“Good morning.” Lee said as he walked over to the coffee maker. “You’re here awfully early.”
“Mmm-hmm.” Amanda replied.
“Want some coffee?” Lee was getting mildly perturbed at the lack of attention he was getting. Not that he expected Amanda to fawn over him, but a morning kiss would be nice.
“Umm - no.” She still did not look up from the file she was reading.
Lee’s curiosity was now fully piqued as he set down his half prepared cup of coffee and marched over to her desk. He purposefully seated himself on the corner and stared at her. Nothing happened for a few moments. Finally, Lee cleared his throat.
“Are you catching a cold?” Amanda asked without looking up.
“No.” Lee sighed and stood up. “All right, I’ll bite, what are you reading.”
“What’s the matter Scarecrow? Can’t stand a little secret?” Amanda grinned at herself, proud of her wit. She finally raised her eyes from the file and looked at Lee. The look she got in return was one of pure annoyance. “Oh, all right, here...” she handed Lee the file with a flourish.
Lee smiled at his little victory and walked over to his desk. He sat down and started reading. Amanda stood and walked to the coffee maker. Lee continued to read as she finished making his coffee for him. She brought the cup to his desk and leaned over his shoulder to read along.
“Major Theodore Watson, retired, age 45, employed by Dower Pharmaceutical out of Indianapolis as Director of Sales and liaison to Military Accounts.” Lee read aloud. He skimmed the highlights of the Major’s illustrious career and closed the file. “That wasn’t worth the wait.” Lee picked up his cup and took a sip. “Perfect.” he said as he set the cup back down.
“I know.” Amanda teased as she took the file back to her own desk. “I’m sorry to have disappointed you, but this man is my new assignment.”
Lee looked at her in surprise. “Your new assignment? I thought we were partners?”
“We are, but this is one Billy thought I could handle on my own.” Amanda looked back at him and could see the worry lines already forming on his forehead. “Lee, sweetheart,” Lee’s expression softened a little at the term of endearment, “this is basic, very simple. I’ll only be under cover for a few weeks.”
“Weeks? Where?” Lee’s expression hardened again.
Amanda stood and walked around her desk. She stopped behind Lee’s chair and put her hands on his shoulders, kneading. Lee’s eyes closed. “Relax Lee, this is so simple, even Beeman could handle it. The Major is suspected of delivering information to the Russians. He is getting the information from his military customers at the pharmaceutical company. I just need to find out from whom and how. My cover is pretty simple too. I‘m Mandy Kingston and have just been hired by the Baltimore division as the Executive Secretary to the VP of Purchasing.”
Lee was thoroughly enjoying the impromptu massage and was trying hard to follow her words. So far he had picked up ‘Russians’, ‘information’, ‘cover’ and ‘Baltimore’. “Baltimore? How is that going to help if this guy is in Indianapolis?” Lee asked.
“Well, as luck would have it, there is a meeting planned for all members of Purchasing in two weeks. I, of course, have been scheduled to attend. This gets me into the Headquarters so I can snoop around.” Amanda stopped her kneading and ran her hands down the front of Lee’s chest, following the lines of his lapel. Shivers went up and down Lee’s spine and the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.
Then it dawned on him. She was trying to weaken his resolve. He grabbed her hands and twirled around in his chair, pulling her down onto his lap. She landed with an ‘oomph’ and grabbed hold of his neck to keep from falling on the floor. He had his arms firmly around her waist and looked deeply into her eyes.
“That’s enough of that. You’re softening me up for something and I get the feeling I’m not going to like it.” Lee touched her face softly with his fingers, tracing her cheekbone and then touching her lips. He could feel her tremble at his touch and was confident that the tables had now turned.
“Well...” Amanda whispered, looking down at Lee‘s chest,“…the informant thinks the Major may be suspecting that were onto him.”
Lee tipped her chin upward, forcing her to look into his eyes. “Look, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I’m okay with this, because I’m not.” She nodded and he continued. “But, I have to trust that Billy wouldn’t assign you to something he didn’t think you could handle.”
Amanda smiled as Lee spoke the words. She leaned forward and brushed his lips with hers. “Thank you.” she whispered. “That means a lot to me.” He smiled and was pulling her closer for another kiss when they heard footsteps in the hall. Amanda jumped up from Lee’s lap and straightened her skirt and blouse with one hand while the other nervously fussed with her hair. Lee grinned at her and took another sip of his coffee. The Q-bureau door opened and Billy walked in.
"Good morning Lee, I trust Amanda has filled you in on her big assignment?” Billy smiled at the two as he made his way to the couch and seated himself.
“Yes, she has.” Lee stated rather firmly. “What kind of back up is she going to have?”
“None.” Billy replied.
“None!” Lee was up and out of his chair in a heartbeat. He ran a hand through his hair and started pacing. He turned to his superior; each word punctuated with a series of hand gestures. “Billy, you can’t send her in there alone. I know she can handle the assignment, but how many times have you yelled at me for not having back up, even on the easy ones?”
“Lee, calm down.” Billy looked to Amanda for help. She nodded and moved towards Lee. She grabbed hold of his arm and turned him to face her.
“Lee, I said the assignment was mine and mine alone. But I never said you weren’t going with me.” He raised his eyebrows and looked from her to Billy and back again. “You’re going to be there with me, but you’re not going to be back-up in the truest sense of the word. You see, the building has very tight security because of the pharmaceuticals. The Agency was only able to obtain a cover for one person, me. I will be the only one in the building and if anything happens, you won’t be able to get in to get me.”
Lee had stopped pacing and was looking rather sheepish. Billy continued for Amanda. “Lee, you’ll be there with her. We’ve got reservations at the same hotel. After each meeting, Amanda will call you and give you updates. You will debrief her each evening and then report to me.”
“Okay, that I can live with.” He looked at Amanda. “I’m sorry I flew off the handle like that.”
“That’s okay.” she replied. “You were only concerned for my safety.”
They gazed at each other and for a moment almost forgot that Billy was still in the room. He cleared his throat as he stood to leave. “All right you two. I suggest you get home and pack. Amanda, you start work tomorrow at the Baltimore branch of Dower so you’ll need to get settled in tonight. Lee, you’ll be staying with her for the time being. Might as well stick together. You two might turn up something in Baltimore. We’ve got an apartment all set up. Francine will have the particulars downstairs. I’ll expect a full report each evening from you Lee.” With that said, he left and closed the door behind him.
Amanda and Lee contacted Francine and got the information on the apartment they would be staying at. They tied up the loose ends at the office and each headed home to pack, agreeing to meet at the Baltimore apartment for dinner at 6:00.
Amanda arrived home and explained to her mother that she had been requested to go on a location scouting assignment in Baltimore then Indianapolis and would be gone for a couple of weeks. Dotty was actually pleased that Amanda would be going as the boys were spending the time with Joe. Dotty said she would call Lillian and see if they could get together. Amanda finished packing and called Joe to let him know where she would be. She headed out the door praying that traffic would be light. She figured she would be lucky to make it by 6:00.
