“Secrets Accepted”
by shel
© september 2001

disclaimer: lee stetson, amanda king, and the rest of the cast of characters we’ve come to know and love belong to warner bros. and shoot the moon enterprises and possible other copyright holders. i intended no true infringement on their copyrights; i only wanted to borrow these marvelous characters for a short time in my own scenarios and hopefully return them no worse for wear; the only things i’ve gained from this story are the satisfaction and pleasure of having written it and in knowing that others may have enjoyed it too. . .
rating: “pg”
summary: what happens after dotty’s “insisted” the stetsons confess all to phillip and jamie. . .
timeline: august 1987
archiving: not without permission, please. . .
notes: sorry for the delay in getting this done but real-life stepped in for a while. . .there are references to specific characters or situations from the following episodes: “rumors of my death,” “mission of gold,” ”wrong way home,” and “stemwinder,” which all belong to the respective authors of those eps. . .this is a continuation to ėsecrets acknowledged’ (itself a continuation to ėsecrets revealed’) which came as a surprise to me. . .i hadn’t had any intention of doing a sequel (much less two) but the muse was rather stubborn this time and refused to let dotty and the family off easy. . .many thanks to all who requested (strongly) this sequel ń i still believe that sequels rarely live up to their expectations so, even tho you enjoyed the first, i hope this second one doesn’t disappoint you too much. . .please let me know if you enjoyed my tale and why and, if not, why not. . .and, please, don’t bother wasting your time or mine by sending any flames. . .

Mmmm, smell’s just about right. Let me see. . .Looks good. . .Taste test. . .Hmm, a little more oregano. . .. . .Mmm, much better. Pasta? Hmmm, just about done. What time is it? Ten to six. Amanda hasn’t called and I hope that means she and Lee are on their way home. . ..Home. I shake my head, unused to thinking of Lee as coming home here. To this house. Of course I’m not used to it. I’ve only known about their marriage for twenty-four hours! They’re married. Lee is Amanda’s husband. I can’t believe she didn’t tell me. Of course I’m happy for her. For them both. I adore Lee. He’s a wonderful partner for Amanda and he’s establishing this wonderful relationship with the boys. The boys. . .How are they going to react? Maybe I shouldn’t push Amanda and Lee to talk to them. Maybe it’s too soon. What am I saying? It’s not too soon. It’s been six months since my daughter eloped. The boys will be fine. Shouldn’t they be here already? I hope there’s nothing wrong. It’s not like Amanda not to call. Maybe she’s just tied up with -- What am I saying? Lee told me this morning what that really means. I hope she’s not tied up at all. I’m just glad the boys were at Joe’s last night. I don’t think Amanda and Lee could have handled confession to the three of us at once. Joe...

Joe doesn’t know about their marriage. This will be a shock. Poor Joe. Oh, he seems very happy with Carrie and the boys do like her but this is Amanda we’re talking about. I know there’s a part of Joe that’s never quite let go of Amanda or she of him. On the other hand, Joe never let on that he was serious about someone either. He just blurted it out to Amanda over lunch one day. She was so surprised and I think maybe even disappointed. She seemed so down for a few days. Of course, she was already engaged to Lee but it must have still hurt knowing that Joe had found someone and was going to settle down. Wait, so she should know exactly what this is like! I mean, who knew she was engaged, let alone married? Lee is Amanda’s husband. Husband. I shake my head still not quite comprehending it all. When I think that those two eloped six months ago without telling even me, why I still want to strangle them! All right, so they had the best of intentions but really. . .It took me to eavesdrop on a conversation between them to discover the truth and, until this morning’s explanation, I had no idea how complex their relationship really was. All because of this agency they work for. My daughter, a spy. Sorry, intelligence operative. . .What kind --

“Grandma! We’re home!” Phillip’s voice interrupted.

As I make my way to the front door, Phillip and Jamie are already inside dumping their bags on the floor. They were only gone for two nights. Why do those bags look like they’ve been stuffed for a week’s vacation? Sigh. The front door’s wide open. “Boys, how many times have I told you to close the front door after you come in?”

I stand in the doorway a moment to wave to Joe in the car who waves back and then drives away.

“Sorry, Grandma,” Jamie says from behind me.

