"Harry!" Amanda was so surprised she jerked the wheel and an oncoming car blared its horn at her. Concentrating on the road, she began to pepper Lee with questions and comments. "Lee, that makes no sense. That would mean Harry is the informant! How can he be the informant? And why would he be trying to discredit Mr. Melrose? Why did he send you to investigate when he already has the information?"
"Amanda, calm down! I agree. It makes no sense. There's no logical reason—Watch out! Billy's slowing down. Pull up by the curb here and see what he does. "
Their surprise over Harry's fingerprints was momentarily set aside as they watched their boss stop his car in front of an abandoned movie theatre. He exited his vehicle and disappeared down the alley. Without a word, Lee got out and started to follow, drawing his gun as he went. Amanda was close behind. For once, Lee hadn't told her to wait in the car. It was probably an oversight on his part but she wasn't going to mention it since she had no intention of being left behind anyway.
Silently they moved down the dark alley, carefully avoiding the debris on the ground so as to not give away their presence. At the back corner of the building they paused and listened. Voices were coming from around the corner. One belonged to Billy Melrose; the other had a distinctive Russian accent.
"You have something for me, Melrose?"
"If you have the money, Janovik."
"Oh indeed I do. I'm willing to pay you quite well for this last part. The initial information you have given us has been of high quality. With this last piece we will have a fully functioning program, capable of deciphering the American`s secret satellite transmissions."
"I hate doing this—"
"But you also hate the thought of all the 'accidents' that could happen to your family, if you don't start paying off some of those gambling debts."
"Is it my fault, you had such a string of bad luck?" Sarcasm was dripping from the Soviet's voice. "Enough if this, hand over the package."
Amanda felt Lee tense beside her, then he stepped out and levelled his gun at the men before him. "That's enough. Neither of you move!"
"Lee!" Billy called out in surprise.
"I thought you said you would take care of the agents who were following you?" Janovik snarled.
Just then, there was a shout behind them. Lee quickly turned toward this new possible danger. Janovik shoved Billy and ran through a partially open door that led into the old theatre. Lee swore and stepped forward to give chase but froze as he heard the click of a gun.
"Don't go after him Lee." Billy had his gun out and was pointing it at Lee and Amanda. "Drop your weapon."
"Billy, I can't believe—"
"I said to drop your weapon. God man, can't you ever follow orders?"
A new voice spoke from behind them. "Sometimes he follows them, Billy. But mostly he's a maverick which make him a pain in the rear but it also makes him a damn good agent. Drop your gun, son."
Lee and Amanda turned to see Harry Thorton behind them, also with a gun pointed their way. Lee lowered his weapon to the ground and kicked it away. His eyes reflected his inner confusion. Amanda squeezed his arm in sympathy. She`d trusted both of these men implicitly. "Harry? Not you too?"
"Ah yes, I'm afraid I'm in on it too but not the way you think." Harry lowered his gun as did Billy and both men started laughing. "Lee you did an admirable job. You followed the trail just like I knew you would. If you promise not to shoot us, you can pick your gun back up. You looked rather intense there for a moment and I didn't want you shooting someone and then regretting it later."
"What?" Amanda and Lee spoke simultaneously, looking at each other with equally puzzled expressions.
"Come on you two, there's an all night diner around the corner. We'll go have some coffee, maybe a donut and I`ll try to explain everything." Billy walked up to his two best agents and put his arms around them, guiding them down the alley.
Once they were seated with warm cups of coffee to sooth frayed nerves, Harry began to explain. "You see Lee, Billy and I had our own little operation going here. Together we devised a plan to get Janovik to do our dirty work for us. We set Billy up as a perfect target: a man with access to sensitive government documents and an apparent weakness—gambling and a large debt. When Janovik approached him, Billy of course refused at first but then a supposed string of bad luck had him seeking Janovik out and offering pieces of the "Valiant" project in exchange for cash."
"What's the Valiant project?" Amanda asked.
"A program that deciphers coded satellite messages. If the Soviets could get their hands on it, they'd be able to read all of our transmissions."
"Then why did Mr. Melrose give it to them? Oh! I know—it's a fake."
"No Amanda, Valiant isn't a fake. It does decode messages but more importantly there's a sub program in it that will also decode and send Soviet messages back to us. By installing it, the Russians are in effect compromising their own transmissions." Billy smiled widely and rubbed his hands together obviously pleased with the clever deception.
"And the messages they receive from our satellites?" Lee queried.
"Oh, we've made sure that nothing vital will be transmitted using codes that Valiant has been programmed for. We'll send messages of course—supposedly secret—but these secrets are meant to be told. They'll have just enough truth in them to be believable."
"Okay this is all starting to make sense but why did you draw Amanda and me into the plot?" Lee was still looking confused.
Harry patted Amanda's hand. "No offense my dear but you were never supposed to be a part of this. It was just Lee. We wanted it to look like someone was getting suspicious and investigating Billy—it added an extra touch of realism to the whole scenario. Janovik is clever. If everything had just fallen into place he might have been suspicious. But now he thinks he's gotten away with Valiant and since Billy has been 'caught' their relationship is severed. Janovik will head back to Russia and with any luck they won`t be any the wiser for quite some time."
"But if Mr. Melrose was caught committing treason, won't the Russians become suspicious when there's no trial?" Amanda frowned, still trying to make sense of it all.
"I'm off for an extended vacation. I'm finally cashing in all of my overtime and I'm meeting Jeannie and the girls in Mexico. We haven't had a family vacation in years. The Russians will assume I'm in prison awaiting trial and by time I get back and circulating again, we'll have gained enough information through Valiant that even if the Russians become suspicious, it won't matter."
"So all the false evidence...?" Lee asked.
"I paid Mr. Young to be a courier and deliver it—you almost caught me this afternoon. The information was just to keep you interested and on the trail. We both knew that no matter how bad it looked, you wouldn't immediately turn Billy over to Smyth. You'd keep investigating, sniffing around. It lulled Janovik into a sense of security about Billy's veracity. The Agency wouldn't be investigating one of its own unless that person really was up to something.
"And shooting my car?" Amanda still couldn't figure that out.
"Well, we wanted Janovik to think Billy was trying to keep Lee from finding out his secret. We hired to actors to rough his up a little the first night. Sorry, my boy, you were never supposed to be seriously hurt. The storm and the tree on your car wasn't part of the plan." Harry looked apologetic.
"At the warehouse, I purposely fired into the dirt at least six feet away from you, Lee. And Amanda, I am sorry about your tire but it was on purpose. It looked good and kept you from following me. You were never in any danger." Billy looked sincerely at his two friends.
"Oh that's all right, Sir. I needed new tires anyway." Amanda shrugged. What else could she say?
"Well, does that explain everything to your satisfaction?" Harry asked, pushing away from the table as if to leave.
"I guess," Amanda looked at Lee. He nodded thoughtfully.
"It all makes sense now. There's just one thing though..." Lee paused and looked at Billy expectantly. "Technically, I was out during that storm doing Agency business, right? If it hadn't been for this case, I probably would have been home watching a movie."
"So...?" Billy raised his eyebrows questioningly.
"So, who pays for the repairs to my 'vette?"
Billy and Harry looked at each other wincing. Lee folded his arms and set his chin. Amanda just shook her head, leaned back and sipped her coffee waiting to be entertained by the upcoming fireworks.