Lee packed quickly and, having very little to take care of at his apartment, left early for Baltimore. He arrived at the Agency supplied apartment and surveyed their living quarters. It wasn't as bad as the little apartment they had secured during the Stemwinder fiasco, but not much better. He checked his watch and decided he had plenty of time to get some shopping done and maybe even have dinner ready for Amanda when she arrived.
As it turned out, the weather had turned and Amanda didn’t get to Baltimore until almost 7:00. She noticed Lee's car was already there and figured he must have had a good head start to have beat the traffic. It was steadily raining here so Amanda decided against carrying her bags in. She ran to the front door and nearly knocked Lee over. He had seen her pull up and was coming out with an umbrella for her.
"Lee!" Amanda jumped back. "You scared me!"
Lee laughed, as he looked her up and down. "I must say, the drowned rat look is very becoming on you." He stepped aside to allow her in.
"Very funny." Amanda replied. She took her overcoat off and hung it on the coat rack inside the front door. When she turned around, she saw Lee running back to the front door with her bags. "Oh, Lee, you didn't have to do that. Now you're all wet, too!"
Lee shook the water off his arms and head and carried her bags to the bedroom. "That's okay," he replied, "now we can work on getting each other out of these wet clothes." He turned to catch Amanda turning crimson. "Oh, hey, I was just kidding…" Lee stammered when he noticed her embarrassment.
"Yeah." Amanda whispered. It was then that she noticed a wonderful smell coming from the kitchen. "Lee? Did you already make dinner?" She turned and walked toward the small dinette.
"I got here pretty early, so I thought I'd put the time to good use." Lee followed her. He had grabbed a towel from the bathroom, walked up behind her and began to dry her arms as she admired the table setting.
"It looks delicious." She turned to face him and nearly melted at the intense look he was giving her. "Lee? Are you okay?" She took the towel from his hands and rubbed the water out of her hair. He was still staring at her when she looked up again. "Lee?"
He shook his head, smiled and laughed nervously. "I'm sorry. I just can't get over how beautiful you are." He took the towel back and dried his hair as well.
Amanda shyly smiled and stepped closer to Lee. When he looked up at her, she leaned in and kissed him softly. He dropped the towel on the floor and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her even closer as their kiss deepened. Amanda's hands had found their way to Lee's neck and she was running her fingers through his damp hair. After a moment, they broke apart each wanting to continue but both reluctant to do so.
Lee cleared his throat and motioned toward their dinner. "It's getting cold."
"Not exactly." Amanda quipped as she turned to take her seat.
They ate slowly, enjoying each others company. They discussed the case, Amanda's family, work, everything but what had happened between them before dinner.
After dinner, they settled on the couch. Lee had the case file open in front of him. Amanda was reading a magazine. Finally Lee could stand it no longer. He put the file down and scooted closer to Amanda, putting his arm around her shoulders. She closed the magazine and laid it on her lap. She met his gaze. His eyes held a question, one he seemed reluctant to ask.
"Hi there." Amanda smiled, as Lee seemed to begin to breathe again.
"Hi." Lee replied in a rather husky voice. Again the room fell silent, save for the pounding of their hearts, which each was certain the other could hear.
Finally Amanda spoke. "Lee, did you want to say something?"
Lee sighed and leaned his head back against the couch. "Yeah, I guess I do. I'm just trying to get everything right in my head so it doesn't come out all wrong. I don’t want to upset you."
Amanda sat up a bit straighter and turned to face Lee. "Why don't you just come out and say it. I'll understand."
"Okay, here goes." Lee sat up and faced Amanda, taking her hands into his own. "Amanda, I love you and I don’t want anything to happen that might mess up what we have here."
"I love you, too Lee. What do you mean?" Amanda whispered back.
"What I mean is that every fiber of my being wants to pick you up off of this couch, carry you into that bedroom and make love to you all night." Lee looked down at their hands intertwined and found it hard to shake the image of their bodies intertwined in a similar manner. When he looked up again, Amanda's eyes were wide with anticipation of his next words.
"I also don't want to rush things between us. I've never felt this way before and I don’t want to go too fast. I want to savor every moment we have and take our time. But again, I don’t want you to think that I don’t find you very, very desirable. Do you understand?" Lee squeezed Amanda's hands.
"Yes." She croaked. "I mean, I feel exactly the same way." Lee breathed a sigh of relief and pulled Amanda into his arms.
"What did I ever do to deserve you Amanda King?" He rubbed her back and breathed in the intoxicating smell of her perfume.
"What did I ever do to deserve you?" Amanda questioned in return.
Lee laughed and sat back, holding her close. "I guess we need to discuss the sleeping arrangements now, huh?"
Amanda weighed her answer carefully, made up her mind and responded. "We can share the bed, that is, if you don’t mind."
Lee was silent for a moment. "I think that would be nice."
"To bed then?" Amanda sat up and looked at Lee who looked a little more than flustered at her forwardness.
They got ready for bed, each changing in the bathroom. While Amanda was changing and brushing her teeth, Lee opened the window an inch for her and crawled into bed. She joined him after a while, crawling in next to him and immediately curling up in his arms as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Lee tensed for a moment, then relaxed and wrapped his arms around her. They both fell into a most peaceful sleep.
The following seven days were more of the same. Amanda started working at Dower and was naturally pouring herself into her assignment. She made friends with several of the other employees and was getting more than her fair share of company gossip. Lee, having no real purpose for being in Baltimore spent his days preparing for the trip to Indianapolis. Each evening, when Amanda arrived from work, Lee had a meal waiting for her. She joked that she could get used to this kind of treatment. They spent each night sleeping comfortably in each other's arms.
The following Sunday evening, Amanda was packing for the trip to Indianapolis. She was to be flying out the next morning. Lee was leaving that evening so he would be there when she arrived. Amanda was getting her toiletries together in the bathroom when Lee peeked around the door.
"You know, I'm going to miss you tonight." He suppressed a laugh when Amanda jumped.
"I really wish you wouldn't do that." she whispered. She turned to him and smiled. "Is that so?"
"Yeah," he walked forward and put his arms around her, pulling her close, "I'm getting used to having you next to me when I wake up in the morning." He brushed her lips with his own. Amanda shivered at the sensation this simple act caused. She wrapped her arms around Lee's neck and pressed herself against him.
"But you'll be able to sleep with the window closed." she teased.
"I don't see where that qualifies as an equal trade." Lee released her from his grasp and took a step back. Having her that close to him stirred up feelings that they had both agreed to keep under control. He turned around and walked toward the bed they had been sharing for a week and sat down.
"Are you sure you're going to be all right tonight while I'm gone?" Lee asked. He leaned back on the bed and stared at the ceiling fan.
"Lee, I've slept alone for the past 4 years." Amanda walked out of the bathroom and hung her robe in the closet. "I think I can handle one night here." Lee deflated inside. He had hoped she would mirror his feelings. He didn't want to leave her tonight or any other night for that matter. Amanda noticed his change in demeanor. "Are you okay?" she asked as she sat next to him.
"I'm fine," Lee replied without diverting his gaze from the ceiling fan, "I'm just thinking about this case, that's all."
