Scarecrow and Mrs. King: The Shell Game
When Lee is assigned a deep 2 month cover in West Berlin, Amanda begins to work solo and stumbles onto a threat to the US security. Before she can uncover the whole truth, Amanda disappears. Lee returns to find a search is on for his partner, and secrets are inadvertently revealed.
The sun set on Washington D.C. as two intentionally nondescript sedans pulled next to each other in a deserted back street. A tan packet is tossed to the driver of the opposite sedan. With the package now delivered the car drives away. In the remaining car two men open the packet. Inside is a personnel file. They open it. A look of resolve steels both their faces.
"The agent has been chosen, "the driver says, slicing through the silence with his thick Russian accent. "Tell our contact we need to know everything there is to know about a …Lee Stetson."
ONE WEEK EARLIER:
"I'd like to congratulate the recent freshman agents who received some of the highest scores on their freshman level completion exams. Well done!" Billy joyously announced to the bullpen. "Also, a special congratulation to Amanda King, who actually received a perfect score! Congratulations all!" Applause broke out amongst the gathered. Lee beamed proudly at his partner and wife.
As the group dispersed, Billy looked around, "Where is Beaman? I thought he usually came to these things."
"I think he is a little upset at my score," Amanda looked a bit sheepish.
"Upset with a perfect score?" Lee said looking puzzled. "You'd think he'dshow up to take the credit."
"Well, I sort of should have an asterisk by my perfect score."
"What?" replied Lee.
Billy and Francine looked on just as confused.
"You all know what computer section of the test consists of…" continued Amanda.
Billy nodded, "You are given a scenario based on a real Agency case and are graded on your responses to each part of the case."
They all waited expectantly and Amanda went on, "When mine came up on the screen, I raised my hand to explain to Ephraim that perhaps I should get another case. But he insisted that the case is a random one and would not change it or I'd invalidate the test. He wouldn't listen. So I was stuck…"
"What was wrong with the case Amanda?" inquired Billy.
"Well, it was one I knew."
"Was it one you'd already worked on during your freshman case work…, " Lee said, looking amused. "You did do more extra credit than anyone I have ever known."
"No. Well… it was my case." Amanda responded.
"When the case first started on the screen it read of an agent going undercover… as a waiter… to get information on agency information leaks…and then when he is cornered at a train station… he passes of a package to a civilian… me" Amanda's sheepish look returned as she shrugged her shoulders as if to say 'oh well'. "So you see I am not sure I deserve much praise for my perfect score."
The group laughed, but Billy also replied, "Amanda I can assure you, we are as proud of you now as we were then."
"I think Beaman is glad I am done with my course work."
Lee chuckled, "Especially since he was the one who come up with the new 'fool proof' computerized tests."
They all laughed.
"Now Amanda you are merely a physical, a shooting range test, and a meeting with good old 'Dr. Pain' from being a real agent" announced Francine, gleefully emphasizing the visit with their martial arts instructor.
Lee made a face. He didn't like the idea of Amanda meeting up with their Dr. Pain, but darned if Amanda didn't meet every bit of her training with excitement. Lately after a few dangerous missions, he wanted to protect Amanda more than ever. He found himself trying to find ways to keep Amanda safe behind a computer here in the Agency. Amanda had tolerated it for a while. It had given her some more time with the boys and her training, but now she was eagerly awaiting her first official assignments. Lee was petrified. He understood why the Agency frowned on partners being involved. He was all 'husband' when he thought of the dangers. He was glad that as her partner he could take comfort that he would be there to 'have her back.'
Later when Amanda was off with Leatherneck to start her intensive gun training, Lee was assigned to the latest case.
In the conference room Billy briefed Lee, Francine and several other agents:
"Andrei Patrovich." While Billy talked a photo of Patrovich was projected on a screen. Patrovich appeared to be around forty, attractive, athletic, but suitably bookish.
Billy went on, "Patrovich is a professor of all things biological. Rumor had that he is the 'go to' guy for the U.S.S.R.'s biological warfare department. Last month his wife, Elsa, was allowed out of Moscow, and in Paris, she made a dash for the U.S. Consulate." Elsa's picture appeared on screen. She was an attractive blonde in her mid-twenties. "She was granted asylum last month. She also passed on information that Andrei wanted to defect. He has grown disillusioned with the Soviets."
