Season: 5th. ..marriage is still a secret…but not for long
Disclaimer: "SMK" is copyrighted to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions. I retain rights to the plot, but not the characters. This story is meant for enjoyment purposes only. No infringement is intended.
Summary: Lee and Francine work together to rescue Amanda and Billy from a terrorist group
Archive: Yes, anywhere.
Lee parked the car in front of Amanda's house. Although he was starting to get use to using the front door, he still occasionally had the urge to head to the back…for old times sake. As Lee rang the door bell he patted his hand to his coat pocket to make sure the tickets were still there.
"Lee?" Dotty asked with surprise. "What do we owe the pleasure? Amanda's still at work. Matter of fact I just got off the phone with her.
"Oh…well I actually came to talk to Phillip and Jamie….are they home from school yet? Lee asked.
"Yes…they just got home a few minutes ago. Come on in." Dotty smirked as Lee entered the house. She was growing quite fond of him. "Phillip, Jamie. Can you come down? Lee is here to see you".
Lee heard the boys upstairs running down the hall. He smiled to himself. His relationship with Phillip has always been good, but now he and Jamie have built a strong bond. He definitely was pleased with how it was turning out for them all.
"Hey Lee" Philip smiled. "Hey Lee" added Jamie close behind. "What's up?"
"Well." Lee cleared his throat. "I was wondering if the two of you had any plans this Sunday".
"Besides homework and chores….not really". Jamie noticed the small smile at the corner of Lee's mouth. He wondered what Lee had planned. He and Phillip had been spending quite a lot of time with Lee the last few months - almost as much time as with their own dad. Not that he minded….Lee was fun to be around.
Lee smiled and looked up at Dotty. She had been watching them from the foyer. "It so happens that I was able to get three tickets to the Redskins game and was wondering if you wanted to come with me."
Phillip was ecstatic. "Are you serious? Yes. That would be so cool….ahhh…does Mom know?"
Lee just nodded and smiled. He turned to Jamie who was also smiling ear to ear. Lee knew that Jamie was a huge Skins fan. "And," Lee added…"we get on-field passes to the pre-game scrimmages. So I was thinking this might be a great chance to try out that action lens we got for your camera last month Jamie…maybe take some shots at the scrimmage?" Lee watched as Jamie's eyes just widened in anticipation.
"Wow! That would be awesome. Come on Phillip; help me get my gear…maybe we can take some practice shots outside!" The boys ran excitedly up the stairs. They stopped at the top. "Thanks Lee"! They shouted in unison. Lee just grinned…his eyes following them to the top of the staircase until they disappeared. Yes, he thought to himself, he could definitely get use to this.
Dotty cleared her throat…bringing Lee back to the present. "So, are you staying for dinner she asked? She waved her hand in protest before Lee even spoke. "After dropping that bombshell, the boys would kill me if I didn't make you stay".
"Well then, guess I have no choice do I?" Lee smiled. Dotty just nodded no.
*** *** ***
That evening as Amanda and Dotty dried the dishes, Dotty decided to broach the subject of Amanda and Lee's relationship. She noticed the twinkle in Amanda's eyes as she watched the boys and Lee play outside.
"So," Dotty began. "The boys were pretty excited about going to the game with Lee". She waited as Amanda just nodded before turning her attention on Dotty. "You know I can't help but notice how Lee has become quite a fixture around here. It has been nice having a male figure around for the boys. I mean I know that Joe is here now and that has been great, but with Lee, it's just that he seems to be here more".
Amanda couldn't help but smile at her mother's rambling.
"How long have you and Lee been seeing each other"? Dotty's voice interrupted Amanda's thoughts. "Have you and Lee ever discussed where this going? Are you two ever going to get married?
"M-o-t-h-e-r??!!" Amanda asked. She knew this was coming, but didn't expect it tonight.
"Well it just that you introduced us to Lee over a year now and I know darn well that the two of you were seeing each other for some time prior to that". She gave Amanda a look that stopped Amanda's speech. "Don't give me that," she added "I know better and I know he has been in your life longer than you claim…that is obvious. What I don't know is where all this is going?"
Amanda looked at her mother in silence for a few minutes. Absent mindedly playing with the finger where her wedding ring should have been. She was about to speak when Lee and the boys barged into the room.
"We're ready for dessert now", chimed Phillip. Lee and Jamie nodded in agreement. Amanda looked at Dotty.
"We'll finish this conversation another day…okay?" Amanda whispered to her mother. Lee noticed the look on Amanda's and Dotty's faces and knew they had interrupted something. He made a note to ask her about it at the office in the morning.
"Count on it". Dotty simply replied as she busied herself with getting dessert ready.
"Whew" Amanda thought to herself…"that was close"
*** At IFF the next day….***
"You know Lee, the boys have not stopped talking about Sunday's game. Jamie even spoke to his photography teacher this morning and called me to let me know that he can get extra credit if the does a scrimmage portfolio for his class." Amanda was beaming as she spoke to Lee. "They are so excited".
Lee smiled back. "Well I am looking forward to it too. So," Lee started as he grabbed Amanda steering her down the hallway towards the elevator. "What was all that with your mother last night"? Lee and Amanda had been busy all day and this was the first chance he had to ask her.
"Oh, Mother was just interrogating me about our relationship again. Only this time, she was really at it. If she only knew…." Amanda's voice trailed off.
"I know" Lee nodded as he pressed the button for the elevator. He turned her so that they were facing each other. Lee reached for her hands. "This secret is getting harder and harder the more I spend time with Dotty and the boys. We are lying to them. I don't like it". Lee's hand began playing with Amanda's fingers. They looked at each other and knew they were sharing the same thoughts.
"Lee!" Billy's voice woke Amanda and Lee from their trance and they quickly separated. Billy saw their feeble attempt to hide what was obviously going on between them and just rolled his eyes – a gesture that did not go undetected by Lee and Amanda. "Excuse me Amanda, but I need to borrow Lee for a minute". Lee and Amanda just shrugged as she headed into the elevator and Lee turned back towards Billy's office.
Lee and Billy entered the office. Francine was already there with a couple of files. She handed one to Lee as Billy spoke. "As you know, we have been observing the Sullivan camp for some time and we think we caught a break. We understand that there is going to be some type of communiqué with a possible terrorist group this Sunday. Lee I need you to…"
"No." Lee stated quickly. "I can't do it this Sunday Billy. I made plans".
"Then break them". Billy added somewhat irritated at the abrupt interruption by Lee.
"It's not that easy. I got tickets and I promised". Lee pleaded. He did not want to disappoint the boys.
"Oh, I am sure that Amanda will understand." Francine smiled in that irritating way to let Lee know that she busted him and Amanda yet again. She found it highly amusing that they went to such great lengths to hide their obvious relationship.
"But I am not going with Amanda". Lee blurted out before he could think.
"Ohhhh….really"? Francine looked like the cat that just swallowed the canary. "Does this mean that the Scarecrow is finally back on the market? I was beginning to worry about you".
"No. Yes. I mean no". Lee turned to Billy. "Look Billy, I just can't get out of this one".
"Can't or won't?" Billy asked with a disapproving tone. He could not fathom that Lee would have plans with another woman. "Who is so important that you have to pass the buck on this assignment"?
"Does it matter"? Lee asked. Praying to himself that this conversation would end soon.
"Yes it does, if you want me to consider reassigning this to someone else"! Billy added, his tone letting Lee know that he meant it.
"Oh. Well you see….I ahhhh…."Lee was noticeably uncomfortable. He ran his fingers through his hair before continuing. "….you see…I got tickets to the Redskins and I am…taking Phillip and Jamie…." Lee's voice was barely a whisper by the time he finished his sentence.
