Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King and its characters belong to WB and Shoot the Moon Productions. No infringement is intended. I only borrowed them for my own enjoyment and now share it with you for yours. Feel free to save it for your own reading enjoyment later.
Timeline : Set post series and a sequel to my previous stories Blown and A Random Run and High Sticking, where all is revealed to all.
A special thank you for my beta Moxie. She is my grammar dictator and continuity police and so much more all in one being.
Sunday October 9th 1988
Wisps of smoke curled in the air around the pale blond head of the powerful man reclining on the terrace of the stately home. Austin Smyth bobbed his head ever so gently in the affirmative, unseen by the person he was listening to confirm details over the secure phone. His intense eyes constantly scanned the horizon as pleasure craft darted by in the waning sun. Finally he uttered a curt, "It will be done," before hanging up the phone. He placed the bulky handset down on the table before him as he tapped the open folder in front of him with the end of his cigarette holder, contemplating which agent would be best for the upcoming mission.
Eventually a cruel grin appeared across his face as the perfect agent came to mind. And since he was planning on making this Vermilion clearance only, his little housewife partner wouldn't be able to join him this time. He may be forbidden by executive order from permanently breaking up the official partnership of Scarecrow and Mrs. King but nothing said he couldn't assign one a mission requiring a clearance so high she couldn't go with him.
Smyth allowed himself to relax for a moment and reached for the crystal goblet of wine he had poured earlier. Yes, he was looking forward to his Monday morning meeting with Scarecrow.
Monday October 10th 1988
Billy Melrose stared after the Head of the Agency as he left his office in the Bullpen. 'That smug bastard!' was all he could think after the briefing on Scarecrow's latest assignment ended. He held onto the file in his hand tightly as he watched Dr. Smyth cross the room, the edge of his cigarette visible off the side of his face. Agents and secretaries were dodging out of his way as nimbly as possible, not wanting to draw his ire. He watched, the rage he was feeling well hidden behind his agent mask as the vile man gave Scarecrow and his wife a cheery wave when he passed them at the entrance to the bullpen while passing the guards.
Watching the pair, a small smile appeared on his face at Scarecrow's scowl and Amanda's admonishment to 'be nice'. 'Those two always work so well together, they are not going to like this,' he thought.
Waiting until he saw Amanda leave, Francine seemed to be excited to share some new office gossip again, Billy stepped out of his office and waved Scarecrow over.
"Scarecrow!" he hollered out across the busy room, "My office. Now!" With that he went back to sit behind his desk, bracing himself for the onslaught he knew would occur after this briefing.
Lee nodded at Billy when he heard the summons and quickly finished preparing his coffee. It wasn't as good as the stuff he kept up in the Q-Bureau but it was strong. And after hearing the edge in Billy's voice he was sure he was going to need it.
He crossed the room keeping an eye on his section chief through his office window. He could tell from his demeanor that he wasn't going to like what he was about to hear. Taking a deep breath, he entered Billy's office and greeted him cheerfully.
"Morning Billy, I hope you had as great a weekend as I did. Amanda and I took the boys out hiking and Jamie got some great pictures of the trees changing colors for his school assignment."
Billy sighed, knowing that Scarecrow's great mood was about to disappear entirely and most likely for a few weeks.
"Close the door and then get the blinds, what I have here is a vermilion level assignment."
Lee could feel his face fall. A vermilion level assignment was way above Amanda's clearance level which could only mean he was going to be doing this one alone and somewhere very dangerous. He tossed his coffee in the trash, not feeling much like drinking it anymore as he closed the door and made sure the blinds were closed. He hadn't had to do a solo mission since before Amanda and he had revealed their marriage.
"How bad, how long and how do you propose I tell Amanda?" Lee sighed as he sat down in the chair in front of Billy's desk.
"It could be as long as two months," Billy started but quickly continued as he saw the protest begin on Lee's face. "Could be. With luck you can have this done and wrapped up in as little as two weeks."
Lee shook his head. "Two weeks! Phillip has his first junior varsity game then. We've been practicing every night, and now..." Lee could feel the disappointment just thinking of telling Phillip he had to leave. "So where am I going and what do I need to pack?"
Billy watched the emotions on his friend's face and really wished he didn't have to tell him the rest.
"Lee..." he started and then cleared his throat, trying to stall the inevitable, "Lee, you're headed to Bolivia. Seems we have had a mole deep undercover for over a decade infiltrating the ranks of Juan Pablo Morales, head of Los Ojos, the rebel faction down there. They've been committing acts of terror for years and have their own funding through the production and sale of cocaine. But there have been some rumors that they've found out they have a mole and he wants out. This comes from the president, Lee. He wants the best we have to get him out of there. Our agent's information has been invaluable in the war against drugs and he has even been able to get us information about weapons sales. He knows enough to stabilize that region for the next 20 years if we can get him and his information back here in one piece."
Lee mulled over the information as Billy was telling him. "That doesn't sound too bad, Billy. I should be able to visit McJohn and get my shots and pack and be ready to leave by morning. I just hope Amanda and the boys are ok while I'm gone. You'll keep an eye out for them won't you?"
"Lee, that goes without asking. I'll keep an eye out for them. But you can't go home and pack. McJohn gave me the shots to give you and you have to leave from here in the next few hours. Dr. Smyth is concerned that the information Los Ojos is getting is coming from here and he convinced the president of that too. They have come up with a scenario that should make it seem like you have gone off for personal reasons. There is concern that if you vanish on a case that Los Ojos will get wind of it and things could get even more dicey for the mole."
Billy reached for the Tums on his desk, knowing if he didn't need one now, he would in the next five minutes.
"Billy..." Lee drug out the pronunciation of his boss' name, feeling more and more uneasy with each word he had spoke. "What kind of cover story? I'm not going to like this am I?"
"No, you won't." He took the time to deliberately chew every last bit of his Tums before replying. "I was here early this morning for Dr. Smyth's briefing and I managed to get a hold of Colonel Clayton and he agreed to help." Billy tossed one of the folders on his desk to his agent.
Opening the folder Lee saw sketches of a badly beaten Colonel Robert Clayton.
"I get that I need a cover story but why involve the Colonel?" Lee asked, feeling worse and worse by the minute.
Billy leaned back in his chair, wanting to be as far away as possible from his agent when he broke the news. "They want it to seem like you have left for personal reasons." He looked directly at Lee. "They have arranged for the Colonel to be captured by the Soviets and you are needed to go and get him back."
Lee jumped out of his chair. "Are you telling me they want to put the Colonel in harms way just to sneak me out of the country?!" Lee started to pace viciously in front of the chair making wild gestures as he ranted. "I will not do that to my family! They are insane if they think that I will do that. If there is one thing Amanda has taught me it is that family is very important. This would put the Colonel in too much danger."
Billy thanked his lucky stars that his office was soundproofed before standing his agent down. "SCARECROW! That is enough! These orders come from the president. There is nothing I can do to change them."
Lee stopped and pointed at the folder with the sketches. "How do we know he would be treated well? The Soviets hate me and no matter how good the information is that we are sharing with them they would love a chance to get back at me. I won't stand by and let anyone use my family this way!"
"Lee calm down! I know how you feel about family; I feel the same way. We have two defectors who want to come to our side. They'll be meeting up with him in an undisclosed location to debrief. Your uncle knows as much about the Soviet presence as anyone else in the military and he'll be handling part of that debriefing for the Air Force. He won't be in any danger. They'll be holed up in some old bunker in France eating caviar and crêpes with a full security contingent. We're just going to make it look like the defectors have actually captured Colonel Clayton and are using him to bait you into coming after them. That way you can vanish for a while and get the real mission done of getting our agent out of Bolivia and no one will even think to look for you there."
"Billy..." Lee dragged out, "How sure are we that isn't part of some Soviet trap to get their hands on my family? Are you sure we can trust them?"
Billy sighed and rubbed his temples, "Because, Scarecrow, I'm telling you it isn't a plot against you. That and Harry Thornton himself vetted these two. Seems he recruited them himself years ago. Now that they're nearing retirement they want to move with their families somewhere that they won't get shot in the middle of the night to keep them quiet."
Lee grudgingly nodded his head slowly in acceptance. "If Harry trusts them then I will too, but you had better be damn sure of this or I will be going there next after... Did you say Bolivia? Who the heck do we have in Bolivia?"
"I don't know much about him, only that he's been there over 15 years as a deep cover operative inside the Los Ojos and has passed on invaluable information about their activities. They seem to hate Americans and Soviets alike and have been using drug money to wage their own private war against both of us. But he's worried that his secret may be out and needs to leave quickly after he completes one more job. You are to help with this last job and then make sure he escapes back to American soil unscathed." Billy replied, glad that Scarecrow had his mind back on the mission again.
"That's all fine and good Billy, but why make this a Vermillion-level assignment? It sounds like your standard escape and evasion scenario to me." Lee asked settling back down in the chair in front of Billy's desk.
"I thought that a little strange myself but the list of need to know about this assignment is very tight. Only Smyth, the President and the two of us know exactly what is going on with the cover story. Seems they are afraid the leak is coming from our government. Someone high up on the totem pole." Billy stared hard at Lee, "That means no one is to know what is really going on."
"Billy I know I can't tell Amanda about the mission, and she'll understand, but to let her think the Colonel is in danger is a bad idea. You know how she gets. She could start her own personal mission to help get him back and cause even more trouble. I can't let her worry about him and me," Lee complained.
"Scarecrow I mean it! Vermillion-level clearance is something you don't mess with unless you want to be up on charges of treason! The President himself passed on a message, that he knew you would do what is right. Damn it man! I don't like this anymore than you do but orders are orders."
Lee stared at Billy. You could almost hear the wheels turning in his head as he mulled over the President's words.
"Are you sure he said that Billy? Word for word?" Lee asked, a spark of hope surging through him.
Billy sighed, "Yes, he called during the briefing and I spoke to him directly. He said, and I quote, 'Make sure you let Mr. Stetson know that I approve of his doing the right thing and I know that he will' end quote." He looked suspiciously at his agent wondering what was going on in his head. "Why?"
Lee smiled a genuine smile of relief as he sat back down in front of his boss. "Because Billy, the President is a married man, and I've had occasion to talk to him before several times, once even about our wives and their need to know." Lee felt more relaxed now and wished he hadn't thrown out his coffee.
"We had an interesting chat once about how no matter what the policies were on secrets, he told his wife everything. They had a discussion years ago about how she could play whatever part she needed to as long as they kept no secrets from each other. And then I told him how Amanda and I had a similar agreement." Lee watched the confusion on Billy's face and decided to spell it out for him. "Billy, he just said I can read Amanda into the mission and let her know about the cover story. This way I'll know she won't be out trying to find information on where I am and how the Colonel is doing."
Lee glanced toward the closed blinds then stood up to peek out through them. He spied Amanda trapped in a conversation with Francine and nodded towards her.
"Amanda's in the bullpen now, Billy. How about you get her in here so I can brief her on what's happening before we let the muck hit the fan?" He looked at the disapproving expression on his boss' face before continuing, "Or I could go out and drag her into a conference room and tell her there. It would probably look better if you called her in for something."
Billy shook his head. Scarecrow was getting too good at getting his own way. "I'll bring her in here but I'm leaving. I hope you know what you're doing," he muttered as he got up and exited.
He spied Francine and Amanda talking by the coffee pot and went to join them. "Francine," he nodded at his assistant as he turned to face Amanda. "Amanda I need your help with some dispatches in my office. I need them filed in the vault and I can't wait for any of the steno pool with higher clearances to get here. Would you mind gathering them up and storing them in the Q-Bureau for now?"
Amanda quickly nodded her agreement. She did like that Francine treated her more like an equal now, but she was not into gossip and hearing about the latest whiny adventures of Davina was not how she liked to start her day.
