Title: Great Awakenings
Timeline: In between season two and season three - Summer 1985
Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King is the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon. I make no profit from my story.
Credits: References are made to the following SMK episodes: "The First Time", Magic Bus, "Sudden Death","The Long Christmas Eve", "The Mole", "Weekend", "Charity Begins at Home", "A Little Sex, A Little Scandal", "A Relative Situation", "Times They Are A Changin", "Ship of Spies", "Vigilante Mothers", "Over the Limit", and "Unfinished Business".
Author's Notes: I spent the past year making many additions and revisions to a story that I wrote in 2006. It was never posted to this fan fiction site or archived anywhere. I offer many thanks to my betas. Vikki provided her expertise for the original version of the story, and Anne shared her creative talents for the revised version.
The references in the prologue to religious violence in Beirut, Lebanon, and Guyana, South America are historical events.
Prologue and Chapter 1
Prologue: Portents of Doom
The glory days were in the past for the Cumberland Hotel, but the "old girl" was not completely useless. Today she was called upon to host a meeting of national importance. Concealed by the drab façade of decaying camouflage, the imposing structure was completely unremarkable to those outside the intelligence community.
Billy Melrose respectfully entered the inner circle of government officials. Invited by the new Agency director, Austin Smyth, he joined the upper echelon of national power, including representatives from the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Silently taking his seat, Melrose turned his attention to the Vice President of the United States, who'd already brought the meeting to order.
"Religious violence is a growing problem around the world and threatens Americans at home and abroad," the Vice President stated emphatically. "As a former United States Congressman and past director of the Central Intelligence Agency, I've followed the activities of religious extremists for decades. The tragic bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983 is a case in point. A 12,000 pound bomb destroyed the United States compound, killing two hundred and forty-two Americans. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility."
Seated around a massive mahogany table, the dignitaries nodded their heads in somber recognition of the horrific event.
Pausing to take a sip of water, the Vice President continued his cautionary address. "Let us never forget our own home-grown tragedy. In 1978, nine hundred and nine followers of Jim Jones died in a jungle encampment in Guyana, South America."
Bracing his hands on the podium, the Vice President studied his riveted audience. "You may recall that Jones formed his church, the Peoples Temple, during the 1950s in Indiana. The religious leader's beliefs were rooted in Biblical teachings, and his practices resembled Christian faith-healing revivals. However, the charismatic but erratic Jones eventually added Communist views to his ideology, so his ministry became too controversial to continue in Indiana.
"Moving to California in 1965, Reverend Jones and his group won respect for forming soup kitchens, starting clothing banks, and helping the poor find jobs. However, over time, Jones fell into disfavor again. Therefore, in 1976, the Peoples Temple fled San Francisco for Guyana, South America to establish a utopian society known as Jonestown."
"Conditions in the new community were unbearable, and the followers soon despised their new location. As the discontent grew among the group, Jones resorted to torture and mind control to keep his people from leaving. When word of abuse reached relatives in the United States, Congressman Leo Ryan and reporters went to investigate. Their arrival ended in tragedy. The congressman and three members of the media were shot to death by Jonestown's armed guards, and Jones' disciples died after he ordered them to drink a fruit-flavored punch laced with cyanide and tranquilizers. Jim Jones was later found dead from a probable self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head."
A heavy stillness settled over the room as the Vice President allowed the painful recollection to weigh upon the audience. "Religious terrorism is a major concern for our government. The full power of the White House stands behind our efforts to confront fanatical religious groups that cross the line into violence. To help us understand potential threats, we've engaged the cooperation of the faith communities."
As the listeners nodded their approval, the Vice President turned his attention to three civilian guests who'd been carefully screened for the meeting. "We have several respected religious leaders from the Washington D.C. Interfaith Council with us today. Allow me to introduce Reverend Elizabeth Noble, Rabbi Benjamin Tannenbaum, and Imam Abdullah Ben Ahmed Al-Razi." Like the intelligence community, they are working to prevent religious violence. "Welcome," he said, nodding to the trio. By way of introduction, I've asked each of them to say a few words."
Reverend Noble, her silver cross shining against the dark fabric of her dress, spoke first. "I'm sure I express the sentiments of my friends on the council when I say we are honored to be included today. While we may travel different paths toward God, we work together to help those in need and to promote understanding among the diverse religious groups. As spiritual leaders, each of us has been victimized by prejudice."
