*DISCLAIMER** Scarecrow & Mrs. King is copyrighted to Warner Brothers and ShootThe Moon Production Company. The original portions of this story, however, arecopyrighted to the author. This story is for entertainment purposes only andcannot be redistributed without the permission of the author. If you want to put it on your site, please email me. No infringement of copyright is intended.
This version is updated and additional portions have been added at the beginning and the end. They came from writing Billy's Case Files, and are Billy's views and actions to make the trip come about. These are not strictly based upon canon—which is why they are included in Road Trip and not Billy's Case Files. And I loved writing Sikes' report. He's a fun character, and his viewpoint helped highlight the Lee-Amanda dynamic as it presented itself to the rest of the world.
I've read a lot of SMK fanfic, but I have yet to come across the story of driving the Vigilant to Arizona. Maybe because it's First Season and has little potential for romance. But there is a story wanting to be written, so I have done it.
The restaurants described are taken from my own various road trips during my life and have all actually existed as described, at one time or another. I've also driven many of these roads myself: I40 across Tennessee, I40 from Albuquerque to Flagstaff and I17 from Flagstaff to Phoenix. They're all great scenic drives. I don't know which were finished or not in 1983, and I really don't care. We'll just suspend disbelief and pretend they existed then as they do now.
I will say I had a great deal of fun tormenting Lee. But because of the way he treated Amanda at the beginning (this is right after episode 4 remember) he richly deserves it. I think of this as Lee's second big foray into "normal" life. Betsy Ross Estates being the first.
I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I declare, these people sure have minds of their own, and this is somewhat different than I had originally envisioned, but then these people just start doing their thing, and all I can do is record their actions.
Timeline, Immediately post Magic Bus. (You have to stretch things a week, though otherwise it stays in canon.)
PG for language.
Immediately after Magic Bus
Late Sunday morning, Billy was in his office, clearing up the paperwork from the Survivalist's case. 'How they found out about the Vigilant… We've got to be more rigorous about background checks for congressional staff. Holt shouldn't have gotten through.'
His phone rang, and Billy answered, "Melrose here." He listened to the Army General on the other end of the line. He agreed and murmured positively in all the right places. 'Best to humor these three-star types. They're used to ordering everyone around and getting them to make things happen.'
"That's an excellent idea, sir. I'll get right on it and report back. Good bye, sir." He hung up and thought for a moment. 'The Army Brass want Amanda King to drive the Vigilant to Arizona and for the tests at the Yuma proving grounds.' He shook his head. 'That woman is full of surprises. She'll be pleased, a full week of work with overtime plus mileage and the possibility of a bonus at the end. On second thought, I'll leave the bonus out of it. It might make her nervous. She'll want to keep in touch with her family, and she can call home in the evenings. That should make her happy. But I need her to agree to go on the trip, so whatever it takes, she'll get it.'
Billy gathered his papers and thought further. 'Scarecrow will be another matter entirely.' He sighed and paused. 'He'll be upset he won't be going in solo, and then to find out he has to go in with Amanda King driving the Vigilant… He'll be irate because he was shot, and he'll probably try to get out of it any way he can. Well, he can't. They want both of them. Just like this morning. I sure would have liked to see them in action. I got there just at the end. But the soldiers said they got the best of them, and amazingly, nobody was hurt, except for Lee getting shot.'
Billy checked his papers and made a call to the hospital where Lee was getting patched up. 'He'll be there for a couple hours more at least. Good. I'll call Mrs. King and get her to agree to the trip, then spring it on Scarecrow in person. He'll be unhappy, but if I make it an order and imply he can't handle the assignment anymore… He'll agree, with bad grace.' Billy chuckled to himself. 'Sometimes, I have to be a psychiatrist to get my people to do their jobs. Why can't they just take their assignments? Why do they always have to comment or try to get out of the less glamorous stuff? It's not like I create the assignments or decide what needs to be done. I just asses the situation, and make the best of things with the people I have. And right now, the people I need are Lee Stetson and Amanda King.'
He picked up the phone to dial Amanda's home number. 'Maybe I can be out there at Yuma for the test Friday afternoon. I'd like to see those two in action. Oh to be a fly on the wall for the week in that RV…' He laughed out loud as he imagined poor Scarecrow trapped in an RV for a week with the irrepressibly cheerful and enthusiastic Mrs. King. 'She'll drive him crazy! Hopefully she'll be able to put up with him, because he surely will be in a foul mood all week. But if anyone can put up with him, she can. After her week running interference for him while he was in the hospital for his annual physical—twice!—she managed to keep him calm and cooperative and the hospital people were very grateful for her presence. Hopefully Lee won't see the notation in his medical file that her presence as a buffer is a requirement if he's ever in that hospital for his physical again.'