"Yes sir, Billy," she replied. "Sorry Francine, but you'll have to finish filling me in later." 'Or never if I'm very lucky,' she thought to herself as she set down her coffee cup and headed into Billy's office. She glanced over her shoulder and noticed that Billy was glaring at Francine when the blonde agent tried to fill him in on what Davina had been up to.
Opening the door to Billy's office she noted the scent of her husband's aftershave was still in the air, meaning he had either just left and she missed seeing him or he was hiding somewhere waiting to jump out at her. Knowing his penchant for the dramatic she assumed it was the later and started a running commentary as she looked around for the dispatches to put away for Billy.
"Now if I were a dispatch where would I be hiding?" she mused as she glanced at the empty desktop. "Maybe he put them away in his desk so they wouldn't be noticed by prying eyes that walk by the window."
She put one hand in her pocket to see if she had anything on her she could get her dear husband with and suppressed a smile as she felt the joy buzzer she had confiscated from Jamie just that morning. She slipped it into her palm and slowly brought that hand up behind her in anticipation.
Just as she was preparing to lean over to look in the drawers, she felt a faint breath of air behind her that let her know he was close. Flipping her hand over so her palm was towards him, she leaned back quickly and took a step back. Her palm now in contact with a hard torso.
"OUCH! AMANDA!" was all she heard of her husband before she lost control and started to laugh. She turned and laughed even harder at the sight of her husband rubbing his stomach and grimacing. He glared at her in response and that made her laugh all the more.
Finally getting control of herself, she let out one last chuckle before teasing him, "That is what you get Stetson for thinking you can sneak up on a trained operative."
Lee shook his head, knowing she was right and hoping he could explain what he needed to without upsetting her.
"Amanda, let's sit down." Lee gestured towards the couch at the back of Billy's office and moved towards it hoping she would follow.
Amanda watched Lee cross to the couch and sit down. "I'm not going to like this much am I, Stetson?" she queried as she made her way over and sat down so she faced her husband. "What can I know? How long? Where?" she asked with a sigh, knowing she might not get to know anything.
Lee smiled, "It's exactly what you think and not what you think," he answered cryptically. "I leave on a Vermillion-level assignment in just a few hours."
Amanda's face fell and she closed her eyes. She knew this could happen, her clearance wasn't high enough to go on every single assignment. But she knew enough about Vermillion level to know it wasn't a friendly jaunt in the countryside. And Vermillion levels were always solo missions - no backup.
She opened her eyes again to look at her husband and saw the twinkle in his eye that he got when he was up to something. "Explain," was all she could bring herself to say so she wouldn't lose control. She was supposed to be a trained agent as she only just reminded him of a few moments ago.
Lee picked up his wife's hands and ran his thumbs over her knuckles as he explained. "It is a Vermillion code so you know I can't tell you anything officially. But do you remember when I told you about that conversation I had with the President and we mentioned how we don't keep secrets from our better halves? He passed on a message to me through Billy about doing what is right. I'm going to take that to mean I have his blessing to read you in."
Amanda shook her head at her husband's logic. "Are you sure Lee? I don't want to get you in any trouble. You could just tell me something vague and..." she began but Lee cut her off.
"No way, Amanda. I don't want you to worry for the wrong reasons, not that I want you to worry at all but if you have to, you should know what you need to worry about."
Amanda gave a little laugh, "Ok, ok tell me, just don't let Francine hear you talk like that or she'll tell you how you are starting to sound like me." She moved her hands so that they were holding his and waited.
Lee stared at her blankly for a moment and then continued. "The story is that the Colonel has been taken prisoner by the Soviets. Word will spread and even some pictures may pop up of him being beaten and tortured and it will look like I've gone off half-cocked to find him. You know me and my temper," he added with a wink.
Amanda grimaced at his poor attempt at humor. "But the real story will be..." she prompted.
"The real story will be that I'm going to help one of our deep, deep cover operatives out of Bolivia. They have been working inside the Los Ojos outfit supplying intel for years and now they need to get out. The President thinks that maybe we have a leak in our own system and he has been compromised." Lee thought for a moment. "I think we can make this work! I know I'm supposed to be solo on this but you will have a unique opportunity here. Every one will know how worried you are and will be watching your every move for information on where I am and what I'm doing. Thinking I am up to my old tricks and going rogue leaving you behind. But you can watch them right back. If something seems fishy, I want you to tell Billy. He knows I'm telling you, but is going to ignore that and pretend he doesn't know you know."
Lee smiled, thinking this way they were working together, just in different hemispheres.
"That sounds like a great plan Lee, but you seem to have forgotten one, no, make that three things."
Lee looked at her, puzzled. "I don't think I forgot anything," he replied, before adding, "I need to see Dr. McJohn to get my shots for going to South America, what else would I need?"
"What you need to do, Scarecrow, is help me come up with a good reason to tell our family why you aren't going to be home for supper tonight," Amanda replied with a smile. The family may know what they do for a living and the President may have implied that she could know what her husband was up to, however she was pretty sure that didn't stretch to two teenagers and a nosy mother-in-law.
It was just after 6pm and Amanda had stolen outside to wait for the sun to set on a very long day. Lee had left earlier in the afternoon when the scenario had started.
Francine had burst in on a meeting to inform Lee that the Colonel had been captured. There was your standard general uproar as Scarecrow lost it, getting upset and shouting at everyone. They even managed a nice public scene so that everyone knew she was upset with him for wanting to go and 'beat in some Russian heads'.
But then after a quick kiss and a promise to be careful from both of them, he managed to vanish before the evening rush hour began. She had kept the charade up at work, with a supportive wink from Billy. Then the fun had really started.
When she arrived home alone, no one had noticed at first. Dotty had been nagging the boys about getting their help putting her gardens to bed for the winter. When they did finally turn to her to help referee, she managed to distract them all with questions about homework and her mother's outing that night with her gardening group. But once they all sat down to eat the questions had started.
"Hey Mom, where's Lee?"
And when she brushed that one aside they got a bit more intense.
"Can you tell us where Lee is? Do you know where Lee is? Are we in danger?" Finally her mother took pity on her even though she had been one of the inquisitors and told the boys to hush.
Amanda had then declared she wasn't very hungry and slipped outside. For the first little while, she could hear her family inside discussing what was going on with Lee until she could stand it no longer and moved to the gazebo to watch the last of the sunset. She could sense her mother approaching even without the rustling of the leaves in the backyard and braced herself for a one-on-one interrogation.
"Mother," she began as she turned to face Dotty.
"Hush!" her mother silenced her as she sat down beside Amanda, wrapping the blanket she had brought with her around the two of them. "I talked with the boys and made them understand that whatever Lee is doing is none of our business. They know how strong he is and that he has a good head on his shoulders and that he will be home as soon as he can."
Amanda glanced over at her mother and raised an eyebrow.
"That didn't work, I know. But when I told them that their questions were upsetting you that did it," Dotty continued.
"Oh Mother," Amanda sighed. "This is one of the parts of the job that I hate. When he has to go off on his own without me and I can't watch his behind. I worry about him on his own with no one to back him up."
"I know dear, but I have met Lee. I know he will do his very best to get the job done and get home as soon as possible. Phillip has that junior varsity thing in a few weeks and I know he won't want to miss that. Now I know I'm not supposed to pester you with questions, but I will do my best to keep them to a minimum."
That last bit warranted another raised eyebrow on Amanda's part and made her smile.
Dotty gave Amanda a little nudge, "I'm not that bad, but dear you know if you need anyone to talk to, not to tell details to, I'm here for you. Right?"
"Yes, Mother and thank you," Amanda replied. "Thank you for understanding. It is going to be a long wait." She saw her mother open her mouth to ask how long and snap it shut again. 'A very long wait,' she thought to herself as the two of them watched the sunset fade to dark.
The next two days at IFF had Amanda feeling more like she had a sign on her back telling everyone to hug her, than like an agent. Everywhere she went people kept asking how she was holding up or if she knew where Lee was and what he was doing.
A few of them sounded quite genuine. Leatherneck made her swear to let him know if Lee needed any help so he could back him up. Others, like Beaman, were using her husband as an example to the latest freshmen class on what not to do in the field.
But the ladies in the steno pool, and she used the term 'ladies' lightly, were having a field day with Lee's absence. Some of the rumors that reached her ears from them had her fuming mad! One of them even went so far as to say that Lee had left her for a tryst with that 'Soviet slut named Sonja' he had met a few years ago.
Amanda was trying her best to see the good in everyone but those 'ladies' made her ashamed to be a woman. At the moment she was hiding out in the Q-Bureau trying to catch up on her paperwork when she heard the distinct clack of a high-heeled shoe outside her door and a giggle. Determined to vent some of her frustration, she silently made her way to the door and yanked it open, prepared to tell Davina what she thought of the latest gossip about her marriage.
The startled woman outside the door nearly dropped the film case she was carrying as she had her hand poised to knock on the door.
"Hi Amanda, I was just coming up to see if I can store some of this stock footage up here. The guys in covers went a bit nuts last week filming back up 'clutter' and I'm quickly running out of room in my office. And since this is technically a film library I was hoping you wouldn't mind," Moxie asked with a smile on her face, pretending not to notice the strain on Amanda's.
Amanda's irritation started to fade as she stepped back to allow Moxie entrance. "Not at all Moxie." Amanda locked the door as the video specialist went over to the shelf of film cans and started to rearrange them so she could add the ones she was carrying.
"Moxie, do you mind me asking where on earth you got the codename Moxie? It seems like a brazen choice." Amanda inquired as she made her way over to the coffee machine and poured herself a fresh mug.
"Not at all," she replied as she finished putting the film canisters away and accepted the mug of steaming brew Amanda offered her. "When I was in training, we all went out for a drink one night and started making guesses as to what our code names should be. Liah Mills from Scenarios and Beckie Fobecki from Cyphers and I were the last three to leave and we had had a few too many and started making up nonsense names. One of the last ones was Xavierious Moxifurious. We could barely get our tongues around that one. But the Moxie part felt right, so when the time came to get a codename I asked for that one. How about you? When are you getting a codename?"
Amanda relaxed some more and sat back down behind her desk, gesturing for Moxie to take the free seat across from her. "I don't know really. Lee and I have discussed it and we keep going round and round in circles. We figure we will just wait for someone to demand an official codename for me before we worry about it."
As Amanda mentioned Lee's name a trace of worry flashed across her face. Moxie caught it put her mug down on the desk. "I wouldn't worry too much about Lee, I'm sure he'll be fine," Moxie commented to the agent across from her. "If only a part of the tales I've heard about him are true he will come riding home on a white horse with a dozen roses under each arm." Moxie grinned outwardly and winced internally when she brought up stories she had heard. There were quite a few wild tales floating around the last few days, most of them from the 'love struck' steno pool and the Lee worshippers.
Amanda smiled and nodded. Dealing with Lee's adventurous past was old hat to her. The rumors didn't bother her so much anymore. She was more worried that someday her boys might hear of them and think less of Lee. She opened her mouth to say more when Francine entered the room. Without knocking of course.
"Amanda, have you seen Moxie around? I need some editing done for the Ziegler case and she wasn't in her office," she asked as she entered the room like a gust of wind. Never even bothering to look up at the two as she went over the files in her hands.
The pair just smiled and waited for the blonde's minimal patience to run out. After a moment, Francine noticed that no one had answered her and glanced up.
"Oh good! There you are! I need some tapes edited so it looks like Ziegler's wife is having an affair with Donnigut. We think the only way Ziegler will turn on his partner is if it looks like he turned on him first by going after his wife."
Francine gave a quick nod of acknowledgement to Amanda and then turned on her heels and left the room.
Moxie sighed and turned to Amanda. "Her highness summons, I guess break time is over." She stood and gave a cheerful wave as she followed the blond agent out of the room, leaving Amanda to her work.
