these days, Jamie? When you were growing up your lack of `domestic assistance' normally involved some sort of experiment," Dotty reminded them, and everyone had a good laugh.
"Well then," Amanda began. "While our men clean up the kitchen, the ladies will take care of the sleeping arrangements. It looks to me like Lauren would like to find her bed as soon as possible."
"I hate to say it, but you're right. I'm beat, and I'm tired of walking around feeling like I have a basketball between my knees," Lauren added, once the guys were in the kitchen.
"Lauren, have you slept on the Murphy bed in the study?" Amanda inquired.
"The study would be great."
"Good then. Jenny, I need you to sleep in the family room, so that Dianne and Jamie can have your room. But remember, it's a school night. I don't want you staying up all night watching TV."
"I mean it, Jen. You have that history test tomorrow."
"Mom, Jamie and I can sleep down stairs. It sounds like Jenny needs her room."
"No Dianne, I'll be fine down here. I've already studied for my test."
"Okay, then I guess we're settled," Dotty said as she headed for the kitchen. "I'm going to check and see how much damage they've done in there."
A few hours later, after everyone was settled, Lee and Amanda finally crawled into bed.
"I'm beat," Amanda said as she snuggled up to Lee. "I'm glad it's not everyday the whole crew is here."
"I know what you mean, but you know what? It suits you." Amanda sighed and tried to get a word in but Lee stopped her. "Now let me finish…You enjoy knowing that everyone you love is tucked in safe and sound, under our roof. I know that there are days that you miss when the boys were little, when you knew where they were and when they'd be home. You like to be in control as much as I do. You know it's true!"
"It's true," Amanda admitted. "It is a nice feeling to know where the most important people in the world are and that they are safe." Amanda rolled over and laid her head on Lee's chest. "Hey, it's late. I'm tired."
"Me too," Lee said stroking her hair.
"Guess what Stetson..."
"It's midnight. Happy Birthday," Amanda whispered as she rose up on her elbow to look Lee in the eye. "I love you."
"I love you too." Lee smiled as Amanda moved closer and leaned in to give him a passionate kiss.
"Amanda, that's not fair! I told you I was tired."
"I'm tired too. I just wanted to make sure you had sweet dreams. Goodnight."
Amanda reached over, turned out the light, and snuggled back up to her husband.
"I can't believe it's almost 10 AM." Amanda sighed as she finished wiping down the kitchen counters. "I really thought we'd have the guys out of the house an hour ago."
"Well I guess they are not the only ones ducking out of work this morning. Who would have thought they would have that much trouble getting a tee time on a weekday morning?" Dianne said, as she joined Dotty and Lauren at the kitchen table, with a cup of coffee. Amanda grabbed her organizer and coffee off the counter and sat down too.
"Amanda, let's go over the arrangements one last time and then you can give us our assignments," Dotty said with an air of authority.
About a half hour later Amanda stood up and stretched. "I guess that about covers it. Dianne, you and Mother can take my car to pick up the gifts I ordered. They should be wrapped, but if they're not there is a card shop a few blocks away. Lauren and I will meet you at the tea room downtown at 1:30." Amanda walked over and hugged her mother and Dianne. "Thank you so much for all your help."
"Oh this is so much fun, Mom," Dianne told her. "I know that Lee knows about the party, but he is going to be so surprised when he sees what you have planned. Grandma Dotty and I better get going if we are going to meet you and Lauren on time."
"Okay." Amanda turned to her other daughter-in-law. "Lauren, I'm going to make a few calls while you finish getting ready."
"Sounds good. I'll be in the study if you need me."
Amanda grabbed the phone and sat back at the table. She dialed the Melrose's phone number and Jeannie picked up on the second ring.
"Hi Jeannie, it's Amanda."
"Good morning. Do you have everything under control for tonight?"
"I sure hope so. I was wondering if you could help me out with something?"
"Of course, name it!"
"I had this brainstorm last night. Do you think we could get `Billy Bluenote' to make an appearance tonight? Maybe come out and play `Happy Birthday' and a couple other songs?"
"Just a second." Jeannie covered the receiver and told Billy that Amanda was on the phone.
Billy picked up and greeted her, "Hello Amanda. Is everything all set?"