"Oh." Amanda lay back on the bed beside him and joined him in his hypnotic stare. "What about it?"
"Well, so far it's been simple. We've just been establishing your cover. We have a suspicion that the Major is expecting someone at this meeting. I'm worried about that, that's all." Lee reached for Amanda's hand without looking.
"We both knew that from the start Lee. I've established myself well. It's not going to help to worry about things you can't control." Amanda jumped a little when Lee sat up with a start.
"That's just it. I don't like the fact that I'm not in control if something happens to you." He leaned forward and cradled his head in his hands.
"Lee, you have my agenda, you know where I'll be at all times and exactly when I'm supposed to check in with you. We've been over it a hundred times. Please," Amanda reached for him and turned him to face her. He looked into her eyes, which were wide with concern, "don't worry. I'll be fine. I'm not going to let anything happen to me, okay?"
"I still don't like it." Lee stood and started for the door. "I have to go or I'll miss my flight." Amanda followed and watched him as he collected his bags and carried them to his car. When he came back inside to get his coat, she stopped him.
"You know, just because you've paid for a room, doesn't mean you have to use it." she raised her eyebrows as he examined her face for some clue as to where her statement was heading. "I'm sure no one would know if you were to, say, stay really late each night after 'debriefing'."
A smile crept across Lee's face as recognition dawned. She wanted to spend the time with him just as much as he did with her. "That sounds reasonable." he replied with what he hoped was a professional tone of voice. He leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead. She smiled and walked him to his car.
Amanda watched Lee drive away, lowering her head as she turned to walk back to the apartment they had called home for a week. She didn't notice the car parked a few spaces down from her car, or the men watching her from inside. She closed the front door behind her, cringing as the sound echoed throughout. Amanda morosely prepared for bed and crawled under the sheets, marveling at how huge the bed suddenly felt. She fell into a shallow and fitful sleep.
The sound of the front door shutting startled Amanda awake. She sat up and tried to clear the cobwebs from her head. Her first thought was that Lee had returned, but then reality intruded and she quickly jumped up and hid beside the bedroom door. She frantically searched the room for something to use as a weapon. He eyes settled on the lamp. 'Well,' she thought, 'it worked before.' She grabbed the lamp and, holding it like a baseball bat, waited for the intruder to come inside.
She heard shuffling footsteps nearing the bedroom door and held the lamp a little higher. The door slowly opened inward, hiding her from the intruders' view. A form stepped through and looked around. Amanda waited until he had taken a few more steps inside before she brought the lamp down on his head. It made a hollow clanging sound as it connected with his skull and he slumped to the floor. She pulled him into the bathroom as quickly and quietly as she could. She wasn't sure if he was alone and didn't want to tip her hand. She had the element of surprise on her side right now.
She took her position again beside the bedroom door and waited. After what seemed an eternity she again heard the shuffling of footsteps outside her door. She readied the lamp, kicking herself at putting off her firearm training. The door opened and again she clubbed the intruder. He slumped to the floor much the same way his partner had. She dragged him to the bathroom as well and set about tying them up with the tie from her bathrobe.
After she was sure they were well secured, she searched the rest of the apartment. When she was sure she was safe, she called the Agency. She was immediately patched through to Billy.
"Amanda? Is everything okay?" Billy had been asleep, but had come instantly awake when he heard whom the call was from.
"I'm fine now sir. I'll need someone to come over to pick up the men who broke in though." Amanda was starting to shake now that the adrenaline was wearing off. She suddenly realized she was wearing nothing more than a short T-shirt and her underwear and was very cold.
"Men? Amanda what happened?" Billy asked obviously greatly concerned.
Amanda explained the events of the evening, finishing with one request. "Sir, please don’t mention any of this to Lee. He was leery about leaving me here alone this evening and I don’t want to add fuel to that fire."
"I understand Amanda. I'll let you tell him when you see him tomorrow night." Billy paused for a moment. "You are going to tell him aren't you? I imagine he would be very upset if he read it in a report later."
"Yes sir, I'll tell him." Amanda promised. She heard a knock at the front door. "Hold on sir, there's someone at the door."
"That's probably the team I had dispatched." Billy responded.
Amanda set the phone down and answered the door, directing the agents to the bathroom where her captives were just coming to. She returned to the phone. "That was them sir, they have everything under control."
"Are you going to be okay for the rest of the night?" Billy asked. He knew she could handle herself, but he also knew that she was probably shaken.
"I'll be fine sir. I was going to be getting up in an hour anyway to get ready for my flight." Amanda looked around the apartment, feeling very unsafe and unprotected.
"I’ll have one of the men stay there and follow you to the airport. It looks as if the Major might be suspecting you after all. Are you sure you want to go through with this?" Billy knew her answer before she spoke.
"Absolutely sir. I won’t let you down." Amanda enthusiastically replied, hoping she sounded convincing.
Billy laughed as he hung up the phone. "No, you won't let me down. Not if you can help it."
Amanda arrived in Indianapolis the following morning. Her Agency 'escort' had followed her all the way to the gate at the Baltimore airport, without incident. She was picked up at the Indianapolis airport by a limousine and brought to the Dower Pharmaceutical corporate headquarters. She was signed in and given a security badge at the front desk.
The meetings themselves weren't going to start until the following day so she was treated to a grand tour of the five-story building. She mentally kept track of all the departments and where they were located. After the tour, she was driven to her hotel to check in and get settled.
Amanda got her room key from the front desk and made her way to the sixth floor. She opened the door and was welcomed by the sight of a dozen roses and a chilling bottle of champagne. She put her bags down and read the card with the flowers. She smiled and called Lee's room.
The phone hadn't even completed the first ring when Lee answered. "Hello?" he said, the anticipation evident in his voice.
"Thank you for the flowers, they're lovely." Amanda smelled the roses as she spoke. "Are you going to come see me?"
"Consider me there." Lee hung up without waiting for a response. Amanda smiled and replaced the receiver. She had no sooner moved her bags to the interior room when Lee knocked on the door.
Amanda opened the door and let Lee inside. She was trying to decide when and how to tell Lee about her visitors back in Baltimore. He sensed her discomfort.
"Amanda, is something wrong?" Lee asked. She had her back to him and noticeably slumped when he spoke. He watched her for a moment as she seemed to collect herself. She straightened, put on a smile and faced him. She took a deep breath and spoke.
"Lee, I have something to tell you and I want you to sit down and be quiet until I'm finished." Lee's eyes narrowed as he sat down. She noticed his hands were clenched into fists, as if he could tell this was going to be bad.
"Lee, early this morning some men broke into the apartment in Baltimore." Amanda flinched as Lee jumped to his feet.
"What!" he shouted. "Are you okay? I knew I should have stayed!" Amanda's voice broke through the red haze that had clouded Lee's head.
"Lee, you promised!" he looked at her, could tell that she was physically okay, and sat back down. His fists were still clenched, as were his teeth. She could see the muscles in his jaw working as he struggled to control his temper.
"I'm fine. I got them both with a lamp. I called Billy and he sent over some agents to cart them off. One of them stayed behind with me until I got on the plane this morning. I have to call Billy this evening to see what they were able to find out." Lee seemed to relax slightly as she spoke, his eyes changing from anger to pride as she went into greater detail about how she handled the intruders.