I close the door and turn around. “So, did you two have fun with your father? How was last night’s game?”

Jamie frowns, “They lost. Why is it that every time Dad takes us to a ball game, our team loses?”

As I receive my kisses and hugs, Phillip asks, “Hey, Grandma, do you think Mom’ll let us go on vacation with Dad and Carrie the last week before school starts?”

Both boys’ eyes are lit up. Joe must have planned some vacation. “Where are they going?”

“Disney World!” both shout.

“Disney World?”

“Yeah,” Jamie says excitedly, “Carrie loves the place. She’s been going every other year since she was twelve!”

“So,” Phillip adds, “d’ya think Mom’ll let us go?”

“Boys, your father hasn’t had a vacation in a year and he and Carrie have only been married for three months. Maybe they want to go away alone.”

“I said that,” Jamie agrees, “but Carrie’s the one who asked if we wanted to come along.”

“Yeah, Grandma, it was Carrie. I don’t think Dad expected her to ask but she insisted we should come along. I think Dad was gonna try to talk her out of it but she looked at Dad and said that it would be really nice to go as a family. You know the look. It’s the same way Mom looks at Lee to get what she wants. Anyway, Dad finally said if Mom said okay then we could go with them. So, d’ya think Mom’ll let us go?”

That boy definitely has his mother’s ability to get all that out in one breath. She must have gotten it from her father. “I’ll tell you what,” I say as I turn them towards the stairs. “Your mother and Lee should be home any minute. Why don’t you wash up and set the table? When we’re done eating, I’ll call a family meeting.”

The boys grab their bags and head upstairs chattering away about Disney World. Hmm, interesting development. This is one family meeting I don’t want to miss.

***** ****** ****** ******

“Hey, Mom, awesome cake!”

“Thank you, Phillip,” Amanda smiles, “but don’t talk with your mouth full.”

I wish I had that teenager’s ability to eat all that without gaining an ounce. Sigh, nowadays, I just inhale the smell of cake and I’m exercising for a week. I glance at the clock again. Seven o’clock. It’s time.

“Something wrong, Dotty?”

I’m startled by Lee’s voice. He’s been so quiet throughout dinner. Actually, Amanda’s been rather quiet too. As if they’ve got something on their minds. As if I didn’t know. They’ve pretty much let Phillip and Jamie do most of the talking and I don’t think the boys noticed at all. I answer Lee, “No, why do you ask?”

Lee shrugs as he sets his fork on his empty dessert plate. “That’s the fifth time in the past twenty minutes that you’ve looked at the clock. Are you late for a date or something?”

Is that a glimmer of hope in your eyes, Lee Stetson? I smile, “The Captain won’t be back for another day, Lee. I’m free for the evening.”

“Oh,” Lee replies with a half-smile and a quick glance to Amanda.

The boys look quickly to me and I nod. As I look back at Lee and Amanda, I notice Lee has noticed my nod and quickly looks to Amanda who seems to have noticed the same thing. They’re worried. I smile, “I think it’s time for a family meeting.”

“Mother, the boys just got home and I don’t think now is --”

“The perfect time,” I interrupt. Amanda and Lee may have spent the day spying undercover but they’re not off the hook yet. “The boys have something to discuss with you. Come on, everyone into the family room.”

Everyone files out of the kitchen and into the family room. No one says a word but a lot of looks are exchanged. Amanda and Lee sit on the sofa while I sit in the end chair. The boys stand on the other side of the coffee table and I’m not sure which pair seems more nervous. They all look at me but my part’s ended now. From here on out, they’re on their own.

Realizing I wasn’t going to say anything, Amanda looks at her sons and asks, “What’s up, fellas?”

The boys look at each other and Phillip finally says, “It’s about Dad.” Jamie rolls his eyes.

“What about your dad?” Amanda asks. Clearly, this is not the topic she was expecting. Did she really think I would say something to Phillip and Jamie first?

Before Phillip can answer, Jamie takes matters into his own hands and explains, “Dad and Carrie are going to Disney World and said we can go if you okayed it.”

“Yeah, so, Mom, can we go?”

“I don’t know, fellas. Your dad didn’t mention anything to me about this trip. Are you sure he said it was okay?”

“Yeah, Mom,” Jamie answers, “Carrie’s the one who invited us.”

