*The usual disclaimers apply. This story is a continuation of Tea and Secrets
and will be followed by a third story. Thanks to the Wicky Gals for their help and
support and a very special thanks to Ermintrude for all her help with this and
for being a fantastic beta. Enjoy :)*
Ghosts From the Past-Part One
Tuesday, April 6, 2004
"You knew I'd come back, Amanda—one day."
That voice—she'd never forget that voice. His dark eyes stared down into hers—they seemed to stare down into her very soul. Amanda tried to move, but she seemed to be frozen—her limbs wouldn't obey. Sensing her fear, Birol smiled widely as his hand reached down towards her—
"No—please—" She struggled weakly but he wouldn't let her go—his grip felt like iron.
It was Lee's voice, not Birol's, Amanda realized. His arms were holding her. The Q-Bureau came back into focus—the papers on her desk—
'Must've fallen asleep while working again', she thought. Lately it had become a bad habit with her.
"Amanda?" her husband's voice broke into her reverie. He stared at her, his hazel eyes full of concern.
"I'm fine," she managed to say. "I just had a bad dream, that's all. I'm fine." She repeated it again, not sure if she was trying to convince him or herself.
"About Birol?" Lee asked. Amanda didn't answer, looking down and away from him. "It was about him, wasn't it? Answer me, Amanda—please."
"Yes," she replied, her voice low. "It was about him. But it's not a big deal."
"Not a big deal?" Lee said. "It's the third time this week—you've been having them for a couple of weeks now."
Actually it had been more than a couple of weeks, Amanda knew—she'd been having these dreams for at least a couple of months. But Lee didn't know that. He didn't know about the times when she had woken up in bed—heart pounding—times when she'd lain there silently with him beside her, listening to the sounds of his breathing and to the gentle tick-tock of the clock on the nightstand, hoping to soothe herself back into sleep. Part of her wanted to tell him—tell him everything—
Did she really want to do that, though? She was supposed to be a professional, after all—did she want to let Lee know how much this was really bothering her? He was looking at her now, waiting for an answer.
"Well, is it really so surprising that I'm having these dreams?" She told him, indicating the folder on her desk. "I mean, with what we're working on—"
"Amanda, listen." Lee knelt beside her, taking his hands in hers. "What we're working on deals with Karbala—with Faisal and finding Alice Murphy. Nothing we've uncovered so far points to Birol—nothing." He could see the doubt in her expression—he squeezed her hands, trying to convince her with his words. "He's in prison, Amanda—he's not getting out any time soon."
"Maybe," Amanda replied. "But we haven't found everything, Lee. We haven't found Faisal—we haven't found any trace of Alice Murphy—it's like they've disappeared off the face of the earth."
"None of those things point towards Birol," Lee countered.
"They could. Birol had a huge network, Lee—even in prison he could—"
"He had a huge network." Lee squeezed her hands again. "Past on, you heard what Billy said. Karbala is Faisal's baby now. Birol is out of the picture—he really is."
Out of the picture. Part of her wanted to believe that—she really did.
At that moment the phone rang.
"Excuse me." Releasing her hands Lee stood, lifting the receiver on Amanda's desk. "Stetson here." He paused briefly. "Yeah, we'll be right there—thanks." He hung up the phone. "That was Francine—she wants to see us in the map room."
Amanda rose from her desk. "Well than we should go then—there's no time to waste."
"Amanda, wait," Lee told her. "Just a minute. I meant what I said, all right? Birol is out of this."
"I know—I know you meant it." Amanda paused, trying to gather her thoughts. "It's just—I keep remembering what Karbala and Birol did to us before—when I heard that name again it all came back. And part of me can't stop thinking of what he could do now—to us—to our family—"
"He won't."Lee pulled his wife close. "That bastard's in prison, Amanda—he's never going to hurt us again. We're going to end Karbala—we'll pull this network down for good, I promise."
"For good," Amanda repeated as her arms wrapped around him tightly. "I know we will."
She could only hope and pray that she was right.
SMK SMK SMK SMK
4247 Maplewood Dr.
"Police are still gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses in the case of the Arlington tire slasher," the radio announcer intoned. "But at this time there are no leads and no suspects. Anyone with any information is asked to call—"
"No leads," Amanda muttered to herself. "Of course." No leads—it seemed to be the story of her life these days. She opened the fridge and knelt down, pulling a head of lettuce and a package of cherry tomatoes from the crisper drawer. Amanda put the cherry tomatoes in the colander for rinsing and unwrapped the lettuce, placing it on the cutting board. Now for the lettuce knife—not in the silverware drawer or in the dishwasher. Finally, Amanda found it in the drainer along with the dishes from last night's supper—Jenna had done the washing but as usual she'd forgotten to dry and put everything away.