Rabbi Tannenbaum, dressed in a typical suit and tie, rose to speak. Only the yarmulke, resting firmly against his skull, announced his faith. "Whether we know the supreme being as Yahweh, or God, or Allah is not the key issue for our group," he said. "Each of us desires good will among the various faith communities and with the larger secular community. However, in recent months synagogues have been targeted by harassment."
"Intimidation of Muslims has also increased." A rounded Kufi cap identified the Islamic faith of the Imam . With folded hands, the gentleman nodded to the gathering. "The Prophet Muhammad taught belief in Allah, the Quran, fasting, prayer, and charity. Like the adherents of other religions who seek to worship as they choose, Muslims desire the freedom to practice Islam and live in peace."
"What about Jihad?" Dr. Smyth said, clearly bowing to no one. "Some radical Muslims seem mighty cozy with the Grim Reaper."
"Jihad means to struggle," the Imam responded calmly. "The Islamic faith involves an inward spiritual struggle to become closer to Allah. Acts of terror are abominable to most Muslims."
The Agency director eyed the clerics with his blatant air of superiority. "I assure you, there's plenty of blame to go around. All of the major religions leave a bloody trail in their wake. Even as we speak, unholy acts are rampant in the Holy Land and Northern Ireland. And history doesn't look kindly on the ruthless Crusades and the Inquisitions."
The religious leaders endured the flagrant accusations with stoic silence.
Dr. Smyth's blue eyes flashed with a clear reprimand. "Tsk, tsk. Pardon my irreverence. Unfortunately there are no visions of sugarplums dancing in the heads of children tutored at the knees of overly pious parents. All your holy books provide rather gruesome bedtime stories, don't you agree?"
Peering over the top of his reading glasses, Rabbi Tannenbaum challenged Dr. Smyth's sweeping judgment. "Jewish children are taught many moral practices from the Torah. Certainly the Ten Commandments represent a superior model for living."
"Ah, yes," Smyth said with a Cheshire grin. "Let's not forget the Almighty's famous 'thou shall not kill' commandment. However, all the hassles over the Promised Land have resulted in rather messy battles to claim real estate, wouldn't you say?"
"Please excuse me, Dr. Smyth." Reverend Noble rose to address the Agency's unapologetic cynic. "I also take exception to your statements. For Christians, Jesus' ministry and teachings trump the violent narratives found elsewhere in the Bible."
"Touché," Smyth acknowledged with a mock salute. "Chalk one up for 'Miss Everything Nice'. Unfortunately, Jesus, the peacemaker, bumped up against the Roman government and the Jewish authorities. He was even betrayed by one of his own disciples and condemned to a very violent death. Crucifixion is a nasty way to die, is it not?"
The Vice President raised a critical brow at the obtrusive Agency chief. "Dr. Smyth's skeptical remarks may have crossed the line of civil discourse, so let me stress that no rebuke is being directed at any particular faith tradition. We're primarily concerned with violent extremist factions."
Billy shifted his bulk and prepared to address the group. His instincts told him something significant would be landing in his lap. "Are there immediate threats of religious terrorism that could compromise the security of the United States?"
Elizabeth Noble passed around some pamphlets. "Printed flyers have been finding their way into the pews of local churches." In bold red letters the leaflet proclaimed, "The End is Near."
Billy shrugged. "Prophets and preachers have been proclaiming the end times for thousands of years. What makes this particular warning stand out?"
Carefully unfolding the brochure, Elizabeth held it up for all to see. "Please note the highlighted area on the inside cover. It states, 'the Lord will pour His wrath upon the seat of government, and calamity will crush the leaders of an evil society. The marble grandeur of political power will lie in ruin, and only the true Christian believers will be saved."
"That's a rather ambiguous threat," Melrose said. "Monuments, federal buildings, and politicians in Washington, D.C. could all be targeted." Billy reached for his antacids as his gut tightened in protest. It would be a fiasco if he had to order Stetson and Desmond to tangle with the overtly self-righteous. "Are fanatics planning to hasten the end times?"
"You've seen the light, Melrose," Dr. Smyth replied. "We may have a budding Armageddon brewing in the shadows of the nation's capital, or we may have one more crackpot flexing his spiritual muscles."
"Who exactly is spreading the propaganda?" Billy volleyed back.
"The leaflets have shown up in various religious services," Reverend Noble replied. "They seem to be the work of an evangelist from West Virginia - Jeremiah Armstrong."