He dialed the familiar number, "Good afternoon, Mrs. King," Billy began his conversation with Scarecrow's partner.
"Hello, I'm home!" Amanda announced as she returned from her "weekend retreat" with the Survivors.
She was answered with resounding silence.
'Well, they must be out enjoying their weekend. I didn't expect to be home so early,' she thought to herself.
She brought her bag up to her room and unpacked. Then she checked the general laundry situation and started a load. The house was relatively clean, the dishes all done, so she sat and read her latest romance novel while she waited for the laundry.
As she was loading the washer for the third time, the phone rang.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. King." It was her boss at the Agency, Billy Melrose.
"Good afternoon, sir. Is anything wrong?"
"No Amanda, nothing is wrong. In fact, we're all quite pleased with your work this weekend."
"Thank you, sir."
"Especially your driving skills with the Vigilant."
She blushed. "Oh well—I just did what I had to."
"The Army personnel were very impressed with your ability to outmaneuver them."
"They were so impressed, they have requested your help driving the Vigilant to Arizona. And they also want you to drive it during the test at the Yuma proving grounds."
Amanda was shocked, "Sir! I thought Lee was going to do that?"
"That was the original plan. But with that bullet wound in his right leg and your driving display, the Agency has decided to change the plan. If you're available, you and Lee will drive the RV to Arizona and you will drive and Scarecrow will attack during the test at the proving grounds. Just like you did earlier today in the woods."
"Wow, that's a long drive…"
"We're planning on taking a week—four full days of driving with a short drive to the proving grounds and the test on Friday afternoon. You'd leave tomorrow morning, and be home Friday evening."
"A whole week away…"
"The Agency will pay you for the entire week you're away, all expenses will be covered—food, motels and incidentals—and we'll fly you back Friday evening."
"Will I be able to call home every night? It helps if I can talk to everyone here."
"Of course. You'll have your own motel room and you can call whomever you like. Plus, you and Scarecrow will have Army escorts—three cars with six troopers to keep an eye on the Vigilant. Not that you'll need it. We're flying the decoy out west. All the attention will be there. You'll be just another RV on the road."
"A whole week?"
"You'll get overtime and mileage, in addition to your usual pay."
"Wow! That extra money sure will help—and Christmas is coming… I'll do it, sir!"
"Good. The Army—and the Agency—will be pleased. We'll be by at 6am tomorrow with the RV. You'll leave then. Can you manage that?"
"6am, that's early." She thought a moment. "Sure, sir. But I have to get busy if I'm gonna be ready then."
"All right. Lee and the Captain will be by at 6am tomorrow. You be ready then."
"Yes sir. Thank you, sir. I'm really glad I can help like this."
"Good bye, Amanda."
"Good bye, sir."
She stood at the island in her kitchen thinking. 'Gosh, a whole week's pay with mileage and overtime. Wow! That should really help pay for Christmas. The boys have their lists started already—over two months ahead of time. Maybe I can get them some of those new video games they want so badly. That Atari game player is pretty expensive—but with the extra pay, I might be able to get one.' She sighed. 'And then there's the prospect of a whole week with Lee. Maybe I can get him to tell me a thing or two about himself. A week in an RV is pretty long—he'll have to talk to me about something in all that time.' She smiled to herself. Then she moved quickly. 'Have to finish the laundry, and then pack for a week. Maybe I can make cookies for the trip. Three cars and the RV—and we'll need a lunch for the first day at least…'
At the hospital, Lee was finishing up with the doctors. He was in a bad mood. Amanda had been debriefed and gone home hours ago. Billy was with him and had commented—several times—how impressed he and the Army brass were with Amanda's driving skills.
Billy was feeling pleased. "You two make a really great team—Amanda driving and you attacking. The Army brass want to keep you two together for the test in Arizona."
"What?" Lee was taken aback. "I was supposed to go in solo!"
"They've changed their minds. It will be operated by a team in the field anyhow. And they were highly impressed it's built so an ordinary housewife can drive it with no special training."
Lee was desperate. "Billy, why not get another agent? I bet Francine…"
Billy cut him off. "No—the brass specifically asked for Mrs. King. Besides, as a civilian auxiliary she costs less than a field agent and as the Army is paying for this junket, they want to keep expenses down."
