For the Love of a Child
Notes: This story is a replacement for the fourth season episode Photo Finish, and in that sense represents an Alternative Universe from that point in time forward, with a small amount of past liberties as well. I am using the CBS time-line, which puts this story after Nightcrawler and Lee and Amanda's engagement. That said, I've tried to stay within SMK canon as much as possible. There is, however, some violation of both SMK and Rookies canon, with the time-line being the biggest victim. Thanks to Bridget and Kim for the inspiration of "what-if".
Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King belongs to Warner Brothers & Shoot the Moon Production. The Rookies belong to Spelling-Goldberg Productions. The story is mine.
Scene One: IFF, Friday Morning
Billy Melrose hung up his phone in frustration and looked once more at the file on his desk. What the hell is this, he wondered. He'd never before seen the notation that marked the security review of the employee whose file he held. He hadn't seen it on her record during earlier checks and he'd never seen it on anyone else's record either. His phone calls for clarification were hitting a brick wall. He opened his desk drawer, and removed the bottle of antacid tablets. Taking two of them and rinsing them down with his morning coffee he proceeded to dial the phone.
"We've got something down here that might be a problem," he said into the phone once it had been answered. "Get down here as soon as you can... ALONE!" Billy hung up the phone with more force than necessary and waited.
Twenty minutes later, Lee Stetson entered Billy's office.
"Lock the door, Scarecrow," Billy told him. "I don't want any interruptions."
Lee looked questioningly at his boss but remained silent. He engaged the deadbolt on Billy's door and took a seat in front of the desk. Billy handed him the file he had been examining earlier, and watched as Lee began to read through it.
"It's Amanda's security review," Lee stated after a few seconds. "Did something turn up?"
"Look on the last page."
Lee turned to the end of the file and saw the green page from the Department of Justice. "What's this?"
"I have no idea, Lee. I've never seen anything like it before and no one at DoJ is giving me any information at all."
"Have you spoken to Amanda?"
"No, not yet." Billy paused and waited. "I wanted to at least have a coherent set of questions to ask her. But I don't. Have you two ruffled any feathers over there lately?"
"Not that I can think of. Does this sheet mean they have a problem with her clearance being upgraded?"
"I don't know. Man, I hate saying that. I should know something more but I just don't. All I know is that they've requested her records from the past three and a half years for review, and that they made the request the day after we initiated the new check on her. As far as I know we have NEVER EVER had a DoJ request like this before."
"The timing's suspicious, Billy. Maybe she's stumbled onto something?"
"I don't think so. She's been doing mostly routine stuff for Beaman's class. Statik Aerospace, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Lee acknowledged. She'd been working day and night on that assignment and had just turned down a weekend getaway due to it. "It should be straight-forward: I did their review five years ago and it was quick and neat."
Billy laughed at the frustration on his agent's face. "Feeling neglected?" he teased.
The section chief waved the remark off and stood up. He walked toward the far wall, and then turned. "It's Friday and it's pretty slow around here. Why don't you tell Amanda that she has the rest of the day off? Then you can do some digging around while she's gone."
"What kind of digging are you talking about?" Lee asked suspiciously, uncomfortable with where he thought the conversation was headed.
"The kind that's never pleasant, Scarecrow. Whatever kind of digging you need to do."
Lee found himself staring intently at the corner of Billy's desk. Maybe, he thought to himself, a broad interpretation of that remark would give him an out. He nodded, stood, and left the room. Billy sat back down and sighed. Sometimes he hated his job.
Scene Two: Q Bureau, Late Friday Morning
"Are you sure you don't need me today? I am full time now, you know?" Amanda teased.
"You've already put in over sixty hours this week, and your classmates have been complaining to Beaman! Besides, Billy said it was slow. Go on, get out of here." Lee smiled at her. "You did say that Joe was taking the boys out tonight and your mother was going to be out. Maybe I can get done early too and we can get a jump on our evening."
Amanda raised an eyebrow. "It sounds like you are trying to get rid of me, Stetson."
"Would I do that?"
"Yes." Amanda pushed her index finger into his chest. "Spill it."
"I can't," he admitted. He watched her face as the realization dawned.
"You need to get rid of me? What's wrong?"
Lee just shook his head.
"Can you give me a hint?"
"You know that your clearance is being reviewed for an upgrade, right?" Lee asked.
"Well, is there anything you can think of that might turn up?" Lee knew he had said too much anyway. He watched Amanda closely for a reaction, but she turned around and picked up her purse and some files.
"Nothing should turn up." Amanda gave Lee a kiss. "I'll see you later. Give me a call when you're finished."
He stood there after she left, replaying her answer in his head. "Nothing should turn up." That was a very un-Amanda-like answer. She had left quickly once he mentioned the review - all of her protests had vanished and he was alone in their office. She knows what it is, he realized.
Scene Three: Maplewood Drive, Friday Afternoon
"I don't care if he's in a meeting again. You tell him that I need to talk to him and I need to talk to him now!" Amanda was uncharacteristically harsh to the woman on the phone. She paced back and forth in her kitchen while she waited.
"Joe, thank goodness!"
"Amanda, what's wrong? Are the boys okay?" Joe knew that she would never pull him out of a partners' meeting unless it was an emergency.
"The boys are fine, but we've got a problem."
"I don't know," she answered slowly. "A problem."