An FBI agent produced a dossier. "According to my information, Jeremiah Armstrong is a self-proclaimed minister. He has a mail-order certificate of ordination, but no formal training from an accredited theological seminary. Apparently he was a lay member in the congregation called 'The True Church of God'.' When he had a falling out with the other members, he went on to establish his own congregation - 'The Only True Church of God'."
Pressing her hands flat against the table, Elizabeth Noble continued in earnest. "Our concern is magnified because Brother Armstrong has taken his message on the road. For three months of every year he's a traveling evangelist. This year he has zeroed in on the greater Washington, D.C. area."
"Yes," Rabbi Tannenbaum added, "but the propaganda is not only aimed at Christians. Jeremiah Armstrong's anti-Semitic literature has made its way into local synagogues."
The Imam held up another leaflet. "Muslims have also been targeted with proclamations of doom."
Billy scanned the faces of the government officials. "Unfortunately, the intelligence community doesn't have the manpower to keep tabs on every religious fanatic. Is there more to go on than printed threats?"
"Nothing definite," an ATF agent replied. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found a cache of explosives on the properties of some of Armstrong's church members. Even with that, it's a little early to shut down the spiritual sideshow."
"Well, kiddies," Dr. Smyth said, wagging a finger at his captive audience. "I detect more than one doubting Thomas in the group. Try wrapping an even bigger concern in your prayer shawls, folks. The Army recently reported the theft of explosives from an armory in Baltimore. Some of the devices are already showing up in Virginia.
Reverend Noble's face was etched with alarm. "Your revelation about stolen explosives has me second guessing a recent incident with a parishioner's vacation cabin, not far from Jeremiah Armstrong's camp meetings."
All eyes turned toward the minister as she continued. "Hattie Henderson, from Arlington, Virginia, was critically injured in a suspicious fire at her vacation home. In fact, she lies comatose in a hospital at this very moment.
"The incident was in my daily briefing today," Billy added. "Officially, the explosion is still under investigation as is a suspicious fire."
"You need to understand," the reverend continued, "Miss Henderson is a very feisty senior citizen. The preacher's threatening pamphlets prompted Hattie to disrupt the revival and give Reverend Armstrong a piece of her mind."
Billy's instincts went on high alert. "So, you think she provoked the anger of the camp meeting crowd?"
"Absolutely," Reverend Noble said with firm conviction. "However, after she visited the campgrounds, her behavior became very erratic. Hattie's closest friend spotted her walking around the Washington Mall. Not only did Miss Henderson fail to respond to a greeting, but she was wearing a backpack. When the friend teased her about the new fashion statement, Hattie grew very agitated and hurried away."
The Vice President's brow furrowed with concern. "Given the new insights today, we need to step up our efforts against potential terrorist attacks. Austin, may I assume you agree?"
Dr. Smyth's expression gave nothing away. Opening a small silver case, he carefully removed and lit a cigarette. Taking a long draw, he exhaled between clenched teeth. "If the final trumpet sounds, boys and girls, we'd better not be caught sleeping. It's time to put our spiritual house in order."
Chapter 1: Agency
Billy Melrose plowed through the double doors of the Agency's Field Section and acknowledged his staff with an uncharacteristic pleasantry. "It's a bee-u-ti-ful day in D.C., people." The chipper façade turned the heads of everyone present, producing more raised eyebrows than smiling faces.
Every agent, from seasoned professional to raw rookie, knew something was up. Like an aura before a migraine, Billy's effusive greeting acted as an unwelcome precursor to a dreaded assignment.
Pushing his hefty weight against the door to his office, Melrose paused for one more comment. "Stetson, Desmond, in my office, now," he bellowed, before disappearing into his private sanctum.
Lee sighed heavily, reluctantly removing his legs from his cluttered desk. "Oh, no, what now?"
"Let's hope it's not more spring cleaning." Francine set aside the daily briefing they'd been perusing. "He acts down right perky when he's ready to drop the despicable chore in our laps."
Lee's long stride propelled him across the room in time to hold the door for his female colleague. "This better not be some rookie 'chicken-feed' assignment," he mumbled, already in a bad mood.
Billy propped his hip on the corner of his desk. "Listen up, you two. I just came from a high level meeting. Our new Agency director has given field section a top priority assignment."