Lee ran his hand through his hair. "So what, she'll meet us out there?"
"No, she will drive the Vigilant from DC to the Yuma proving grounds. You will accompany her and familiarize yourself with the operation of the Vigilant's offensive systems. Then Friday afternoon, Amanda will drive the Vigilant into their mockup town and you will attack."
"Billy! You mean I have to be cooped up for a whole week in the RV with Amanda King?"
"It won't be the whole week. You will drive during the day and stay at motels for the night. There will be an escort of three vehicles with six troopers who will shadow you along the way. You'll have your evenings to yourself."
"Just great! I can see it now—me stuck in some highway motel with six soldiers and Amanda King. It probably won't even have a bar."
"So bring a book to read," Billy said dryly.
"Scarecrow—this is the Army's game and they want you and Mrs. King. So that's what they'll get." Billy was getting annoyed at Lee's reluctance.
"Amanda won't agree to it. She won't want to be away from home for a whole week…" Lee was getting desperate now.
"She has agreed as long as she can call home every evening. That's a reasonable request and one I was very happy to agree to. She is looking forward to this. And I expect you to work with her and be professional. Can you manage that?"
"Billy!" Lee was aggrieved. Billy gave Lee a look. Lee ran his hand through his hair—again. "Fine—I'll work with her. She can be in charge of the maps."
"No Scarecrow. Mrs. King will drive—at least for the first three days. Doctor's orders. You are to rest and let that leg heal. And driving 500 miles a day is not in the plan to let the leg heal." Lee started to protest, but Billy cut him off. "And that's an order. Got it?"
"Billy, I swear—if I didn't know better I'd say you were trying to fix me up with Amanda…"
Billy was stern. "Mrs. King has proven her skills—the Army brass requested her—she's going along," he stated with finality. "Are you saying you no longer want this assignment?"
"OK, OK! I can be a professional as the next guy." Lee then mumbled in a low tone "Though why they prefer a housewife with no training to…"
Billy cut him off. "What was that, Scarecrow?"
"Nothing, Billy." He stared at his boss looking frustrated. "When do we leave?"
"The Vigilant will be ready at 5am. Captain Sikes will drive it and you to Amanda's. She'll be ready at 6. Your itinerary will be in the van and you'll leave once she has familiarized herself with the vehicle and the route. Any questions?"
"No Billy. I'll be there at 5am," Lee said resignedly.
"Good. See you in a week, then. Have a nice trip."
Lee waited to reply until after his boss had left. "No chance of that."
As Amanda was mixing up the cookie dough—chocolate chip—the front door burst open and Philip and Jamie ran into the kitchen, followed by Dottie, who looked tired.
"Hi, Mom," the boys chorused.
"Hello, fellas. Where have you been all day?"
Philip started "We were at the zoo—they have this nature walk."
"Yeah," Jamie continued, "you follow a trail to see all the animals that live together in the wild. It teaches you about ecological systems and symbiosis."
"We were all over the zoo, three or four times!" Philip added helpfully. "It was great!"
"That sounds like you had a lot of fun!" Amanda hugged her boys.
Dottie chimed in, "Fun for the children—us grownups just sat and talked. Not that it was bad—no sir. The Littman boys' grandfather was there—he was widowed a couple of years ago—and he's ever so sweet. Though I do wonder if that's his own hair or a toupee. Mind you, if it's a toupee it's a really good one—and a good toupee isn't cheap so he must be doing OK." She got a pleased look on her face. "He asked me out next weekend. I said I'd call him and let him know if I could make it."
"Mother! Why didn't you just say "yes" right away?" Amanda was mystified sometimes at her mother's social interactions.
"Amanda—you can't seem too eager. Sometimes if you make a man wait a bit, he gets more interested in you. Not that you need to worry about that. You have Dean." Dottie smiled at her daughter.
"Yeah, Dean." Amanda answered with little enthusiasm. She steeled herself for the conversation to come. "Mother, I have to talk to you."
"Is it about you and Dean finally setting a date to get married?" She asked eagerly.
Amanda sighed exasperatedly. "No mother. It's not about Dean at all."
"Oh. Well, what is it then?" Dottie was expectant.
Amanda paused, and then plunged right in. "Um, I've been invited to drive an RV to Arizona."
Dottie looked intrigued—the boys stopped and watched their mother and grandmother interestedly. This should prove to be entertaining.
"Who invited you?" Dottie asked as the starting salvo.
"Um, an old college friend—Mazie Walters." Amanda tried to sound confident.