On the way back down to the belly of the Agency where her office was located, she listened with half an ear as Miss Desmond described in great detail what they needed on tape. She rolled her eyes occasionally at the scenarios the agent was describing and wondering how on earth she thought they would actually work. By the time they reached the hall leading to her office she had had enough.
"Miss Desmond," she stated forcefully, but hopefully politely enough that she wouldn't wind up on night shift for the next month, "I understand what you need from me, and If I could make a few suggestions..." she watched as Francine's eyes narrowed slightly. "The scenarios you suggest are all great, but I need to work with the footage we have and not all of it will fit what you are asking for. If it's alright with you, I'd like to get Liah from scenarios to help. I'll get her to review the footage we have and go over the motivations you need to inspire and between us I think we can get you a working copy of a couple in love that will accomplish what you need."
She held her breath and waited.
Francine eyed the younger agent beside her with a look of disbelief on her face, and a hidden smile inside. She liked it when they stood up to her and suggested something even better than she had thought of. Not that she would ever admit it.
"Fine. Just have a working copy on my desk by three this afternoon. My shift in the interrogation room starts at 3:15 sharp and I AM going to be the one that breaks this case." With that she turned on her heels and walked swiftly away towards the bullpen.
Moxie chuckled to herself as she watched two male agents jump out of Francine's path as she continued down the hallway. Thinking that she might catch up with Liah in the break room, she passed her office and kept going.
As she approached the break room door, she could hear the grating tones of Davina as she rambled on about her latest hot news flash. She was about to enter as she heard Lee Stetson's name mentioned. Ducking back she stood by the door frame and listened for a moment.
"...will be eating out of the palm of my hand. Or something else." Davina prattled on with a seductive undertone. "Of course, Scarecrow left to get away from her. After all this time with one woman he just had to have a tryst. He just created a scenario where he could get out of the country to get away, probably to somewhere romantic like Italy. But when he gets back there is no way he can stand up to my secret weapon," she finished smugly.
Kelsey's voice could be heard next as she asked with traces of awe in her voice, "What's your secret weapon?"
"Why, that would be my notebook," Davina stated. The next sound seemed to be a large object hitting the table. "This, my dears, is my everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-Scarecrow-but-were-afraid-to-ask book. I have details from every scandalous episode he has been in and pictures of the women he likes. That way, when he returns, I can look exactly how he likes them and know exactly what to do to get him back to my place for a weekend of fun!"
Moxie could feel the anger rising inside her as she listened and made note of the giggling 'ladies' oohing and aahing over the book. So far she recognized the voices of Davina, Kelsey, Elle, Tammy and Nan, but was sure there were a few more in there as well. She was about to enter and give them a piece of her mind when a familiar voice sounded.
"Idiots!" the voice exclaimed. "Not only are you being incredibly rude and insensitive, but you are breaking the law and committing treason by having that kind of knowledge stored in a book you carry around with you! If that happened to fall into the wrong hands you could..."
"Liah, you don't know what you are talking about," Davina cut her off with a pert retort. "Once I have Scarecrow, he will be so impressed with the amount of trouble I went through to get him, he will love me even more. He said he did just last week when I helped him pick up the reports that fell on the floor in the bullpen."
Moxie couldn't let that statement pass. She entered the room 'guns blazing', "He didn't mean that literally you twit! It was just a figure of speech. With that big flap on to catch Ziegler, he couldn't afford to waste any time picking up papers."
Most of the steno pool that had been in the room just to get a snack for their break, silently headed for the exit as the women faced off in the center of the room. Moxie had joined Liah on one side, while the 'steno sluts', as they were affectionately known, were on the other. No one noticed as Kelsey headed out with the others.
She was only gone a few moments before she returned with Miss Feltrin head of the steno pool. Emilia Feltrin glared at the two women as she positioned herself between the two sides with her back to Davina.
"Look here, you two. This is the steno pool break room and I won't have you causing any trouble. Kelsey has told me all about the mudslinging you have been doing and it stops now. I want you out of here, and don't bother to come back."
Moxie and Liah shared an incredulous glance at each other. "They're not just gossiping, they're dangerously close to committing treason with what they're doing!" Moxie protested as the woman glared at them.
"My girls know how to behave and play well with others. It's you two who are being mean to my staff, coming in here and causing a disturbance, I want you gone now."
She then turned to the women behind her. "Come along, we have work to do," she announced as she then hurried the women out of the room.
Liah turned to Moxie, "Did that really just happen?"
Moxie was still fuming as she replied, "It sure did." She sighed and glanced at her watch. "As much as I'd like to vent more about those bubble-headed idiots, we can't. I have a project I'm working on for Francine and I need your help. I can explain it on the way to my office. We only have until 3 to get it done."
Liah sighed and gathered her things from the table she had originally been sitting at before everything had erupted. "I gather it's one of those, I-needed-this-yesterday situations where we're expected to find something brilliant that she can use to swoop in and save the day. And let me guess, if we're lucky we might get an acknowledgement of our contribution in three months?" She answered with yet another sigh.
Moxie just grinned as the two made their way out of the nearly empty break room. Unnoticed by all, a small man in a fine suit had been sitting in the back corner near the vending machines. He stood and gave a smile at all the information he had gathered today. The past few years of plotting were finally starting to bear fruit and he could just taste how sweet it would be.
In what felt like another universe, a grubby Lee Stetson sat unshaven in shabby clothing picking bugs off his neck. He had been sitting here in this god-forsaken corner of the jungle for the past few days waiting for the undercover operative to make contact. No matter how much he missed his family and his wife, he was very glad she wasn't here with him. He needed to keep his presence to a minimum and having Amanda around cleaning up his campsite would be too distracting. Though they could have fun checking each other out for ticks and bugs.
He mentally slapped himself to keep his mind from wandering to thoughts of pleasant distractions, trying to keep himself focused on the mission. It used to amaze him how easily he could be distracted by thoughts of her, but now he loved how just thinking about thinking about her grounded him. He had been on many missions like this in the past and he didn't think he had ever been as cautious or attentive to detail as this current one.
A twig snapped in the distance and instantly he dropped to a crouch. It was coming from the direction of the animal path that led to the river. His stomach dropped and he clenched his teeth as he could tell from the sounds that it was the pack of capybaras passing by. He hated rats and being in a jungle where they grew to over four feet in length and traveled in packs was nearly enough to have him run screaming for cover. He waited quietly as they went on their merry way and then he relaxed.
But only for an instant.
He slowly turned his head toward the gun barrel that was now inches away from his face. He knew no matter how badly he hated rats that there was no way he could have missed the sounds of the man approaching. For one to be this good he had to be an agent. Keeping his eyes locked with the man, he slowly raised his hands and turned to face him fully.
He was an older fellow, graying around his temples in a distinguished fashion, with a face that commanded respect. If you didn't get that he demanded respect from the Colt 45 he was holding. It was a collector's piece with engravings along the barrel and what looked like a hand-carved wooden handle.
Lee stood slowly and quietly said, "Nice night for a fire, but it would be better with some marshmallows."
Not a single muscle twitched on the man's face at those words. Lee was starting to get nervous that this wasn't the man he was sent to meet.
"I prefer s'mores myself," was his only response. Which happened to be the correct recognition code.
"So you're the boy Austin sent to bring me home." He commented as he kept his weapon pointing at the younger man.
Lee nodded carefully, "That I am, sir. The President seems to think you are very important and wants you home."
The man stared at him a few moments longer before a broad grin slowly crept across his face. Holstering his weapon he reached out a hand. "You can call me Mechanic, boy, what's your handle?"
Lee shook the man's hand, "Scarecrow," he replied.
"Damn if he didn't send the best. Even out here I hear about your exploits, boy." Mechanic replied with a smile. "I hear you have the best partner and the best looking partner. I would love to meet her, but I'm hoping you didn't bring her with you to this place."
Lee's eyes narrowed as Mechanic mentioned Amanda. "She's around," he stated tersely.
"No need to get your dander up, I was just passing along the latest gossip." Mechanic stored that tidbit away for munching on later. "Before we go getting all personal like, we have some business to do." With that the hard looking man who had faced him earlier returned. "I've been doing this job for nearly 30 years. And in all that time I have managed to serve my country and still be able to look myself in the mirror in the morning, knowing without a doubt that I was doing my job to protect the people at home and that they would have my back if I needed it."
His voice got harder as he continued, "Lately Los Ojos have been making reckless moves, ones that should be getting swift action; decisive actions from home. But memos I send and actions I suggest are getting ignored. I couldn't figure out why until last week."
He turned and faced the younger agent, his face looking grim and determined. "There is a mole in the White House and I know who it is."
Lee did an excellent job of keeping his expression masked, although he couldn't hide the color draining from his face. Knowing that someone that high up the totem pole had turned was enough to scare even the most seasoned agent, as evidenced by the man standing before him.
He checked his own weapon, sliding the ammunition into it with a loud click that echoed off the surrounding jungle. "Then I say we have some hunting to do. I have a patch up the trail aways, unless you know of a better spot?"
Mechanic smiled. Austin had chosen well. This young buck standing before him would be the perfect ally.
"Lead the way young fella. We got a lot to get sorted and little time to do it."
With that Lee turned and the two vanished into the jungle without a trace.
Billy leaned forward on his desk and used the fingers on his free hand to rub his temple. The other held the phone receiver to his ear. "So things are proceeding according to plan, but you need two choppers in two days at the north ridge line, 50 kilometers Northeast of Tarija, fully armed, with at least 6 Navy Seals, at dawn? Do I want to know what you plan to use them for?"
He shook his head as he listened to the plan unfolding over the phone and opened his mouth once or twice in protest but quickly shut it again.
"All right, you'll have them," he paused as the man on the other end of the line spoke some more. His expression softened as he glanced out the window at the topic of conversation. "She's fine, Scarecrow. Hasn't pestered me once for information. Not with words, anyway. Though the looks I've been getting have been very...intense. You just get the job done and get back here quick."
He smiled at the words of relief the young man was saying on the phone and gave a quick gruff "Bye!" before his emotions made him add something he shouldn't. He hung up the phone and watched one half of his favorite and best team out in the bullpen. Amanda hadn't asked him a single question about Lee, but that didn't mean she wasn't asking with every look she gave him.
'Only a mother could give me those looks,' he groaned to himself as he stood to go and get the latest reports on the Zeigler case. By all accounts it was wrapping up nicely. Francine still had to bring in all the major players, but she had her ducks lined up in a neat little row.
He stood by the door and observed his teams hard at work; most of them that is. Higgins from cryptography was standing by Amanda and, from the look on her face, he was harassing her again. With Stetson around, no one bothered her. With him out of the picture and supposedly on the outs with the Agency and running around Eastern Europe looking for his Uncle, all bets were off. And the office lotharios could smell blood in the water.
Billy strode out of his office, apparently heading for Francine's desk and then changed direction mid-stride to where Amanda and Higgins stood talking. He caught the end of something that sounded like "If you ever need a shoulder to cry on..." but he interrupted before Higgins could finish.
"Amanda, I know you've been helping Francine on the Zeigler case and I'm hoping you can tell me where the latest reports are." Then looking at Higgins like he hadn't realized he was there, he continued. "Larry! I didn't realize you were down for a visit? I hear your wife is having a baby. Due any day now from what the gossip around here says. You must be very happy."
He smiled as if excited for the man's happy news, but also because he could almost see the knife twisting as he spoke those words. With any luck Higgins would take the hint and leave Amanda alone from now on. He almost laughed as Higgins quickly excused himself and made his way out of the bullpen.
Amanda smiled and held back a giggle at Larry's face when Billy mentioned his wife, Sarah, and the baby girl they were expecting next week. She had been at his wife's baby shower and couldn't understand how she didn't know what he was like around other women. But she did her best not to judge others too harshly.