"His Excellency, Dr. Austin Smyth, has handed down a decree," Francine mocked with an exaggerated bow. "And we haven't given him a royal welcome yet."
Lee grinned at her antics. "Someone ought to give Dr. Smyth a crash course in espionage. He probably won his job in a late-night, Pennsylvania Avenue poker game."
"All right, can it, both of you." Billy's scowl deepened as he shot his top agents a look of warning. "Austin Smyth wasn't my first choice for Agency director, either. His rudeness, arrogance, and toughness will grate on everyone. However, he knows the intelligence community, and he's well-connected with Washington insiders. The Agency can benefit from a man of his caliber."
"Sorry, sir," Francine apologized, nudging Lee with an elbow. "We're all ears."
"What's up, Billy?" Lee crossed his arms and leaned his tall body against the window frame.
"Scarecrow, I need you to brush up on your religious fervor. You'll be going to a revival."
"What?" Feeling the blood drain from his face, Lee stared back, dumbfounded. Surely Billy wouldn't make him participate in some spiritual circus. "Come again."
"You heard me correctly, Stetson. I want you to keep tabs on a zealot who's preaching threats against the government. You'll be going undercover as a religious fundamentalist."
"Oh, for this, I'd sell tickets," Francine said with an unladylike snort.
Lee shot his female counterpart a poisonous look. "No, Billy, absolutely not. You know damn well I can't fit in with religious fanatics."
Melrose braced his arms on the desk and leaned close to his agent's face. "Your full scale squirming will not excuse you from the case, Scarecrow, so bag the tirade right now."
"Billy, why do you need me? I don't do religion."
"I just want you to observe, Scarecrow. I don't expect you to convert. If I was going to proselytize you, I'd take you to an Easter Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Besides, Lee, you did a great job in Germany posing as a priest."
"Well, I'm not a trained actor, so don't expect me to cozy up to Elmer Gantry."
"Jeremiah Armstrong," Billy corrected.
"Whoever, I'm not going to sit still for hellfire and brimstone."
"What's the matter, Stetson? Don't you believe in freedom of religion?" Francine was clearly enjoying his predicament.
Lee glared back at her as he paced between his colleagues. "Freedom from religion is more accurate in my case."
Billy was clearly out of patience. "Look, Scarecrow, I don't care if you're an atheist, agnostic, or merely a backslider. Your faith or lack of faith is strictly your business. However, I fully expect you to set aside your animosity today and conduct yourself with unbiased professionalism."
Lee lowered his head, the tic of his clenched jaw pulsating with barely controlled frustration. "Fine, just fine, but I expect 'Ms. Self-Righteous' here to partner with me on the mission. If I have to fake religion, I don't want to be the only hypocrite."
"How noble of you, Stetson. Thanks, but no thanks." Francine inched away from him like he carried the Bubonic Plague.
"Humph," Billy grunted. "The two of you at a camp meeting will not happen on my watch. That has catastrophe written all over it. Besides, Francine will have her hands full investigating threats to other faith communities."
"Well, I'm certainly not facing judgment and condemnation by myself." Lee reached out his hand to foil Francine's intended escape.
A knowing smile crossed her face. "Billy, I think the assignment calls for 'Miss Holier than Thou'. Someone with a solid upbringing in a typical neighborhood church could nurture our resident doubter in the ways of the faithful. Someone like A-man-da."
"A-man-da," Billy echoed with glee. "I'm sure Mrs. King would be delighted."
Arlington Ball Park
The spectators rose to their feet, roaring approval as the Arlington Bomber rounded first and headed for second. The centerfielder grabbed the ball on the third bounce and fired it into the glove of the second baseman, just as the runner slid into the bag. The umpire sliced the air with his two out-stretched arms. "Safe," he yelled, his voice barely heard above the wild cheers of the adoring fans.
Phillip King dusted off his uniform and waved to his mother and grandmother. "Way to go," they shouted in unison.
The boy looked so proud - after all, it was his double that enabled two runs to score, leaving runners on second and third. Despite the rally, the home team still trailed the visitors, four to three. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Bombers faced their final moment of reckoning.
Lee Stetson leaned against a towering oak tree that shaded the far end of the first base bleachers. It was a great game and for a few moments he was captivated by the excitement. The pressing business that brought him to the Arlington park now seemed less urgent.