"Mazie Walters. I don't remember anyone from your college days with that name." Dottie was getting warmed up.
Amanda was momentarily taken aback, then she forged gamely onward. "She was a sorority sister—two years ahead of me. Anyhow, she just bought this RV and she's gonna drive it to their vacation spot—they got some land in Arizona and they'll stay there—park the RV there and fly back and forth. But she wants me to come with her and she'll pay for the whole trip plus something for my time and it should be a fun trip…"
"She must be very well off to be paying you for your time." Dottie sounded a bit incredulous.
"She married a stockbroker." Amanda shot back immediately—she was getting good at this.
"Why doesn't her husband go with her on this trip?" Dottie shot back quickly.
Amanda was feeling confident now, "You know the type—he's all work, work, work during the week. So it's either she takes it alone or I go with her."
Dottie was hooked, "She shouldn't drive all that way all alone. You never know what can happen—a blowout or engine problems. I heard once that an RV had an explosion in the plumbing—it was a real mess."
Amanda was momentarily taken aback. "Yes, well this is a new RV so I don't think that will happen."
"Is this related to why you had that RV delivered here last week?" Dottie was still curious about that one.
Amanda was anxious to put that behind her. "Oh not really—I thought about it but they're really expensive so I guess I'm just gonna experience it vicariously with Mazie."
"How did you hook up with Mazie?" Dottie was not ready to concede just yet.
Amanda was really confident now, "Funny thing—she was at the retreat this weekend. It was really nice catching up and she told me about her trip and asked me to come along and I told her I'd check with you."
"How long would you be gone?" Dottie was almost convinced.
"I'd leave tomorrow morning and be back Friday evening." This was the difficult part.
Amanda forged ahead quickly, she knew it was almost a done deal. "Well, it's a long drive to Arizona. Let's get out the maps and look, shall we?"
They spent the next half hour studying maps and tracing possible routes from DC to Phoenix, Arizona. Amanda wasn't sure exactly where the Yuma proving ground was—there were several large Army bases in southwestern Arizona—so she just supposed Phoenix was as good a place as any to end her imaginary trip with Mazie.
Eventually, Dottie agreed to watch the boys for the week while Amanda went to Arizona with her "sorority sister".
Dottie made dinner while Amanda finished baking the cookies. After supper she packed for the week. Casual clothing, but she included one nice outfit—just in case. 'I was hideously underdressed once, and I'm not going to make that same mistake again if I can help it.'
Once the boys and Dottie were in bed she packed up four tins of cookies—one for each vehicle, and a picnic lunch for Lee and herself.
'He'll probably insist we drive straight through. No stops for lunch or anything. But we'll have to make rest stops and even thought the Vigilant has an extra-large gas tank, the cars with us will have to get gas sometime during the day. So we'll have to stop a few times every day, whether he wants to or not.'
She was in bed by 11pm, and her alarm was set for 5am, giving her time to get ready, eat breakfast and make sure everything was set for her trip.
Billy was back in his office winding up all the paperwork for the trip with the Vigilant. He had one more call to make, to help make the trip a success.
"Captain Sikes?" Billy spoke to the officer who would be commanding the mission to accompany the Vigilant from DC to Yuma.
"Yes, sir!" Sikes was businesslike.
"I'm William Melrose from the Agency. I'm the section chief of the personnel you will be guarding on the trip this week."
"Why do I think this is more than a courtesy call, sir?" Sikes sounded pragmatic.
Billy chuckled. "Let's just say where the mission may be routine, my personnel are somewhat … how do I say this? … out of the ordinary."
"That sounds like a leading statement, sir, if I ever heard one."
"I'm sending the two people who operated the Vigilant early today. The whole incident was something of a fluke, but it turned out well, and your people want the same team as this morning."
"So what makes them out of the ordinary, sir?' Sikes asked.
"All this is classified, and somewhat off the record. But, as CO for the mission, I thought you'd have a better handle on the mission if you knew a few things, unofficially."
"Sir, I appreciate your trust in me, and I'll keep the information to myself."
"The two people I'm sending are partners, but they don't know it yet."
"Sir, would you care to explain that?" Sikes was patient.
"Lee Stetson, Scarecrow, is my best agent. He's been here for over a decade. He started his career with a year in country in 'Nam, and he's career Agency all the way."
"Yeah, a lot of us saw action in 'Nam, sir." Sikes sounded tired.
"Korea was my war, Sikes, but I hear you. Anyhow, Lee lost his partner a year ago, and has refused to work with anyone else since then."