"Oh??" Billy couldn't hide his smile, relieved that it wasn't another woman.
"Amanda's sons"? Francine's voice filled with disbelief. "You are taking Amanda's boys to the game"? Lee dating Amanda was one thing, but playing daddy to her sons was something Francine did not expect. "So, when did you and the King Klan become so cozy"?
"Yes. Do tell". Billy piped in with a laugh. He was thoroughly enjoying Lee's discomfort. "I am a bit curious about that myself".
Just then, Billy's phone rang, much to Lee's relief. Lee let out a small sigh.
"I'll be right there". Billy said before he hung up. "Francine, you cover Sunday". Billy held his hand up to Francine before she spoke. He had made his decision already. "And Lee, we will continue this discussion later…." Billy stopped before he opened the door and turned back to Lee. "Enjoy the game!" He added with a chuckle.
"You owe me Scarecrow". Francine added as she followed Billy out the door.
"Whew!" Lee thought to himself. "That was definitely close" Lee muttered under his breath as he shut the door behind him.
*** Monday afternoon at the Q-Bureau***
Lee and Amanda entered the bullpen of the Agency Monday afternoon after a long lunch celebrating their 14th month wedding anniversary. "You know Lee, the boys really had a great time at the game with you yesterday. That is all they talked about the whole night and this morning".
"Well, I enjoyed myself too you know. They are great kids…you did a good job raising them." Lee smiled at the soft blush in her face. "Amanda, what do you think about going away on a week long trip with the boys and your mother next month? We both have some comp time coming to us. I figure it might be fun if we did something together. All of us…as a family", Lee added.
"What? " Although she and Lee had been trying to include the family in more get-togethers, a whole week long vacation might prove to be a bit too difficult to explain. Especially since no one knew about their marriage yet.
"Lee, you know that there is nothing more I would like then to have and be a normal family, but, until we are ready to tell them the truth about us and our relationship and what we do, I just don't see how we can go on a "family vacation". The disappointed look on Lee's face told Amanda how much he wanted this and how it was probably as difficult for him as it was for her. Over the last year, she has seen Lee and the boys' relationship become stronger. She knew how much he had come to love them. After all, he had watched them grow up for the last five years, albeit mostly from the window or backyard bushes.
Lee thought about what Amanda had said and looked at her with his twinkling eyes…."Well then, why don't we tell them"? Amanda shot him a look that told Lee that she was not quite as ready as he was to move on to the next step. Lee went over to Amanda's desk and grabbed her hands in his. His thumb caressed the finger where her wedding ring should have been. He kneeled down and looked directly up at her eyes. "Amanda, it has been over a year since we've been married and I know that we wanted to keep this a secret to protect our family from the dangers of our jobs, but other agents have families that they go home to every night. Look at Billy and Jeneene and their kids. If they can do it, why can't we? I want to know what it is like to have a normal family…I never really had that - not since after my parents died."
Amanda knew all to well that Lee was right. It was time. She looked down at her husband. She released one hand from his grasp and gently stroked his check…"maybe you're right, maybe its time, besides there may never be a perfect time. We just need to sit down and figure out………"
Francine walked into the door before Amanda could finish her sentence.
"Amanda, Scarecrow. Billy want us in the debriefing room ASAP", Francine's voice trailed off when she saw the look on both their faces and realized that she had walked into a serious and personal conversation. "Oh, I am sorry if I was interrupting anything". The glance they gave each other let her know that she was. Francine had sensed a change in their relationship over the years, but the past year seemed different. It was hard to even imagine Scarecrow being tamed by the housewife turned spy. She remembered the last time she confronted Amanda over a year ago. Amanda admitted that they dated but then told her it was over. But their behavior indicated that something even more serious was happening between them. She saw Lee reluctantly release Amanda's hands. "Well, Billy said it was urgent, so we need to get down there now….sorry. "
Francine's apologetic look told Amanda that she was sincere. She and Francine had definitely come full circle in their own relationship. Amanda knew that Francine not only accepted her as an agent now, but possibly even as a friend, although neither one would ever admit it to each other. They have been through a lot over the last few years. But, they still enjoyed exchanging barbs and insults. A part of Amanda hoped that would never change. "No problem Francine". Amanda quirked, hoping to alleviate the obviously serious nature of her and Lee's interrupted conversation. "We just got back from lunch so your timing is perfect". Lee shot Amanda a glance that let Amanda know that they would be picking up this conversation again real soon.
*** *** *** *** ***
At the Briefing Room, Billy was going over the report of a new organization the government had been servailing. All evidence pointed to a plot to release some type of chemical gas into the air. Lee was finding it difficult to focus. His mind kept trailing off to the conversation he and Amanda had started. It was a topic that he wanted to bring up to her so many times before. He had hoped to let Dotty and the kids know about their marriage prior to their first wedding anniversary. Lee was tired of watching his family from the outside. He was tired of being a part-time dad. He was definitely tired of being a part-time husband. Although he and Amanda found time to be together, it wasn't enough for him anymore. The more he was with her, the more he wanted to be with her ….all the time. Yes. He and Amanda will need to let go of their little secret soon and just learn to deal with the consequences.
He glanced over at his wife. She was studying the report that Billy had distributed to them at the beginning of the briefing. She was so engulfed in the report she didn't even sense him watching. He couldn't help but smile proudly at her. She was a full fledge agent now and she was good at what she did; and, he loved her for it. Suddenly Lee looked up and saw Francine studying him. The same probing look she would give to a suspect at her infamous interrogations. She obviously saw something when she interrupted them again in the Q-Bureau – a habit she was quite good at repeating. Lee felt as though she was searching into his soul for answers to her no-doubt curious questions about him and Amanda. He gave her a nod as if nothing had transpired. But he knew she saw something else in the way he was watching Amanda. Her smug returning smile let him know that she was on to something.
"Desmond!" Billy's voice jarred Francine from her thoughts. She had been observing Lee and Amanda since they walked into the briefing room. And the way Lee was watching Amanda, Francine knew that her suspicions were correct. Something HAD definitely changed between Amanda and Lee. It was no longer what she would consider one of Lee's typical flings. Just how much and how long was something she was going to have to find out. "Desmond, if you can please come back to the world of the living and let everyone here know the run down for tonight's sting"… Although Billy's tone seemed annoyed, Francine knew better.
"Yes Sir. " Well from what we understand Micheal Sullivan, head of the Protect Our Liberties Action Group has scheduled an exchange site at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow morning. The P.O.L.A. Group will be meeting with a possible terrorist to trade off a hostage for 300 pounds of FDX-45. Enough to wipe out a small city. We don't know who the hostage is yet; nor, do we know how many will be there from either group, so given the nature of the exchange we treating the exchange sight as a High Level Red Zone Area. We intercepted a coded message, but haven't broken it yet. They are working on it at the lab. I will be on site to coordinate the strike. Billy and his crew, Team Red, will be covering the only possible escape route. Amanda and Lee, you will lead the initial covert group into the building with Team Blue and Team Green. It should be a piece of cake given your performance during Dr. Smith's attempted Stemwinder sting. The warehouse will be a similar set up. We have 15 hours to set up before the exchange. This should run like clockwork…they don't suspect a thing. So let's get going".
Lee was distraught that he and Amanda would have to put off their discussion yet again. But once this was over tonight, he was going to talk to his wife. A smile came to his lips. He still found it hard to believe that she was his wife. He was nudged back to reality by Amanda who gave him a knowing look. She could read him like a book.