"I do know where those reports are, Francine had them sent to the steno pool for transcription. She knew you would need a few copies and it seemed faster to get them ready now instead of later. Hopefully with the big sting on tonight there will only be minimal paper work to do along with the interrogation reports."
Billy nodded his agreement. "Yes, that's good thinking. I'd actually like a copy now to take with me to my meeting on the Hill this afternoon. They sure do love their paper reports. Walk with me?" he asked, gesturing towards the doors.
Amanda felt the rush of memories brought on by those three simple words and missed Lee all the more. Now that they didn't have to hide how they felt about each other, she really missed when he was gone.
She nodded her agreement and the pair began the walk down to the steno pool. It wasn't until they were alone in the hallway that Billy spoke again.
"Amanda, I know how hard it is with Lee out of the country, and I'd just like to say that I think you're holding up well." It sounded lame to his ears even as he said it, but since he couldn't tell her about Lee's mission, he wanted her to know that he did understand.
"I understand. I don't like it but I do understand." She gave her boss a look that warned him not to say anymore, neither of them could handle that. "But Francine is keeping me busy with research on the Zeigler case, and the boys and mother have actually been behaving for once. They even have a big day planned for Saturday. The high school is having a fall fair and I think they have planned for me to see every booth, game and ride there."
She shrugged as they stood outside their destination and gave a wry smile. "They're even more worried, but are doing their best to distract me. I guess they figure if they keep me too busy I won't notice that he's gone."
The pair shared a look, knowing how futile an effort that was, while understanding her family's desire to try and do something.
Billy nodded his understanding and made his way into the steno pool. The clattering bustle of the office could be heard as he entered. The women of the steno pool appeared hard at work as they typed and filed numerous reports and documents. Making his way politely through the crowd, he collected the reports he would need as he micro-managed the rest of the day. He mentally adjusted his schedule to accommodate the last minute meeting on the Hill for the update to the Ziegler mess.
Davina grinned at her desk. She had managed to get seated and the headphones on for the dictation machine before Scarecrow's section chief, Mr. Melrose, entered the room. She had heard that comment about Amanda going with her family to the fall fair fundraiser at the school over the weekend.
She and the girls had stopped for a few drinks the night before, plotting ways to get Amanda out of the picture so they could have their shot at Scarecrow. They had varied from the mundane - 'find her a new man' - to the absurd - 'find proof she's a Russian spy' - by the time the evening had ended. A few of the guys had even joined in with suggestions as the night progressed, they had wanted a shot with Amanda, but Scarecrow had always scared them off. One of the more morbid thoughts had been to kill off the entire family. But the man it had come from seemed a tad too creepy even for them. They had just laughed it off and continued with their plotting until last call.
She glanced across the room at Kelsey and suppressed a giggle. Kelsey still looked a tad green around the gills and it was already nearing lunchtime. Glancing at her watch and realizing it really was near lunch, she made eye contact with each of 'the girls' in turn. Letting them know she had something to share.
Then she put away her work and made her way to the time clock, punched out for lunch and left. Knowing the ladies would love the latest bit of gossip she had ready for them.
An hour later Davina, Kelsey, Elle, Tammy and Nan sat around a table at Nedlinger's. The four ladies stared with open jaws at their hero, Davina, as she relayed the information about Amanda's weekend plans.
"So if we can get as many of the lovely gentlemen to show up on Saturday at the fundraising fair and show Amanda", she emphasized the name with a sneer, "how much help they can be at these sort of events, she will see that they can be better for her than Scarecrow. We all know how much he loves the nightlife and the parties. He simply can't be tamed enough to do kid's stuff."
Kelsey squealed her approval of this plan. "I just know that Higgins would love to come and help. He has had his eye on her for a while and I think he even has a kid. That makes him perfect!"
Tammy and Nan nodded their agreement and it was decided. Saturday at high noon they would make sure that every eligible, and ineligible bachelor was on hand to show Mrs. 'King' how much better suited they were for life in the suburbs than the impressive Scarecrow.
Francine hobbled her way into the bullpen to the sound of cheers and applause. The Ziegler situation was finally over, with only one casualty, her right big toe. Beaman in his rush to help cuff the prisoners in the sting the night before had managed to stomp on it hard enough to break it.
With only her final reports to complete and the final interrogations of the prisoners to supervise, she couldn't wait to get home and ice her foot and hope the swelling would go down in time for the ball at the British Embassy the next evening.
'If I can't wear my Manolo Blahnik's tomorrow night I swear I will get Beaman transferred to Alaska!' she fumed as her fellow agents came over to give her their congratulations and sympathy for her injury.
Amanda and Moxie watched Francine in her glory as she received the well-deserved praise of her peers. Though Moxie couldn't resist a nudge and a slight chuckle at Francine's expense as Beaman entered the room and she quickly sat down at a desk and swung her toes out of his reach.
Amanda gave Moxie a disapproving look as she herself suppressed a smile at the situation. Francine had really done an excellent job on this case and she deserved every compliment she got.
Billy Melrose joined the two women who looked a tad worse for the wear themselves. "Well ladies, it looks like Francine will be busy for a while, let's go into my office and you can give me a brief recap of events?" he asked with a smile. He knew Francine would be busy for a while preening for her audience and she had earned it. The little he had gleaned so far indicated that she had netted a much bigger fish than anticipated.
Moxie and Amanda nodded their agreement and the three managed to make it into his office without being noticed by the still growing crowd. Once inside, Billy motioned for them to sit as he closed his door and then the blinds before making his way to his desk.
"So", he stated as an open-ended question.
Amanda glanced at Moxie and then dove right in, "Well Billy, we got to the meeting place at the warehouse down by the docks. Ziegler had actually gathered all of his sources in one spot for a 'party' of sorts to hand out bonuses for the information they had been gathering for him on American naval bases. He just never realized that one of Lee's family was a part of that group. With what I passed on to Francine and what she already knew, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. We just surrounded the building and set off some fireworks that Leatherneck provided, made sure all the doors locked but one, and they came out and were practically in the van and cuffed before they knew it. Ziegler actually tried to run but Francine knocked him out cold and then Beaman showed up and broke her toe."
Billy just shook his head while Moxie smirked at the explanation Amanda gave. 'I have to remember not to ask Amanda for a brief summary,' he told himself.
"That is pretty much how it happened, Mr. Melrose," Moxie added. "From my vantage point in the video surveillance van, we got it all on tape." As the rising star in the video department, Moxie had been getting a few more 'field' assignments lately. "With all the evidence collected and then the video footage from today, Francine's case is a slam dunk," Moxie added proudly.
Billy beamed at the tired women across from him. "With the calls I've been receiving I don't doubt that one bit. NCIS is even asking for interview times with our guests. If you two feel you can put in a few more hours today to finish up your reports, I think we can all have a nice early weekend. See if we can get some rest in before the next big crisis hits." He stood up and smiled at the ladies as they rose to their feet as well.
"That sounds like an excellent idea, I have quite a bit of laundry to catch up on," Amanda agreed.
"As much as I like that plan, I'm expecting some more video equipment tomorrow so I'll be in for a little while at least," Moxie stated as they made their way to the door.
"Just as long as you don't stick around any longer than you have to. Everyone deserves a break after all the work we put into this." He held the door for the women as they left and made their way into the bullpen.
He watched as they politely passed security at the entrance and then observed Francine and her admirers. He noted the look on Francine's face and realized that Beaman didn't know the danger he was in. "BEAMAN!" he hollered out, startling the agent. "I want a full injury/casualty report on my desk in half an hour!"
He closed the door to his office and peered out from a safe spot behind the blinds as he watched Beaman nearly trip over Francine's chair in his haste to make it to his own office. Safely out of sight and hearing of his agents, Billy allowed his laughter to flow through the air at the poor suffering agent.
Scarecrow silently checked his weapons one final time in the pre-dawn jungle heat. He and Mechanic had been up as late as they dared the night before going over the final battle plans before Mechanic needed to slip back to the compound he had been staying at the last few years. His cover may have been suspect, but if he wasn't where he was expected to be it would throw a wrench into today's plans.
He had faith that Billy would have the choppers and their crew in place where he needed them. After catching a bit of sleep he had gotten up early and placed the charges that would destroy the brick walls surrounding the compound allowing the locals to escape. Before Amanda that little detail wouldn't have been as important, more of an afterthought if he could attain his goals and then get the innocents out. But he knew if he didn't get them out as soon as possible he would hear his wife's recriminations in his head for weeks.
To his right, a quick flash of light from the uppermost window on the left side of the building let him know it had begun. He reached for the radio he had been carrying around the last few days and finally turned it on. Attaching the earpiece, he squawked it twice, signaling the Seals to start their run and silently made his way to the side gate away from the firing line.
The man stationed there barely acknowledged Lee's presence as he opened the wrought iron gate and locked it again once he had entered, then making his way behind the enslaved workers homes. He had just reached the edge of the first home, when the rising sun blazed over the mountains, followed closely by the approach of two large American military helicopters. The shouts from the guards were drowned out by the charges going off along the wall behind him and the artillery fire coming from the choppers. The choppers passed over the main building and then split in two different directions, one heading to destroy the small airstrip and the other to ensure that not one plant remained intact in the poppy field.
Lee brought his machine gun up and aimed at the door that opened beside him, prepared to take out whoever exited. Stopping only when he saw the child in the doorframe. He gestured to the back wall and suddenly the area was filled with families silently fleeing the chaos. Men, women and children began racing for the gaps in the wall that had appeared after the first detonations. Most of the guards were headed to the fields to try and put out the flames now racing through them.
Scarecrow efficiently took out the remaining few guards that realized their workers were leaving. Earning more than a few appreciative glances from the escaping families. With the innocent workers now gone, Lee made his way to the end of the now decimated airstrip, joining forces with the Navy Seals who were now on the ground.
With a series of hand signals he indicated which buildings needed to be cleared and who should go where. Having dispatched them for the more detailed clean up, he made his way toward the far corner of the compound where Mechanic had informed him the head honcho for Los Ojos kept a chopper for emergency escapes.
Distant, flickering flames from the burning fields were diminished in their glow as the sun rose ever higher in the sky. The occasional sound of a gunshot cutting off the cries for help as the Seals completed their part of the mission. Scarecrow quietly crept up on the camouflaged hanger, pausing at one point to draw his knife and dispatch one of the few guards still standing before he could alert anyone to Lee's presence.
Entering the grove of trees surrounded on all sides by the camo netting, he heard Mechanic ahead, having a 'discussion' with the leader.
"Marcelo! Give it up!" Lee heard Mechanic holler as the echo of another gunshot pierced the air.
He ducked down behind the now disabled helicopter Mechanic had told him the leader of Los Ojos would head straight for in case of attack. Lee nodded in silent admiration. 'The old guy still knows his stuff,' he thought to himself as he listened carefully to the exchange of gunfire, trying to get his bearings so he could lend assistance if needed.
Marcelo had been the target of Mechanic's mission for years now, always seeming to be in the thick of things. Lee knew that it had gone beyond the mission and had become personal for Mechanic.
Creeping ever closer, he spotted Mechanic crouched behind a small brick wall that separated the helicopter from the pile of fuel drums that surrounded the older man. He was looking off to Lee's right, shouting at Marcelo.
"You won't be leaving this compound alive! No more young women will be brought to you in the middle of the night you sick bastard!" Mechanic hollered and fired once again.
Lee swallowed the bile that rose in his throat as the meaning of those words sunk in. Though it wasn't the reason they were here, it just made it that much easier to do this job. He could almost sense Amanda's revulsion as if she were there with him.
A shadow moving off to his left caught his eye and at last he saw the face of the man they were hunting. He was creeping up on Mechanic from behind and in a few moments would have the drop on him. As much as Lee wanted to shoot the creep himself, as a fellow agent, he knew how badly Mechanic needed to be the one to do it.