Joe was silent for a minute as he pondered what Amanda was not saying. "Are you sure?" he finally asked.
"I think so."
"Shit," he said into the phone.
"Yeah," she agreed, knowing that the use of any expletive meant Joe was extremely worried. "I'm sorry."
"Not your fault. Never was," he told her. "I'll see what I can do. If you need to reach me, leave a message at my place. I'm going to leave here now. I'll be by for the boys about six."
"I'll let you know what I find out."
"Bye." Amanda hung up the phone and resumed her pacing of the kitchen. She felt the tears sting her eyes but she refused to let them fall. Twelve years... it had been twelve years and she had believed the past was dead. She fingered the engagement ring on the chain around her neck. She was supposed to be starting over. What she had now, she knew without any doubts, was stronger and more real than anything she had ever felt before. Would it be strong enough, she wondered, to keep them all safe?
Dotty found Amanda standing in the kitchen, staring out the window with tears running down her face.
"Amanda, what is it?"
Amanda put the chain under her blouse and turned to face her mother. She couldn't find the words to tell her that their life might be turned upside down once more. She looked at her mother and remembered back in time. It struck Amanda how much harder it had been then and how much more her mother had lost. How could she tell her that it might be happening again?
Dotty returned Amanda's look and was frightened by what she saw. It was a look she hadn't seen in years, as if a veil had been pulled over her daughter's heart and soul.
"What happened, Amanda?" her mother asked. "Whatever it is, we'll deal with it together. You know that."
Amanda nodded her head, unable to find the words, unable to move. Dotty walked to her daughter and put her arms around her. "It's okay, baby, it's okay."
Scene Four: Maplewood Drive, Friday evening
Lee arrived on Amanda's street at five-fifty. He'd spent the last several hours getting nowhere on Amanda's file. When he called earlier to talk to Amanda, Dotty had answered the phone. He had been taken aback, not knowing what to say and not having spoken to her since their brief meeting while Amanda had been missing. But Dotty had forged ahead, reminding him of Amanda in so many ways. She had said that Amanda was having a rough afternoon, and that maybe a visit from a friend would help. "And I know, Mr. Stetson, that you and my daughter are very good friends." Lee laughed when she said that to him.
He parked his car around the corner, and made his way to the back of the house. He could hear Dotty telling the boys to get ready, that Joe would be there at six to pick them up. He had thought that Amanda said they'd be gone by now, but something must have come up. Lee peeked into the kitchen and didn't see Amanda anywhere. Her car was in the driveway - maybe she was resting. Dotty's comment had bothered him more then he liked to admit, especially coupled with what had and had not turned up earlier today. Lee turned to wait in his car until Joe came and took the boys.
As Lee opened the door to his car, Joe drove by and then backed up and rolled down his window.
"Have you spoken to her?" Joe asked without any preface.
"No," Lee answered, even more curious. "We were going to have dinner, but I thought I'd wait until the boys were gone."
Joe nodded and debated if he should say more. He was sure that something at the Agency was behind Amanda's earlier call. Joe had left messages for several people during the course of the afternoon, but nothing was resolved yet. He took a chance and decided to trust Lee. "I'm sorry I was running late - I'll get them out of there as quickly as I can. I think there are a few things she needs to tell you."
Lee looked at Joe King questioningly, surprised at the statement.
"Tell her I said it's okay."
"What's okay?" Lee wanted to know.
"Just tell her." Joe rolled up his window and drove to the front of Amanda's house.
Lee sat in his car and watched Joe ring the front door bell. He sat and watched as Joe was embraced by Dotty and pulled into the house. He watched the clock on his dash, and waited for Joe to leave with the boys. It took less than five minutes for the trio to appear and go to Joe's car. As soon as Joe pulled away, Lee got out of his car and walked to the front door.
As with Joe, Dotty answered the door when Lee rang. "Come in Lee, she's in the kitchen." She gave his arm a squeeze and then turned and went upstairs. Lee had a very uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach all day and it had gotten worse in the last few minutes.
"Amanda?" Lee entered the kitchen and saw her standing and staring out the window over the sink. "I'm in here, silly," he teased.
She turned and went to him, hugging him tightly. "Oh, Lee," she whispered as the tears began to flow.
"Hey, it's okay," he told her as he lead her to the couch. "It can't be that bad."
"It might be," Amanda said through her tears.
"Tell me," he prompted.
"Yes, you can. You can tell me anything, don't you know that by now?" Lee didn't understand. She'd always been open with him.
"I can't tell you this." She looked him in the eye. "I can't."
Lee thought of what Joe had said outside. "I saw Joe before he picked up the boys. He said something to me that didn't make any sense."
Amanda looked at her hands and waited.
"He told me to tell you it was okay to tell me." Lee heard Amanda take a sharp intake of breath, as if surprised by what he said. "What's the big secret?"
Amanda turned to him, but anything more was interrupted by the doorbell. Dotty came down the stairs to answer the door. After speaking briefly to the person at the front door, she joined Lee and Amanda in the family room.
"That was Curt. We're going out to dinner, maybe a movie, maybe a drive. Make a special night of it, you know?" She knew she was rambling, knew that was where Amanda got it from. "You have a good night. Joe won't be back until late. It will be all right, dear, I promise." Dotty kissed her daughter and gave Lee a look he couldn't read. Then she was gone.
"Okay, it's just us now," he told Amanda. "Talk to me."