Keeping his distance from the crowd, Lee loosened the knot of his tie and shrugged out of his dark suit coat. Maybe now he could blend into the casual atmosphere of America's favorite pastime. Noting the attire of other fans, he realized a Bombers' baseball cap would provide an even better cover. For future ventures into Amanda's world, he'd better be sure to buy an official hat.
"Batter, batter, batter," chanted the excited fans, eager for the suspenseful game to continue.
Trailing his eyes back to the ball diamond, Lee stiffened when he recognized the hesitant figure stepping into the batter's box. My God, it was Jamie King's turn to bat, and he looked terrified. The poor kid certainly didn't want to make the final out and leave the winning runs stranded on base.
The first pitch flew over the plate. "Strike one," the umpire shouted as Jamie swung and missed.
"Look um over," Amanda yelled from the third base stands as the boy's eyes sought her reassurance.
Nervously tightening his grip on the bat, Jamie moved his small body closer to the plate. Staring back at the pitcher, he seemed to freeze as a fast ball sailed past him, right down the middle.
"Strike two," bellowed the ump.
An annoyed Phillip stomped his foot in the dirt. "Pay attention, doofus."
"Strike him out," hollered the visiting coach as he signaled the pitcher.
Jamie ignored the taunts, but his body language spelled the agony of defeat. Choking up higher on the bat, he once again faced his nemesis.
With a slow windup, the pitcher checked his runners and finally released the ball. Jamie swung with all the power he could muster, managing to nick a piece of the speeding missile. The ball feebly moved along the baseline, and there it died - a foul ball.
"Good try," shouted a Bomber fan.
"Strike three, strike three, strike three," chanted the visiting team.
Lee cringed, feeling the pressure weighing on Jamie's shoulders. It may only be a game, but on this sunny afternoon it was the most important moment in the young boy's life.
"Ball one," the umpire called as Jamie ducked the wild pitch and hit the dirt. Now the King boy was really rattled.
Ever protective, Amanda and her mother left the stands, opting to hover behind the backstop. "Hang in there," a familiar raspy voice encouraged her offspring.
Securing his batting helmet firmly on his head, Jamie dug in his cleats and took a timid practice swing.
Lee moved closer, watching the pitcher complete his windup. "Come on, champ. Give it a wallop," he shouted before he remembered his proper place. Too late, common sense stopped him in his tracks. What the hell was he doing?
The crack of the bat reverberated through the park as Jamie connected with the speeding projectile. To everyone's amazement, the ball slammed against the infield. Then the wicked chop propelled the ball into a crazy hop that bounded over the pitcher's head.
"Run, Jamie," Dotty screamed, snapping the surprised batter from his lethargy and motioning him toward first base.
Amanda ran to the edge of the infield, frantically waving her arms. "Go, go, go." She kept up the chant as she ran alongside her son, almost the entire length of the baseline.
Infielders scrambled for purchase, and the runners charged from their bases. Rounding third, Phillip sprinted for home plate right on the heels of his teammate who'd already scored the tying run.
Snaring the ball on its third bounce, the shortstop took determined aim at the catcher's ready mitt. The perfect throw met its mark at the same instant Phillip lunged head first for the plate, plowing into the burley kid that blocked his path.
The ump pressed his face toward the tangle of bodies, trying to discern the correct call. "Safe," he yelled as the ball rolled away from the catcher's grasp.
Cheers erupted, and the Bombers flooded the field, gleefully pounding the exuberant Phillip and the relieved Jamie. The King boys were heroes, and their mother and grandmother were ecstatic.
Lee shook his head, amazed at the emotional rush he got from a kids' baseball game and the odd sense of pride he felt for two boys he'd never met. Moving away from the hullabaloo of the ball field, he wondered how he would ever attract Amanda's attention. Maybe it was his turn to wait in the car. Opening the Corvette door, he felt a tap on his shoulder.
"Hi." Amanda's voice stopped him before he could lower himself into the driver's seat. "Are you here looking for me?"
He whirled around to face his colleague. "Ah, yeah, but you seemed a little busy." He shoved his keys into his pocket and leaned his back against the Corvette. "Good game," he affirmed, pointing his thumb toward the ball diamond. "The boys did great."
"Thanks." Amanda managed a hesitant smile, apparently a little uneasy about his foray into the private world of the King family. Scanning the ball field, she kept an eagle eye out for her mother and sons.