Amanda still looks skeptical. “When are they going?”

“In two weeks,” Phillips quickly says.

“When does school start?” Lee asks. Good question. He’s already learning. He’s going to be a good stepfather.

Jamie looks at Lee in surprise. I think he expected that question from his mother, not Lee. “Two days after we come back.”

The boys are growing more excited and Amanda comments, “That’s not much time to get ready for school.”

The boys groan. “Come on, Mom,” Phillip says, “what’s to get ready?”

“New supplies, book lists, clothing,” Amanda starts to list off.

“Did you maybe misunderstand?” Lee interrupts. “Are you sure Carrie invited you?”

“Of course we are,” Phillip answers as he rolls his eyes. “We already went over this with Grandma.”

“We know Carrie and Dad have only been married for three months but she really did invite us to come along,” Jamie adds.

Amanda’s brows are wrinkled in thought. “I don’t know, fellas. This is probably their first extended trip together. Maybe they want to be alone.”

“In Disney World?” Lee interrupts. “I can think of half a dozen places to go on a vacation to be alone and Disney World is not one of them.”

Amanda focuses on Lee with one of her ėLee-only’ smiles that I’m beginning to enjoy seeing. “And I can think of half a dozen places in Disney where you’d never know you were surrounded by thousands of other people.”

“Really?” Lee’s eyes light up in surprise. “Um, maybe we -- Never mind.”

Sigh. If only I were a few decades younger and Lee wasn’t taken.

“Maybe we should,” Amanda replies with a knowing smile.

“That’s a great idea!!” Phillip insists, completely missing the adults’ by-play. At least he’s not that grown up yet. “We could all go! It’d be a real family vacation!”

“Yeah, you’d come too, Lee,” Jamie shyly adds. “You’re practically already part of the family.”

“Thank you, Jamie,” Lee replies in a surprised choked voice.

“You too, Grandma,” Jamie adds as he turns to face me.

“Thank you, sweetheart, but I’ve already arranged to visit Aunt Lillian that week.”

“Fellas, don’t get carried away,” Amanda’s voice of reason replies. “We’re not all invading your dad’s vacation with Carrie.”

“Aw, Mom, come on. It’s summer time,” Phillip complains.

“And it’s Disney!” Jamie adds. “And we were invited.”

Amanda looks at her sons and at Lee who seems to communicate something to her. “All right, fellas, I’ll talk to your dad tomorrow about getting tickets for the two of you.”

“All right!” Phillip shouts. “Thanks, Mom!”

“You’re the best,” Jamie adds as he hugs his mother.

Amanda laughs and exchanges another smile with Lee. I bet they’re already thinking of what they’ll do on their ėvacation’ while the boys and I are away. Just as the boys are about to run out of the room, I call them back. “Hold on a moment. This family meeting’s not over yet.” The boys glance at me in confusion and Amanda and Lee frown slightly. “Why don’t you two have a seat? I think your mother and Lee need to share something with us.”

The boys re-enter the area and stand in front of Amanda and Lee. “What is it?” The both ask at the same time. “What’s going on?”

“Thank you, Mother,” Amanda acknowledges me in a voice belying her sincere words. She looks at Lee who looks at the boys and then takes her hand.

“It’s about us,” Lee finally says. “I think you both know by now how I feel about your mom.”

“Yeah, you love her,” Phillip comments matter-of-factly with a shrug.

Lee smiles and squeezes her hand, “Yeah, I love her and that’s part of what we want to talk to you about.”

“You want to get married,” Jamie states.

“It’s okay with us, y’know,” Phillip agrees. “We’ve talked about it.”

They have? Well of course they have.

“We think you’re great, Lee,” Jamie adds quietly, “and we know you make Mom happy.”

Oh, Jamie. . .I think Amanda’s going to cry. I think I’m going to cry.

“She makes me happy,” Lee insists as he looks at Amanda. Facing the boys again, he adds, “This family makes me happy. And I’d like nothing more than to be part of it.”

“You already are, Lee,” I quickly insist. Sigh, from what I know about his background, I think it’s going to take some time and a lot of reassuring for him to believe it.

“Yeah,” Phillip agrees, “you’re the one who picked me up from Andy’s party last week and watched us at our softball games for the whole season.”