"I know you're going to make fun of me," Amanda began, "but I think I need a drink."
"Yeah, that bad." She stood up and went into the kitchen. After a few minutes she returned with two wine glasses and set them on the table. She went back into the kitchen and returned with the wine bottle. "I may need a couple," Amanda admitted. "I know what the review turned up. It was Justice, right?"
"Yeah. You're doing better than the rest of us," Lee told her. "All we know is that whatever it was, it began as soon as we started your review. Beyond that, it's nothing more than what's called a "green sheet." They're interested in you and we don't know why."
"I do, though." She pulled the chain holding her engagement ring out from underneath her blouse. "Do you know how happy you made me when you gave me this? Lee Stetson, I want you to know that I have never felt what I feel for you, not ever, not once."
"I love you, Amanda," he told her gently. "Whatever it is we can deal with it together."
"I don't think so," she answered quietly. "Not this time."
"Tell me," Lee said once again.
Scene Five: Amanda's Story, Friday evening in Arlington
Amanda looked at Lee, surprised that he hadn't figured any of it out before. "You know my dad worked for Justice before he died, right?" Seeing Lee nod his head, she continued. "Well, occasionally some of what he dealt with involved helping law enforcement officials relocate if they were in danger."
"Huh?" Lee still wasn't seeing a connection with Amanda's file.
Lee got the feeling it was more than just Joe. "Just Joe?"
"No, not really." Amanda paused. She was unsure how to proceed, and remembered back to when Joe had returned from Estoccia. Even then the small irregularities in his file had been overlooked. Both Joe and Amanda hadn't given it much thought at the time - everything had been quiet for several years and things seemed safe. She walked over to the bookshelves and picked up one of the pictures of the boys.
"All of you?" Lee asked. No, he thought to himself, that wasn't possible. He knew Amanda's background too well.
"Phillip," she replied. Amanda noticed the puzzlement on Lee's face. She turned to explain. "You didn't pick up on the time line discontinuity last year, Scarecrow. Must have had other things on your mind." She watched Lee smile and she knew now what she had suspected then. Joe's return had prompted a long hard look at Lee's feelings for his partner. While this warmed her heart, she knew she had to continue. "I met Joe when he was a first year law student, living at Mrs. McDonald's boarding house."
"I thought you were married when he started law school."
"Nope, not right away...."
Scene Six: A Coffee House in Georgetown, September 1972
"This smoke is getting to me," Amanda West told her friend Debby. "I'm going to get some air."
Amanda looked to the front door of the coffee house but couldn't figure out how to get past the crowd. She noticed a side door past the restrooms. 'Maybe I'll just go stand in the alley for a little while,' she thought. As she made her way past the restrooms and toward the door to the alley, her senses were assaulted by a different kind of smoke. 'Not cigarettes,' she sighed and turned around and entered the rest room. Amanda splashed some cold water on her face. 'Air,' she thought, 'If I could just get some air then maybe this wouldn't be getting to me this much.'
She returned to her seat and Debby turned around. "Any luck?"
"No. Couldn't make it to the front door and the side door exited into a fog of weed smoke," Amanda told her.
"Well at least they're outside," Debby answered and took another sip from her beer mug. "Come on, Amanda. Lighten up and have some fun."
"You know," a soft voice began from somewhere over her shoulder, "the D.C. Police are too busy and no one really cares about what's going on in the alley."
"I don't either," Amanda admitted, "except that I feel like I can't breathe in here." She turned to look at the owner of the voice. Older, not too tall, light friendly eyes.
He looked back at her. 'No,' he told himself, 'not a ghost... slightly younger... almost a twin, though....' He was drawn to this tall, thin brunette with the dark eyes, and he felt himself about to drown in memories.
He held out his hand. "Why don't we take a walk? I think I can get us out the front way." He looked at Amanda's expression. "My name's Joe King," he told her. "I'm safe. Really."
Amanda laughed and nodded her thanks. Whispering her plans to her friend, she took Joe's hand and followed him toward the door.
"Are you at Georgetown?" he asked her once they were walking along the sidewalk.
"No, I'm a fourth year at the University of Virginia. I'm just up visiting for the weekend."
"My parents live up here," Amanda told him. "What about you? You look too old to be in school." Seeing his face, she quickly tried to fix her gaff. "I'm sorry, that came out badly, didn't it?"
Joe laughed. "Yeah, it did, but I'll forgive you. I'm a first year law student here."
"Law," Amanda repeated. "Must be nice to know what you want to do."
"Must be," Joe told her laughingly.
They continued walking together. He was a gentle soul, Amanda thought. She felt comfortable with him; safe as he held her hand.
Scene Seven: Maplewood Drive, Arlington, Present Day
"I was so young," Amanda laughed wryly at the memory. "Being with Joe made me feel so grown up. We started seeing each other, talking on the phone.... After about a month or so he wanted to come down to Charlottesville for a weekend."
Lee looked at Amanda, questions in his eyes.
"Yeah, I know, Mother would have loved that. Instead, I talked him into spending a day up here together, and then dinner at my house."
"What was so important?" Lee wondered if Joe had proposed that suddenly.
"He wanted me to meet his son."
Lee had trouble swallowing the wine in his mouth. Finally, he forced it down and asked, "Phillip?"
Amanda nodded. "He was four months old the first time I saw him. I fell in love with him at first sight."