"Refused, sir? Sounds like insubordination."
"Well, insubordination and Scarecrow go hand-in-hand. But he needs someone to keep him in line, and early this month, he found himself a new partner. Only neither of them knows it yet. I consider it a done deal, and now I need them to get used to it all."
"Care to explain a bit more, sir?" Sikes was intrigued.
"Scarecrow was on a mission and handed sensitive information to a civilian during the case, hoping she would hand it off to his contact. Unfortunately—or fortunately actually—she didn't manage to make the contact, and she ended up tagging along and solved the case and rescued Scarecrow as well. Since then, I've managed to get her working with him a couple more times, and as she's interested in the work and wants to continue with the Agency, so who am I to break up such a great team?"
"Who indeed, sir?" Sikes replied rhetorically.
"Anyhow, Amanda King is a civilian auxiliary, and she was the driver this morning. Your brass were impressed with her skills, so she will be the driver for the test. My man, Scarecrow will operate the armament. He was originally scheduled to go in solo, but after this morning, the plans were changed. And as Mrs. King is a civilian auxiliary, she won't cost as much as another full agent would."
"Have to keep the costs down, sir. I understand completely." Sikes said dryly.
"Yes. Mrs. King is thrilled with the assignment, but Stetson is pretty unhappy. I had to order him to go, and use a good bit of psychology as well. He's also recovering from a gunshot wound, suffered in the line of duty, and he's a lousy patient. So Stetson will be cranky to say the least, and as he's on enforced rest for at least three days, he can't drive either. Mrs. King has proven she can handle him at his worst, so I'm not at all worried about her. But Stetson may cause you some grief, just to blow off steam. Don't let him get to you. If he tries anything official, just contact me, and I'll review it and give it all the attention it properly deserves, before I deep-six it."
"I hear you loud and clear, sir. It will be my pleasure." Sikes laughed.
"Mrs. King is a good person, and I still wonder why she would want to be a part of all this, but I'm not going to pass this opportunity up. I'd appreciate it if you could look out for her a bit, and try to run interference if Stetson gives her too hard a time. Mostly just be there if she needs moral support."
"It will be my pleasure, sir. One other thing, though."
"What's that, Sikes?"
"What service was Stetson in during his tour, if I might ask sir?"
"Marines. He's currently a Captain in the reserves."
Billy laughed. "Don't hold it against him too much, Sikes. He has an uncle in the Air Force who raised him, and he didn't want to be a squid, so the Marines was his choice at the time. I think he chose the Marines mostly to annoy his uncle."
"Sounds like I'd like that uncle, sir."
"He's career military, and a good officer, if a bit unconventional at times. Anyhow, I'm hoping this trip will help Scarecrow and Mrs. King get to know each other a bit better, and get used to each other more. They seem to work well together but they're very different personalities and have vastly different backgrounds. They argue a lot, but that's not a worry for me, as long as they can get the job done. They need to find some common ground between them, and a week together on a long trip sounds like an ideal way to let them become more friendly toward each other."
"Should I expect them to be sharing a room, sir?" Sikes asked a bit apprehensively.
Billy laughed. "You don't know Mrs. King, otherwise you'd never ask that question. No, Sikes, they will definitely have separate rooms, maybe at opposite ends of the motel, if Scarecrow has his way. Just put them in adjoining rooms, and that will be enough. They have to work things out between them by themselves, if they are to be a successful team. And so far, they are successful. And I want to keep them that way, so I'm giving them a bit of a nudge with this little trip."
"It's your call, sir. But I'm glad I'm not in your position. Sounds like these two could be more trouble than they're worth."
"Actually, I like Stetson, he's a great agent and a good man as well. But that doesn't mean I'm blind to his faults and shortcomings. And Mrs. King compliments his skills and faults beautifully. She has the people skills that Scarecrow lacks. And some interesting instincts, if reports are to be believed. And he has the experience and training. So for now, they're partners until it's clear to me they aren't working out, or they fail to get the job done consistently. And for this week, they're under your eye, which is why I made this little heads-up call. Scarecrow doesn't always go by the book, but he does get the job done, and he has a great solve rate, which is why he's still employed at the Agency. Mrs. King is enthusiastic and idealistic, but she can handle him. Just expect a few fireworks over the week, don't let Scarecrow get out of hand, and be there if Mrs. King needs moral support."
"You aren't asking for much, sir." Sikes said dryly. "I have a request, if I might, sir."
"What's that, Sikes?"