"If he is willing to defect it would be an amazing boon to the U.S. own counter biological warfare efforts," commented Francine.
"Yesterday Elsa received word that Patrovich, was going to be allowed to leave the Soviet Union to teach at a university in West Berlin." continued Billy. "This could be our chance to get Patrovich out."
"Yeah but won't the KGB be watching him like a hawk considering his wife's recent defection?" Lee interjected.
"No doubt," replied Billy," But, with Elsa's information we are hoping to assign an agent to deep cover, before Andrei makes his trip. They'd be able to make casual contact and facilitate his exit out."
Lee tried to hide behind his folder. He knew deep cover meant months overseas. It was a job of an unattached man. He had done it many times when he was single and unattached. He had once upon a time loved that type of operation and was damned good at it. Things however had changed... even if no one else knew it.
Now the thought of leaving Amanda for more than a week unnerved him. At this point they only spent the whole night together once a week, when Joe took the boys Friday nights. The rest of the time, if they were lucky enough to not have to actually use a late night to work, they made love and then when their separate ways. He'd be damned now if he was made to spend months away from her!
Lee breathed a sigh of relief when Billy said they needed to debrief Elsa themselves to figure out the best cover for the job.
The whole agency was on hold while the men upstairs debriefed and planned.
Lee was delighted when Amanda arrived at his apartment to celebrate her "graduation." It was to be a whole night Friday, and he had pulled out all the stops…dinner, champagne, and a little romance. The apartment was lit with candlelight and Lee filled a glass with champagne when he heard the door rattle.
Champagne in one hand, he caught the door with the other, only to come face to face with Billy.
Feeling awkward he quickly set the glass down by the door and asked Billy to come in.
"Sorry to bother you Scarecrow, but there is no time to waste. We had word the Patrovich is due in East Berlin in two weeks. So I need you to be on a plane tonight."
"Whoahh…When did I get chosen for this operation Billy?"
"When the prefect cover landed at our doorstep."
"Perfect cover?" Lee replied without even trying to hide his frustration.
"Dr. Theo Aldrich a history professor at Georgetown, who was schedule to do a research sabbatical at the same university as Patrovich. This Aldrich broke his leg. He won't be going, but you will in in his place. You will become the visiting Professor Aldrich and make contact with Patrovich."
"Billy, there has to be someone better than me for this job...younger…I can't."
"You must Scarecrow. Aldrich is your age…and like a gift from heaven you look almost exactly like him! I have never seen a more perfect cover. And you know how important this is. An opportunity l to get a man like Patrovich…we may not get a better chance."
Lee continued frustrated, but now looking nearly resigned, "Two weeks…so I could get this done in 3 weeks?"
"The delicate quality of this operation makes it highly unlikely it will be less than two months Scarecrow." By Billy's tone Lee could tell he sympathized, but the mission must come first.
Now Lee was resigned. He felt sick, but Lee knew Billy was right. Looking at the champagne glass he looked back to Billy. "Can I leave first thing tomorrow? A few hours can't make that much of a difference. Please, Billy." Billy looked as if he was going to balk, but then suddenly behind him Amanda arrived. She looked surprised to see Billy. Billy had long ago stopped being surprised to see Amanda at Lee's apartment. Pausing, Billy sized up the situation and nodded.
"All right Scarecrow, be on a plane by tomorrow morning. Your itinerary, cover story, and recognition codes are in this file. A courier will bring you your plane ticket."
Billy put down a file he had been carrying next to the champagne glass by the door. Billy then turned to exit, wishing a silent Amanda goodnight.
Lee let Amanda in, and closed the door.
"What was that about?"
"Nothing good," Lee said looked deflated. He leaned in and kissed Amanda. He took a moment to savor the kiss before looking into the concerned face of his wife. He then explained his new assignment. It wasn't long before Amanda understood the depth of this assignment. Since they met Lee had not been away for more than a few weeks. This mission would mean months.