"I think so. Billy, I was wondering…"
"Oh no, here it comes. Amanda, you know I've never been able to say `no' to you."
"Good, because I was hoping that `Billy Bluenote' might be willing to make an appearance tonight. I know it's short notice, but Lee would absolutely love it! And it would mean so much to me."
"Amanda," Billy sighed. "Do you really want `Bluenote'? He's awfully rusty these days."
"Couldn't he manage to play `Happy Birthday' and maybe a couple of other numbers? Please?"
"You know Amanda, it's been said, by more than one, that when Mrs. Stetson asks for something she always gets it. That's why I had you handing out assignments all those years. Okay, at what point in the party do you want him to make his appearance?"
Amanda hung up the phone with a grin that truly rivaled that of the Cheshire Cat.
"What's up? That smile is something else!" Lauren said as she came into the kitchen.
"Oh, I've just managed to set up one more surprise for Lee tonight."
"Well, are you going to tell me about it?"
"No, I think I'll let everyone be surprised. Are you ready to go to lunch?"
"Oh, I almost forgot! Are you up to coming upstairs to help me put Dianne and Jamie's things together? I want to drop their stuff by the hotel when we go by there after lunch."
"This is such a sweet thing you are doing for them. I know they don't get nearly enough time alone. Let's get up there, so we can go to lunch. I'm hungry! This eating for two can have its advantages."
"Amanda, I really appreciate you not making this thing black-tie."
"Lee! 'This thing,' as you insist upon calling it is your birthday party. Besides, I thought you'd enjoy a more casual atmosphere. Anyway, can you help me with my zipper?"
"My pleasure," Lee said as he wrapped his arms around Amanda's slim waist and and nuzzled the back of her neck. "I like your perfume."
"I know. You got it for me for Christmas." Amanda giggled as his breath tickled her ear. "I need that zipper to go up, not down! We're going to be late."
"So? It's my party. I'm sure we won't be missed too much."
Amanda gave in, just a little bit, and turned around to return Lee's kisses. As things heated up she stepped back and made one last attempt to get them back on track. "I think Jamie and Dianne really appreciated the hotel room."
"And I appreciate your generosity," Lee said as he continued to kiss her. "Would it really be so awful if we were a little late? We actually have the house to ourselves right now," he whispered as he trailed kisses up and down her neck.
"Oh, I give up!" Amanda felt the black dress slip off her shoulders and fall to the floor. "I want you to have a happy birthday."
"Amanda, you always make me happy." Lee sighed as he swept her up and laid her gently on the bed.
Later, as Amanda was attempting to get up and resume dressing for the party, Lee reached for her and pulled her close. "I love you, Mrs. Stetson."
"I love you, too. I love you so much that I planned a big 50th birthday party for you. Wouldn't you like to see what I have planned?"
"Only if you promise that I will have you all to myself again when it's over."
"I think that could be arranged." Amanda kissed her husband on his nose as she stood up.
"Then I guess we have a party to get to." Lee shook his head, resigned finally to the fact that he could not, in fact, miss his own party.
When Lee and Amanda arrived, the party was in full swing. The ballroom was absolutely beautiful. There were several floral arrangements, balloons at each table and a live band playing.
"See, I told you nobody would miss us," Lee teased his wife as he noted the guests happily mingling.
"Give me a break, Stetson. You've been taking lessons from Francine on making an `entrance.'"
Just as Lee asked Amanda if she would like to dance, the band leader noticed them and announced the guest of honor's arrival. There was a round of applause and the band leader called Lee up to the stage. Amanda moved to the front of the room with him, but did not want to join him on stage.
"Oh no you don't, Mrs. Stetson. You got me into this, so you'd better stay by my side."
"Lee, this is your night," she pleaded.
"I wouldn't be here to have a 50th birthday, if it weren't for you. Now come on," he said with a wink.
As Amanda joined him on stage, Billy Bluenote, a.k.a. Billy Melrose, stepped into Lee's line of sight, playing "Happy Birthday" on the saxophone. A huge cheer erupted from the crowd, and Lee laughed. As Billy began to play the song a second time, the guests joined in and sang along. A large cake, covered in sparkling candles, was wheeled in as the singing continued. When the song ended, Lee blew out the candles and cut the cake. Amanda was so pleased. Things couldn't be going smoother.