He looked desperately for a way to warn him without giving away his position when he spotted it. The ground in front of him had a few stray tamarillos lying on it. Edging forward as quickly as he dared, he darted forward and grabbed one, lobbing it straight at Marcelo.
The fruit hit Marcelo in the side of his face just as he was taking his shot. Mechanic spun around from his crouched position and fired back, striking the man dead center in his forehead.
Lee ran to Mechanic's side, jumping the small brick wall. The older man was leaning back against the bricks holding onto his arm, blood trickling out through his fingers.
"Looks like this old fool still has some uses left." Mechanic grinned at the younger agent, grimacing when Lee started prodding at his wound.
"At least your vision hasn't gone and you can still shoot straight," Lee responded with a wry smile. "That is going to need some stitches when we get out of here."
Lee whirled quickly at the sound of a twig snapping behind him and only relaxed slightly when he realized it was one of the Seals.
"We got them all, Sir," the Seal proclaimed in the stoic manner Lee had come to realize was natural to all Seals. "Just doing a second head count now, taking pictures to match with names later for the final reports."
"You and your men do good work," Lee praised the highly trained man standing before him. "Finish wrapping up, we evac in 10." Leaving the Seal to finish up, he sat down beside Mechanic and gestured toward the dead man now lying on his back across from them. The tamarillo juice had melded with the gore coming from the hole in the man's face. The sweet smell of the juice was becoming mingled with the scent of blood. Flies, ever present in the jungle, had already found their way to a new meal.
"Bet it will be easier to sleep nights now, knowing he's gone," Lee commented, feeling like there should be more to say.
"It will for a little while," Mechanic agreed, "Too bad there's always another one to take his place."
Standing, Lee reached his hand down to help Mechanic up. "Let's get to the chopper. We only have a little break and then we get to finish this."
Accepting the younger man's help, Mechanic grunted as he let him pull him to a standing position. "Now that sounds like a plan."
The two men then turned and made their way to the chopper landing on the edge of the decimated landing strip, leaving the dead to the jungle.
Moxie groaned under the weight of the flies and film canisters as she made her way from the interrogation rooms toward her office. The delivery of the new equipment had gone off without a hitch and she was hoping to meet up with Liah to get some drinks later. Unfortunately Francine had spied her on her way out the door and asked her to file away the data still in the interrogation section. All the players in Ziegler's operation were on ice and now it was time to sort through everything and find his customers.
She spotted a cart in one of the empty rooms and made a beeline for it. "That will make this job so much easier," she muttered under her breath as she loaded the cart and started for the door.
The sound of voices in the next room caught her attention. 'Strange,' she thought 'I thought all the prisoners had been moved already.'
She started to leave again when she recognized the voice of Davina, the woman from the steno pool she had had a run in with the other day.
"Oh Roger," she was saying, "I'm so glad you will be able to make it tomorrow, I've known you had a thing for Amanda ever since I saw you watching her last week when you came for that mission briefing. I just know she will like you too, once she gets to know you. Now here are the directions to the fall fair. Her kids will probably be around somewhere, but if you can get past them and get her alone for a bit, I'm sure you two will hit it off."
Moxie couldn't make out what the man said and stayed back in the shadows of the unlit room.
Davina giggled again and called out a cheery bye, as Moxie watched a man stride past the room she was in.
She knew that face! Wracking her brain trying to remember where she'd seen him, she let out a small gasp as she realized she had seen his face on one of the surveillance videos they had taken over the past few months of Ziegler's customers. Whatever Davina was planning for tomorrow could not be a good thing.
Feeling more determined than ever to get that girl fired, she moved out of the shadows toward the door, only to see it swing shut and hear the click of the lock being snapped home from the outside. She made her way over and gave it a kick and shouted out, "Hey! I'm in here!" to the closed door.
The lights in the room turned on, and the saccharine voice of Davina came out from the speaker recessed in the ceiling.
"Moxie dear, you really shouldn't listen in on other people's conversations," she giggled in her girly tone. "You are just going to have to stay put until operation 'get scarecrow' is over. Once he sees how easily Amanda takes to other guys, he will surely give her up and come back to us 'real' women."
Moxie stared at the mirrored window that Davina must be standing behind. 'This chick has lost her marbles!' she thought in shock.
"Davina, have you lost your mind?!" she asked incredulously. "Lee and Amanda are happily married, it isn't some sort of pretense. What you're doing not only endangers their lives, but could put national security at risk! You can't do this!"
Davina watched the woman in the other room and sighed. "You just don't get it, do you? He has always scared the other men around here away from her, trying to protect her from all the big, bad men. This 'marriage' is just his way of telling them all to back off. Once he sees her with another guy, any guy, he will give up this little game and let her go off to play. Then I can get my turn."
She paused and traced the binding on her notebook with a sad smile. Quietly, she started speaking, as if remembering a very tragic event. "I asked Lee out once, did you know that? I'm sure he would have said yes, but before he could Amanda went and got into trouble again, who knows what she did that time, and he wound up having to stand watch outside her place! If he had only had the chance to see me, and what he could have, it wouldn't have come to this. After tomorrow, when Amanda makes her choice from all the men we are sending her way, it will be my turn again. Then I can make him see what a real woman can do for him."
Davina waved to the woman in the other room, even though Moxie couldn't see her. "You just get comfy, I'll come back and let you out sometime tomorrow night. Sweet dreams!" she called out over her shoulder as she turned out the lights in both rooms and left.
Moxie leaned back against the wall and sighed. Liah was hoping to have drinks with her but they hadn't set a definite time. Francine had said these were the last of the files that needed putting away. All the prisoners had been moved to other cells. There was no one expected to be down in this area again until Monday.
"I may as well get comfy," she muttered as she slid down to the floor. "It is gonna be a long wait. At least that twit will be finished when I get out of here."
Roger grinned at the stupidity of that silly thing, Davina, as he listened to her 'plans' when she was bragging to the woman she had locked in the interrogation room.
He had plans of his own, and making sure that Scarecrow was no longer one of Smyth's top dogs would certainly fit into them. He wasn't the aide to the Vice President for nothing. Not that it had helped with Ziegler. At least he had free run of the Agency while gathering reports on the situation for the White House. That fool Zeigler had gotten too full of himself and instead of just gathering the information they needed to further their plans, he had set himself up as a high-level information broker, selling to the highest bidder. By the time he had found out about it, it was too late and the sting was in place. He knew Ziegler thought too much of his own skin to rat him out. Life could be very short in a federal prison if you ticked off the wrong person.
He waited until Davina had left before making his own way out of the interrogation levels. He had a few more supplies to get in place, and a few more guests to invite before tomorrow's big event.
Francine Desmond was sitting at her desk in the bullpen rubbing her temples and wishing she were anywhere else but at work on a Saturday morning. She had managed to get to the ball the night before in her Manolo Blahnik's, but the pain in her toe was now telling her she shouldn't have done that. To top it all off, Moxie hadn't delivered the files she needed. And now this girl, Liah, was insisting that something was wrong.
"I'm sorry to be bothering you Miss Desmond, but Moxie would not have passed up a night on the town. We have been working like dogs all week to make sure you had everything and we needed to blow off some steam. I know she said she may be late, but she didn't answer her phone all night and this morning."
"Quiet!" Francine snapped as she stood up and glared at the woman in front of her. "I'm sure your friend will be fine, right now I have to go down to interrogation and get the files she forget to get for me and I really don't have time to hear about it." She started making her way to the bullpen door, when an idea crossed her mind. "If you want to prattle on about it some more you can feel free to come along with me and we can get the files and you can carry them back for me."
Francine grinned in triumph as now she didn't have to carry those files. She had told Moxie to do it cause her foot was just too sore last night and it wasn't any better today. It was worth it; even if she had to listen to this freshman agent go on about her missing friend. 'A missing friend who is gonna wish she had done her job before taking off,' she thought darkly to herself.
She had just passed the open doors and maneuvered her way around one of the guards standing watch, when she ran head first into a firm chest. She pulled back to yell at the fool who stood in her way but changed it to a laugh when she realized who it was.
"Lee, what on earth are you doing here?! I thought you were off running around Eastern Europe." She looked him over from head to toe and thought he looked a bit worse for wear.
"Hello to you too, Francine." Lee grinned down at the blonde. "I can't tell you about it, but have you seen Billy around anywhere? I dropped off a package he needs to see with Dr. McJohn. I really want to pass this off so I can head home."
Francine shook her head as she realized she had been left out of the loop again. When was she ever going to learn that nothing with Scarecrow was ever what it seemed? She motioned to Liah to follow and pushed Lee toward interrogation. "He was around here somewhere. Some incident last night with some Russians and he's in to do paperwork." She nodded her head towards Liah, "This one has volunteered to help carry some files I need brought up from interrogation. Some of us were working hard all week," she complained.
Lee shook his head and walked with Francine down the hall. "Very hard from what I hear. Great work getting that jerk Ziegler off the streets. I'd rather deal with Auggie any day."
Francine beamed with pride. "Very, very hard. I ..." she had started to say more but Liah had had enough of being ignored. They were in the interrogation room hallway now and she was going to be heard.
"Miss Desmond! I really think we should at least look into where Moxie might be! This isn't like her at all to just vanish," Liah practically shouted at the agents in front of her.
Moxie was pacing the floor in the dark room, having cleared a path a little while ago. Sleeping on that hard floor had stiffened her joints over night and she was starving. At least the pacing was helping to work the kinks out. She knew all she had to do was wait until someone noticed she was missing and then she would be out of here and would have Davina fired so fast her head would spin.
She was just about to take another lap of the room when she heard the voice of her friend Liah shouting at someone in the hallway.
"Finally!" She shouted as she made her way to the door and started beating on it and yelling, "I'm in here!"
Lee stared in surprise at the young woman yelling at Francine and took a step back. He knew Francine's temper and this kid was about to get it full blast. But before the fireworks could start, the three of them turned toward a door down the hallway where sounds of muffled shouting and someone beating on it could be heard.
"I thought everything was wrapped up yesterday? There shouldn't be anyone down here, should there?" Lee asked.
"No there shouldn't be!" Francine grumbled as she pushed Liah out of her way and made for the door.
From the other direction, Billy Melrose approached his agents. "Scarecrow, I just heard you were back and was just on my way to find you. Did you get that package I sent you for?" he asked, while wondering what Francine was so upset about.
Lee was about to speak, when Francine yanked open the interrogation room door, ready to fly into whoever was inside. She stumbled back into the opposite wall when Moxie fell out of the room, still yelling for help. Francine grimaced as the young woman nearly landed on her sore toe and opened her mouth to yell at her for her incompetence when Moxie looked around and saw Billy and beat her to the punch.
"Mr. Melrose!" Moxie exclaimed, "You have to send someone after Amanda, Davina from the steno pool has gone off her rocker and set up some sort of plan to get herself a chance with Scarecrow. But one of the people I saw her plotting with is on the video surveillance of Ziegler's customers!"
"Moxie!" Liah exclaimed and then promptly shut up as she listened to Moxie's announcement. She quickly made her way to her and helped her up off the floor. Listening with horror at the implications of what her friend was saying.
Billy shook his head, trying to grasp what Moxie was saying. "Do you mean to tell me one of Ziegler's clients was in this building, and now he is involved in some sort of plot against Amanda Stetson? Our Amanda?" He just knew it was going to be a bad day. Any day that had him called to work on a Saturday morning never ended well.
Lee wasn't sure what exactly this all had to do with Amanda, but once he heard that there was a plot against her he was once again wide awake and ready to go. "Billy, your package is with McJohn, I have to get home and check on Amanda." He turned to head back out to the elevators when Francine spoke up.