"Why didn't you call me?" Lee asked when she finished.
"I knew there would be nothing you could do from here, except worry. I asked Billy to not tell you. I wanted to be the one." Amanda took his hands in hers and smiled at him. "I guess I didn’t have to spend the night alone after all."
Lee chuckled and pulled her close. "I'm sorry I wasn't there," he said into her hair. "I'm sorry you had to deal with that on your own. But, you did handle yourself well."
Amanda laughed and snuggled closer into Lee's chest. "You would be amazed at how instinct kicks in where you're terrified." Lee closed his eyes and pursed his lips at her comment. The last thing he wanted was for her to be terrified.
She felt him stiffen and she quickly amended. "I mean, well, I wasn't exactly terrified, I guess, just startled." She felt his arms tighten around her and gave up. There were worse things in this world that having a man like Lee Stetson worried about your safety.
"So, should we get something to eat?" Amanda asked.
"We can’t be seen together. Obviously the Major suspects you and being seen with me would only increase his suspicions. " Lee released her and reached for the telephone. "However, we can order room service." He dialed and ordered dinner.
Amanda set about unpacking and picked out an outfit to wear to the meetings the next day. While they were waiting for dinner to be delivered, they discussed her tour of the corporate headquarters and mapped out a plan of attack. After dinner, Lee called Billy to find out what information they had been able to get out of Amanda's intruders. When Lee hung up he turned to Amanda and shrugged.
"Hired goons. They were hired to watch you. They broke in after I left to get some ID off of you. They swear they don’t know who hired them. It was done through an intermediary and were never told who they were really working for." Lee sat down next to Amanda. "They knew I was with you, which means the Major knows I was with you. I think you should pack it up and go home."
Amanda looked at Lee in surprise. "I most certainly will not." she emphatically stated. "They may know you were with me, but that doesn't mean they know who you are. Plus, there are several people coming to this meeting from all over the States. He may have had all of us watched and followed. This doesn’t necessarily mean he knows it's me."
"Amanda…" Lee started, a pleading look in his eyes.
"You don't want me to get hurt." Amanda concluded for him. "I don't want me to get hurt either. I made a promise to Mr. Melrose that I would complete this task, and I intend to do it. What could possibly go wrong?"
"Oh Amanda. Did you have to ask?" Lee looked at her and laughed. Amanda managed half a grin then began to laugh herself.
"Are you going to stay tonight?" Amanda asked. "I'll need to get to bed soon if I'm going to be any use at all tomorrow."
"There's no place I would rather be." Lee replied. "I’ll go get some things from my room and be right back."
Amanda readied for bed while Lee was gone and mentally prepared for the following day. She knew she had to find a way to break away from the group and make her way to the Major's office. The meetings were being held in the conference rooms on the second floor. The Major's office was on the fifth floor. Somehow she had to make her way to the fifth floor without being noticed or missed.
Lee tapped on the door and Amanda let him in. He looked her up and down. She was wearing a sleeveless pajama top with shorts, nothing like the long sleeved high collared nightgown he had seen her in all week. He grinned his approval as Amanda playfully smacked his arm.
"That looks very, um, comfortable." Lee said, as he walked into the bathroom to change.
"Thanks." Amanda called behind him, shaking her head. She pulled down the sheets and climbed into bed. Lee exited the bathroom, wearing a pair of shorts. Amanda regarded him out of the corner of her eye, not wanting to let on how seeing him that way really affected her. He noticed her attempt and suppressed the urge to laugh. He climbed into bed next to her and turned out the light.
"Have you figured out how you're going to get into the Major's office yet." Lee asked as he scooted closer to Amanda.
"I've been thinking about that and I'm not too sure." She replied as she adjusted herself to fit closer to Lee. Having his bare chest so close was certainly muddying up her usually clear and logical thought processes. "I've got to be able to break away from the group during one of the meetings, rather than during a break, otherwise too many people will notice me sneaking away."
"I'm sure you'll think of something." Lee was absentmindedly rubbing her arm with his thumb. "Just try to get some sleep."
"That's easy for you to say." Amanda whispered. Lee shivered at the feel of her breath on his skin. He grinned a devilish grin and couldn't help but think about how difficult it was becoming to keep to their promise about taking things slow.
Lee awoke the next morning quite suddenly. He was vividly aware of the fact that he was alone in bed. As his head cleared he heard the shower running and realized where Amanda was. He marveled at how quickly he had become accustomed to waking with Amanda by his side. It had only been a few weeks since he had openly professed his love to her. Of course they had been teasing and flirting for months before that. As Lee thought back, he couldn't remember a time that he wasn't aware of how he really felt about Amanda. He only wished he had been brave, or smart, enough to do something about it sooner.
He heard the shower turn off but paid it no mind. He was caught in his daydreams of Amanda. It occurred to him that he had wasted too much precious time already. He mentally decided that when this case was through he was going to start looking for an engagement ring. It was time to move forward with their life together, he concluded. He looked up to find Amanda staring at him, smiling.
"Good morning." she said softly, "where were you just now?"
"What do you mean?" he gave her a sly smile and swung his legs out from under the sheets and onto the floor.
"I mean, you looked like you were miles away." Amanda towel dried her hair and started to comb it out watching his reflection in the mirror.
"Nope, right here. I swear I never left." He walked up behind her and kissed her on the cheek. "I'm going to jump in the shower. I hope you left me a clean towel." He grinned as he walked away.
Amanda wrinkled her nose at him and continued to comb her hair. Her thoughts strayed to earlier that morning, when she first awoke. She was lying in Lee's arms, her head resting on his chest. Lee had his arm wrapped around her, almost possessively. The main thing, and most important of all, was how safe and protected she felt with him there. Even when things between her and Joe were at their best, she never felt like that.
She looked at her reflection in the mirror. What she saw amazed her. Here she was, a 35-year-old divorced mother of two small boys, getting ready to go undercover on an assignment backed by one of the most secret counter-intelligence agencies in the country. To top it off, one of the best agents in the country, no, the world, was her boyfriend. Boyfriend, Amanda smiled at the thought of it. She had always hoped that Lee would care for her the way she cared for him.
Not long after they met, they had a discussion about fantasies and fairy tales and she had told him she used to have fantasies about spies. The funny thing was that the fantasies she had referred to had only just begun, and they were all about him. She had never been able to bring herself to tell him this, not even now.
She looked at the clock as she heard the shower turn off. It was getting close to the 7:30. The first meeting was scheduled to begin at 9:00 but all the employees were supposed to meet for breakfast in the hotel restaurant at 8:00. She hurried about getting dressed and was ready to put on her makeup and dry her hair when Lee walked out. She had secretly hoped that he would be wearing his customary 'after-shower' attire, a bath towel. Unfortunately, he had dressed in the bathroom but still looked rather striking in the jeans and sweater he had put on.