The party guests began to chant "speech, speech, speech," and Lee walked over to the microphone. "Thank you, all of you. I know that many of you came from quite a distance and I look forward to spending the rest of the evening with you. Most of all I want to thank my family, and especially Amanda, for planning such a special event." Lee looked over at Billy, and continued. "Oh, and I almost forgot Billy. How Amanda got you to play I'll never know! How about another song?" The crowd erupted once again.
Billy stepped to center stage and said "I'll play one more. Happy Birthday, Scarecrow!" Out of the sax rolled the smooth tones of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." Lee smiled and asked Amanda to dance. As Billy finished the song, Lee went to him and embraced his friend in a bear hug.
As Lee and Billy concluded their embrace, Emily Farnsworth took the stage and announced, "Lee dear, we have a few more surprises for you this evening. Amanda insisted that gifts were not necessary, but some of us were unable to let this milestone in your life go by. So if you would be so kind…" Emily motioned to a table in the corner, covered with gifts.
Lee went to Emily, took her hand and kissed it. She then pulled him into a warm hug and kissed his cheek. "Now go open some gifts!"
"Yes, Ma'am," Lee said as she led him off the stage.
Amanda spotted Jennifer and Dotty and went to check in with them. "Hello Sweetheart," Amanda said, giving Jenny a kiss on the head.
"Mom, I didn't know that Uncle Billy played the sax!"
"Well, I think he considers that talent `need to know'."
"Is that why Daddy looked so surprised?"
"I think so. Where are your brothers?"
"Jamie and Dianne are dancing and Phillip and Lauren are sitting at a table, over by the door."
"Thanks, Sweetheart. Would you come greet some of the guests with me? I think your dad is going to be busy for a little while."
"I can't wait to see Daddy's face when he opens the gifts."
Amanda took Jennifer's hand and made her way across the room, greeting friends as she went. When Amanda noticed Lauren rush out of the ballroom she sent Jennifer back to the party and she decided to check and make sure Lauren was okay. When she didn't see her in the hotel lobby, she decided to check the powder room.
"Lauren, are you in here?" Amanda asked.
"Mom?" Lauren's voice trembled as she called out to Amanda.
"Sweetheart, what's wrong? What can I do for you?"
"My back, it hurts so much. Oh no!"
"What is it? Do you want me to come in?"
"I think my water just broke. Please help me," she said in a barely audible whisper.
"Open the door. Let's get you out of here and onto a sofa. There is one right outside the door. Then I'll go get Dianne to check you out and tell Phillip to bring the car around."
Lauren opened the door, trying to adjust her clothing. Amanda wrapped her arms around her and helped her walk to the sofa. As Amanda got her settled, Lauren winced in pain.
"These back spasms hurt so bad, but I'm not having any contractions. This isn't supposed to be happening yet!"
"Sweetheart, the back spasms are back labor. I remember how painful that can be. I'm going to get some help. I'll be right back with Dianne. I promise."
Amanda went back into the ballroom to find Dianne, and saw Lee at the gift table, surrounded by dozens of open boxes and torn wrapping paper. As she got closer, Amanda noticed that he wore a goofy grin and layers of winter scarves. She laughed at the success of the gifts everyone had brought. Lee looked up and spotted her, and motioned for her to join him. When Amanda shook her head and continued to scan the crowd, he got up and came over to her.
"What's wrong?" Lee asked. "I know that look."
"Have you seen Dianne or Phillip?"
"Why? Amanda, tell me what's wrong!"
"Lauren is in LABOR!"
Amanda didn't realize how quiet the room had become or that everyone had heard her last comment. At least she didn't have to waste any more time looking for Dianne and Phillip. They were instantly at her side, pumping her for information.
"Where is she? How far apart are the contractions?" Questions, questions, Amanda thought she was going to lose it if they didn't stop with the questions! She tuned everyone out, took a deep breath, and counted to ten.
"…-7-8-9-10. Okay. Lauren is on a sofa in the lounge outside the powder room. Dianne, I think her labor might be pretty far along. She's having pretty strong back labor and her water just broke. Phillip, go bring the car around. We'll meet you out front."
Amanda and Lee followed Dianne into the ladies' lounge. When Amanda realized that Lee had come in with her, she pushed him back out the door.