Lee shook his head as he tried to make sense of what Amanda had told him thus far. Phillip was Joe's son, not hers. She fell in love with a baby... had she also fallen in love with his father?
Scene Eight: The West House, Early November 1972
"Carl," Dotty West called to her husband. "Are they here yet?"
"I don't think so," he told her. "Wait, I just heard a car door." He walked to the front window and looked out. "Oh my God!"
"What is it?" Dotty asked as her husband came into the kitchen and began digging through the cabinets.
"I need a drink," he confessed. His wife handed him a glass and filled it with some scotch. He drank it in a single gulp. "Where's your Galliano, Dotty? You might need it."
"What are you talking about?" Dotty wanted to know what had rattled her husband. He was normally an unshakable person. It was one of the things that comforted her most about him.
Carl walked to the door and opened it up to the small party coming up the walk. "Hey, Panda," he greeted his daughter with a hug. "What have you gotten yourself into this time?"
"Hi, Daddy," she kissed his cheek. "I brought some friends."
"Joe," Carl West extended his hand and Joe took it, carefully balancing the small bundle on his right shoulder with his left hand.
"Carl," Joe shook his head. "I should have made the connection," he told the older man.
"You two know each other?" Amanda asked. "How?"
"Long story," her father told her abruptly. "Come on inside."
As they walked into the West house, Carl took another look at the small boy in Joe King's arms. "How's he been doing?" he asked.
"Not bad," Joe answered. "I miss him though, but staying with me at the boarding house wouldn't have worked. It's way too loud."
"Dawson said they love having him over at their place," Carl told him. "He constantly talks about him in the office, you know?"
Joe nodded. "Yeah, I've been out there most weekends. Wish it could be more but with studying and everything I really don't have the time." He looked at the older man. "I can't believe how much you've all done for me."
"You've been through a lot. We know that. No sense for an innocent to be hurt by it more than necessary."
Joe wasn't sure if Carl was talking about Phillip or Amanda at that point.
Scene Nine: Maplewood Drive, Arlington, Present Day
"Daddy had taken quite a liking to Phillip and Joe both. I just don't think he ever imagined me getting involved in any of it." Amanda shook her head at the memory of that very tense evening. "I knew he worked for Justice," she told him, "but I really didn't know what he did. Daddy never spoke of his work before to me. But that night he told me some of it. I didn't ask too many questions.... I was so young, all that I could see was the possibility for that little boy finally having a family: a whole family with two parents and grandparents... and maybe one day brothers or sisters."
Lee put his arms around Amanda and drew her to his chest. They sat there in silence while he absorbed what she had said and she tried to figure out the best way to proceed.
"I was ahead on credits," Amanda spoke softly, "so I was able to finish up that December. We had a really nice wedding.... Mother went all out even though it was pretty small. Then we moved here to Arlington. Daddy got Justice to help us get the house. We told all the neighbors that we had been married for almost a year, and we lied a bit about how old Phillip was. Daddy even got the birth certificate to list me as his mother." Amanda looked Lee straight in the eye. "I am his mother. I'm the only one he's ever had and he's every bit as much my son as Jamie is."
"Amanda," Lee said softly, "does Phillip know any of this?"
"No," she confessed. "I honestly hoped he'd never find any of it out. I know that's terrible: to lie to a child about his parents. But I also know, and always have, that this lie is keeping him safe and alive."
"Apparently. Why else would something turn up in a security review?"
"I don't know, Amanda."
Scene Ten: The Agency
Billy looked at his watch and pondered his next move. There was only one more person he could think of to call who might be able to help. He picked up the phone to dial.
"It's Melrose," Billy said into the phone once the person at the other end had answered. "Do you have a bit of time to try to help out a friend? We've got a bit of a puzzle here and haven't had any luck with it."
Billy relaxed as the voice on the other end of the phone spoke for a few minutes. Maybe, he thought to himself, this would work. "Do you have a secure fax I can send a few pages to?" he asked. "Tonight - now, if possible...." He scribbled the fax number on his desk blotter. "Yeah, I've got the number. Thanks."
Scene Eleven: Maplewood Drive, Arlington
"Amanda," Lee asked softly, "what happened to Phillip's mother?"
"She was a nurse. She was killed before he was born - shot while eight and a half months pregnant." Amanda went into the kitchen, and took a folder off the counter. "I thought one day you might want to see this, but I didn't know how or when. I guess now is the time."
Lee took the folder from her and began to read.... The first item was an obituary for Jill Danko from a California newspaper. The picture leapt from the page at Lee and he looked up at Amanda, shocked.
Not ready to confront her resemblance to Joe's first wife, Amanda told Lee to keep looking through the file. She continued to pace the family room as he read.
Lee read the full obituary, which listed as survivors one husband, Michael Danko of the S.C. Police Department, and one son, unnamed and born prematurely. The next page contained a small obituary for Michael Danko, Junior, and a short mention of Officer Danko's departure from the police department. The third page contained a heavily edited justice department file, detailing the relocation plans for one Joseph King and one Phillip King to the Washington D.C. area where Joseph King would be enrolled as a first year student at Georgetown Law School. Lee looked up as he heard a strangled sound escape from Amanda. She walked over and sat down beside him, laying a finger on the name of the person who had prepared the report: Carl West.