"We are going to have to make this night last," Lee said holding Amanda in one of his gentle but possessive embraces.
In very early hours of the morning, Lee silently packed his suit cases. He took a moment to look down at Amanda sleeping. He had no idea how much he had come to see this woman as not only the love of his life, but also the center of his world. Where ever she was, he was at "home." This was an incredible emotion in the heart of a man who spent his life running about the surface of the world. Up until now all his missions had been adventures, even games sometimes, but now he felt a homesickness that engulfed him.
Lee zipped up his last bag, and went to the bed. He just looked. Then he leaned forward and kissed Amanda's forehead. Amanda startled slightly and her eyes opened.
"I have to go," Lee told her, with regret filling his words.
"I love you." Amanda said leaning up to kiss him.
"I love you too. Please keep yourself safe." He replied with emotion between kisses.
"You too, Scarecrow," she said half smiling and half tearing up.
With one more look he grabbed his two suit cases and left the room. He didn't get to the hallway before he heard Amanda call for him to wait.
She came to the door, now with her satin robe on, and grabbed his hand. On his finger she slipped his gold wedding band.
"Dr. Aldrich is married, remember." She smiled.
"And so is Lee Stetson," he lovingly replied.
With that, Lee drew Amanda into his arms and kissed her again. Holding her like he never wanted to let go...but then in a sudden moment, he released her… opened the door…closed it and was gone.
Amanda, during the weeks that followed, had been told enough to know that Lee had made it to Germany and was even living in the same building as Patrovich. Patrovich had arrived even earlier than expected. Amanda prayed that what appeared to be a series of fortunate events involving this case would continue. She hoped it all meant Lee could come home sooner than planned. Amanda however knew she couldn't count on anything.
After weeks of computer background checks, gun training, and missing Lee, Amanda was called into Billy's office to be assigned her own case.
In arriving Amanda noticed a fresh faced young woman of maybe 25. Billy introduced her as Rhoda Gibbons. Rhoda looked familiar and Billy commented that Rhoda had been trained here at the Agency three years ago. Rhoda had then been stationed in France for two years. She was now back after a successful assignment in Paris.
After introducing Amanda to Rhoda and Rhoda to Amanda, Billy announced that he was making them partners. Amanda must have had a startled look on her face, because Billy immediately added, "Until Lee returns of course."
They were assigned 3 contacts involving the chatter they have been hearing about weapon's smuggling.
They were to make regular, but what looked like random visits to three businesses. All these businesses were agency drop points.
La Belle, a fashion boutique in Alexandria, Pickle's Deli, in downtown D.C., and Baroness Romanoff's Tea Room, in Arlington. They were to go to these places and appear as customers. Billy handed them a folder of each recognition phrase to use….at Belle: Any new scarfs in from Paris? Then at the Deli, One of them to order a turkey club with 8 pickles slices on the side. At the tea house they were to comment on a tapestry on the wall being "elegant, yet understated" and then order tea and two dark raspberry tea cakes. Amanda decided that all recognition codes seemed to be written to be particularly odd and uncomfortable to say.
After giving the recognition code, they would be slipped a note in some way, before leaving. Billy also warned them that there was a good chance that they would be watched while making these contacts. This meant they had to take extra caution in appearing to be just ordinary friends out for the afternoon.
After Billy dismissed them to make their first "round" to the drop points, Amanda could tell Rhoda was not all that happy about the assignment. This was confirmed when they got to the Film Library and she groaned that after two years of service in Paris, that she was rewarded with a basic milk run assignment.
"Seems rather important though, and Billy did say that we'd probably be observed. Seems more dangerous than a milk run," responded Amanda in her kind but matter of fact way.
"Well I suspect after being behind a desk as a spy it would seem that way. But your right it does sound important," replied Rhoda sighing with disappointment none the less.
Amanda was tempted to put Rhoda in her place and remind her that she'd not been behind a desk and that in fact Rhoda failed to realize Amanda had the higher security clearance. So, technically, Amanda was the senior of the two of them…but why bother. As far as Rhoda was concerned she was dealing with a "freshman" agent who was completely green. While as far as Amanda could figure, Rhoda just managed a listening post in the most glamorous city in the world for 2 years seeing more high fashion than high crime.