"I'll call you when we need you. I don't think Lauren would appreciate an audience," Amanda told Lee and turned to Dianne. "How's she doing?"
"I don't think we have time to move her."
"WHAT?!?" Amanda and Lauren cried in unison.
Lauren began to sob. "I can't have my baby in a bathroom."
"Lauren, listen to me," Dianne began. "I don't think we can get you to a hospital in time. But if you really want us to, we can try to move you upstairs our hotel room."
"Yes, please," sobbed Lauren.
Back in the ballroom, Dotty tried desperately to put the party back on track. She walked over to the microphone and addressed the guests. "Well, it looks as if we are going to have even more to celebrate than we first anticipated. Lee and Amanda are going to become grandparents, and I'm going to be blessed with my first great- grandchild, here in the next few hours. Please dance and enjoy yourselves. We'll keep you posted as to Lauren's condition."
Amanda opened the door to the powder room and explained the situation to Lee and Jamie. Jamie had just joined Lee in the lobby.
"One of you needs to go find Phillip and get him in here."
Jamie disagreed. "Mom, I think we need to concentrate on getting Lauren upstairs. If she is adamant that she doesn't want to have this baby in the bathroom, and Dianne is right about how far along she is, then we only have a few more minutes. We can ask one of the hotel staff or one of the party guests to go find Phillip and bring him upstairs."
"Jamie, what's the best way for us to try and move her?" Lee asked.
"We're going to have to carry her between our arms, sitting up."
"We need to wait for Dianne to tell us it's okay. We need to move her between contractions."
Amanda stepped back inside the lounge and asked Dianne to tell her when the guys could come in and get Lauren.
"Okay, now!" Dianne called, after just a few minutes.
The way Lee and Jamie burst through the door reminded Amanda of a raid. They worked amazingly fast and had Lauren up and out and to the elevator before Amanda could get the elevator door to open. Once she had Lauren, Lee, Jamie, and Dianne on board the elevator, Amanda stepped out to ask someone at the desk to track Phillip down and send him upstairs immediately. Not wanting to wait another moment for an elevator, she raced up the stairs two at a time. Upon entering the fourth floor hallway, Amanda nearly collided with a frantic Phillip as he exited the elevator.
"Mom, where is she? How could this happen? It's too early!"
"Phillip, sweetheart, I know you are anxious and excited, but Lauren needs you to be cool right now. She's right in here. Call me if you need me. I'll be right outside." Amanda said, as she used a key card she had picked up earlier that afternoon to open the door. She closed it quietly behind him as she stepped back out into the hall to wait with Lee and Jamie.
"Jamie, I was surprised that you were out here with Lee," Amanda said.
"Dianne has everything under control, and she and Lauren were more comfortable with fewer people watching. She'll call me if she needs a hand."
It couldn't have been more than five minutes, before they heard the sound of a baby's cry and laughter float from the room. Amanda knocked on the door and stuck her head in to ask if they could come in.
"Of course!" cried Lauren.
"Mom, It's a boy! Lee, It's a boy! Jamie…" Phillip rambled.
"Phillip, It's a boy!" Jamie finished for him. "Congratulations, big brother!"
Once the new parents, baby, and aunt and uncle had departed for the hospital, Lee and Amanda rejoined the party hand in hand. They were both absolutely beaming. Lee stepped up onto the stage as the band completed the song they were playing.
"Okay everybody, we have an announcement to make." A hush fell over the crowd as they waited. Lee paused for a few seconds, enjoying their impatience. "It's a boy!" Lee shouted out as the party guests began to applaud. Dotty, Curt, and Jennifer stood at the foot of the stage, hugging and crying.
"It appears that everyone is doing fine," Lee continued as the roar began to die down. "Since it was my party he interrupted, I'd like to be the first person to make a toast in honor of Matthew West King. Welcome to the family!" The crowd erupted once again.
When Lee stepped down off the stage, Dotty nearly tackled him as she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed both cheeks. "Happy Birthday, Grandpa! What a beautiful name, Matthew West King," she bubbled. She reached up and hugged Lee one more time, this time whispering in his ear, "I'm so pleased they named him after your father!" Lee looked down at her with tears in his eyes, and then kissed her cheek. Amanda looked on as tears of joy streamed down her face.