“And you took us to the track two weeks ago,” Jamie adds, “and cooked dinner for us when Mom had that cold last month and --”

Amanda laughs quietly before turning serious. “Fellas, I can’t tell you how happy I am that you’re okay with the idea of my marrying Lee but you have to understand something.”

“What?” Phillip asks.

Acknowledging Lee, she answers, “Lee will be your stepfather and that means that he’ll have an equal say in what goes on around here. It will be more than him watching one of your games or picking you up from a party. Lee won’t just be visiting; he’ll be here permanently. So if he tells you to do something or not do something, you’ll have to abide by what he says.”

The boys look at each other as though they hadn’t quite figured that part out yet. It’s not the same situation as with Carrie. The boys don’t live with their father and it was much easier to accept Carrie as part of Joe’s life than it was to accept Lee’s arrival.

Lee notices and quickly says, “Look, fellas, I’m not your dad and I’m not trying be. I would never presume to take his place in your lives but I will be living here with you and that will mean making some more adjustments.”

“For all of us,” Amanda adds as she gives Lee a hand-squeeze of encouragement.

“Yeah, okay,” Phillip finally says. “So when are you getting married?”

Amanda and Lee look uncomfortable but before they can say anything, Jamie asks, “It’s not gonna be another big long church thing like Dad had, will it?”

“Jamie, you know this was Carrie’s first time getting married. It was the wedding she’d always wanted and it was lovely.”

“But way too long and boring,” Phillip mutters, “and they had lousy music.”

Lee clears his throat and begins in a hesitating voice, “Well, you may not have to worry about that.” The boys look at him and wait for an explanation. “Your mom and I,” Lee says as he looks to Amanda, “we. . .Well, we. . .”

“Eloped,” Amanda finishes for him.

The boys are both silent for a moment. Jamie looks at me. “Did you know?”

I shake my head. “Your mother and Lee only told me this morning.”

Turning back to his mother, Jamie asks, “When?”

Again, the pair exchange looks of discomfort. “This past February,” Lee answers.

“February?” Phillip exclaims. “That was six months ago!”

Jamie still looks confused, “How come you kept it a secret? Were you testing us?”

“Oh, no, sweetheart,” Amanda quickly insists. “That’s not it at all.”

Lee continues, “It wasn’t anything like that, Jamie. We had our reasons but, as we’ve been discovering lately, they were a bit misguided so we’re trying to make it right now.”

“What reasons?” Phillips asks as he and Jamie sit on the coffee table.

“Not on the table,” Amanda quietly insists.

Before the boys move, Lee suddenly stands up and paces to the other side of the room, near the patio doors. As he begins talking, Amanda rises and indicates the boys to sit on the sofa.

Lee turns to face them. “You see, when I proposed to your mom, both of you and your grandmother barely knew me. I couldn’t just walk into your lives and a few weeks later announce I was going to marry your mom.”

Amanda nods, “We needed to give all of you some time to get to know Lee better. To get used to him being around us.”

“So it was like a love-at-first-sight type of thing?” Jamie asks. Where on earth would Jamie come up with that? Sigh, Jamie’s definitely growing up.

As she looks at Lee across the room, Amanda smiles and snorts softly, “Not exactly, sweetheart.”

I’ll say. She told me Lee didn’t even want her around in the beginning and, from what they both admitted this morning, they took their time becoming friends first before falling in love.

Lee faces the boys and explains, “You see, Jamie, the thing is that while your mom’s only been mentioning me for a year or so, I’ve actually known her and worked with her for almost four years now.”

“Really?” both boys asked in surprise.

Lee and Amanda both nod as Amanda crosses the room to Lee’s side.

Phillip and Jamie look at each other. “I don’t get it,” Jamie then adds. “Why didn’t you tell us you were working together all along?”

“Yeah, what’s the big deal?” Phillip chimes in. “It’s just a film company.”

Lee and Amanda exchange those nervous looks again. I’ve been waiting for this and I think they have too. All things considered, the boys have taken this extremely well so far. Let’s see if Amanda’s and Lee’s luck holds.

“Well, that’s the other thing we have to talk to you about,” Lee says as he paces again.

“It’s not a film company, is it?” Phillip asks.