*** Tuesday morning ***
It was 20 minutes past the exchange time. The Team Leaders were getting antsy. "Team Leaders, do you see anything"? Francine did not like the feeling she was getting. "All is clear". She heard Amanda say. "All clear", echoed Lee and Billy simultaneously. Francine turned to Beeman in the van. "Any word from the coded message we intercepted"? Beeman shook his head.
"Wait, I think I see something coming from the north side". Amanda said through the microphone. Francine's focus turned to the monitor. Two vans were approaching. There was only one way in and one way out. Francine wasn't exactly sure why they choose this spot for the drop. Something was not right, she could feel it.
The two vans stopped. Ten minutes passed. There was no motion coming from either vehicle. "This is Green Leader" Lee piped in, "Green Team, prepare to move in on my word".
Just then, Beeman who had been waiting for the final transmission of the coded message, hastily handed it to Francine. She read the message. Francine took a breath. It was a set up. "Team Blue, Team Green abort , I repeat A-B-O-R-T". It's a set up. The target is the Team Red Leader. Red Leader, do you copy? Red Leader, do you copy"?
Amanda heard the silence. Something was wrong. "This is Blue Leader. The Blue team will move in. Green Leader, cover the north side". Amanda motioned her crew to follow her. They moved into the area Billy was staking out. She saw four armed men surrounding a van. Two agents were down. Billy was kneeling on the ground, a gun to his head. Amanda singled her team to circle around. She was going to circle from behind. As she got closer to the van, she heard the men talking. "We got the target. We're ready for pick up. How's the decoy? Great, we're ready to move." Apparently they were unaware that the agency now knew it was a trap. She saw another truck coming down from the back road. It was the pick-up. Amanda knew she only had one chance and she didn't have much time. She pulled herself up on the van. She looked up and saw through the warehouse windows that Team Green was already moving in place. She knew Lee was watching. She could feel his eyes on her.
Just then Amanda heard a shot, she looked up. They had been compromised. She knew the rest would be here soon. She looked down at Billy and the two men who were getting ready to pull him into the truck bed. Amanda was about to jump, when she felt the blow to the back of her head and tumbled off the van to the ground.
Lee saw it coming. He couldn't stop them. Amanda was now on the ground next to Billy, conscious, but obviously shaken. One of the men spoke. "Okay. Everyone hold it. I know you are out there. I have Melrose and…..let's see who else I have in my net".
"All teams hold in position" Francine whispered on the microphone. She was making her way towards Lee. She saw the look on his face. He was worried. But his gun was aimed and ready. "Lee," she whispered as she sat next to him…."we finally broke the code. It was a set up. They were after Billy all along. Apparently someone is out shopping and Billy's name was at the top of the list".
"The Russians"? Lee asked.
"No. We think it's a source from the Middle East".
The armed leader pulled Amanda up and looked at her. It was Sullivan. "Wow…..looks like today is my lucky day! Two big catches. The very popular Mr. Melrose and the infamous Mrs. King….or should I say Mrs. Scarecrow"? He laughed loudly as he heavily emphasized the word MRS.
Amanda suddenly looked up and tried to pull away. "How did he know…." She thought to herself.
Billy also looked up, but at Amanda not their captor. Billy gave Amanda a puzzled look….and she just shrugged.
The exchange did not go unnoticed by Sullivan. Again, he spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. "Oh! I am so sorry Amanda… did I accidently let out you and Lee's little secret? You worked so hard to keep your secret marriage from everyone…haven't you? And I blew it in an instant ….what a shame…." Sullivan turned towards the warehouse. He knew they were out there. " Scarecrow! I know you are out there. We have your boss AND your wife…I strongly suggest you put down the weapons….NOW"!
Lee's jaw dropped. He had not moved since Sullivan announced Amanda's capture. How did he know about him and Amand? But instead of dropping the gun, Lee raised it and took aim. Lee heard Amanda "Lee! Don't you dare. Don't do it! Just shoot…"
Sweeney cold cocked Amanda with his gun before she could finish her sentence, knocking her to the floor, unconscious. He now had his gun on Amanda. The other two men had their guns on Billy. The captor spoke again. "There is enough gas in the vans back there to kill everyone in this side of the County. If you do not put down your weapons, I will release it." He lifted his hand to reveal a triggering device.
Francine looked at Lee and then at Amanda lying on the ground. Then back at Lee again. His wife?! It took her a second to digest what just happened. But there was no time to dwell on it now. She saw Lee's hand on the trigger. It was too risky. She couldn't afford to let anything happen to Billy or Amanda.
"This is Strike Leader. All hands down, I repeat all hands down". Francine, placed her hand on Lee's arm. His gun was still aiming below. "No Lee…it's too risky," she mouthed to him.
"Good. " Sullivan's voice rang in Lee's ears as he heard the guns being lowered and un-cocked. His hand was still clutching the detonator. Lee watched helplessly as they loaded Billy and Amanda's still unconscious body into the truck bed. "I suggest you not follow us. Say goodbye to your wife Lee. Tell your sons, Phillip and Jamie, that that we'll take really good care of her…." With that, the truck and vans drove down the road. Lee stared behind until they were out of his sight. Lee turned around and leaned his head back against the wall. He slammed his gun against the metal rail, sending his echoes of frustration throughout the warehouse. Several nearby TAC members looked up at Lee then at each other, obviously shocked the revelation of Amanda and Lee's marriage.
Lee stared at the ceiling. He felt Francine's hand on his arm and looked down at her…he knew what her eyes were asking. "Yes Francine. It's true. We're married". He looked her in the eyes. " Amanda….is my wife".
Francine just took a breath and nodded as if she had known all along. "We'll get her back Lee. Her and Billy".
Lee looked out the window and watched the last van disappear. He ran his hand through his hair – suddenly aware of the fact that his microphone was still on and the entire strike team heard everything.
*** *** *** *** ***
It had been over four hours. The TAC Team had been going over aerials of the area for potential search sites. There were too many. Lee knew it could take days, if not longer. Everyone started out the door to take care of their new assignments. Lee was relieved that he and Amanda's marital status did not come up…yet.
Francine and Lee were finally alone. "So…." She asked Lee. "How long"?
Lee looked her. He knew she had a lot of questions. "Fourteen months….as of yesterday matter of fact."
"Oh. Does anyone else know?"
Lee just shook his head…."well, at least not until today".
What about Amanda's family….ahhh, I mean your family"?
"No. Ironically, just yesterday afternoon, we were discussing the issue of when and how we were going to tell them. How we were going to tell everyone".
"When I walked in on you?"
Lee nodded. He was exhausted - physically and emotionally.
"Yes, it looked like a deeply personal conversation" A lot was beginning to make sense to Francine…but fourteen months….she hadn't expect it to be that long. Looking back at all of the looks and touches, it was now apparent that they had strong feelings for each other long ago. She looked at Lee. "Why the secret? I mean really Lee, it's not like no one noticed the way you two looked at each other or the fact that the Steno Pool had all but given up on you. I admit that this marriage thing is definitely a shock, but not the relationship. We all figured that out a long ago.
Lee looked at Francine and shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. At the time it just seemed like a good idea. We thought if anyone knew about us being married it could put our family and even the agency in danger. We also wanted Amanda's family to get to know me better before we sprang it on them". Lee let out a huge sigh. "It was just complicated".
Francine heard the heavy emotion in Lee's voice. "Well, life is complicated. Lee, can I ask you one more thing"? Lee nodded. "If you and Amanda have been married fourteen months now, how long before that were you two involved"? Francine was trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle and fill in the holes.