Lee folded his arms across his chest, studying her for a moment. The versatile Mrs. King looked adorable in her Bombers' jersey and baseball cap. "You weren't on the bench with the team today. Did you give up coaching?"
Amanda shrugged with indifference. "Well, I was more or less forced to surrender my duties. The other parents felt I was late for too many practices." She lowered her voice and leaned closer to his ear. "Espionage isn't a nine-to-five job, you know."
Lee offered a sheepish grin. "I suppose that would be my fault for keeping you in the field too long." He reached out with his index finger and rubbed a smudge of mustard from the corner of her mouth. "Ah, just a little something from your hotdog, I guess."
Embarrassed, Amanda pulled a tissue from her pocket and hastily wiped his finger. "I was surprised to see you watching the game."
"That obvious, huh?"
"Well, you were the only adult male without a baseball cap or one of Mrs. Scott's homemade brownies."
He laughed in recognition. "Well, I didn't want to chip a tooth on one of the rock solid treats you ladies sell at the bake goods booth."
"No, we wouldn't want that, would we?" She nervously tugged on her Bombers' cap, pulling the brim lower on her forehead. Her pony tail swung back and forth as her brown eyes looked at everything but him. "Sorry, I couldn't get away from Mother until now."
"Yeah, I know." He reached for her arms in an effort to steady the erratic sway of her body.
"So, what brings you to the park?" She finally managed to look him in the eye.
"I need you, Amanda."
"You need me?" A blush spread across her cheeks.
Lee tried to back track. "Well, ah, what I mean to say is . . . Billy has an assignment for us." Now he felt the need to look away. "That is . . . if you're available."
"Sure," she responded quickly. "I mean, maybe. What is it?"
"Choosy, huh?" He offered a lopsided grin. "I thought you'd jump at the chance."
Diverting her gaze, she slid her hands into the pockets of her jeans and rocked back on her heels. "Well, ah, I like to know what I'm getting myself into."
"That's fair enough." He quickly slipped into business mode. "Billy needs us to attend a revival tonight."
"A revival?" Amanda's interest was definitely piqued. "Do you mean a revival of a play or a religious revival?"
Lee sighed. "I'm afraid it's the latter - an honest to God, rural, camp meeting revival. You know, as in halleluiah, sister." He raised his hands above his head and waved in a mock salute to the heavens.
"Oh my gosh." She eyed him warily. "Why does Mr. Melrose want me?"
"A-man-da, isn't it obvious? We're talking religion here. Billy wants one of us to be authentic."
"And, I guess he didn't mean you," she teased. "However, Lee, I'm hardly the revival type. A camp meeting would probably be a bit of a cultural shock for me, too. Gosh, this sounds totally out of the Agency's realm of expertise?"
"Yes, but the big boys from Pennsylvania Avenue have ordered the Agency to get involved. Apparently some Bible thumper came to town preaching gloom and doom on the heathen politicians of the United States government. The guy is also passing out leaflets that condemn the followers of other faiths. The religious community is very nervous."
Amanda looked doubtful. "Oh, Lee, a revival seems pretty benign to me. It's just old time religion. Maybe the sermon will be fiery, but the music will be uplifting, and the country folks will be friendly and sincere.
"Well, sincere or not, the faithful following may be listening to a terrorist."
"Oh my gosh, a terrorist? Are you expecting violence this evening?"
Lee shook his head. "There probably won't be any real danger during the service. However, Reverend Jeremiah Armstrong may be connected to some stolen explosives. And, too, he may have some heavy hitters among his support staff." Lee gripped her forearms firmly and held her in place. "Believe me Amanda, this is serious business."
She nodded in understanding. "You mean the bombastic preacher may also be a mad bomber. Has he already hurt someone?"
Lee blew out a ragged breath and raked his fingers through his hair "We aren't sure, yet. However, an older woman had a heated exchange with the preacher and was found critically injured when her vacation cottage exploded. The woman's name is Hattie Henderson, and she's from Arlington, Virginia. Do you know her?"
"No, I don't." Amanda shrugged her shoulders.
Lee impatiently checked his watch. "Look, I need an answer now. If you accept the assignment, Billy wants to brief you, and then we need to leave for Paris, Virginia by six o'clock. Otherwise, I'll have to rope Francine into going with me."
Amanda grinned and gently punched his arm. "Oh, I wouldn't miss the revival, big fella. It's not often that I get to see you operate totally outside your comfort zone. Tonight should prove to be very interesting."