Amanda reaches out and places a hand on Lee’s arm to stop him. He sighs and returns to her side.

Before he says anything, Jamie comments, “I told you, Phillip. It’s just too weird.”

“What’s too weird?” Amanda asks with interest.

Jamie shrugs, “All the running around you do. The last minute changes in plans. The late nights working. The sudden trips.”

“Yeah, and you’ve never once brought home posters or anything from the movies you’ve worked on.”

“Documentaries don’t have posters or memorabilia like you mean, Phillip.”

“You know what I mean, Mom,” Phillip says. “We’ve never seen anything anywhere about any of these movies. I bet you’re not even working on a komodo dragon documentary.”

“Actually, chief, there is a documentary on the dragons being filmed,” Lee answers with a quick glance to me. “Just not by us,” he adds.

I look back in surprise. I thought there was no film company. Lee notices and explains in a tone a bit too smug for me, “IFF is a legitimate film documentary film company. There has to be if anyone checks up on it. So, a small department of the agency is IFF with real film-makers who just happen to also be --”

“What kind of agency is it, then?” Phillip interrupts.

“The secret kind, sweetheart,” Amanda answers with a sigh.

“Your mother and I are intelligence operatives for the government,” Lee explains.

“You’re spies?” both boys exclaim in unison.

Lee sighs, “What is it with this family and that word?”

Amanda smiles patiently at him while the boys look excitedly at them both.

“Where’s your badge?” Jamie asks.

“Do you have a gun?” Phillip asks at the same time.

“Yes, I have a gun,” Lee answers seriously, “and so does your mother.”

“What?!” I practically shriek. Why didn’t it occur to me that my daughter would carry a gun? I’m the one who’s read all the novels of intrigue. Why didn’t I even think of that?

“Cool,” Phillip comments. “Can I see?”

“It is most certainly not cool,” Amanda emphatically states.

I should say not. “You don’t keep it in the house, do you?”

Amanda turns to me, “Yes, Mother, I do. It’s locked in a box under the head of my bed near the nightstand.”

“Have you ever shot anyone?” Phillip asks.

“No, sweetheart, I haven’t and I hope I never have to,” Amanda answers seriously.

“These aren’t toys,” Lee adds in a similar serious tone. “Guns are dangerous weapons and it’s not at all like you see on TV. I will show them to you, answer any questions you have about how they work, and you will know where they are kept in the house but you are not to touch them. Do you understand?”

Both boys nod obediently and Phillip asks Lee, “Have you ever been shot? Like Mom, I mean?”

To my dismay, Lee nods, “A number of the scars you’ve seen on me have been from bullet wounds but they weren’t serious.”

“How can you say that?” I exclaim. “You were shot. That, in my book, is serious.”

Lee shrugs, “I’m not sure how to answer that. Medically speaking, the wounds weren’t that serious and I recovered quickly. There was only one time back in eighty-one that could’ve. . .”

His voice trails off and I don’t think anyone needs or wants him to finish his thought.

“Jamie? You okay?” Lee asks.

Jamie faces his mother, “Is that why you almost died? Because you were working with Lee as a spy?”

“No, sweetheart,” Amanda replies as she quickly hurries to hug Jamie. “The Agency had nothing to do with what happened in California.”

Lee somberly agrees, “California was an accident. We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time like we told you.”

“I thought you weren’t there, Lee,” Phillip comments, “until later.”

Lee shakes his head and admits, “I was there and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.” He looks back at Amanda and I see the hurt still there.

I never realized. I never considered that before; that Lee had been there when it happened. That he had seen. Oh, poor Lee. What he must have gone through. Amanda reaches out to take Lee’s hand. She pulls away from Jamie and stands next to Lee again.

“Six months ago,” Jamie quietly says. “That’s when you got married, wasn’t it?”

Amanda nods, “We got married here and flew to California the next night for our honeymoon.”

They are all quiet for a few moments. Amanda leans into Lee who wraps his arm around her waist. The boys look contemplative as they sit quietly on the sofa. I can only imagine what’s running through their minds right now. Probably a dozen or so of the same thoughts I had. The danger. The secrets.

“Why now?” Phillip asks.

“Yeah, why tell us now?” Jamie adds. “Why not just get engaged? You didn’t have to tell us anything about this and we’d have never known.”