Lee's eyes drifted to the wall behind Francine in an attempt to hide the emotions he knew was clearly there. "I guess we started officially seeing each other right after the Krutioff case. But the reality is that there was something between us long before that. Maybe since the beginning". He looked down to Francine. "I can't explain it. It just that there was something about Amanda that drew me to her. The more time I spent with her the more I needed to be with her. At first I denied it. I mean come on, the Scarecrow and a divorced housewife from Arlington with two kids. That just didn't make sense. But yet, when I was with her, I felt complete. I felt content. I felt whole. I never felt that way about anyone else. Then one day, it just hit me like a ton of bricks – I was hopelessly in love with Amanda King. Even then it seemed like fate, after bringing us together, was working against us. When we finally admitted our feelings for each other, everything just made sense - like it was always meant to be. I didn't feel alone anymore".
Francine saw Lee's eyes suddenly cloud over. His voice cracked when he spoke. "I need her Francine; like I need air to breath. I don't think I can make it without her…I can't go back…" his voice trailed off as he looked away, tears pooling in his tired eyes".
Francine touched his shoulder lightly. "We'll find them Lee…we have too".
*** *** *** *** ***
"Ohhhhhh. Amanda groaned. "What hit me?"
Billy went to Amanda. She had been unconscious for some time. He was still replaying the events of the day. They were set up, but why he didn't know. But the biggest scene flashing before his eyes was the revelation of Lee and Amanda's marriage. He knew they were in a relationship a long time ago, that was easy to figure out. He had known Lee for a long time. He saw him go from a prowling wolf to a puppy in love. It was evident every time he looked at Amanda. He thought and even hoped that one day Lee would settle down and marry her…but…."
"Billy….what happened?" Amanda voice brought Billy's attention back to his injured agent. "Oh you got a nasty bump on the head. They took us to some type of compound. It's not the one we had been servailing. Looks like we were set up Amanda."
Billy helped Amanda to sit up. She leaned her head against the wall. She knew that she was going to have a headache for the next few hours. Amanda felt Billy's questioning eyes on her and suddenly remembered the details of their capture. She turned to him.
"So, how long"? He asked.
Amanda looked at him. She knew he had a lot of questions. "Fourteen months….as of yesterday."
"And, before that"? Billy asked. He knew that Lee and Amanda's relationship had been slowly evolving for some time now. He could see it in Lee's face and body language. He heard it in his voice whenever Lee spoke to Amanda or about her.
Amanda let out a sigh. "I don't know Billy. We started seriously seeing each other after the Krutioff case. But something was there between us long before that. It just took us a while to admit it I guess".
Billy nodded. "Oh. Does anyone else know"?
She just shook his head…."well, I guess now they do".
"How about your mother and the boys"? She shook her head no. "Why?" Billy asked. "Why the secret? Believe me Amanda, I don't think you two were fooling many people, especially over the last year or so. We all pretty much knew something was going on. It was fairly obvious. Your feelings for each other were written all over your faces. You two should have known we all had figured it out…you do work with a bunch of spies you know".
Amanda smiled at Billy's words. "I don't know why we tried to keep it a secret. To protect our family, our partnership, the agency? I think we were a little scared too. At the time it made all the sense in the world….but over the last few months, it was getting harder and harder. We were toying with the idea of telling everyone, but didn't know how. When you live a secret for so long, it's hard to let go….."
"Too bad I let the cat out of the bag for you and Scarecrow." Sullivan walked in, obviously overhearing their conversation. "I truly am sorry. I couldn't help it. You could only imagine my surprise and pleasure at seeing you in my net as well Amanda. It was definitely a good day for me! I was wondering if Phillip and Jamie knew". He enjoyed the look on Amanda's face when he mentioned her sons by name. "Of course I know about them and Jeanine and the girls". He said as he looked towards Billy. "I always do my homework, thoroughly….you never know when you might need it…of course I do detest resorting to using innocent children, but , sometimes you have to do what you have to do".
"What exactly are you doing Sullivan"? Billy's tone was matter of fact.
"Well, as I am sure you figured out by now, there was no exchange planned for today. We wanted you Billy. See the folks we have contracted with are interested in obtaining the gas, which we already have, and you. They put out the request, and the price was good. So we signed on. It is the nature of our business. You have quiet a value on you Billy. Oh and Amanda, you'll be pleased to know that I have already had two offers for you….I haven't decided which one to take yet. I am debating about how to go about with your transaction…see the offers triples if I could just find a way to get Scarecrow too. Hmmm…maybe I will need to bring in the boys after all. They should be out of soccer practice by now…no Amanda"?
He grinned at the look Amanda tried to conceal. "Maybe I should call Mike and tell him to just bring them straight here. It would definitely give new meaning to the term "family reunion"….wouldn't it?" Sullivan just laughed as he turned to walk away, shutting the door behind him. "I'll have someone bring you some dinner. It's been a long day. I am sure you are famished". Amanda kept her cool. She needed to figure a way out and fast.
** *** *** *** ***
Amanda watched as one of Sullivan's men closed the door behind him picking up their dinner trays on the way out. Now was their chance. She rigged the knob with one of Leatherneck's tools. Leatherneck told her to hide the wire on her earrings…they never check the earrings he told her. Thankfully, he was right.
Billy watched his agent methodically work the small wire to release the locked door. It worked. She was becoming a fine agent indeed. Amanda motioned to Billy that the coast was clear. It was dark now, if they were going to move, it had to be fast.
Billy saw the man standing guard….he obvious was dozing off…Amanda nodded and Billy knocked him out and grabbed his gun. They maneuvered through the compound towards the back fence. Billy had noticed the potential escape route when they moved him and an unconscious Amanda from the truck. Billy spotted and unlocked storage shed and managed to get a couple of guns. At least they were armed, Billy thought to himself.
Amanda and Billy hiked in the night for what seemed like hours. Billy was impressed. "You sure know your way around a dark forest" he commented."
"All those years of Trailblazers with Phillip and Jamie….never would have guessed how handy it would become for me."
Billy laughed. Then something made him stop in his tracks. He stepped into a hollow spot and heard the snap. What followed was a large sharp pain on his lower left leg. He let out a scream and dropped to the floor. Amanda ran back to Billy. He stepped into an animal trap.
"Billy"! She assessed the damage. His leg was bleeding, but it wasn't broke. She set down to work on the trap…she always thought these things should be banned. It took her a good 20 minutes but she was able to free Billy. She wrapped his leg as best as she could with a piece of Billy's torn shirt. It wasn't the best patch, but it would have to do. "Billy, do you think you can walk?"
"I can try. Amanda, but I am going to hold you back. You need to leave me here and go get help".
"I will do no such thing. I AM NOT going to abandon you in a dark forest with God only know what out here and not to mention the possibility that Sullivan's men may be on our tail. We need to go get help Billy, together. Come on." With that she lifted Billy from the floor and helped him through the forest. It must have been another hour before Billy and Amanda came to a road. They had been walking down the road for about fifteen minutes when Amanda saw a truck heading their way. She held her breath and prayed it wasn't Sullivan's men searching for them. She waved the truck down.
"Howdy….you two okay" ? The driver asked as he notice Billy's bleeding leg in the moonlight.
Amanda sighed in relief. It was a truck driver. She flashed him her I.D. and moved into action. "We are Federal Officers and we need your help. We can't use your CB incase someone is listening to the channels, so I need you to get him to the nearest phone as fast as you can. It is urgent". The driver nodded his head in understanding.