"Lee, she isn't at home." She watched Lee freeze and turn back toward them. "She was headed out to some fall fair at the high school with her mother and the boys."
"They've been trying to keep her cheered up all week while you were gone," Billy added. "You and Francine get going, I'll stay here and arrange back up if needed and get a statement from these two."
Lee nodded and turned and sped down the hallway again, not looking to see if Francine was following.
Francine groaned and pushed herself away from the wall and started running after him, ignoring the pain in her foot. When she got back she was asking Billy for a week off!
"Come on Mom! The hotdogs are this way," Phillip King called to his mother.
"I'll be right behind you, let your grandmother and Jamie know I'll be there in a bit," Amanda called back.
She sighed and watched her son disappear into the crowds as she slowly followed him to the hotdog stand. Keeping up with Lee on a daily basis was one thing, keeping pace with her teenage son was quite another. 'Lee,' she thought wistfully, hoping that wherever he was he was being careful. She didn't like it when she wasn't there to watch his back and right now she wouldn't mind if he was here to watch hers.
It was the weirdest Saturday she could remember having in a long time, and since she had met Lee there had been a few. It was bad enough at the Agency all week, men kept coming up to her and asking if she was alright and if she needed a shoulder to cry on. A few had even hinted that with Lee away she should feel free to come out and play.
That had been bad enough, but so far today she had seen at least five of those same men around the fair! It was as if they had followed her. At that moment, she felt a hand tap her on the shoulder. Turning, she saw the face of the little man who had been shadowing Billy for the last two weeks. 'Roger something,' she thought to herself as she wondered why in the world he would be here.
"Ah, there you are," Roger smiled at the agent in front of him, confident that she had no clue what was about to happen. "Mr. Melrose and I were speaking this morning and he said that for me to take the files out of your office I would need your signature. If you could follow me for a moment I have the documents in my car and I'll be out of your hair."
She started to pull away from him, but he had already grasped her arm firmly and was tugging her toward the rear of the school, in the direction of the back parking lot.
"Look, Mr. ... Roger, I'm sure this is all very important but surely it can wait until Monday. I'm here with my family," Amanda protested as she tried to kindly remove his hand from her arm.
Roger's smile quickly turned to a sneer as he realized they were far enough away from the crowds to not worry about being heard. "No, it can't wait," he snarled as he threw her towards an unmarked black van parked near the edge of the lot. "There are a few things I need to take care of, and you are just one of them. So if you could get in that van without making too much of a fuss I would appreciate it."
Amanda stumbled into a nearby car after Roger shoved her and just looked at him in surprise. 'What in the Sam Hill is going on?!' she thought in a panic, going over all the recent cases and trying to figure out why this was happening. Billy had introduced him last week as an important visitor from the White House who was going to be around for a while to keep tabs on a few cases. But then he only seemed to be around when the Zeigler case was being discussed.
She could almost feel the tumblers falling into place as she unlocked a part of this puzzle.
"There aren't any forms you need signed are there?" She asked, her eyes growing wide at the sight of the handgun Roger pulled out of his jacket. She made special notice of the silencer already attached. She leaned back against the car and felt along the edge of the trunk for something she had spotted when she fell that might help.
"Oh, there are always forms to sign, there just aren't any that you need to worry about anymore." Roger grinned but the smile didn't quite reach his eyes. "Now if we could move this along I really don't want to be out here any longer than I have to."
Amanda swallowed the smile of triumph that was threatening to grace her lips as her fingers nimbly unscrewed the radio antenna from the car she was leaning against. "I disagree," she stated matter of factly as she pulled the long metal wire from the trunk and wrapped her fingers around it tightly. "I'm sure there will be lots to fill out and sign once we have the official paperwork done naming you as one of Ziegler's clients."
Roger's eyes narrowed as he took a step toward her, "I think that is enough talking for now. Get in the van, my employer would really like to have a word with you."
He raised the gun in his hand, aiming straight at her chest.
Amanda didn't waste a second. Whipping her hand out from behind her back, she struck him hard across the wrist holding the gun.
Roger howled in pain and dropped it, grabbing his wrist with his free hand.
"You Bitch!" he screamed as he dropped down to his knees to pick up the gun again.
But Amanda wasn't there when he had retrieved it. Only the radio antenna remained lying on the ground where she had dropped it.
Francine held onto the car door handle for dear life as Lee pulled up in front of the school with a loud screech of the tires. They still didn't quite understand what was going on; just that Amanda had gotten herself into trouble again somehow.
"Francine, this will go a whole lot faster if we split up," Lee stated as he checked his weapon. "I'm still supposed to be away so I'll head around back and you make your way through the crowd. If you spot her, get her and we'll meet back here in 20." Not bothering to wait for an answer, he exited the car, barely getting his long frame out of the way of the door before slamming it shut.
"Sure Lee, sounds like a great plan." Francine muttered to herself as she checked her weapon as well before tucking it securely in her purse with her hand on the grip as she exited the car and made her way through the fair.
She kept a lookout for Amanda and her family, only the slight narrowing of her eyes giving any sign that she recognized all the 'men' from the Agency that seemed to be hanging around. At least two of the ones she had spotted so far had reputations for being 'hound dogs', generally chasing after anything in a skirt, the more of a challenge the better. She mentally noted who they were for a chat later about their behavior and kept going.
She spotted Dotty and the boys sitting down at a nearby picnic table with their hands full of food and made a beeline for them.
"Hello Mrs... er, Dotty," she stumbled over the unfamiliar greeting. "Have you seen Amanda around anywhere?"
Dotty West had spotted Francine as she made her way towards them and remained standing, hoping the woman wasn't there with bad news. 'Amanda has been so down lately without Lee, if this is bad news...' She didn't let herself complete that thought as the blond agent greeted her and asked about Amanda.
"She's around here somewhere. Phillip had her on the tilt-a-whirl earlier. In fact she should be here by now. Is something wrong?" Dotty fixed the woman in front of her with a hard stare.
Thinking quickly, Francine brought her free hand up and waved it dismissively. "Not at all!" she lied through her teeth. "Lee sent word that he would be getting back sometime tonight and wanted her help clearing up some paperwork in the office before she could bring him home. Though there is a lot of it and it could be really late before they get back."
'There!' she thought proudly, 'I have them out of the way for a few hours. Now I just have to find Amanda.'
"Oh that is wonderful news!" Dotty exclaimed as she motioned to the boys, "Boys, Lee should be home late tonight and your mother is going to go and pick him up and bring him back." Her hands had started to gesture wildly and only got more so as she told the boys the news.
"Alright!" they both hollered and jumped up to high five each other, Jamie knocking his grandmother's arm in the process.
Francine gasped in horror as the hotdog in Dotty's left hand brushed against the front of her shirt, leaving a long smear of mustard.
"Oh My Gosh!" Dotty exclaimed as she disentangled herself from the boys and shooed them back to their food. "I'm so sorry about that. But you know, a little peroxide on that and then soaking it for a while before washing and it will come straight out." She smiled at the agent but noted that she didn't look too happy to need that advice. "Anyways, Amanda was over in that direction," she started to twist to point it out and realized that would mean swinging her hands that were still full of hot dogs and decided to motion with her head instead. "When you find her, let her know I'll take care of the boys and we will see the two of them in the morning." She smiled and stepped back away from Francine, holding her hands closer to herself to try and keep from accidentally smearing her anymore.
"Thank you, Dotty." Francine sighed. This day just kept getting better and better.
"Oh!" Dotty called out after Francine, "Remind Lee that Phillip's game is on Friday. That boy has been driving everyone nuts trying to get them to help him practice."
Francine rolled her eyes, "Yes, Dotty!" she called out, and then continued to look for Amanda.
Amanda scurried behind a car parked on the edge of the lot, careful to keep her sneakers on the grass as to avoid the telltale rattle of gravel. She wasn't sure exactly why, but Roger seemed determined to kill her. Once the Agency got through all the details from Ziegler's interrogation, they would know he was a client just as she did now, so killing her here wouldn't stop that.
She hefted a piece of gravel and tossed it as far as she could towards the other side of the parking lot. The soft pfft of the silenced gun indicated her ruse had worked again. It was only the second time, but if she could keep getting him to fire at her distractions he would soon be out of ammo. If only she could remember if the gun he was carrying held eight or twelve rounds she would have a better idea of how many distractions she would need.
She crawled slowly past the next three cars, tossing pebbles as she went. Smiling softly to herself each time she heard the pfft. 'He sure is careless,' she thought as the sound of Roger cursing gave away his position each time. Reaching her hand out to the next car bumper, she realized it was the back of her own vehicle.
She peeked out quickly to see his back was to her and quickly reviewed what might be in the car that could help. She quickly discarded the thought of using the car blanket because it would require her to get too close and she decided the tire iron would be too violent, she finally gave a sharp nod when she decided what she would use.
Very slowly she released the latch on the back hatch and reached in to grasp what she needed. Bringing it out and placing it on the ground, she closed the hatch as noiselessly as possible. Then she tossed another pebble out and mentally apologized to the owners of the green Gremlin as Roger fired again and took out their windshield.
Using the frustrated rant Roger was now spewing from his mouth as cover, she quickly moved a few more cars over. She could now see most of the parking lot as well as the side of the building. She was readying another few pebbles to lob when she saw something that made her heart sing. Lee!
There he was, coming charging down the side of the building with his gun in hand. The path he was taking was going to bring him head on into the path Roger was making through the cars!
With her heart in her throat she tossed nearly all the bits of gravel in her hand, as far to the left as she could. If he took the bait this time, at least his back would be to Lee and Lee would have a chance to get out of the line of fire.
The relief she felt as Roger turned, firing in the direction the noise the gravel was making as it pinged off parked cars was short-lived as she watched Lee's face while he assessed what he was hearing. She watched as he slowed and then stopped and then peered around the corner. Amanda could tell the instant Lee spotted Roger when his agent face dropped into place.
Horror crept over her again as she realized that Lee was going to take Roger out and ask questions later. Normally an approved move for an agent, but Lee didn't know who Roger was. Or that he was directly connected to the White House. Knowing it was now or never, she dashed forward a few cars and then stood up.
Hollering "LEE!" as she stood, Amanda threw the fast ball she had in her hand as hard as she could at Roger's head, hoping for a direct hit. She watched as things seemed to start moving in slow motion.
Lee was no longer aiming at Roger's back, his gun lowering slightly as recognition dawned. But the ball she had thrown seemed to be on track to miss its target. It sailed over Roger's head by mere inches. The cruel smile on his face seemed to grow as he realized this prey was now standing free of obstacles in front of him. But it vanished half an instant later as the ball that had missed his head rebounded off the side of the same van he had wanted to take her away in and connected with the back of his skull. She could almost see the lights going out in his eyes as he slowly sank out of sight between vehicles. The clatter of his gun landing on the gravel the only sound he made.
Taking half a second to wrestle with his desire to run over and grab his wife, he did what procedure dictated and rushed to where the man disappeared. He needn't have worried, as soon as he reached the downed man, his wife was by his side handing him a pair of cuffs.
"Lee! Oh thank goodness you didn't shoot him. When did you get back? I didn't hurt him too badly did I? We will need to question him. I..." Amanda's voice was cut off as her husband had risen from securing the cuffs on the fallen man to kiss her soundly.
Lips met in a familiar dance as their hands moved frantically across each other's body. Searching for any trace of damage, once assured that the other was fine, those hands move more slowly, caressing and touching gently all the familiar spots. All the fear and loneliness they had endured over the past week being washed away in the familiar feel of their bodies pressing close together.
They probably would have continued indefinitely if Francine hadn't chosen that moment to find them.
"Puh-lease!" Francine exclaimed as she walked toward the pair necking in the parking lot. "I thought Amanda was in trouble, this is not the type of clandestine meeting I want to be a part of."