Before Jamie’s even finished speaking, Phillip quickly asks, “Does Dad know?”

Amanda and Lee look at each other before Amanda carefully responds, “Your dad knows about what we do but not about our marriage.”

“Joe knows?” He’s known all along and kept their secret? “You told him but not. . .”

“Oh, no, Mother,” Amanda quickly says to appease me. “We never told Joe. Not exactly.”

“What does that mean ėnot exactly’?”

Lee answers, “Do you remember that bit of trouble Joe was in when he came back from Estoccia?”

“Yes,” I reply warily.

“Well,” Lee says, “the Agency became involved and I was assigned the case because it was Amanda’s ex-husband in the middle of the mess.”

“At first, Joe thought I became involved with the Agency because of him but, after our mix-up last fall when Lee and I had to go. . .away. . . for a few days, he figured a few things out and started asking some questions. So, we sat down with him and eventually told him how Lee and I had met and started working together.”

“We felt, as Phillip’s and Jamie’s father he should know,” Lee adds, “just in case. . .”

The boys are still absorbing the information when Phillip looks up at Lee and says, “It was you. You were the one.” Lee looks at him in confusion and he adds. “In the gym that day.

I’m not sure what he’s referring to but I see sudden recognition in Jamie’s eyes who says, “You saved us. And our dad.”

Lee doesn’t say anything. Now I remember. The boys told me how someone grabbed them when they were in the school gym. They told me they were scared but I remember them talking about it pretty excitedly the next day. All about the cool guy who swung from the rope and how their dad helped out. If it was Lee, I’m surprised the boys didn’t recognize him when they first met him. Cool then but now. . .I think they’re realizing now that this business isn’t fun and games. There are real dangers. Maybe it’s because they’re older. Maybe Amanda and Lee were right not to tell the boys. Maybe it --

“I know this is a lot to handle all at once,” Amanda interrupts my thoughts. “Are you fellas okay with all this?”

The doorbell rings before either boy can answer. Darn! What terrible timing! Amanda looks at me and I sigh even though I know she’s right. “I’ll get it,” I answer.

As I’m walking to the door, I hear the murmuring from the family room and wonder what I’m missing. I reach for the handle and begin to open the door. This had better be good. If it’s another salesman at this time of night, why I’ll -- “What are you doing here?” I ask in what’s probably too sharp a tone but I can’t help it.

William Melrose smiles back at me in a way that tells me he almost expected my reaction. “Good evening, Mrs. West.”

“This really isn’t a good time right now,” I say in spite of the million questions I have for him. “Couldn’t Amanda or Lee call you later?”

“Oh, I didn’t come here to talk to them.” His smile widens, “I came here to see you.”


He nods, “I know Lee and Amanda spoke to you this morning so I thought I’d stop by to see how you were doing. See if you have any questions.”

“You thought you’d just stop by?” He nods politely. “My daughter’s boss just decides to stop by and see how I’m handling the news that she’s been a spy for four years and has been married for six months?!” Oops, maybe I shouldn’t have added that. “They did tell you, didn’t they?”

He grins again, “Yes, they told me. We had a long talk this morning. I imagine it came as a bit of a shock to you.”

“A bit,” I echo with a wry smile. “Well, weren’t you shocked? They told me no one at work knew and you’re their boss.”

“Actually,” Mr. Melrose leans in closer and lowers his voice, “I already knew.” I know my eyes widen at this piece of information and he grins again. “I’ve known since February.”

“And they don’t know?”

He shakes his head, still grinning, “In this business, it’s an advantage to have the ability to keep certain pieces of information to oneself.”

I hear louder voices from the other room but my curiosity has suddenly shifted from what’s going on inside the house to what this man has just revealed. I quickly step out onto the front step, gently closing the door behind me. “How, when, did you find out?”

His smile seems to fade a drop. “When Amanda was. . .hurt in California. When one of my agents is hurt, I want to know all the details, especially when that agent is also a friend. A good friend. Too many things Lee said at the time didn’t make sense but I chalked it up to his concern for her. So, as Amanda recovered, I did a little investigating of my own.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

He looks thoughtful a moment before answering. “It’s hard enough to find that certain someone who completes you and makes you happy. That special person you want to share your life with. It’s even harder when you’re in this business. I figured they’d say something when they were ready. I have to admit, I’ve tried encouraging them as often as I could but it wasn’t easy and I sometimes caught myself before letting it slip somehow.”