If only everything in her life was so easily found, she thought. Unwrapping the head of lettuce Amanda used the plastic knife to cut it into two neat halves, setting one half aside.
"Oh it smells wonderful in here," Dotty announced as she came into the kitchen. "I certainly hope that's what we're having tonight."
"It is, Mother" Amanda said. "I put some pot roast in the slow cooker this morning. I'm just making a little side salad to go along with it."
Dotty nodded. "Sounds very nice."
"Hopefully it will be." Amanda chopped the lettuce into small pieces, putting it in the colander along with the tomatoes. "And I sent Lee and Jenna to the store to get some salad dressing. Did you and the colonel have a nice time?"
Dotty nodded. "We had a little picnic in Rock Creek Park and then walked around a bit—it was just too nice a day to stay inside."
"Yeah, I know what you mean." Amanda put the colander in the sink and grabbed the vegetable sprayer. "I'm glad you two had fun."
"Well, you know—" Dotty gave a little shrug. "Nothing may come of it—I don't know if it's the same as what Captain Curt and I had, but the colonel's a good friend—and it's nice to get out of the house and do something every once in a while."
"Yes it definitely is," Amanda agreed.
"Speaking of which, it might not hurt you and Lee take a little time for yourselves—get away from it all—"
She should have known that she was building up to this. Amanda let out her breath in a quiet sigh. "Mo-ther—"
"Amanda, why not? Go away for a weekend—Jenna and I can cope by ourselves, believe me." Dotty placed a hand on her daughter's shoulder. "You've been working much too hard these days—if you just took some time—"
"Well, I can't !" Amanda snapped—immediately regretting the outburst when she saw the hurt in her mother's eyes. She rushed to explain. "It isn't that I wouldn't like to, mother—but this case—"
"Still nothing with Alice Murphy?" Dotty asked, her voice quiet.
Amanda shook her head."Nothing at all—it's like she's vanished into thin air." Along with Faisal and any chance of finding Karbala—she added silently, knowing that she couldn't tell her mother any of that. "I guess it's just frustrating me, that's all."
"It's understandable," Dotty replied. "And it's all the more reason to take a little time-off from all this—get a fresh perspective, as they say."
Her mother never gave up—despite everything Amanda found herself beginning to smile. "That's true."
"Of course it is," Dotty said. "And besides, that woman's like a bad penny, Amanda—she's bound to turn up sooner or later."
"I hope so—but at the moment we—" Amanda's voice broke off as she heard the front door open.
"Dad, I don't know what you're so upset about." Jenna's voice. "I did exactly what you told me to."
"No," Lee replied as he strode into the kitchen, Jenna following behind. "I told you to follow the white line, Jenna—not drive directly on it—you were practically in the middle of the road."
"Well last time you said I was too close to the cars parked on the side," Jenna placed the bag on the kitchen table. "I just wanted to be extra careful—hi Mom, hi Grandma."
"Well, hello, there," Amanda shut off her faucet and turned to face her daughter. "So, did you and your dad practice driving again?"
Jenna nodded. "Well—he let me drive home, anyway. I think I'm getting a little better."
"You are, munchkin," Lee told her. "You just need to practice staying on one side of the road."
"You'll get better, sweetheart, I promise," Amanda said.
"Yes, you will," Dotty added. "It just takes lots of practice—and believe me, I know."
Jenna smiled. "Yeah, I'll just keep working at it," she said. "By the way, we got blue cheese and ranch—we couldn't find any of that honey mustard stuff. I hope that's okay."
"I'm sure it's just—"Amanda started to say when the voice of the radio announcer broke in.
"And in other news, the body of the man that was discovered just below Little Creek Falls Dam just before dawn this morning has been identified as that of 39-year-old Charles Edward Rendell. No cause of death has yet been determined. In Prince William County this morning—"
Rendell, Amanda thought—dear God—Karbala had made its next move. Lee stood by her side now, his hand supporting her back.
"Mom?" Jenna was staring at her now, her expression puzzled. "Are you okay?"
It took a few seconds before she could speak. "I'm all right," Amanda managed to say. "I guess I just zoned out for a second or two. Listen why don't you go upstairs and get washed up—I'll have dinner ready in just a minute."
"Okay," Jenna's voice was filled with doubt. "As long as you're sure—"
"She's just fine, munchkin." Lee spoke up. "Just go upstairs and wash up, okay?"
For a moment it looked like Jenna might argue again; instead she simply nodded. "Okay. I love you, Mom."
"Love you too, sweetheart."