She turned to Billy. "I have to go back". She waved her hand before Billy could protest. "You know I do. When they find out we are gone, they are going to pack up and leave. I need to follow them. I don't' think they will be expecting anything. We don't have time to wait for back up. I will find a way to get a hold of the agency once I've secured the sight and know when the exchange will take place". Billy reluctantly nodded in agreement, and silently handed her his gun…incase she needed it.
Amanda turned to leave and then stopped. "Billy, I need you to take care of the boys and my mother for me. They might try to use them to get to Lee. Hopefully, as soon as Sullivan realizes we're gone, he will cut his loses and do the exchange as quickly as possible. He won't have much time to linger on anything else. But if something goes wrong, there's no telling what he will do". Amanda sighed then looked up at Billy. "Tell them whatever you need to keep them safe. I'll be in touch as soon as I can". She winked at Billy and disappeared into the night.
*** Wednesday Morning ***
It was daylight by the time Billy saw the first signs of the TAC Team. He knew that they would have to come in quietly, without air support, so as not to "tip off" Sullivan and his men. He was sitting in the truck with Tom, who had been more that helpful. It was lucky that he came by when he did.
Billy saw Lee running towards him, not surprisingly, he was the first one to reach him. He was obviously searching for Amanda. "Billy! Are you okay? " Billy nodded….Lee looked around at his surroundings. The rest of the TAC Team was closing in. Francine was already tending to Billy's leg. "Where's Amanda?" Lee asked. Francine looked up and glanced at Billy.
"After she knew I would be okay, she left. She was going to trace back her steps and was go back to the compound to keep an eye on Sullivan."
"She what? She's unarmed and has no backup! What was she thinking Billy"? Lee ran his hand through his head in exasperation. "They will kill her if they find her".
"Lee, I tried to stop her. But she wouldn't listen. She was right. They are going to pack up and move out to God only knows where once they find out we are missing. She needed to stay with them and follow them to stop the exchange. She said she would find a way to contact us. We managed to take some supplies from one of their sheds so she is armed." Billy saw the worried look flash across Lee's face. "Lee. She knows what she is doing….she saved my life".
Lee looked at Billy. He knew what Billy said was true. But he didn't like it. "How long has she been gone"?
It took us about two hours to get to Tom. He drove me another thirty minutes to town. You took an hour to get here. I'd say she is probably back at the compound. If they haven't realized we were gone yet, they do now and are probably on the move. Once we get back to the agency, I could get us a good narrow radius to cover. I know the direction we came from. Lee, the drop was scheduled for sometime this evening. If we are going to get them, we need to act fast.
Lee pulled his friend up and helped him to the car. He looked back into the forest. "Be careful Amanda….I'm coming for you….."
*** *** *** *** ***
They had been at the agency for hours now. Based on access, terrain and timing they had confidently identified two areas and were ready to mobilize….but they were waiting for word from Amanda. Lee looked up at the clock again. He heard Billy's cough behind him. He turned to Billy. The room was now empty except for them.
"Lee. We need to talk". Billy hadn't mentioned the recent revelations about Lee and Amanda's marriage...yet. " It's been six hours. We don't know when and if Amanda is going to contact us. Lee, Sullivan mentioned the boys by name; he's watching them. If something goes wrong, if he gets desperate, he might use them to get to you". Lee was slowly registering what Billy was telling him. "I promised Amanda I would keep them safe".
"What do you suggest"? Lee asked.
"The campsite. It's the safest. It is where Jeanie and the girls are going."
"How am I suppose to get them there Billy! It's Wednesday and the boys are in school. There is no way I can convince Dotty to let them go in the middle of the week! There has to be another way. …God, Billy, what am I suppose to tell her"?
"How about the TRUTH". Billy replied. It was time.
"No, not like this. Not without Amanda." Lee's voice was almost pleading.
"You may not have a choice Lee. Besides, don't you think this secret has gone on long enough – fourteen months!"
Lee looked at Billy. He was right and Lee knew it. "Okay, only if it comes down to it…I will tell her; but, not the boys, at least not yet. We'll just talk to Dotty and maybe we can get Joe to help out. He already has an idea about Amanda and the Agency anyways. We can make it look like it was their father's idea to take them on a last minute camping trip. That will buy me some time. Besides, I need Joe there. I am going to need all the support I can get for this one".
"I know". Billy said looking at his friend. "I will be there with you".
"Count me in too!" Billy and Lee turned to Francine standing in the doorway. "I need a break from here anyways. Everyone is in place and ready to move on Amanda's call". Lee nodded in agreement.
*** Wednesday – Late Afternoon ***
This was not a conversation Lee wanted to have without Amanda. As he drove up to the house Lee took a deep breath. Billy was there as was Francine, who volunteered to come for moral support. He knew she needed to be at the agency leading the team's search efforts, but he was glad that she took a break to be here with him. Ever since the botched sting, Francine had been there for Lee every step of the way. He was surprised by her level of support and especially by her obvious concern for both him and Amanda. Lee wasn't sure where this was coming from, but he was grateful. As the three walked up to the door, Lee felt Francine's hand on his back, one last bit of encouragement. Lee knew what he had to do, but he wasn't quite sure how. He had been playing the scenario over and over again in his head, but something told him that this would be one of the most difficult things he has ever done.
"Lee! What a pleasant surprise. I didn't expect you here…the boys will be ……" Dotty's voice trailed off as she saw Billy and Francine standing behind Lee. "Oh. Mr. Melrose" The first time Mr. Melrose paid a visit, it was not good, although he did redeem himself when he helped Harry out with that gambling mess last year. "Sorry to be rude, but what are you doing here? " There was an understandable level of suspicion in Dotty's voice.
"Can we come in Dotty?" Lee asked, his eyes pleading. Dotty looked up at Lee and nodded. She could see why Amanda was so in love with him. "Yes of course."
As Lee stepped into the Living Room he was relieved to find Joe King standing in the corner. They had called him earlier today to take the kids and Dotty this afternoon. Ever since Joe remarried, Lee and he had developed a more relaxed relationship. Although Joe was fine with Lee spending time with the boys, he wasn't sure how Joe would react to the news of their secret marriage and to Lee being their step-dad. "Hi Joe. Glad you made it".
Dotty shot Lee a look. How did he know Joe would be here, she thought Joe had just stopped by for a quick visit with the boys when they got back from school. "Joe, I am sure you remember Mr. Melrose. And this is um"…Dotty turned towards Francine "Oh, I am sorry, I never got your name".
"Francine. I work with Amanda."
Dotty studied Francine as she shook her hand. "Yes. Have we met before, you look vaguely familiar"? Francine shrugged her shoulders. "So, please tell me what this little visit is all about"? Dotty couldn't help but notice the brace on Billy's foot and the obvious exhaustion on his face….on all of their faces. She was beginning to sense that something was really, really wrong. Dotty turned to look at Joe, who gave her a nod of encouragement, as if he knew what was about to be said.
Lee looked over to Billy. They had briefly rehearsed their roles. Billy would take the lead regarding Amanda's true employment status and if it came down to it, Lee would explain the true nature of his and Amanda's relationship, their very personal relationship.
"Well, Mrs. West, as you may remember from our last encounter, I work for the Federal Government. And I know that Amanda has told you that she and Lee work for IFF producing films and documentaries for the Government". Dotty nodded giving Billy the okay to go on. Billy took a deep breath. This was harder than he thought it would be. He could only imagine what Lee must be going through now. "Well, what I am going to tell you needs to stay in this room. You cannot repeat any of this to anyone. Do you understand?"
"Yes. Of course, I understand". Dotty was starting to get a sinking feeling in her stomach. She looked up at Joe for support. She was surprise to see him so calm… he definitely knew what was coming next.