Amanda decided that it would never do to have them at odds, decided to put the comments and attitudes aside and focus on the job. She also knew Billy was good at assigning partners, and would put her trust in his judgment until she'd gotten to know Rhoda Gibbons.
Lee had found meeting Andrei easy…getting to know him nearly impossible. He had at least 3 KGB agents perpetually lingering in the background at all times.
Lee had felt lucky to have gotten an apartment on the University campus just next door to Patrovich. So far that had only yielded a few polite "guten morgen."
Lee knew he was making good progress. He had become rather an innocuous neighbor, which was perfect for the next phase. Lee knew that Elsa was to have made some sort of contact with Andrei to let him know she was getting him out from behind the Iron Curtain. So, Lee was only one recognition phrase away from pushing this whole assignment forward.
He had never been so eager to get done, and get home. Lee knew he couldn't give into these inclinations or he could blow the whole mission. So, he had patiently seen the weeks go by with only morning greetings…no matter how much he wanted to grab Patrovich and get home.
Lee, however, need not have worried too much, for it was no time at all that Patrovich gave Lee the perfect opportunity to move the case forward. One evening there was a knock at his apartment door.
Lee had been eating dinner, and was surprised to see Patrovich…without his KGB shadow.
"I must know, are you he?" Patrovich asked desperately in his only slightly accented English. His eyes darted around, leaving Lee to surmise he had ditched his guards.
"Who are you looking for Mr. Patrovich," Lee asked calmly.
Deflated, Andrei started to withdraw from Lee's doorway. "I am sorry…"
"I suppose if you wanted to watch a Redskins game, you could come in," Lee said waiting for Andrei's reaction. As if a switch had been flipped, Andrei brightened, and came in. Lee shut the door.
"It is you. I had hoped your being an American and all, that you were my contact. I was afraid to approach you sooner…," Andrei said all in one breath. He seemed beside himself with happiness. "When do we go?"
"Whoooahoh…We have to take our time Mr. Patrovich. We can't show our hand to your KGB guards. How did you get rid of them tonight?"
"Vodka," He said simply and smiled, which brought a smile on Lee's face.
"You'd better get back. Thursday there is that party at Professor Geiger's home. Go. We will 'meet' there…and begin what will look like a mutual interest in….any suggestions?"
"I like the American football. That is why Elsa chose it as our recognition phrase. "
"Football…great! I will invite you to watch a video recording of a football game." Lee replied enthused that they had a great excuse for building an unsuspicious friendship. Lee was satisfied…he'd accomplish his mission and be back to Amanda soon.
"Are you married Mr…?" Andrei asked. Lee wondered if he was a mind reader.
"Dr. Theo Aldrich here in Berlin. Yes, Mr. Patrovich I am married," Lee told himself that he acknowledged his marriage to create a bond between himself and Patrovich, but in truth he was relieved to acknowledge it to someone. Besides it was a part of Theo Aldrich's cover, he could use that as his excuse later.
"Well, then you can understand how much I miss my Elsa."
Patrovich took out a picture and showed Lee. It was the attractive woman from the slide show they had been given. In this picture her hair was blowing in the wind as she stood next to Andrei in the middle of what appeared to be Red Square. He then gestured to Lee. It was Lee's turn. Lee in fact had brought a picture with him and pulled it out to show Andrei. It was a picture of Amanda that Jamie had taken. She was standing in the back yard. It was a spontaneous shot. Amanda had been smiling at something Phillip had said to Dotty. Lee thought it captured her perfectly as mother, daughter and beautiful woman. Once, he had to watch this life through the kitchen window, which stood in the background of the picture. Now he couldn't help but smile at being a part of her complete life…well almost.
"She is beautiful your wife, no?" Andrei commented, admiring Amanda's picture.
"Yes. As is yours," Lee replied and then put the picture away.
"My Elsa, is she well? Did she have anything message for me?"