When he finished reading, Lee lay the folder on the coffee table. "Wow," he said softly. 'I really underestimated Joe,' Lee thought to himself. He looked to the woman sitting next to him on the couch.
"Why don't we take a dinner break?" he asked her.
"That would be good, Lee. I don't think I've eaten since breakfast."
"Should I order something or do you want to go out?" Lee didn't think Amanda wanted to cook right now. Then he had remembered her earlier invitation and he wondered if she had picked up anything.
As if reading his thoughts, she shook her head. "I never made it to the grocery store today. But there's a bunch of cold cuts and salads in the fridge," Amanda told him. "Think you can handle pulling a few sandwiches together?"
"Yeah, I think I can handle that." Lee went into the kitchen and began to remove items from the refrigerator. As he prepared their meal, he watched Amanda. She had leaned her head back and closed her eyes and was breathing slowly and deeply, almost as if trying to convince herself that this wasn' really happening. He felt the stab in his gut and hated the helplessness he was feeling. Slowly, he brought their plates to the table by the couch. He was about to sit down when the doorbell rang.
"Don't get it," Amanda said without opening her eyes.
The bell rang again, and then a hand began to knock on the door. "I guess whoever it is won't be ignored," Lee told her. "Let me try to get rid of them, okay?"
Amanda nodded but remained in place.
"Joe?" Lee was surprised to see Amanda's ex-husband at the door.
"Sorry to interrupt, but I wanted to check on how things were." Joe had his hands in his pockets and was staring at the ground a few inches from Lee's feet.
"Where are the boys?" Lee asked.
"A friend of Amanda's has them."
"What?" Amanda walked to the door looking confused. "I didn't arrange for anyone to get the boys from you tonight."
Joe looked puzzled. "He said you did. I was surprised you knew him at first - I mean, he just moved in next door a month or so ago, but then he began to talk about you and your dad and said he had some things that the boys might be interested in seeing...."
"Who are you talking about?" Lee felt himself beginning to lose his temper as he watched the worry on Amanda's face.
"My neighbor. His name is Harry Thornton."
"Oh my gosh!" Amanda stood shaking her head and Lee put his arms around her, as Joe watched in confusion.
"Billy must have called him," Lee told her. "But you never said Harry knew your father."
"Harry never told me he knew Daddy. I never knew he knew ...."
"Who is this Harry Thornton anyway?" Joe demanded. "Aside from being another one of your Agency spies?"
"He's not another spy, Joe. Harry V. Thornton founded the Agency," Lee explained as the trio walked into the family room. "Last year he and Amanda met and hit it off right from the start. At least his protectiveness is starting to make a little more sense now." Lee and Amanda sat on the couch, as Joe sank into the wing chair. "The boys are fine."
Joe looked to Amanda for confirmation and she nodded her head. "This is getting more confusing by the minute," she told them. "Listen, Joe, Lee and I were about to have a late dinner.... would you like a sandwich?"
"No, thanks. The boys and I had some burgers right after I picked them up. But I meant what I said at the door. I wanted to see how you were doing."
"Hungry," Lee answered for Amanda. "Since you're here, Joe, I'd be interested in hearing your side of what's been going on today. Amanda has been trying to explain things but I think she's a little exhausted and a lot hungry." He looked at Amanda for confirmation. "I'd like to hear your story."
Joe sat back in the chair and closed his eyes. He took a deep breath, opened his eyes and leaned forward. It didn't get any easier with time, he realized. "After I got out of the Air Force, I joined the Police Department in California. Jill, my wife, worked as a nurse at a nearby hospital. Most of the time I dealt with routine stuff - probably boring to what you are used to in fact. One night Jill and I were out to dinner. She'd just found out she was pregnant. We were celebrating but we were interrupted by a shooter. She lost the baby and she almost died. It devastated her ... devastated both of us. Then, miraculously she got pregnant again. I was terrified that something would happen. I had a bad feeling and she kept telling me I was being paranoid but it wouldn't go away. We were almost to the due date, and I was finally starting to relax when I got this funeral wreath at work. Ten minutes later the phone rang saying that Jill had been shot as she was going to her car in the hospital parking lot."
Lee sat on the couch in shock. Joe's face showed little emotion, and his recitation seemed almost automatic. But Lee also saw something deep in Joe's eyes that told him it was all self preservation: if he allowed himself to truly relive what had happened it might destroy him.
"After Jill's funeral, another wreath, identical to the one that I'd received the day she was killed, was sent to my office. It had my name on it, as well as my son's. Lt. Ryker had called the Feds and they decided it was time to get Justice involved. In return for my testimony they'd move us away and stage my son's death. It wasn't much of a stretch to do that ... he'd been born premature and we were all pretty worried. Anyway, I ended up in D.C. to give my testimony and enrolled at Georgetown. Amanda's father handled the relocation. I didn't make the connection with her until I came over to dinner the first time." Joe shook his head. "Small world."
Joe was quiet and sat looking at his ex-wife, as if uncertain how to continue. She looked at him and nodded. They had been over their relationship time and again. Admitting it now wasn't going to hurt her any more.
"We didn't tell Amanda much about what happened, only that my wife had died when my son was born and we were moved east to keep us safe. Amanda fell for Phillip the first time she saw him, and her resemblance to Jill had stunned me." Joe took a deep breath. "I guess I should have been more up front about that, but I couldn't. Here was this family, ready to welcome my son and I in, and I was afraid to screw it up. So I guess we made a go of it for a few years there, trying to figure out how to be normal, Amanda totally in love with Phillip and then Jamie, and me in love with a memory."