"Well, you see, um, Amanda and Lee aren't exactly film producers". Billy paused as he searched for his next words.
"Oh. What 'exactly' are they"? Dotty interrupted with an almost irritated tone in her voice.
Billy cleared his throat "They um, work for directly me. They are my agents". He stared at Dotty to see if the information had registered. Her blank look told him that it hadn't…. yet.
"Spies." Francine broke the unbearable silence after a minute. "Lee and Amanda are government spies".
Dotty looked from Lee to Mr. Melrose and to Francine. She heard what they were saying but it wasn't making any sense. Amanda a spy. "How…." She heard her voice trail off, not realizing she spoke her thoughts out loud. "That can't be, she doesn't…"
Billy interrupted her. "Yes". He said, "It is true. Amanda is a spy for the federal government. Although we do prefer to use the term Federal Agent. She has been with the agency for over five years now. At first she worked for us as a civilian assistant, then as a trainee and now as full agent status. She is a good agent, Mrs. West. Amanda and Lee are the best team I have ever had working under me".
Dotty sat down on the couch. Letting the information sink in. She looked up at Lee. "Why are you telling this to me now….and where is Amanda. Why isn't she here"?
Billy cleared his throat to divert her attention from Lee….he knew she would have a lot more intense questions for Lee later when he explained the rest of it to her. "Well, that's why we came to see you Mrs. West. Amanda is out on assignment and we are not sure what her status is." Dotty shot Billy a look that made him want to cringe. "Mrs. West, I can't give you any details. But I can tell you that Amanda saved my life yesterday. You see, we were taken hostage yesterday. Amanda and I managed to escape, but I got injured. Once she made sure that I was safe, she decided to go back, incase they moved camp. She was going to tail them until she could get word to us on their new location."
Billy looked at Dotty and spoke in a deliberate manner. He needed her to understand the potential danger to her and the boys. "The people she is tracking are dangerous and they may become desperate. They know about her and you and the boys. They made some threats. We're not sure if they will come here, but just in case, we asked Joe to come and take you, Phillip and Jamie to a "safe" camp that the agency has for these purposes as a precaution. My wife and daughters will be there too. The boys will just think it is a camp site, but the area is well guarded and they will be safe. It is safer then here".
As Billy's words finally began to register, Dotty looked up to Joe. Obviously he must have known something…he did not look as surprised as she was.
Billy continued. "Amanda said she would contact us as soon as she was able. But we haven't heard anything yet. She is in a remote location and may not be able to contact us for a while. I promised her that I would make sure you and the boys were safe". The silence that ensued was deafening to everyone in the room.
Francine broke in trying to alleviate the fear and concern she saw rising in Mrs. West's eyes. "Don't worry, Amanda is armed and fully equipped."
"ARMED AND FULLY EQUIPED! What does that mean? Amanda doesn't even know how to use a gun"! Dotty's voice was beginning to quiver as she realized the danger her daughter may be in.
"Well actually she can. It isn't her strong suit, but she is quite capable with a gun. She's had quite a bit of arms training this last year….." Francine's voice trailed off as she realized her reassuring words were not very reassuring to Mrs. West".
"She's quite capable with a gun? She's had arms training?" Dotty took a deep breath. "It's like I don't even know my own daughter….she's been living a lie right under my nose and I didn't even know". Dotty's voice was trembling. "Apparently she has gotten quite good at lying and sneaking around too hasn't she? IS that something you taught her too or was she just naturally good at it"? Everyone in the room stood silent and Dotty's tone obviously began to shift from concern to anger. "So tell me, is there anything else I should know about my own daughter? About this stranger living in my home? What other little tidbit can you tell me"?! Dotty's anger frightened Lee.
Billy and Francine looked over to Lee. He had been silent this whole time. Lee looked over to them, then to Joe and finally to Dotty. He knew it was his cue. He took a deep breath. God he wished Amanda was here.
Dotty sat observing the quiet exchange between Lee and his co-workers. She knew there was more. She saw the fear in Lee's eyes and almost giggled at the thought of a spy being afraid of her.
Lee took another deep breath and approached Dotty on the couch. He kneeled down to meet her eye to eye. "Yes. There is more. There is something else you do need to know". His eyes met Dotty's briefly, then he looked down to her hands on her lap. He placed his hands on top of hers and looked up to her again.
Dotty looked into Lee's pleading eyes and she nodded for him to go on. Her demeanor visibly softened. "Uh, you see, Amanda and I wanted to tell you sooner, but we couldn't. We weren't ready yet. It was a difficult decision, one that we have pondered almost daily. We weren't sure how to handle it with our jobs and the nature of what we do, we didn't want to take the chance of something happening. It wasn't like we were deliberately deceiving everyone, we just did what we thought was best…the only thing we could do…."
Billy cleared his throat. Lee was rambling and needed to move on. Although he felt for Lee and the situation they were in and although he was worried about Amanda and the unknown of what would happen, a part of him was smiling inside at seeing the Scarecrow, the infamous "lone-wolf" humbly kneeling at his mother-in-law. He realized at that moment, just how much Lee loved Amanda, and he silently resolved that they would bring Amanda back soon to her family.
Lee heard Billy's cough. He knew he was rambling. He stood up and ran his hand through his hair as he always does when he is nervous. He paced up and down the room once as if to grasp his next words. He returned to the spot in front of Dotty.
"Dotty. Before I met Amanda, I was an empty shell. I had no connections no emotions. I thought I had to shut myself out in order to make it in this business, in order to make it through life. You know I lost my own parents very early in my life, and it hurt. I was only five. I felt lost, abandoned, and alone. I didn't ever want to feel that grief ever again. I slowly built up a brick wall around myself so that I would never get close to anyone else. It was my self defense mechanism. " Dotty just stared at Lee.
Lee took another breath before continuing. "Then in a fluke accident, I met Amanda. I won't go over the details now, but ever since I met Amanda, my life has changed so much. At first I just looked at her as an overly enthusiastic annoyance, but even then subconsciously I knew it was more. There was a reason I kept coming back to her. She was the one person that I somehow knew would be able to tear down that wall I took so long to build. There was just something about her that got to me. Brick by brick she helped me tear it down. The more time I spent with her the better I felt about myself, about other people and about the world. And every time I tried to rebuild the wall, Amanda was there to break it down again, until there were no more bricks left. It took a longtime, but she did it. She made me whole again and filled in the hollow shell I had tried so hard to keep empty. At first I fought it….I was afraid of letting down my guard. I was afraid of getting hurt again. I was afraid to be human again. But, most of all I was afraid to love again." Everyone sat in silence watching Lee. It was as if Lee forgot anyone else was in the room. As if he was talking directly to Amanda. Francine sighed and realized just how much the Scarecrow had changed and how much he needed Amanda. She looked at Billy who looked up at her as well. They were sharing the same thought.
"Lee". Dotty gently broke the silence, touched by his obvious love for her daughter. "What are you trying to tell me"? She placed her hand gently over his, giving him the courage to go on.
"Dotty, I love your daughter. I have for a very, very long time".
"I know that Lee. I also know that she loves you. I can see it in her eyes". Dotty was still unsure of where this was going. "Lee, just tell me what's wrong".
"It's just that I didn't want to tell you this way. Amanda and I wanted to tell you together".
"Tell me WHAT, Lee"?
Lee took a final deep breath. Here it goes he thought. He looked at Dotty. "Amanda and I…are married". And slowly as if to help ease the shock he added, "She…..is ……..my wife". Lee smiled at Dotty nervously.
The silence that followed seemed like a lifetime for Lee. He was too busy looking at Dotty to notice the breath Joe took in.