She brushed past him to get to the hair dryer. He smiled as she walked past, her perfume filling his senses. She was wearing a pair of tan slacks and pink blouse. It was so simple an outfit, Lee noted, but she still looked radiant. A few moments later, she emerged. Having given up on her hair, she had pulled it up into a neat French twist with little wisps of hair falling out to frame her face.
"So, you have my agenda?" she asked as she briskly picked up the room.
"Yes Amanda, I have your agenda." He watched her scurry around the room, one eyebrow raised. "They pay people to take care of that you know."
She stopped momentarily, regarding Lee as if he had grown a second head. "Lee, I will not have some stranger pick up after me. I don't want them to think I'm some kind of slob."
Lee laughed as she completed her circuit of the room. She sat on the couch and started digging though her briefcase. She pulled out several files and handed them to Lee.
"What's this?" he asked as he started flipping through them.
"Those are the company's confidential customer files. I made copies the other day and forgot to show them to you. I figured you could look them over while I was at Dower today. You know, see if there are any names in there you might recognize." Amanda continued to dig through her briefcase until she was satisfied she had everything she needed.
"You made copies of all the files?" Lee looked at her proudly. "What kind of information is in them?"
"Contact names, shipping locations, order history. Standard stuff really. There are copies of the past six months orders in there as well as monthly phone logs listing who placed the order from the bases themselves and who at Dower took the order." Amanda stood up, ready to leave. Lee stood with her. They regarded each other for a moment.
"Lee, I really......" "Amanda, please be......" they laughed and Amanda motioned for Lee to go first.
"Amanda, please be careful." Lee took her arms in his hands and pulled her into an embrace. "I'm going to try not to worry about you, but so help me, if you're a minute late checking in with me, I'm calling out the National Guard."
Amanda smiled at his sincere concern. "Lee, I wish you could be there with me and I'll be very careful. I promise." She looked up into his eyes and sealed her promise with a kiss. "Now, I really have to be going. I don't want to be late. What kind of impression would that make?"
"Maybe everyone would think you hooked up with an incredibly handsome man and spent the night in his arms." Lee winked and gave her a most wicked smile.
"As close to the truth as that might be, I still don't want to make that kind of impression." Amanda smiled back at him. "Now, I'm not going to try to sneak away until after lunch break. I want to observe everyone first, see what I may be up against."
"That sounds good." Lee walked her to the door. "However, if you change your mind, tell me first."
"Of course." Amanda planted a kiss on his cheek and headed out the door.
"Yeah, right." Lee mumbled to himself, shaking his head as he watched her walk away. He had a bad feeling that Amanda was going to do something characteristically impetuous and get herself in trouble. And there was nothing he could do about it.
The heavy wooden door opened and a half dozen people walked out into the hallway. They were laughing and joking with one another, obviously glad to be free of the confines of the conference room. Amanda was last to leave, watching the other attendees mill around, waiting for someone to decide where to go for lunch. An older woman separated herself from the group and headed for Amanda.
“Mandy honey.” she said in a thick Texas drawl. “Come on over with us, we’re going to head over to this great restaurant around the corner.”
“Thanks for the offer Betty.” Amanda replied. “I’ll be right there. Do you know where I can find a phone? I need to call in to the office.”
“Sure honey, there’s one on that desk over there.” Betty smiled and pointed a few feet away to an empty office.
“Thanks Betty, I’ll be right there.” Amanda excused herself and headed for the telephone. Their morning session had lasted a little longer than expected. She was sure Lee was going to be sick with worry. She looked around and, satisfied no one was watching her, dialed the hotel.
“What took so long.” Lee growled.
“Hello.” Amanda forced a smile. ‘This man certainly has a lot to learn about telephone etiquette.’ she thought. “I’m fine, thanks for asking, and you?”
“You’re five minutes late.” was his unamused reply. Amanda could hear him pacing in his room, probably wearing a rut in the carpet.
Amanda rolled her eyes and sighed at the receiver. “Well, I couldn’t very well tell the speaker to hurry up so I wouldn’t be late for my check in, could I?” She lowered her voice as someone walked by the office door. “Anyway, I thought I was supposed to be getting a National Guard escort if I was so much as minute late checking in. Don’t tell me you’re not going to deliver.”
“Don’t think I don’t have the number right here in my hand.” His tone was a bit lighter as he began to tease her in return. “What do you have so far?”
“Not much.” Amanda shook her head. “I have a notebook full of notes on government purchase requisitions and forced contract pricing. Not very exciting presentation material I might add.”
“Oooh, sounds grueling.” Lee teased. “What other forms of torture are they planning on using?”
Amanda continued, ignoring Lee‘s taunts. “I also have a notebook full of notes on every one of the other attendees and the quest speakers. Although I don’t think it will get us anywhere. They all seem so nice and company oriented.”
“So what’s the plan now?” Lee prodded, trying to get her off her favorite subject of the inherent kindness of human nature.
“Lunch is the plan right now. I’m starving.” Amanda’s stomach growled as if to confirm her statement. “I didn’t have much of a breakfast this morning.”
“What about after? Are you going to be able to break away?” Lee asked, the serious tone returning to his voice.
“I don’t think my lunch is going to sit right with me. I’ll excuse myself to the ladies room. That way I can get out of the conference room. I’ll just have to play ‘lost’ and wander up to the fifth floor.” Amanda had turned her back to the open office door. “I don’t think I‘ll have any problem.”
“Just be careful.” Lee pleaded. “I still don’t like this and I have a bad feeling.”
“You’re just sorry you’re missing out on all the fun.” Amanda teased. “Don’t worry. I’ll share all my newly acquired knowledge with you tonight. I think you’ll love the part on the importance of purchase orders.” Lee groaned as she hung up. Amanda hurried out of the office, rejoined the group and headed out for lunch.
The man who had been listening to her conversation from across the hall smiled. He knew it was her that had been sent to ruin his bosses' plans. There was no question about it. He picked up the phone Amanda had used and reported what he had overheard to his superior.
Amanda returned to the conference room full of food and information. She sat down at the conference table and looked around her. After enjoying lunch with these people it was almost upsetting to know she was deceiving them all. Her eyes settled on the face of Betty Jones.
Betty was from Dallas, Texas and had been a fountain of information over lunch. She had recognized Amanda as the silent listening type and had opened up. One thing Betty had told her had stuck in her mind. Something not so unusual but it had troubled Amanda nonetheless.
Betty had been getting Amanda 'up to speed on the coworkers' and told her to be sure that she send all military orders to Major Watson immediately after they were entered into the computer for invoicing. She had recounted a time that she forgot and the Major had called, frantic, and had threatened to have her fired if it ever happened again.
Amanda had smiled and asked Betty why he just couldn't look at the order in the computer. Betty had laughed and said "Mandy, darlin', he insists on having the original order in his hands. He says he needs it for his records." Amanda had nodded in acknowledgment and Betty had rambled on.
Now, sitting in the conference room, Amanda suddenly had a good idea what she should be looking for in the Major's office. She looked around the room again and decided it was now or never. She whispered an excuse in Betty's ear and quietly left the room.