Lee wondered when Amanda had first seen a picture of Joe's first wife. He somehow doubted it was before they were married. How terrible for Amanda to realize that Joe's attraction to her was primarily due to her resemblance to his dead wife. 'Leslie.' The thought came unbidden to Lee as he realized the effect of dating her must have had on Amanda. His primary attraction to her had been due in a large part to her resemblance to Amanda. Thank goodness that hadn't gone anywhere.
"When I finished law school I had planned to stay in D.C. But it just wasn't meant to be." Joe knew this next part was going to be the hardest of all to tell. He looked at Amanda, knowing that it was going to be painful and feeling instinctively that she hadn't yet mentioned this part to Lee. "The day before my graduation, a funeral wreath was delivered to the Justice Department...."
Scene Twelve: Joe and Amanda's House, 1975
"Mother, can you get the front door?" Amanda called to her mother who was visiting for the day. "I've got an armful of applesauce and a small child under it somewhere!" Amanda began scrubbing Phillip as he wiggled and squirmed. She looked over to Jamie who was sleeping peacefully despite his older brother's vocal protestations. She was glad she'd decided to have lunch outside today. She'd just get the hose out after and wash the patio down.
Amanda jumped at the sound of her mother's voice. "Mother? What is it? What's wrong?" Her mother was pale and standing in the doorway. "I didn't hear you come outside."
"Amanda...." Dotty repeated the single name again as tears began to run down her face.
Placing the small boy in her arms on the ground and telling him to 'Stay!', she went to her mother and held her arms. "What is it?" she whispered.
"Carl," Dotty managed. "Your daddy.... that was the police and someone from Justice."
Amanda looked in the house and noticed two men standing in the family room, one in uniform and one in a suit. Picking Phillip up off the ground, and glancing at Jamie to make sure he was still safely asleep in his bassinet, she went inside to find out what it was her mother couldn't say.
"Mrs. King?" The older man, the one in the suit asked.
"Yes," Amanda replied.
"My name is Phil Dawson. I work at Justice, and I helped out with Phillip...."
"Oh yes, I'm sorry I didn't recognize you!"
"No problem. He's really grown quite a bit, hasn't he?"
Amanda nodded and smiled but knew that the man was stalling. Instinctively she knew something was very wrong.
"I'm afraid I've got some bad news about your father," he began. "Our section was having a retirement luncheon for our boss. Most people were walking to the restaurant, but your father had been feeling tired and was one of a handful who decided to drive. The car exploded in the parking garage as soon as it was started. Four people were killed."
"Daddy?" Amanda whispered as she felt the tears start.
Phil Dawson nodded. "I'm sorry. He was a very close friend."
The police officer cleared his throat, and Dawson hesitantly continued. "There's more."
"More?" 'How could there be more?' Amanda wondered.
He nodded. "We think it's connected to your husband. How much do you know about him?"
"I know the basic facts," Amanda replied. "Is he in danger? Are we in danger?"
"Possibly. That's our concern right now... that he's been traced to our section at Justice. We don't think he's been found yet..."
"Or you'd be talking to me about my husband instead of my father," Amanda concluded.
"Where is he now?" Amanda wanted to know. "Is he safe?"
"He's safe, ma'am," the police officer spoke. "We picked him up earlier at Georgetown and he's over at one of our station houses. It seemed better to keep him away from Justice for the moment. This just makes it looks like he has one too many traffic tickets."
Amanda nodded numbly. "What now?"
"We'll give him a lift home tonight, ma'am," the officer told her. "I understand he's graduating tomorrow. We'll have the ceremony well guarded, and your house as well."
"You're going to have to make some decisions," Dawson interrupted. "The two of you."
Amanda nodded again.
"I'm sorry," Phil Dawson stroked Phillip's head and was rewarded with a smile.
After the men left, Amanda turned and went out to the patio while Phillip remained on the floor playing with his toys. Her mother had sat down and was staring off into space. Jamie slept.
"We'll get through this," Amanda told her. 'We have no choice,' she told herself. Dotty didn't respond.
Scene Thirteen: Maplewood Drive, Friday Night
Lee's eyes widened and he instinctively pulled Amanda close. "I had no idea," he whispered to her. "I'm so sorry."
"They investigated, and were pretty sure that the connection to Amanda's dad was coincidental. Nonetheless, I thought it would be safer for all involved to leave. So I took a job with the Emergency Aid Organization and left for Africa."
"To keep them safe," Lee said softly.
"To keep them alive," Joe clarified. "I'd gotten wind of some information that said one of the men arrested for Jill's murder had escaped from jail the week prior to the explosion. The timing made me ... well, let's just say that nervous was an understatement. I hated leaving when I did. Jamie was an infant, Phillip was just becoming a little boy, Dotty had just lost her husband, Amanda her father."
"I think we all reasoned that if Joe wasn't around there was nothing to tie us to him. That's why you never saw any pictures of him around the house. Old habits...."
"But it's been peaceful up until now. Joe came back, he's been around here," Lee noted in confusion.
"Oh, they caught the one who escaped about six months after Joe left. He was killed in a shoot-out. But Joe had discovered something he really loved to do, and so he stayed with EAO."
"And you stayed here."