After what seemed like an eternity, Dotty finally spoke. "You're married?' She asked Lee. "To my daughter"?
"Yes. " He replied matter of factly, now that the truth was out, he could breathe just a little bit better. "Over 1 year now. Fourteen months as of two days ago to be exact. That's why I need you and the boys to go where you will be safe. They know about me and Amanda. Amanda escaped so now they may try to use our family to get to me".
"O-U-R family"? Dotty asked looking straight into Lee's eyes heavily emphasizing her words.
"Yes. Our family". Lee responded in a soft voice, his eyes silently pleading for her to understand.
"I see." Dotty looked over at Joe, aware for the first time since Lee spoke that there were other people in the room. "Joe, did you know about any of this"?
Joe cleared his throat. "Some. I guessed about the agency, but I knew enough to know that I didn't really want to know. But I didn't know about, well…." Joe couldn't bring himself to say it just yet. He just nodded towards Lee. Although he and Amanda were divorced and he was happy in his new marriage, the thought of Amanda being married to someone else was something he wasn't quite ready to face yet.
After a few moments of more silence, Dotty stood up and spoke in a deliberately cool, controlled voice. "I will go upstairs to pack up for the boys. Joe, can you please take them to this camp Mr. Melrose has ready. I however will be staying here until Amanda comes home". Dotty put up her hand in protest as she saw Billy about to speak. She was in control now. She was going to call the shots. "NO. I am staying here and that is final. I want to be here when my daughter returns. Now if you don't mind, I would like the rest of you to please leave this house now. I do not want the boys to see you here and they should be back from school soon".
Lee had stood up when Dotty rose. He wasn't sure what to do or say next. Dotty started up the stairs and stopped and as if in an afterthought looked back at Lee. "Lee". She paused and stared blankly at this man who she just found out was her son-in-law. "Bring Amanda home". With that she turned and disappeared up the stairs.
"Lee". Joe's voice echoed through the silence. "What do you want me to tell the boys"?
The sound of Joe's voice brought Lee back to the present. He fully began to understand what had just transpired. The secret was out. Everyone knew. It was done. He stared at Billy, Francine and Joe, slightly embarrassed by the fact that they were all witness to his soul bearing confession about Amanda and about himself. Then he realized that it didn't matter. Nothing mattered except bringing Amanda home.
"Joe, don't tell the boys anything yet. Just tell them you are taking them on an impromptu camping trip. I am sure they won't object to missing school for a few days. Billy, Francine. We need to go get Amanda".
Billy looked up at Lee and smiled. The Scarecrow was back.
** *** *** *** ***
As soon as Billy, Francine and Lee walked back into the agency, Beeman grabbed them. "Amanda King, uh I mean Stetson, made contact".
"What? When"? Lee's couldn't feel his heart beat.
"About 10 minutes ago. We confirmed the location…it is at site two. We guessed correctly." She said they were packing up when she returned to the compound. She hitched a ride underneath one of their vans….the one with the gas".
Lee tried to burry the image of Amanda clinging to the bottom of a van from his head. "Have they made the exchange yet"?
"No. She guessed it probably won't go down for a couple of hours. We lost communication with her at that point".
Lee ran over to the aerials. "Good thing we already have everyone in place. We need to mobilize now….Let's go!" Hold on Amanda, Lee thought to himself. We're coming.
*** Wednesday Evening ***
Amanda was watching them from behind the pick-up, waiting for the TAC Team. It had been almost two hours since she made contact. She managed to get to the truck's CB and get the word to the agency. She hoped that they would get here in time. She had spent the last hour rigging explosives just in case. She couldn't believe her luck when the entire compound went inside to debrief about the exchange. Obviously they were confident that she was long gone. It was easy after that. Amanda giggled ….good thing they were heavily armed, and it was easily accessible….made her job easier. She gave herself a nod. Leatherneck will be proud, she thought to herself. Just then Amanda heard a crack behind her and swung her arms, gun ready. She stopped when she saw Francine kneeling behind her.
"Hey." Francine whispered. Amanda was exactly where she told Beeman she'd be.
"Well it's about time…what took you guys so long?"…Amanda quipped, lowering her gun.
"Don't look at me like that…." Francine rolled her eyes, feigning annoyance. "We had to take care of a few items first. Fill me in on the status".
"The entire compound is in the barn debriefing for the exchange. I think it is scheduled to happen in an hour, up the road about 15 miles from here. I found some explosives and rigged the barn and gate in case we need it. Also, I rigged the water tank 5 minutes down the road, it will make a great road block. They have only one way out. They are very sure of themselves…they have no idea I'm here".
Francine looked at Amanda. "Impressive. I like the idea of setting Sullivan up the way he set us up"!
"Where's Lee?" Amanda asked.
"Oh…you mean your husband?" Francine smirked at Amanda's somewhat embarrassed expression. "He's hiding out behind the barn with his team. We have a full force ready to go on command. Would you like to call the strike? You know the set up".
Amanda got on the microphone. She repeated the status to the team. They were to move on her count. Lee smiled as he heard his wife call in her first strike. "She is good", He said under his breath, beaming proudly to himself. "Get ready. Now". Amanda called in the strike.
"All right Sullivan. You are surrounded. It's over"! Amanda heard Beeman announce on cue. And as suspected, Sullivan's men began shooting, not realizing explosives were ready to go.
"Ready Team…on count….3-2-1. NOW" Amanda set off the charge. The series of explosions that detonated were perfect. "Leatherneck would definitely be proud" she whispered under her breath.
*** Thursday Morning ***
"…..and she said nothing??!! Amanda asked starring incredulously at Lee. It had been twelve hours since they found Amanda. Lee spent the last hour briefing Amanda on what happened in her absence.
"Nope…she just headed up the stairs turned around and told me to bring you home". Lee shook his head as he spoke still surprised at Dotty's reaction or lack there of.
"I am so sorry you had to do this alone…." Amanda said
"Well, Billy and Francine were there for support…that helped a little".
"Hmmm….Amanda then added only half joking…"facing mother may be tougher than facing Sullivan".
"Speaking of which…." Lee moved his hands on to Amanda's and pulled her into his arms. "Have I told you how impressed I was with your handy work out there? As hard as it is for me to admit it, I don't think I could have done anything better myself. Heck…even Francine was impressed"!
"Well, Sullivan made it easy. For a smart guy, he made some stupid mistakes: he picked a horrible hide out; provided me with all the ammo I needed by leaving it unlocked and unguarded and he moved all of his men inside….not a very good plan of action"!
"His biggest mistake was underestimating you". Lee added softly. He stared at Amanda and smiled. When her gaze met his, she saw the pride and love in his eyes. Lee smiled softly and moved down to kiss her tenderly. They became lost in their embrace. Lee wrapped his arms tighter around Amanda as their kiss deepened. He did not want to let her go.
"Ahem"! Francine was watching Lee and Amanda's "reunion" for a minute before she decided to interrupt. Lost in their passion, neither Lee nor Amanda heard her. "Ah…excuse me"? She repeated louder.
Lee and Amanda jumped apart at the sound of Francine's voice. "Oh ahh…we were just ahhh". Amanda and Lee spoke in unison.
"Oh please"! Francine rolled her eyes and waved her hand. "No more excuses. I think I've heard all of them by now anyway. Besides, are you forgetting that we all know about your little secret? It's the talk of the town". Francine smirked at the look on Lee and Amanda's faces. "Well, I came to let you know that Billy and Dr. Smyth are ready for you now. Oh, and by the way, try to drag it out to at least ten minutes. I've got you down for ten minutes forty seconds in the office pool. Beeman is next at eleven minutes".