"All right already… enough of this you two!" Francine wedged her way between Lee and Amanda on the dance floor. "Can't we take you guys anywhere? Aren't you getting a little old for these public displays of affection?"
"Never, Francine," Amanda replied.
"We can always count on the Stetsons to keep life exciting!" Then after hugging both of them, Francine said, "I really am happy for all of you. Although if you had told me all those years ago that not only would the "Scarecrow" get married and settle down, but that he be a father and grandfather too I would have sooner bet that he would turn into a double agent."
"I think most of the people here tonight would have agreed with you," Amanda laughed.
"Including the two of us," Lee said as he put his arm around Amanda once more.
"Francine, I just want you to know how glad we are that you were here tonight. It wouldn't have been the same without you." Amanda reached out and hugged Francine. "Thanks again, for making sure I was here," Amanda added in a whisper.
"I'll see you two next week! Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Francine," they called to her as she left.
Lee spotted Billy and Jeannie heading for the door. So he grabbed Amanda by the hand and cut them off. "You don't think you two are going to sneak out of here without saying goodnight did you? Thanks for coming, Jeannie," Lee said as he gave her a hug.
"And for bringing Mr. Bluenote," Amanda said giving Billy a kiss on the cheek.
"Well, I was sure glad to get rid of some of those hideously awful scarves that he gave me over the years," Billy laughed.
"Well, Billy, I always thought you believed that it was the thought – " Lee quipped.
"Well it would have counted if you had thought, Scarecrow," Billy chuckled.
"Touché," Lee smiled as he hugged Billy.
"We'll get together for dinner soon," Jeannie said as she and Billy left.
As Lee and Amanda bid the last of the guests goodnight, sometime shortly after two in the morning, Jenny came bouncing up to them. "Daddy, Daddy, we have one more surprise for you!"
"I can't even begin to imagine what else this evening could hold." Lee said as he shook his head. "Amanda, what is she talking about?"
"You'll have to come with us, Stetson. Curt, is everything ready?"
"Sure is! The package is just outside the main doors."
Then what are we waiting for?" Jenny squealed in delight. "Come on!" She ran and pulled her parents behind her as Dotty and Curt brought up the rear.
There it sat, in front of the main hotel door: a 1963 Porsche 9350, with a huge red bow on top. Lee stopped dead in his tracks. "Amanda, what is that? You didn't. It can't be…." He stood in shock.
Amanda looked at him like the cat that swallowed the canary as she dangled the keys in front of him. Lee looked down, ran his hand through his hair, and shook his head.
"It's silver, it's even silver," he whispered, still stunned.
"Are you just going to stand there or are you going to go check it out?" Jenny asked as she put her hands on her hips and smiled that famous "Stetson smile."
Lee looked at Jenny, then at Amanda. He then broke into a huge smile. Reaching for the keys, he took Amanda's hand and kissed it. Meeting her eyes, he whispered "I love you."
"Jennifer, what are we waiting for?" he asked his daughter as he took her hand and went out through the doors. As they reached the exit, Lee turned back to Amanda and said, "We'll be right back" with a wink.
Lee and Jennifer took the car for a short spin around the block. As they pulled back into the hotel parking lot Jenny began to whine. "We barely left the parking lot. Can't we go around the block one more time, please Dad?"
"Jen, I promise before the weekend is out, we'll go for a drive, just the two of us. Okay? It's late and I know we'll all be up early to go to the hospital. It's time for you to get your grandmother and Curt home. I think it's past all of your bedtimes."
"I know you want to take Mom for a drive. But, I just don't think I'll be able to sleep." Jennifer laughed.
"I bet Grandma would fix you some hot chocolate when you get home, if you're still not sleepy. I'll even tell you where your mom hid the marshmallows, if you promise not to rat me out."
As Lee and Jennifer walked into the hotel lobby, they noticed that the Doctors King had returned from the hospital. The group sat on the sofas, passing a small object back and forth. As Lee got closer, he realized the object was a digital camera, and that they were looking at pictures of Matthew, Lauren and Phillip. Dotty was especially enjoying her first glimpses of her great-grandson.