“They told me you were the one who partnered them.”

He smiles again and, in an instant, I realize I have been wrong about this man. He truly does care. “Your daughter makes quite a first impression. The more she helped us, the more I realized she’d make Lee a terrific partner. The real fun was watching the two of them fall for each other without them realizing it.”

I smile, “I can imagine. I. . .I guess I just wish I knew.”

He smiles with understanding, “I know. But, Amanda wasn’t allowed to say anything and, the more time that went by, the harder it would have been.”

I nod. “Amanda sang Lee’s praises and he pretty much did the same. Are they really that good?”

“My best team,” he answers proudly. “They have received commendations and medals from royalty, ambassadors, chiefs of state, even the President and Vice President.”

After a stunned moment, all I can ask is, “My Amanda?”

He laughs heartily, “Your Amanda.”

“What about the danger?” I ask a moment later. “They said they didn’t tell us for our safety. Are we in danger now?”

“I’m not going to lie to you, Mrs. West. There --“

“Dotty,” I interrupt. “Please.”

He smiles gratefully and says, “If you call me Billy.” I nod with a smile, beginning to like this man, and he continues, “There are certain risks involved but Lee and Amanda are professionals and take every precaution. And, if your safety, or that of Amanda’s sons, is ever in question, even in the slightest, you are given immediate protection. Even if you don’t know it’s there, it is.”

Again, another unexpected piece of information. “Have we had this. . .protection before?” Reluctantly, he nods. “I see. . ..So, what happens now? I know they were concerned about their partnership.”

“I admit that I tend to give that pair more leeway than my other agents but even my hands are tied here,” he acknowledges. “We discussed several options so they will still have a say the final decision.”

“I heard them talk about coming in from the field?”

He nods, “Most of the options we discussed involved more administrative positions for them both.”

“What about --“

“Mother,” the door opens, interrupting me, as Amanda says, “is everything o -- Sir, what are you doing here?”

“I came by to --“

“Amanda, I told the boys I’d run by,” Lee interrupts, opening the door wider, “the apartment to -- Billy, what’re you doing here?”

Amanda and Lee suddenly both seem very nervous. I wonder why. “Don’t worry, you two. Mr. Melrose came by to see me, not you.”

“Oh,” Amanda says as she looks from Lee to Mr. Melrose.

“Something wrong?” Lee asks suspiciously.

His boss laughs heartily and tells me, “They’ve been like this all day. I’ve been enjoying it.”

“Yeah, a little too much,” Lee grumbles.

“But we’re fine now,” Amanda answers. “Everything’s out in the open now, or it will be as soon as we give you our decision.”

“And then the fun will be,” he begins, “telling. . .”

“Francine,” the three of them answer at the same time.

I feel a little left out of the joke but, seeing the looks on Amanda’s and Lee’s faces, makes up for it. It seems confession truly is good for the soul. I hope everything’s all right with the boys and that it works out with their jobs. I just want them to be happy.

“You, ah, never did say why you were visiting my mother, sir.”

“That,” Mr. Melrose replies straight-faced, “is need to know and, right now, neither of you needs to know.”

“Billy!” Lee exclaims. “Come on.”

Mr. Melrose ignores them and turns to me, “Good evening, Dotty. If you ever need to talk, you have my number.”

“Thank you,” I reply with a genuine smile. “And you have a good evening too. . .Billy.”

With a friendly nod, he turns back to Amanda and Lee and says, “My office, tomorrow morning at eight. I’ll be expecting the final Martini report.”

Both nod and watch silently as he goes back to his car.

As he drives away, Amanda asks, “Mother, what did he want?”

I smile as I push past them and enter the house. “Sorry, Amanda, you heard your boss. It’s need to know.”

“Mother!” she exclaims in surprise.

I continue right up the stairs, leaving them standing in the doorway. I look back at them once more and smile at the looks on their faces.

“Mother, come on.”

I smile back at them but continue up the stairs and head towards my room. ėNeed to know.’ I laugh quietly to myself. Maybe this business does have its advantages after all.



most definitely,

the end. . .
: )