Amanda nodded at Lee's conclusion and stood up. She felt uncomfortable replaying this with both Lee and Joe in the house. "So what now?" she asked.
"I should go check on the boys," Joe said. "I'll give a call before we come back."
"Thanks, Joe," Amanda told him.
Lee walked Joe to the door. "Thanks for stopping by tonight: now and a few hours ago. We'll all get through this."
"We?" Joe questioned in surprise. "I guess I underestimated you."
"I think we both did a little of that," Lee admitted. "This may have started out as business, but it is personal now, and this entire family WILL make it through in one piece."
"You can't promise that, Lee."
"I can do my best. If Harry Thornton is involved we've already got some pretty big guns on our side. Don't underestimate your friends." Lee held out his hand and Joe took it.
Lee remembered what Amanda had said when he asked her about the divorce. It made more sense now... her craving for normalcy. He walked back into the family and saw her sitting on the couch, leafing through the file she'd shown him earlier. She had finally put it behind her and was living a normal suburban life.
"Then I came and screwed it all up, huh?" He realized he had vocalized his last thought.
"No. You came and gave me hope again." Amanda smiled at him, and he was only slightly startled to see she appeared to have either been reading his mind or having the same thoughts herself. "I think I'd been going through the motions for so long that I forgot what part of living meant. I've always loved the boys - their very existence is precious to me. But I'd given up on there being anything beyond that to make me feel alive again."
"You know, you were so excited that day in Billy's office when you were describing your helicopter ride." Lee smiled at the memory.
"I think one of the things that appealed to me about the Agency was having the chance to fight back. But it was more than that. It made me feel all of these feelings that I thought were long gone."
"A second chance?"
"A better chance. But it is also why I was so reluctant at first to have anything happen between us."
"But you overcame that," Lee teased her.
"Yeah, well...." Amanda lowered her eyes. "I started to believe that maybe the past was a bad dream. And then the bad dream began to fade." She picked up her wine glass only to notice that it was empty. "But it's back now, Lee."
"We don't know that," he reminded her. "We don't know anything yet."
"I know. Joe's doing his best, and now Harry too.... Remind me one day to ask him how he knew Daddy." She sighed. "But we might have to leave. I don't know how I'd explain it all to the boys: to Phillip most of all. This is the only life they know."
"Let's worry about that if it comes up." Lee stroked her face gently. "I'm not going anywhere, Amanda. Not unless you are." He met her gaze. "I mean that. Whatever happens we'll find a way.... I promise you."
They sat on the couch quietly; Amanda relaxing in Lee's embrace, each lost in their own thoughts. Lee didn't understand how the Agency hadn't found out about Joe's past before. He knew the intensity with which they did background checks. He'd checked her past himself and it all came up clean. He realized, finally, that this was not a normal witness relocation situation. Someone very high up had not only taken care of new identities, but had very carefully crafted a past as well.
"You know you're not going to live this down," Lee told her. "Inviting me over here and me serving you sandwiches."
"Let's just say that in a lot of respects, this evening isn't exactly what I was planning earlier today," Amanda said sadly.
"It's okay, though."
"Yeah, it's more than okay." Amanda smiled at him. "It felt good to finally tell you. I wanted you to know, but it wasn't my decision."
"I know," Lee answered. Tonight put Joe King in a new light for him. "What about Joe? Do you think he misses his old life?"
"Sometimes. I think he was trying to find something when he went to law school, and for a while he managed to find it with the EAO. I don't know how he likes private practice here though. We haven't talked much about it."
"What happened when he left?" Lee realized he had to know, even though he felt guilty asking.
"It was bad... there we were, this little perfect family... mom, dad, two kids... he was starting to fall in love with his wife and his wife was finding out his secrets."
Scene Fourteen: Joe and Amanda's House, 1975
"Joe," Amanda yelled down the stairs, "I can't find your passport."
"It's not in the dresser drawer?"
"No. Are you sure you don't have it down there somewhere?"
"No. It's upstairs somewhere. Check the desk or the closet." Joe paced the downstairs trying to figure out what else he was missing. In the den, he took one of the photo albums out of the cabinet. 'Oh, Amanda,' he thought with sadness, 'things were finally starting to come together.'
Amanda went through the desk meticulously and found an old checkbook register, several dollars in change, and no passport. Sighing, she went over to their closet and looked at the packed boxes on the top shelf. Dragging the chair from the desk over, she pulled the first box down. Opening it, she discovered file folders without labels. Sighing, she began to go through them, her curiosity getting the best of her.
Twenty minutes later she still sat on the bed. The second folder she had opened fifteen minutes prior lay on the bed in front of her while she stared out into nothingness. She didn't hear Joe's footsteps on the stairs, nor the opening of the bedroom door.
"Amanda? Did you find it?" Joe looked at his wife who appeared to be daydreaming. "Amanda?" He was annoyed.
She turned and looked at him, and the look in her eyes made him shrink back. He noticed then the file open on the bed. "Oh no," he whispered.
"Oh yes," she replied. "Get out."
"Get out. Stay somewhere else tonight but just get out!"
"What about the boys?"
"Come over in the morning before your flight and say good-bye. I won't be here." She turned her back to him, willing herself not to cry.
"I'm sorry," he told her, unable to leave.
"I bet," she hissed.
"It's not what you think," he tried again.