Lee sighed and pulled his lips from his wife's, resting his forehead against hers for a moment before tearing himself away to look at Francine. "We're fine, Francine, thanks for asking," he grouched, feeling his wife step closer and wrap her arms around his waist. "Though this jerk might not be feeling so well when he wakes up. A fastball to the back of the head can do that."
Francine moved closer to the pair and finally noticed the man lying on the ground. She rolled him over onto his back with her good foot and gasped. "Do you realize who this is Lee? That is Roger Clemens, senior aide to the Vice President! He has been in and out of the Agency for the past two weeks keeping the White House appraised of the status of the Ziegler investigation."
Lee glared down darkly to the man at his feet. He had thought this was some sort of prank gone wrong. But to hear what position the man held cast a new light on why he would be willing to risk so much to come after his wife.
Amanda chose this moment to speak up, "Actually Francine, I think if you review the surveillance of Ziegler's clients and check the list of names he gave up, you will find Clemens on it."
The pair of highly trained agents turned to Amanda in shock.
"Are you telling me, that one of Ziegler's clients is the senior aide to the Vice President?" Francine repeated. That made her catch the other day much sweeter!
Lee tried to work out exactly what that meant. He knew that Ziegler was a high-priced information broker Francine had been assigned to deal with before he left. But he had no idea that his client list included anybody on the Hill. He thought back to what Mechanic had briefed him about on the flight home. How he thought there was someone high up in the power structure that had sold out and he could name names. If the thoughts he was having now matched up with the information Mechanic had, no wonder he wanted out of Bolivia so badly! This could cause a national scandal and set off a few international incidents in the process.
"Francine," Lee said as he bent over to grasp the unconscious man, "why don't you bring the car around and we can stuff him in the trunk for a nice ride back to the Agency?"
"No need, Lee," Amanda interrupted before Francine could agree. She knocked on the side of the van they were standing next to. "This is his van. If you check his pockets you should find the keys."
Lee checked the pockets and tossed the keys he found up to Francine. "You go unlock the door and I'll bring him around." He smiled gratefully at his wife for finding a nice easy solution to the transportation problem.
Francine just rolled her eyes at the pair and hustled around to the side door, unlocking it as quickly as possible. As her eyes adjusted to the dark interior a hiss escaped her lips.
Lee was coming around the corner with Clemens slung over his shoulder and heard. "What's wrong?" he asked tensely, wondering what more was in store for them. He motioned for Amanda to stay behind him and moved closer to see what had upset Francine.
Looking in the van, he saw what Francine had noticed. Not one metal drum ready to be a disposal device for a body, but four. Two of them smaller than the others. He let his anger out some on the unconscious man and threw him in the van, bouncing his head off the floor in the process.
"Lee!" Amanda admonished moving forward to see if the man was still all right only to be stopped by Lee's arms.
"Don't," was all he said as he looked into his wife's eyes, so relieved to be holding her here - alive. "Francine, take this trash to the agency, we will meet you there," he tossed over his shoulder as he wrapped one arm around Amanda's waist and guided her back toward his car. He was not willing to let her out of his sight for any amount of time.
"Not a problem, Lee," Francine agreed as she slammed shut the van's side door and hopped up into the driver's seat, grateful to be off her feet. She had ignored the pain in her foot during the rush, but now that it was over it was creeping back into her awareness. Adjusting the rearview mirror, the drums in the back aroused her anger. She decided to focus on that to keep her mind off her own pain.
She pulled out and rolled the window down as she passed the two agents walking arm in arm next to the building. "By the way Amanda, I told your mother that you were coming in to work to help Lee with some paperwork before you brought him home late tonight. She said not to worry and that they wouldn't wait up for you."
Amanda smiled up at Francine, "Thanks, Francine. I was wondering what I was going to tell her. See you back at the Agency."
"Oh and Lee," Francine called out the window, "Phillip needs your help with some football moves."
Francine smirked as she pulled away, wondering how much revenge she should plot for her mustard covered blouse. But another quick glance in the rearview mirror and another out the side mirror at the two lovers changed her mind. 'I'll let them off the hook, this time,' she thought as she pulled the van into traffic.
Billy Melrose read over the reports in his hands and shook his head. He couldn't believe the stupidity of some people, and the fact that they also worked for the Agency was giving him a headache. He picked up the phone on his desk and barked some orders for Fielder to go and pick up a few people and have them brought in. It had to be done but it didn't mean he had to enjoy it. He hoped Lee would be back soon to help unravel everything around here.
Billy had managed to speak to the 'package' in McJohn's office and as far as he could tell that situation was still under wraps. The information he had gleaned from just a few minutes conversation was enough for him to call home and let his wife know he probably wouldn't be home again until tomorrow. She had been understanding enough, situations were always popping up that demanded his attention, but he could hear the worry in her voice about his health.
He hoped that it wasn't as bad as it could be, but he knew that it would probably be worse than he thought. It was the name of the game after all. He looked up into the bullpen and finally saw Lee and Amanda making their way toward him. He was grateful it was a Saturday and there were fewer agents on duty, less people for them to get past.
He sat back and enjoyed the final moments of peace before things heated up. While the pair might look relaxed to the casual observer, he could note the telltale signs of stress. He was stressed often enough to know them by heart. He watched as Lee noticed him watching them and nudged Amanda. Her eyes flickered his way as well and then they were headed to his office.
No words were exchanged as they entered his office without knocking, making their way to their favorite chairs in front of his desk. He let them have a moment to get comfortable before asking, "So, what happened?"
Lee took a moment to smile at Amanda before turning to his boss. "First up, I should tell you I filled Amanda in on everything that happened while I was away." He saw the angry look on Billy's face and quickly continued. "It was relevant, I swear. It seems that our cases are connected."
The angry look on Billy's face quickly turned to puzzlement. "How do you mean? Amanda has only been working on the Zeigler case for Francine, doing research and checking in with your family. How does that relate to getting Mechanic out of Bolivia?"
"Remember how when you gave me this case, the President wanted it vermillion level because he was concerned about leaks? He was right. The man that was after Amanda at the school fair was one of Ziegler's clients." Lee explained.
Billy rubbed his temples, feeling the headache starting. "Let me guess, that means he was from the White House." He looked sternly at Lee, "I don't have to go to the morgue to identify him do I?"
A proud Lee grinned sheepishly at his boss. "No, Amanda took him out before I could." Lee reached his hand over and squeezed his wife's in appreciation. "But I think Mechanic should be here before we go over any more. He will want to hear what we know too," Lee added.
"I'm already here, son, now where are your manners? Aren't you going to introduce me to this vision of loveliness? She can't possibly be your partner, she looks much too smart to be that."
The three of them jumped and turned to face the door where a cleaned up Mechanic stood leaning against the doorframe, a big grin on his face.
Amanda tensed for a moment then quickly relaxed as her husband jumped up to greet the man.
"Amanda, this is Mechanic. Mechanic, this is my partner and wife, Amanda Stetson," Lee stated with pride.
Mechanic whistled his appreciation. "With the way you went on and on, I figured you were involved with your partner but not that you'd married her." He stepped forward to where Amanda sat and took her hand in his, kissing the back of her hand. "I'm not sure if I should offer you my congratulations or condolences, my dear, I have heard what a handful Scarecrow can be."
Amanda blushed and smiled graciously at Mechanic. "Lee isn't too bad to handle and Scarecrow knows how to behave if he knows what's good for him."
Mechanic roared in laughter, drowning out Lee's meek "Hey!"
"You found yourself a good one there, Scarecrow. Now what is this about our cases being connected?" He asked as Lee drew another chair up to the desk for him to sit at.
Billy cleared his throat and started, "While Lee was off helping you get home, one of our other agents, Francine Desmond, ran an operation to bring down an up-and-coming information broker, Anton Ziegler. And this afternoon Amanda had a run in with a man who is on his client list. These two tell me he also happens to be a member of the White House staff."
Mechanic's eyes narrowed at that information. "And I'll bet I know exactly which office they work in too."
Billy looked at the three of them expectantly.
Mechanic looked back at them, "Un-uh! I'm not naming names until we have all the players in front of me. I called Austin from McJohn's office and set up one tonight for 8 pm." He turned his head and looked down at the woman sitting in the chair, "I'm a tad more curious right now about what happened to you."
Billy motioned for him to sit and then picked up the reports he had been going over before everyone arrived. "That's where it gets a bit sad. It seems one of our own has gone over the edge."
The three agents looked at Billy in horror.
"You mean an agent set that goon on Amanda!" Lee demanded, curling his fingers into fists.
Billy shook his head, "I only wish it was, Scarecrow," he said with a hint of regret. He knew what he was about to reveal would be hard for his friend to hear. "Did you know a woman in the steno pool named Davina?"
Lee stared at his boss with a puzzled expression. "Not that I can think of off the top of my head. But Billy you know I haven't 'dated' anyone from there for a very long time."
"Unfortunately it takes longer to live down a name than to live up to one. It seems one of the women there has taken a liking to you and became convinced that you really weren't married to Amanda and only said so to keep the more adventurous men away from her. She managed to convince a few others as well. Needless to say, none of them are employed here any longer. And as for the one in charge, well she came up with a plan to find Amanda a new man. Convinced a few of them that Amanda was interested in finding a new man as well. It just turned out that one of the men she tried to set your wife up with was Clemens."
Lee's jaw hung down in shock. Of all the things he expected to hear Billy say, this was the last thing he could have come up with. He couldn't help thinking that, once again, his past had come back to bite him in the rear. He didn't know if he wanted to rip the woman to shreds or pretend she had never existed.
Amanda could feel the emotions coming off her husband and placed her hand on his arm. "Sweetheart?" she asked tenderly, reaching her hand out to his face to make him look at her. "You do realize this is not your fault in any way. Davina must be very ill to make up a thing like that. She needs help."
She watched as her words soothed most of the pain out of her husband's face, but she knew she would have more work to do with him later. It used to bother her when women showed up out of the blue from Lee's past. But they were from his past and she knew they would stay there.
A thought occurred to her and she turned to face Billy. "She will get the help she needs won't she? I know she hasn't behaved as she should, but for her to truly believe that she could do such a thing and get Lee... well she needs psychiatric help not a jail cell."
Billy nodded his agreement and raised his hands in a calming motion. "Not to worry Amanda, if you want to be sure just take a look at the monitor over there." He pointed to one of the monitors on the back wall showing a camera view of one of the building's entrances.
Everyone in the room turned to watch as Billy picked up the remote and turned on the sound. A white van proclaiming the name of Whispering Oak Rest Home was parked near the elevator entrance. Two large men in white suits were standing guard, awaiting their passenger. A moment later the elevator doors opened and a nurse, two agents and Davina appeared. The wails of the poor woman sounding clearly in the office as if she were standing in the room with them.
"Will Scarecrow be there?" she asked breathlessly of the nurse. "I just know he can't wait to see me!" They all stepped out of the elevator and Davina spotted the men and the van. "Whispering Oaks? That is a funny name for a resort," she stated looking uneasily at the men in front of her.
"Where is Scarecrow?! You said he'd be here to meet me!" she demanded, her tone rising to a frantic pitch with each word spoken.
Her eyes darted around but didn't see the man in question. Suddenly she broke free of the agents holding her and attempted to get away.
But the men from Whispering Oaks had seen it all before and grabbed her before she got three feet away.
Davina howled like a trapped animal and turned to try and scratch at the men now holding her. A woman climbed down out of the van then, holding a straight jacket and a syringe. After quickly jabbing the frantic woman with the needle, she expertly began to fasten her into the jacket. All the while talking calming words to her.
"Are you missing your Scarecrow, love? Don't you worry about a thing. We will help you find it. Now you just relax and let the medicine work and you'll see, everything will be just fine," the nurse cooed.