"One of my men has relatives who run a diner along the route. He's a good man, but he needs a bit of encouragement, and an impromptu visit might help him with morale. I'd like to stop there for lunch the first day, if that's all right with you, sir."
"Is it a secure site? Any chance for a mishap there?"
"I've checked it out, sir. I have no reservations about making the stop. We have to stop for meals anyhow, it's on the way, and in a good place for lunch. Just happens to be in the right place, and if I can help one of my men in the line of our normal duties, well, I like to keep my men happy if I can, sir."
"Then I'm OK with it. If Scarecrow squawks, I'll take care of it for you."
"Thank you, sir. Is that all?"
Billy thought for a moment. "That's it. Have a good trip, and enjoy Mrs. King. She's a good person, and very different from any other agent I know. Of course she's not an official agent…"
"Just like she's not officially Stetson's partner… sir." Sikes finished for Billy.
"If you have problems, you have my number. Don't hesitate to call, Sikes."
"No sir, but now I have this information, I think things will work out pretty well. Thanks for the heads-up, sir. I appreciate it."
"I'll see you Friday at Yuma. I want to be there for the test. I missed them in action last time, and this time I want to observe them for myself in the field. I don't get that opportunity very often, and I plan to take full advantage of it. Oh, and I'd appreciate a report from you on what you observe of them together. Unofficially, of course."
Sikes chuckled. "Well, sir, as you're OK with the lunch stop for my man, I guess I can write something up to repay the favor. And I think I'll stay to watch the test as well. If these people are as unusual as you say, should be an interesting test, all things considered. See you Friday, sir."
Lee finally got home in the evening after being treated and debriefed. He took a cab because his leg was throbbing—even with the pain pills the doctor had prescribed. He stopped for Chinese on the way home, knowing there was nothing at his apartment other than coffee, liquor and unidentified very old food in his fridge.
He ate after pushing papers and dirty clothes off the couch and coffee table. Then he packed his bags for a weeks drive in the RV.
'Just great—a week in an RV with Amanda King. And evenings in no-tell motels.' He packed a couple of sizable history books he had planned to read "someday". 'Might as well bring something to do in the evenings—otherwise it'll be pizza with rent-a-movies with the troopers or Amanda. Porn or family movies—what choices! I'll read. A lot.' He added another book to his bag—just in case. 'And seeing as there won't be any bars or anything…' He added a brand-new bottle of scotch. 'No reason I can't relax in the evenings. God knows, I'll need it after a whole day with Amanda King. Now if it was Francine… I bet we could find a few things to do to amuse ourselves…' He smiled at the memory of their brief affair a few years before after Jonathan had left her at the altar. 'We probably wouldn't be doing that—but we have lots in common and we can sure talk. What the hell will I have to talk about with Amanda? She'll try to "get to know me better"—just like this last weekend.' He sighed. 'Eric did, too.' Lee thought about his dead partner. 'But he was an agent and a man and we did get along. We weren't really alike—but he did turn into a good friend. I should call Lois when I get back. Make sure she and Bethy are doing OK. The pension and death benefits are good—so she has enough money to get by—but I still call to let her know she isn't forgotten. Billy does, too. But he isn't the reason she's a widow. I am. Eric took that bullet for me. First Dorothy, then Eric. And a few in between—though those two are the only partners I've lost.' He ran his hand through his hair. 'And Amanda King had the gall to think she was my partner! She has no idea what it means to be partners. "He laughs at your jokes, loans you his socks, and one day, takes a bullet through the head for you."' Lee bowed his head. 'That's all I told her but Eric was a good friend. He bailed me out so many times—once literally.' He chuckled at the memory. 'It was worth it, though. Inga is a great woman—even if she doesn't speak much English and didn't know making love in a public park is illegal. We just got unlucky to get caught by that cop. Good thing Eric was a family man—he was home when I called. We even managed to keep it off the books and Billy never found out. Hmmm. I wonder what Inga's doing these days? I haven't been to Sweden in a while—maybe I should hint around to Billy I'd be agreeable to an assignment over there…'
Lee sat musing about the delectable Inga. He got up and pulled out his black books, and added them to his luggage also. 'You never know—I might end up somewhere one of my "ladies" happens to live. I'll check it out once we get the itinerary. Since I'll be riding shotgun for the first three days, I'll have lots of time to check it out. The stops will be planned—reservations made—so I'll know in advance where we'll be each evening. Maybe I'll get lucky.' He got up again and went to his bedroom and removed a box of condoms from the drawer in the bedside stand. 'Better pack these as well—just in case.'