"Oh no? Then why in almost three years did you never show me a picture of her, never mention that I could have been her twin? MY GOD, JOE! Has our whole marriage been a lie?"
"No, Amanda. I love you!"
"You love her."
"Jill's gone, Amanda. I'm over her. I love my wife."
"Then why? Just tell me why?" Amanda sunk back onto the bed and the tears finally fell. Joe went to be bed and put his arms around her. They sat there in silence until the sitter returned with the boys.
Scene Fifteen: Maplewood Drive, Friday Night
"I'm sorry you had to find out that way," Lee said, breaking her out of her reverie. "But I can't imagine how he could have told you once things got started."
"I know that now. Too much water under the bridge. I think I lost a lot of my innocence when Joe went to Africa."
"You've always struck me as pretty idealistic, Amanda... believing in the innate goodness of most people."
"I don't think so."
Scene Sixteen: Sunday Morning, IFF
Billy sat and looked at the exhausted pair in front of him. 'They mustn't have slept much at all since Friday,' he concluded. 'Not that I have either.' He looked at his watch and waited. The three in the room were all silent, so caught up in their own thoughts that each jumped at the knock on the office door.
"Come," Billy announced.
Harry Thornton walked in. "Sit," he told Lee who was rising to his feet. He leaned over and gave Amanda a hug and a kiss. "It'll be okay," he whispered. She raised an eyebrow, questioning him.
"Harry, what do you have?" Billy asked. He had taken the call at four in the morning and had them all assembled by nine, per Harry's request.
Harry took an envelope from his breast pocket and handed it to Amanda. He took a second one out and handed it to Billy. They all watched silently as Amanda opened the envelope and read the single page inside.
"Is this true?" she asked, tears in her eyes.
Harry nodded. "It's over. Officially signed at six fifteen this morning. Darn good thing the Attorney General owed me a favor or he might have been less receptive to my call last night."
Billy began to read his copy. "I'm missing something here," he told them. "More than a little something. All this says is that the investigation into the death of one Carl West has been closed and the Department of Justice takes full responsibility for its inability to protect its employees."
Harry looked at Amanda. "They were purging old records, and your name got kicked up because it happened to be going through the review process on the same day. The purge was due to seven years of inactivity on Joe's case. All known persons involved are deceased, Amanda. It's over."
She squeezed Lee's hand. "Harry, why don't you fill Billy in. Is that okay, sir?"
Billy nodded. He was indeed curious to hear the story. "That's fine. I'm glad we had good news for you." He looked again at the pair in front of him. They were a pair, he thought to himself. "Why don't both of you get out of here? Take tomorrow off as well. I know it's been a draining few days."
"Thanks, Billy," Lee told the older man as he rose from his seat.
"Thank you, sir," Amanda said. She turned to Harry. "Thank you," she said as she kissed his cheek. "Can you come by later? I still have some questions of my own."
Harry nodded. 'It's time to come clean with her,' he realized. "I'll come by about seven. Will that be okay?"
"That'll be fine." Amanda took Lee's hand and walked out the open door.
"So start talking, Harry," Billy told the older man. "How do Joe and Amanda's father and DoJ all fit together here?"
"It's a long story. I think we need some coffee first." Harry laughed.
Scene Seventeen: Lee's Apartment
"I need to make a few phone calls," Amanda told Lee apologetically.
"Go right ahead." Lee went into the kitchen and began to make coffee. He waited as it dripped; waited as Amanda spoke softly into the phone. Finally, he took two cups and returned to the living room.
"I called Joe," she told him. "He said to tell you thanks."
"You know," Lee began hesitantly, "a year ago I would have said that I didn't do it for him. But that's not true. I did it for him, for you, for Phillip, for all of us." Amanda nodded and waited for him to continue. "Who else did you call?"
"No one," Amanda admitted. "I was going to call Mother, but I really need to talk to her in person."
"We can go over to the house whenever you want to."
Lee took Amanda's hand and led her to the couch. He gently stroked her cheek. "I told you, we're in this together."
"Thank you," Amanda sighed quietly. "Joe wants to tell Phillip."
"He should," Lee told her.
"You're right. Joe's right. It's just something I've been afraid of for so long," she admitted. "What if it changes things?"
"He's your son, Amanda. You told me that yourself." Lee held her close to reassure her. "Nothing will change how you feel for him or how he feels about you."
"He's a teenager, Lee," she reminded him. "I honestly have no idea how he's going to react."
"He's your son," he reminded her once again.
Amanda nodded. "Joe's taking him up to the mountains next weekend. When they get back he'll tell Jamie. I hate to admit that I'm relieved he's doing it without me."
Lee caressed Amanda's neck and slowly pulled the necklace with her engagement ring out from under her sweater. "Why don't you put this on?"
Amanda looked at him questioningly. "What?"
"I want to be there for you," he told her. "For all of you. Today when you talk to Dotty, tonight when Harry comes over, next weekend when Joe comes back with Phillip. This is going to be my family, right?"
Amanda nodded and smiled.
"Then let's go back to the house. With everything that has been going on lately, this is going to be only a minor shock."
"I guess you're right," she told him. "Still," she hesitated for a moment, "I'm not sure if your first official introduction to the boys should be as my fiancé."
"I hate it when you're right."
"But I will put it on soon, and not remove it. I promise."
"Okay." Lee stood up and held out his hand. Amanda took it, entwining their fingers. Together they walked out the apartment door.