Francine was about to walk away, but stopped and turned back towards them. "I didn't have the time to offer up my congratulations on your nuptials yet. You know, I've got to admit that this marriage of yours threw me for a loop. You would think that someone with my field experience would have pick up on it. But, I sure did not see this coming". Francine shook her head in disbelief. "You know it's going to take a while to get use to this". She paused for a moment and on a more serious note added "Good luck with Dr. Smyth you two….we are all pulling for you". She smiled and walked away.
Lee and Amanda looked at each other and each took a deep breath. "Are you ready"? Amanda asked.
"Yes". Lee said simply. He was so relieved that it was all finally out. He didn't really care about what might happen anymore. "Oh, I do have just one more thing". Lee walked around to the desk and pulled out the little box that contained their wedding rings. They always took them off before they came into the office. "We might as well put these back on. I want everyone out there to know that the rumors are true. Besides, these rings have been concealed from others for way too long, don't you think"? Lee grabbed her ring and placed it on her finger. "Ready, Mrs. Stetson"? He simple stated, smiling ear to ear.
Amanda grabbed his ring and did the same. "Ready, Mr. Stetson."
They walked out of the Q-Bureau together.
As Lee and Amanda walked down the halls heading towards the briefing room, they felt all eyes on them and their rings. Obviously the rumors of their marriage that had been filtering throughout the building since the failed strike. Lee and Amanda glanced at each other, ignoring the questioning looks and the knowing smiles. They had more on their minds. Billy was waiting with Dr. Smyth.
They walked in the room. Billy stood next to Dr. Smyth. He noticed the rings and their fingers and tried hard not to smile. He still couldn't believe that they had been married for over a year. He had hoped that they were headed in that direction, but little did he know.
"Well, how are the newlyweds? I take it that you had a happy reunion?" Smyth was obviously enjoying this. Smyth puffed on his cigarette, allowing the torturous silence to continue longer than he should have. "So tell me …why the secrecy? Afraid we would separate you two?" Amanda and Lee remained silent. He did not speak again for a minute. " You know, this may come as a surprise to you, but I am not planning on breaking up one of the most efficient teams this Agency has ever seen. I am no fool." He couldn't help but notice the surprised looks on the agents' faces. Although he would never admit it, he actually had enjoyed watching the Stetson/King partnership grow the last few years. The housewife-turned-agent intrigued him. He did not want to see them fail; it was, after all, his idea to offer King a full time job after the Stemwinder case.
He looked up at his favorite team. "It's not like we haven't had married partners before…it does help with the cover stories sometimes. And, you have proved how well you work together over the years. Matter of fact, I'd say you're your performance in the last fourteen months have been the best. I only hope your personal relationship is just as rewarding." Smyth took a few more puffs of his cigar. "You can continue working together…for now. Just don't let me down".
Amanda and Lee quickly glance at each other, then at Billy. Dr. Smyth noticed the exchange then spoke as if it was his cue to leave. "Well, I too have some reports to file and a few status changes to make". He turned to leave then stopped. "Bye the way, good job on stopping Sullivan...Mrs. Stetson." He made a point to emphasize "Mrs. Stetson". As Smyth walked out he gave Billy an approving nod. "Why don't all of you take a few days off, I am sure you could use some rest".
Billy looked at his two agents as Dr. Smyth closed the door. So much had happened the last couple of days, it was only beginning to sink in for him and everyone else. They were all going to need a few days off. "Well I don't know if this is the appropriate time, but…congratulations. Albeit fourteen months too late".
Amanda let out a breath. She had been holding it since they walked into the room. She ran to Billy and gave him a hug.
"Thanks for everything Amanda. You did an outstanding job you know." He looked up at Lee then back to Amanda. "Enjoy your time off." Billy stopped before he headed out the door and looked back at them. "Who would have guessed, what I did when I decided to make you two partners! Oh…by the way….good luck with Dotty. I don't think she'll be quite as understanding as Dr. Smyth." Billy saw the look Amanda and Lee flashed each other and had to muffle a laugh.
*** Thursday, Late Evening ***
Lee and Amanda were outside the back door. They were both afraid to enter. As soon as they knew Amanda was safe and the sight secured, Billy called Dotty to let her know Amanda was fine. Amanda let out a soft sigh. She and Lee had stopped by the apartment first to freshen up and get a bite to eat. Although Amanda was anxious to see her mother, she needed time to clear her mind and prepare for their inevitable confrontation. She did not know what to expect.
Amanda opened the door. The den and kitchen were empty. But she saw her mother's coffee mug on the coffee table. "Uh, Mother?" Amanda heard her mother run down the stairs. She ran to Amanda and embraced her daughter in a long hug. Amanda could feel her mother shaking.
"Amanda, I am so glad you are safe! Do you have any idea how worried about you? I haven't been able to eat or sleep since I found out. Are you okay? Mr. Melrose said you weren't hurt, but you look so tired. I can't believe…." She stopped and pulled Amanda away to face her. Suddenly her voice changed from relief and joy to anger. "What is all this about your little secret life? What made you think that it was okay to just flat out lie to your family?!! And what about the boys, did they ever enter your mind when you decide to play secret agent? Amanda what would we do if anything happened to you??!. Amanda glanced at Lee, almost pleading for help.
"And you Mr. Lee Stetson" Following Amanda's gaze, Dotty's attention turned to Lee. " ….I only have one thing to say to you…" Lee stepped back. He squeezed Amanda's hand as hard as he could. Took one big gulped and looked up to Dotty to face up to her wrath. But what he saw in her eyes surprised him….
She smiled a slow smile at Lee…."Welcome to the family Lee". She opened her arms towards him. Shocked and relieved, Lee stepped into her embrace and felt surprisingly safe. Amanda stood back and watched her mother with her husband. She blinked away the tears she felt rising in her eyes.
Dotty was relieved that he was safe too. She had grown found of him this past year, and now that he was her son-in-law, that fondness was even deeper. She knew he loved Amanda…and that was all that really mattered. Dotty and Lee broke their embrace and she reached for Amanda's hand. "Thanks for bringing Amanda home. I knew you would".
Dotty stared at the couple for a long moment. "Okay you two. I am not going to sit here and pretend that I am not upset about all of this - the job, the marriage and all of the lies. But, I am going to try my best to understand. And believe me, we will be thoroughly discussing this in the morning. But I think right now we could all use some rest." She turned back to Lee. "Oh, and Lee, since you and Amanda are married, I expect that you will be staying the night and through the weekend, at least until the boys get back".
Lee looked sheepishly to the ground, unsure of what to say. He knew one thing for sure - he was not leaving Amanda's side tonight. They had a lot to catch up on.
Dotty nodded as if she were able to read his mind. "Good, I'll take that as a yes then. Besides, its not like it would be the first time you've stayed overnight, would it?" Dotty noticed the embarrassed flush on both their faces. "At least I know why I kept finding men's socks in the laundry." She continued, ignoring the look that transpired between Amanda and Lee. "I will have a fresh pot of coffee for us in the morning. We have a lot to talk about…. OH, let's make that LATE morning. I am sure you two have some catching up to do as well….." She gave them a knowing wink and a smirk and went up the stairs.
Lee turned to Amanda. He just stood there looking down at Amanda, at his wife. The truth was out. No more secrets and no more lies. They were both a little shocked at Dotty's reaction. Maybe the time that passed gave her a chance to take it all in. After a few moments of blissful silence, Amanda grabbed Lee's hand and they quietly walked upstairs together. ….
To be continued…."No More Secrets. No More Lies. Part II – Dotty's Interrogation"