Once in the hallway she stealthily made her way to the elevators. She pressed the call button and tapped her foot nervously, looking back and forth down the hallway. The doors opened and she leapt inside. When the elevator doors closed behind her she breathed a sigh of relief. 'So far so good' she thought as she pressed the button for the fifth floor.
While the elevator rose, Amanda mentally went over the floor plan for the offices, walking down the hall in her mind, finding the Major's office. Suddenly the elevator stopped. Amanda's eyes sprung open in surprise and she pressed herself against the inside edge of the elevator. As the doors slid open, Amanda peeked around the edge and checked the hallway. Finding it empty she ventured to the left, where she remembered the Major's office to be.
She made it to his office without incident, only passing two people on the way. Luckily, Dower was such a large company that they didn’t pay her any mind. Amanda tried the door only to find it locked. She closed her eyes and sighed, shaking her head. She pulled Lee's lock pick kit out of her pocket, glanced up and down the hallway, and started on the lock. A few seconds later she was rewarded with the sound of the tumblers releasing. She let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding, turned the knob and entered.
It was a corner office with large picture windows. However the blinds were drawn, immersing it in an unnatural darkness. Amanda hesitated to turn on the fluorescent lights and opted instead for the small lamp on the desk. She looked around for anything out of the ordinary. 'You'll know it when you see it' she thought. Lee had always told her that. She hoped he was right.
She opened drawers on the credenza behind the desk and searched through numerous files and folders. Nothing jumped out at her. She started on the desk, looking through the drawers first, them shuffling though papers on top of the desk. Her eye caught a manila folder, neatly labeled "Bethesda NAS". She flipped the folder open and recognized the contents as the Air Stations orders. However, some of the order quantities were circled. Amanda quickly memorized the date of the order and the quantities that were circled. She carefully replaced the file, straightened the desk and turned off the light. She was relatively confident that she had found what was she was looking for. What exactly it meant, however, she had no idea.
She opened the door a crack and peeked into the hallway. Seeing no one, she stepped into the hall and closed the door behind her, flinching as it latched. She quickly walked back to the elevator and headed back to the second floor, rejoining the group just before their afternoon break.
The man watched the woman exit his bosses' office from his hiding place at the end of the hall. Every instinct told him to get her now and take care of this problem right away. But he had been told, quite explicitly, to leave her alone. He had been assured that she would be taken care of in good time. He smiled to himself knowing his boss was never wrong.
Amanda returned to the hotel an hour early. She made her way to her room, exhausted but anxious to share what she had found with Lee. Arriving at her room she flopped down on her bed for a moment. She closed her eyes and relaxed, letting go of all the tension of the day. Amanda still hated going through other peoples things, even if they weren't 'good' people. A knock at the door startled her. Looking at the clock she was surprised to see that she had been lying there for almost an hour. She got up, looked through the peephole and smiled.
Amanda opened the door for Lee, who nearly pushed her aside in his haste to get in. She frowned at him and closed the door behind him.
"What's the matter?" Amanda asked as she followed him inside.
"I'm hungry." Lee replied. He was sitting on the edge of the bed with the room service menu open on his lap. "I wanted to wait for you to order."
"Oh Lee, I'm sorry." Amanda sat next to him and put her head on his shoulder. "I got here almost an hour ago. I should have called."
"That's okay. What did you find today?" Lee glanced over the menu, not really finding anything that interested him.
"I'll tell you after you've ordered. I need to look at those files I gave you this morning." Amanda made her way to the desk and started flipping through the papers while Lee placed his order. She found the file she was looking for and brought it back to the bed. Lee moved closer to her, watching as she flipped through the pages until she found what she was looking for.
"What have you got?" Lee asked, a look of curiosity playing across his face. He was enjoying Amanda's enthusiasm and had to admit that is was contagious.
"I found the file for the Bethesda Naval Air Station on the Major's desk. Their orders were in the file but some of the quantities were circled. I memorized the numbers." Amanda looked at Lee as he let out a laugh. "I've got an idea. Can you get me a pen?" She was looking intently at the page, her brow furrowed in concentration. Lee reached for the night table and handed her a pen. Amanda took it and started circling the numbers she had memorized earlier that afternoon. When she was finished, she had circled twelve numbers. She held the paper at arms length, hoping it would make better sense at a distance. Her concentration was broken by a knock on the door.
"That's probably dinner, I’ll get it." Lee answered the door and brought their dinner in. He was uncovering food and pouring wine while Amanda still stared at the page. Finally Lee cleared his throat. Amanda looked up at him.
"I would hope that after a long day at the office, you could put your work down long enough to notice me." he pouted.
Amanda smiled up at him. "I'm sorry. I thought I had something, I guess I was wrong."
Lee walked over to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Don’t push yourself too hard. Come relax and get a bite to eat. It'll come to you."
"You’re right. I'm starving." Amanda stood and walked over to the room service cart. A map on the desk caught her eye. "What's this?" she asked, picking it up.
"I heard of a good restaurant in the area but didn't know how to get there. I bought a map in the lobby. Why?" Lee looked at Amanda as her eyes got wide. "Amanda? What's wrong?"
"Coordinates." Amanda whispered and reached for the page she had set down on the bed. "Lee, these numbers are coordinates."
Lee took the page from her and read the numbers she had circled. "Amanda, how can you be so sure."
"Last year when Philip was going for his Junior Trailblazer cartography badge I helped him with his map reading. Part of the badge was being able to read coordinates and find locations on a map. Philip kept reading them backwards and ending up over in Africa but he finally…." Amanda got a far-away look in her eyes as she remembered her son's project.
"Amanda," Lee interrupted, "the point?"
"Anyway," Amanda shook her head, cleared her thoughts and continued, looking deeply into Lee's eyes, "these are coordinates. See the first number is 36, then there's a 62. That's 32 degrees and 59 minutes north latitude. Then there's a 114 and an 11. That's 114 degrees and 11 minutes west longitude. I'd bet my dinner on it." she concluded with conviction.
"Okay, I'll check it out." Lee took the page over to the phone and placed a call to Billy. Amanda started on her dinner as Lee relayed her day's activities to her Section Chief. He told Billy what their suspicions were and read the list of numbers to him. Lee looked to Amanda and mouthed "He's checking." Amanda nodded and continued to eat. Suddenly Lee's eyes grew wide and his grin even wider. Amanda stopped chewing.
"Thanks Billy. I'll let her know." Lee hung up the phone and turned to Amanda. He had a wild look in his eyes. He leaped across the room and picked Amanda up in a rush. He swung her around and set her down, planting a kiss on her lips. Amanda staggered and almost fell, catching herself on the edge of the bed and sitting down with an 'oomph'.
"Lee, did I miss something?" Amanda innocently asked.
"No, you nailed it." Lee was still grinning from ear to ear. "Those numbers were coordinates, very important coordinates. Coordinates that the Russians would love to get their hands on." He was practically dancing as he spoke.
"Lee, please get to the point." Amanda calmly requested.
"Honey, those were missile launch sites. Specifically, they were launch sites in Nevada, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. He's getting the coordinates for launch sites in the orders." He stopped dancing around and looked at Amanda. She was quietly sitting on the edge of the bed, absorbing the news.