Davina was much more calm now that the drugs had started taking effect. "Really? You will help me find him? He is so pretty you see, and he's all mine. He is my precious."
At this point Billy turned off the sound so they could only watch as Davina was loaded into the van. One of the attendants signed some papers for the Agency nurse before getting back in the van and driving off.
Lee turned away from the screens feeling lower than low. He hadn't even done anything to encourage this woman yet she had done so much harm. He looked at his wife and saw the tears in her eyes and instantly forgot about how he was feeling. Of course Amanda would feel for Davina, it was part of who she was.
He reached out and comforted his wife as the tears began to fall. They sat there silently for several minutes, feeling sympathy for the poor woman.
Mechanic took these few moments of silence to observe Scarecrow and his partner. This young woman really looked to be the wrong type for this business. But here she was and one half of a very effective team.
He hated to break things up, but if they were going to make it to their meeting on time they would have to leave soon.
Mechanic cleared his throat and addressed Billy. "Mr. Melrose," he started, "we really should get a move on if we are going to make that meeting at the White House. There are some people there who are going to be very disappointed to see us."
Billy nodded and pretended he didn't see the other two agents in the room. "Then we'd better get up to the car." He stood and grasped the relevant folders off his desk. "Lee, you and Amanda meet us upstairs in 10," he stated gruffly.
Lee just gave Billy the barest of nods as Billy and Mechanic left the office, closing the door behind them. After another moment he reached down and gently tipped his wife's face toward his own.
"You ready to go and wrap this thing up?" he asked with concern.
Amanda sat up and wiped the tears from her face. It was time to go be an agent again. "You betcha, big fella," she said with more excitement than she really felt. No matter how sad she was for that poor woman, she was ill and would be getting the treatment she needed.
She stood and reached out her hand to her husband. "Let's go get this done so we can go home."
Lee took her hand and smiled. "Yes, I think our family might be missing us," he agreed as the pair left Billy's office and headed to the elevator to meet the others upstairs in the car.
The four federal agents made it to the White House and through security in time for the meeting, but had to wait outside the office until they were summoned. They sat quietly observing the scene under the ever-watchful eye of the Secret Service.
Eventually an aide came opened the door from the inside, and motioned for them all to enter.
The Oval Office was as impressive as ever with the American flag and a flag with the Presidential Seal standing tall behind the desk where the most powerful man in the world now sat.
Before him on opposite couches sat Austin Smyth, head of the Agency and the Vice President. The men all turned to face the door as one by one the agents entered.
Billy Melrose and Mechanic followed by Lee and Amanda.
Dr. Smyth's eyes narrowed when he saw the last addition to the group.
"Mrs. Stetson," he said, much more politely than she had ever heard him say, "I believe this meeting is above your security clearance; you will have to wait outside." Even his glare seemed more polite as he pointed back out the way they had entered.
The aide moved to escort Amanda Stetson out, but her husband quickly stepped between them.
Mechanic spoke up first, "I don't think so. She has information that is relevant to what we need to say. She stays."
Dr. Smyth looked like he was going to object, but glancing at the faces of his agents made him realize they were dead serious. He waved his hand, dismissing the aide and gesturing for him to leave.
The agents took up position standing toward the rear of the room facing the President. But no one spoke until the aide had left and the door closed firmly behind him.
Nodding at Mechanic, the President began.
"I take it the mission was a complete success since you are here and both of you seem to be unharmed. I understand from the briefing Dr. Smyth was just giving us that not only was your position undercover in Los Ojos in jeopardy but that you suspect we have a traitor somewhere in my administration?" the President queried.
Mechanic nodded slowly, "Yes sir. It came to my attention over recent months that not only was my information not seeming to be doing any good when I passed it on, but that some of the information wasn't even reaching its destination. I thought at first it was my 'pipeline' that had been corrupted, but a few things that Marcelo Ramirez let slip changed my mind on that. His information was better than mine and he seemed to know what was going to happen before it did. Plus his competition seemed to be vanishing into surprise attacks led by American forces. That led me to believe that his source was high up in the chain of command."
The President nodded his head solemnly, slowly digesting the news that a member of his staff could have turned traitor. "I take it from the presence of the rest of you that it isn't as simple as an information leak?" he questioned, looking pointedly at the other three agents in the room.
Lee took a deep breath and was about to speak, but Billy stepped forward and spoke first. "Once these two returned, there were some events at the Agency that led us to believe one of our agents was in danger."
Lee silently reached for his wife's hand and held on while Billy spoke.
"It seems that a staff member here at the White House was planning to kill that agent and the rest of her family. What we have found out in the short time since this man was apprehended has only lent more credence to the idea he's a traitor. So far he hasn't identified any others involved with his plot, but from what we can gather, he felt this agent was getting too close to finding out what he and others had been up to."
The President listened carefully, understanding dawning as to why Mr. and Mrs. Stetson were both in his office for this meeting.
"If such an event had occurred it would certainly hinder any further investigation into any possible threats from within. The investigation would have to be handed off to another agency and they would have to start over from scratch," the President stated, even more worried about how high up this potential threat was. "I would assume that Mrs. Stetson was the agent in question and that is why she's here."
The Vice President had been sitting quietly listening to the report with an air of indifference. Nothing that had been said could possibly threaten him or anything he had done. He knew there was no proof anywhere as to what had transpired. Clemens knew to keep his mouth shut, if he wanted any help from him.
All eyes now turned to Amanda. She felt their stare and squeezed her husband's hand once before letting it drop and taking a step forward.
"Yes sir, he came for me while I was at a school function with my mother and sons earlier today. They and the rest of the families in attendance are all right. They never even knew what happened." Amanda suppressed the small shudder that wanted to run through her body at how close it had been for all of them. "Mr. Stetson and Miss Desmond arrived in time to help me take him into custody."
The Vice President hid his small smile of triumph. He could blame everything on Clemens if any blame needed to go anywhere. With him in custody, it would be simple to alter any paperwork needed. Clemens was the only one who ever met with Ziegler so it was a simple matter of making sure his office records were clean.
"But before they arrived, he stated that his employer needed to speak with me. But we know that isn't quite true. The items in his vehicle... well they suggest he had other plans for myself and my family."
Lee hadn't wanted her to know what was in the van, but Amanda had cornered Francine and managed to get it out of her. She pushed aside all thoughts of what had been planned. There was plenty of time to go over all of that later.
Dr. Smyth was starting to get annoyed. He did not like to be the last to know anything. That there was a mole high up in the White House he knew, but this twist with Scarecrow's family was new. "How soon can we get this fellow moved to a medical interrogation facility? I want to know everything he knows as soon as possible. We can't have a leak coming from the White House."
Secure in his belief that he was safe, the Vice President added his support to Dr Smyth. "I agree. The sooner we can get Clemens interrogated the better. I've had my suspicions about him for a while now. You just ask my security staff and they'll tell you." 'Once I've had a word with them that is,' he thought smugly.
"So then we should be able to have Roger Clemens moved to a medical facility by early tomorrow morning," the President stated decisively. "But I really don't think that will be necessary do you Dr. Smyth?"
Smyth nodded his head slowly in agreement with the President as he realized exactly what the Vice President had said. "We could do that, but I agree it won't be necessary."
The Vice President stared back at the two men. "Have you both lost your minds? How else are we going to prove that Clemens is the leak? That he's been dealing with that information broker, Zeigler." He wondered what else he might have to do to get them to realize that Clemens was behind it all.
The President sat a little straighter at his desk with a sad smile. It looked like he was fussing with some papers he had lying there, before he looked up at the Vice President and spoke. "I knew you were interested in my job Charles, but to go as far as making an alliance with drug runners? I heard about how you've been building your campaign up for the next election; that you had the support of many in the party. I had wondered where the funds were going to come from, why do it this way?"
The Vice President started to feel a bit panicky, but hid it well. "Of course I'm interested in your job, who wouldn't be? But that doesn't mean I had anything to do with this mess. It was all Roger, why would you think otherwise?"
The door to the office opened as six Secret Service agents silently entered, summoned when the President had pushed a button secreted on the top of his desk. They surveyed the room and moved into position behind the Vice President.
"Because, Mr. Vice President," Lee stated with only a hint of a snarl in his voice. "We hadn't named who it was we caught this morning."
The Vice President gave a startled jump at the young man's tone. No one spoke to him like that, especially not in the Oval Office. He made a move to stand up and suddenly found himself surrounded by Secret Service agents pulling him to his feet. "Unhand me at once!" He demanded. "I refuse to be treated in such a manner. Let me go this instant!"
He was still voicing his complaints as he was led out of the Oval Office; silence falling once the door shut behind him.
The President looked the saddest of them all. 'He was a good friend once,' he thought to himself before addressing the agents in front of him.
"Mr. Melrose, Mr. and Mrs. Stetson," he began, "I would like to thank you for once again putting your lives on the line to bring down a danger to our way of life. Your courage and willingness to go beyond the call of duty make you all a credit to your country."
He turned then to address Mechanic. "Sir, your contributions to your country have kept you far from it for a very long time. It is the wish of this office that you take a nice long vacation and relax and enjoy the freedoms your sacrifices have allowed us to protect. Once you're rested, I'd like to discuss your future plans with you. My staff could benefit greatly from someone of your experience. We can always use the insights of a good man."
The President stood then and came out from behind his desk to shake the hands of each of his agents. Pausing over Mrs. Stetson's hand, he turned it and gave the back of her hand a kiss. He then turned to Dr. Smyth.
"Austin, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to stick around for a bit. We seem to have a mess to clean up before it hits the press. We'll need a good story to cover the absence of the Vice President and I want all the details before the morning news gets a hold of it." He turned to dismiss the agents but paused and turned to face Dr. Smyth once more. "I also want to know why, when I told you I wanted the best agent we had for a solo mission, you chose to send Scarecrow knowing full well he has a partner."
Dr. Smyth's face went just a slight shade paler at the President's last remarks. The only outward sign that he knew he was in trouble. "Of course, sir," he stated calmly.
Smyth then looked at Mechanic and the closest thing to a genuine smile crossed his face, surprising the other agents in the room. "Tonight might not be the best night to get together for dinner after all. I'll have my driver pick you up tomorrow and we can catch up then."
With that he turned and left, following the path the Secret Service had taken earlier.
The other three agents looked at Mechanic in surprise. The older agent just stood there with a grin on his face. "Didn't I mention, Austin and I go way back. We grew up together. He followed me into this line of work."
Shaking their heads in disbelief that Dr. Smyth might actually have a friend out there, they awaited the President's permission to leave.
The President nodded to the agents. "Oh Mr. Melrose," he called out before they reached the door. "I think that a vacation is in order don't you? I believe the office can survive without you three for at least a week."
"Of course, sir," Billy replied with a smile as he ushered his agents out the door.
Amanda turned for one last look at the Oval Office, knowing that someday she would be able to tell her mother at least that she had been inside it.
The last thing she saw before they left, was the President standing facing the center window. His hands folded behind his back. The thought struck her how much he looked like a sentinel standing watch on top of a hill.
Outside the office, Billy Melrose borrowed the administrative assistant's phone and made arrangements for cars to be sent around for the four of them.
Lee pulled his wife off to the side and smiled down at her. Pride was evident on his face as the two stood there gazing at each other.
"You ready to head home to the family, Mrs. Stetson?" he asked quietly.
"With you, any time Mr. Stetson," Amanda replied. "Phillip's been impatiently awaiting your return. Seems his mother isn't as good as you when it comes to playing football and with his first game Friday night, I have a feeling he plans to get your help every spare moment this week."
Lee winked at his wife, "I am more than willing to help Phillip, but I do believe that Dr. McJohn prescribed a few days of rest. I think I'll have to spend some time in bed first. Do you know where I can find a Bedside Bluebell?"