When Jamie saw Lee and Jennifer he stood to greet them. "I see you got your surprise. Happy birthday, Lee," Jamie said as he hugged his stepfather. Turning to his sister, he teased her. "I see that you managed to get the first ride, Squirt." Jenny socked him in the arm. Jamie responded by scooping her up in a hug and swung her around in a circle. "Remember, I'm still bigger than you," he laughed.
"Well I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm exhausted." Dianne said as she stood up. "It's not everyday I get to deliver a baby in a hotel room, not to mention, my nephew. So we are meeting at the hospital at 10 tomorrow morning?"
"We'll see you then, dear." Dotty said, giving her a hug and kiss on the cheek. "Jennifer, let's get your grandpa Curt home." Dotty walked over to Amanda and gave her a hug. "It was a wonderful party, dear. You have a beautiful grandson." Then she turned and hugged Lee. "Happy birthday, Grandpa! We'll see all of you in the morning."
Lee and Amanda each kissed Jennifer goodnight and waved as she headed out to the car with Curt and Dotty. Then they walked Jamie and Dianne to the elevator.
"We'll see you in the morning. Thank you both for everything," Lee said as he gave each of them a hug.
"Goodnight, Sweethearts," Amanda said as she gave each a kiss on the cheek.
"You two enjoy your drive," Jamie said with a wink, as the elevator door closed.
"Mrs. Stetson, may I escort you to my car? The valet will be unable to bring it around because I insisted on parking it myself. I'm not about to let them handle her, she's a classic you know." He said with a wink.
"I didn't think about all the extra walking I'll have to do now that I bought you a new car. It's back to parking in the furthest corner of the parking lot again, isn't it?"
As they reached the darkness of the parking lot, Lee took his wife in his arms and kissed her passionately. When they finally broke apart, Amanda licked her lips and laughed gently. "With a reaction like that, I guess I should have bought you a car a long time ago."
"Amanda, I hope you know that had nothing to with the car. It was – it is about us. About this beautiful family you've given me. Our sweet Jenny, Dotty, the boys, and Matthew. I can't believe they named that precious baby after my father!"
"Lee, we all love you so much! You have meant so much to the boys for so long. Joe went back to Africa before Phillip finished high school, and he's hardly seen either one of them since. In the boys' eyes, you are their father. You have been the one to teach them so many important lessons: how family comes before your job, even if your job is helping other people. And that just because you fight with your spouse it doesn't mean you don't love each other or you should give up on your marriage." She took a breath. "I could go on and on."
"I want you to remember that I wasn't the only one teaching them lessons. You and your mother have done so much for them. I wasn't the only one being honored when Phillip and Lauren named the baby Matthew West King."
"We do have a pretty spectacular family, don't we?"
"Have I told you about my wife?" Lee asked taking her hand, continuing their trek to the car. "She planned an incredible party for me, invited nearly every friend I've ever had in my entire life, and gave me the most incredible present."
"Yeah, she must be pretty sure of herself to invite your "first love" back into your life."
"Amanda," Lee groaned.
"Oh, come on Stetson, you know I'm right."
"Okay, I'll admit it. I love her. I'm always gonna love her, but I'm in love with you."
"Ahh, well as long as you keep that straight, I guess I can live with it," Amanda tried, but couldn't keep the laughter out of her voice.
"You feel like going for a drive?"
"Scarecrow, I thought you'd never ask!"
Several hours later, as the early morning sky began to turn pink. Lee pulled the car into the drive of their Rockville home.
"Amanda, you are incredible. This car is incredible. It feels just like the old days."
"Not quite, Stetson."
"What do you mean?"
"Last time you were driving a car like this I wouldn't have done this," Amanda said as she reached across the seat and pulled him to her. She kissed him with such intensity that every nerve ending in their bodies stood on end. They ended the kiss, both out of breath.
"And we wouldn't have done this," Lee smiled as he got out of the car and walked around the other side to get Amanda.
"What wouldn't we have done?" Amanda asked as they headed into the house.
"We would not have walked hand-in-hand into your house, at dawn, to have coffee with your mother," Lee said as he nodded to Dotty, who was sitting at the kitchen table.
"You're right." She gave him a quick kiss as he opened the kitchen door.
"Good morning, Great-Grandma," they said in unison as they walked into the house.
"I've been telling people I'm a great grandma for years. I'm glad everyone else finally realizes it!"