Lee picked up a wineglass and handed it to Amanda. She took it from his hand and looked up at him. He picked up his own and looked at Amanda. His eyes were gleaming as he spoke.
"A toast," he and Amanda each raised their glasses, "to you Amanda." Amanda blushed and lowered her gaze. "You are by far, the smartest, most resourceful woman I have ever had the pleasure of knowing." He placed a finger under her chin and tipped her head up. She looked into his eyes and could see the love evident in them. She had always prided herself on being a good judge of feelings and character. As they each took a sip of their wine, she knew without a doubt that this man loved her nearly as much as she loved him.
"Now all we need to figure out is how the Major knows which numbers are the numbers he's looking for." Lee took another swallow and set his glass down. He picked up the order again and looked hard at it, as if willing it to give up it's secret.
"That's easy." Amanda stated.
"Oh?" Lee looked at her with half a grin. "Easy you say?"
"Mmm-hmm." Amanda replied with a mouth full of wine. She took the page from Lee's hand and motioned for him to sit next to her. He complied and she looked the order over.
"See here," she said, pointing at the numbers, "these quantities are all in case size, look, six here, twelve here, twenty four here. Then here, "she pointed at a quantity directly above one of the circled numbers, "they've ordered nine, an odd quantity. See there are nines before each of the circled numbers. That's why he insists on having the original orders. After they are entered into the computer, it resorts them into alphabetical order. He needs the quantities as they were originally placed to get the correct order for the coordinates."
She looked at Lee. He was looking at her with a smile full of pride. He leaned forward and kissed her gently on her lips. "See what I mean." he whispered. "You’re amazing."
"Lee," Amanda croaked as he drew closer to her. "What do we do now?"
Lee raised an eyebrow and puckered up for a kiss. "I'm sure we can think of something."
Amanda held her breath, as the room temperature seemed to rise twenty degrees instantly. She leaned back a little and softly whispered "I mean about the Major."
Lee stopped moving forward and sighed. He sat up straight and looked at Amanda for a moment. She was looking at him with an expression somewhere between anticipation and fear. "I'm sorry," he said, taking her hands in his. Amanda smiled and relaxed a little. "I'm not making this very easy on us am I?"
Amanda shook her head in he negative, biting her lip. "Honestly Lee, you haven't made it easy on me for years now." He smiled at her and pulled her into his arms.
"I've been a little stubborn haven't I?" he said as he rubbed her arm. "I should have been more open with you from the start."
"Lee, I don’t think you knew what you wanted 'from the start'. I understand why it took you so long to figure out what you wanted. You've been through a lot in your life." Amanda turned, looked into his eyes and continued. "Besides, the best relationships are always based on friendship, and I consider you to be my best friend. Everything that I've experienced over the past few years has only brought us closer together. I wouldn't change a thing."
Lee smiled and looked at Amanda, a twinkle in his eyes. "Even the getting shot at parts?"
Amanda hesitated for a moment, carefully weighing her answer. "Well, I suppose those parts could have been fewer, but I still wouldn't want to change anything. Now, in the future, it would be nice if that could be avoided as much as possible."
Lee laughed and hugged her tightly. "Okay then, back to business." He stood and started pacing. "Billy wants you to go back in tomorrow and see if you can get anything else. Maybe find other files to see if there are any other bases giving the Major information." He stopped for a moment and turned to her. "Do you think you're up to it?"
"Sure. I'm pretty sure no one saw me today." Lee frowned at her phrasing and put his hand to his forehead.
"Pretty sure?" he nearly moaned.
"Well, I suppose if someone had seen me I would have been stopped, right?" Amanda remained unfazed by Lee's exasperation.
"I guess you have a point. Just be sure to make your check-ins with me." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a slip of paper. "I don’t want to have to use this."
Amanda reached for the paper, unfolded it and instantly started to laugh. Neatly written in Lee's handwriting was "National Guard 317-555-9065".
The office was completely dark when the man opened the door. He stood for a moment, his eyes adjusting to the darkness. He looked at his watch, confused. He was sure his boss had told him to meet him at exactly 7:30. He heard a noise and jumped.
"You're late Robert." Major Watson said. He was sitting at his desk, his hands folded and resting on his lap.
"No sir, my watch says 7:30 on the dot." Robert was getting nervous. It was never a good idea to keep the Major waiting. He had a terrible temper, which Robert had seen demonstrated a number of times. "Although I'm sure I'm wrong." He humbly continued.
"Shut up Robert. It makes no difference. That woman has been in my office and probably knows everything. Do you know who she is Robert?"
"Mandy Kingston sir." Robert wasn't a military man but found himself standing at attention whenever he was in the Major's presence.
"No, Robert, she is not Mandy Kingston. She is Amanda King and she works with the Agency. She's usually partnered with Lee Stetson. You probably know him better as 'Scarecrow'." The Major smiled as Robert flinched at the mention of the well-known code name. "That's right, Robert, Scarecrow. However, she seems to be working alone on this one."
"Do you want me to take care of her tonight sir?" Robert was getting antsy. He wanted to please his boss and the sooner the better.
"Relax Robert, there is plenty of time for that. I'm expecting one more message to come through tomorrow. It will be the big one. I should be able to get enough 'funding' for the information to be able to retire to a small Caribbean island for the rest of my days." The Major leaned back in his chair. "No, Robert, you can take care of her tomorrow morning. When she gets here for the meeting, grab her. Don’t hurt her too much though. I want to deal with her personally."
Robert smiled at the Major's words. He had seen his boss deal personally with several 'problems' and he was very much looking forward to witnessing this one.
Amanda walked through the front doors of the Dower Pharmaceuticals building with a spring in her step. After their talk the night before, she and Lee had enjoyed the rest of their dinner and then watched an old movie on television. Lee had spent the night in her room again, chalking it up to 'protection in case the Major has figured it out'. Amanda smiled at the memory. He had looked so sincere when he spoke the words but they both knew the real reason why he was staying.
Amanda signed in at the receptionist's station and got her badge. She walked to the elevator and pressed the call button. The doors opened and she stepped inside. She was about to press the button for the second floor when a man jumped into the elevator beside her. He bumped into her, practically knocking her over. He quickly pushed the button for the fifth floor as the doors began to close.
"Excuse me, I need the second floor." Amanda said, trying her best to be polite at this rude man.
He turned to her and regarded her with a look of utter contempt. Amanda shrunk back a little. "No Mrs. King, you need the fifth floor and I'm your escort."
Amanda looked calm and collected as she responded. "I'm sorry sir, you must be confused. I'm Mandy Kingston and I'm expected in a meeting on the second floor in about ten minutes. Now if you'll excuse me…" she reached for the elevator panel but jumped back when her hand was slapped.
"You will shut up and do as I say. You have a meeting on the fifth floor. You can attend conscious or unconscious, the choice is yours." The man gritted his teeth as he spoke.
Amanda sighed and leaned against the wall. She closed her eyes and pursed her lips. It was only 9:00. Lee wouldn't start to worry until after noon, when she missed her first check in. This was over three hours away. It would do no good to put up a fight now. Besides, she might get some more important information out of this guy if she went along willingly.
"Conscious sounds good this morning, thank you." She looked at the man and managed a weak smile. He smiled back, but his eyes betrayed his disappointment in her choice.
Lee looked at the clock on the nightstand, then at the watch on his wrist. He groaned when the times were identical. He had hoped one would tell him that Amanda was not late. It was 12:15 and Lee was shifting into panic mode. He had mentally given her enough time to make excuses and break away from the group. He had also given her enough time to find a phone. Then, he mentally timed her having to go across the street in case the phones in the building were temporarily out of service. Lee had finally run out of excuses. Something was wrong, he could feel it in his gut. He checked his sidearm and left the hotel.
"Mrs. King, we've been over this a hundred times. We know who you are and for whom you work. I want to know what you know about me." The Major had Amanda tied to a chair in a storeroom off of his office.
"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about. These ropes are a little tight. I don’t suppose you could loosen them a little for me?" One look at the Major's face spoke volumes. "I guess not then." She paused for a moment. "People are going to be looking for me soon. They were expecting me at that meeting downstairs. Don’t you think they are going to start to wonder where I am?"
"I took care of that already. Unfortunately you have fallen ill and are spending the day recuperating in your hotel room. You were kind enough to call me this morning to let me know you would not be attending the conference." The Major smiled when he saw the look of concern spread across Amanda's face.
"Wasn't that nice of me." Amanda whispered sarcastically.
The door opened and Robert walked in. "Sir, that package you were waiting for has arrived. It's in your office."
The Major ran his fingers down Amanda's face, caressing her jaw-line. She jerked her head back and flinched when the ropes bit into her arms a little more. The Major laughed and turned to leave. "Watch her Robert. I'll be right back."
Robert smiled at their captive and sat in a chair near the door.
Lee impatiently sat in his rental car in front of the Dower building. Finally a rush of cars pulled into the parking lot and about three dozen men poured out and ran up to the front doors. A dozen or so took off in different directions to surround the building and cover all the exits.
Lee jumped out of his car and rushed for the front door as well. He was stopped at the front door by one of the uniformed SWAT members. He flashed his ID and was motioned to continue. Lee ran straight for the stairs. He knew Amanda would be on the fifth floor and had no time for an elevator. 'I hope I'm in time' he thought to himself as he took the steps three at a time.
Once on the fifth floor he made his way down the hall to the Major's office. Amanda had described the layout so vividly that he felt like he'd been there before. When he reached the Major's office door, he stood back. The door was open a crack and he could hear someone speaking.
"I know what we agreed on Comrade, but I've just raised my price. You see, I have the coordinates here for the Air Forces top secret testing facility. I know you'll want these for your precious spy satellites. Imagine your popularity when you can show your friends crystal clear images of America's newest and grandest military aircraft." The smug voice was only partially muffled by the half-closed door.
Lee took a deep breath and waited. "Good then," the voice continued, "I see we agree on something. Have the money wired to my account. Once I receive confirmation, you will get all the coordinates. Good day Comrade."
Lee stepped back and raised his gun. The Major opened the door and took a step out. Immediately Lee had the gun to his back. The Major froze in place and raised his hands. A small smile played across his face, unseen by Lee.
"Good afternoon Major Watson. I don't believe we've been properly introduced." Lee spoke as he patted the Major down. "We do however have an acquaintance in common. Her name is Amanda and you are going to take me straight to her, slowly." Lee removed a gun from a shoulder holster on the Major's right side.
The Major nodded and slowly walked forward. When they reached the storeroom door the Major spoke. "So, am I to assume you are the infamous Scarecrow?"
"Shut up." Lee said and nudged him with the butt of his gun. But the damage had been done. Robert had already heard the Major and was ready for them to enter the room.
The Major opened the door and walked through. Lee saw Amanda tied to a chair. She did not speak but her eyes were wide. Too late, Lee realized what she was trying to tell him without words. He felt a solid blow to his neck and everything went black.
Lee awoke to find himself firmly tied to a chair. His head was pounding and it took him a moment to remember where he was. He slowly shook his head and looked around. His eyes focused on Amanda. She was sitting still, across the room, her eyes closed.
"Amanda." Lee whispered. She opened her eyes and smiled when she saw that he was all right.
"Thank goodness." She said, her smile growing even wider. "You’ve been out for about ten minutes. We need to get out of here." She began to struggle with her bonds again; her resolve renewed now that Lee was conscious.
"Hold on, where did the Major and his friend go?" Lee was working on his ropes, too.
"They headed down to the lobby. He said something about Canada. I think he's planning on hiding out there for a while." Amanda was watching Lee work on his ropes. Apparently they hadn’t tied him as tightly as they had Amanda. She gave up on her ropes when she saw that Lee was nearly loose.
Lee smiled triumphantly as the ropes dropped to the floor. He stood up, rubbing his wrists. Walking over to Amanda, he untied her. She stood and made to hurry out of the room. Lee caught her and turned her around.
"Lee, he's getting away!" Amanda frantically shouted.
"No he's not." Lee pulled her into his arms, holding her close as if to assure himself that she was okay. "I brought reinforcements." Amanda snuggled closer against Lee, reveling in the comfort he provided. "The National Guard?" she teased.
"Close, they were busy for the afternoon. I had to settle on the SWAT team." Lee smiled as Amanda laughed. "Come on. Let’s go say hello to your cavalry."
They turned and walked, arm in arm, out into the hallway.
Soft music filtered throughout the restaurant. Lee looked across the table at Amanda. She was reading the menu, trying to decide on either an appetizer or a salad. The candlelight cast a glow on her face that, if it were possible, made her look so much more beautiful. Amanda looked up at Lee and caught him staring at her.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Amanda reached across the table and patted Lee's hand. He grabbed hold and caressed her fingers.
"I was thinking about how lovely you look tonight." Lee smiled as Amanda lowered her gaze and blushed.
"I'll bet you say that to all the girls." Amanda said lightly.
"Nope, only the ones I have to rescue from life threatening situations at least once a month." He laughed and squeezed her hand as she sighed.
"He caught me off guard. I didn’t put up a fight." Amanda began to explain.
"Hey, don’t worry about it. You were great. If it weren't for you the Russians would have some new, important targets." Lee's tone turned serious as he continued. "You know, you've come a long way since I pulled you out of a crowd. There are agents who train for years and never get as far as you have. I'm really proud of you, you know."
"Thank you Lee. It means a lot to hear you say that." Amanda softly replied.
"But," Lee continued, "next time, you are going to have proper backup. I'm not going to have my prodigy getting caught."
"Prodigy?" Amanda asked.
"Well, that's what Beeman says every time you ace one of his tests. That you're my train station prodigy." They both laughed as the waiter brought their drinks.
"Lee," Amanda started, "I meant what I said the other night."
"Oh?" Lee raised his eyebrows questioningly.
"I wouldn't change a thing." Amanda smiled at him. "Not even the life threatening situations."
Lee stood up and leaned over the table. "I'll always be there to rescue you."
"Prince Charming?" Amanda teased.
"Count on it." Lee leaned closer and sealed his promise with a kiss.