Lee felt a kinship to Patrovich. He told him what Elsa had requested he be told, "She said she loves you, and not to worry, you will be reunited for your anniversary on the third of October.
This seemed to satisfy Andrei.
"I need to go. I will see you Thursday," He smiled and left quickly and quietly.
Lee could practically see the end of the tunnel on this mission…but then a nagging feeling crept into the back of his mind. No mission ever, ever went this well.
Back in D.C.…
Later, Amanda did find some things to like about Rhoda. She was a good actress, and focused on her job, and gave a convincing performance of being a good friend. Rhoda also had a sense of humor when Amanda, a lot hungrier than she remembered ever being, ate all 8 pickles at the deli. But, while they found they could work together, the first two drops yielded nothing. Both notes, one on the back of a receipt, and one in the napkin of the deli, yielded two "all quiet."
By the time they got to the tea room, they were tired and not optimistic. Amanda did her job of commenting on the tapestry and ordering, but she was more interested in sitting and eating than what she assumed was another blank note. It did give her a chance to get to know Agent Gibbons.
"I grew up in Illinois, small town. I got involved with the Agency when I was a senior in college at Georgetown. Engaged once. Didn't work out when he found out what I did for a living. That is his loss." Amanda noticed that although Rhoda seemed blasé about her split, she could tell her brushing over the ordeal was to avoid painful emotions. Amanda found it made Rhoda more appealing. In many ways she wasn't the arrogant, brassy woman Amanda first suspected. She was actually a lot like Lee…the Lee she met 4 years ago that is. Rhoda also had a tough exterior that covered up a lot of hurt. Like Lee, Amanda suspected that Rhoda would have a softer heart then she let on.
"How about you Amanda? What are your vital statistics?" Rhoda chuckled.
"Well, born in Virginia. Went to UVA. Married. Had two boys. Divorced. Then one day was asked by a man in a waiter's uniform to hand a package to a man on a train …and here I am 4 years later." Amanda smiled knowing there was a bit more to her vital statistics that she wasn't planning on sharing.
"That man who gave you the package…Scarecrow, right?"
"Yes," replied Amanda with a genuine smile on her face at the memory.
"Are you happy about being a part of all this, or did you wish you'd stayed a housewife?" Rhoda asked. Amanda sensed that maybe Rhoda was the one with regrets.
"Me? No, sometimes I wish I had more time to spend with my boys. But the job, no, I do not regret it. I feel what I do is important. The people…I would regret not knowing them," responded Amanda thoughtfully. Then looking at Rhoda as she sipped her tea, she asked, "How about you? Do you regret it."
"Sometimes." Rhoda said quietly, and quickly getting back to Amanda. "One of those people you'd regret not knowing…your real partner...Stetson right?" Amanda could tell by her now slightly teasing tone that she was implying something.
Amanda didn't take the bait and instead said, "Right now you're my real partner, and we have a job to do." Looking up Amanda was surprised to see a familiar face come in the tea room. Yuri Volkov, KGB agent…and oddly enough…friend back from years ago when they had defused a nuclear bomb together. He soon made eye contact with her and looked just as surprised. It became clear he didn't want her to acknowledge him, so Amanda focused on her tea. Amanda and Rhoda soon headed out the door. A note slipped in with their change. Before Amanda could get in her car she was bumped by a passerby. Looking up, it was Yuri.
"Pardon me," he said pretending he had accidently bumped into a stranger. Amanda felt him slip a small paper into her hand.
"That's okay," Amanda replied taking up the ruse.
In the car, as Rhoda drove, Amanda opened up the note from the tea shop.
The Weapon. Vlad Federov.
This was important. Amanda had heard of Vlad, but he was not known for weapons, but his ability to get agents in or out of the country. Most of the time it was KGB agents he moved out, just before the agency moved in…sometimes however it was an American who was never heard from again. Vlad himself had often disappeared so fast, that no agency had been able to get their hands on him to deport. Perhaps he had switched from agents to weapons. Billy came to the same conclusion when Amanda showed him the note back at the Agency.
He told Amanda and Rhoda to wait a few days and try again. He'd get the word out to look for Vlad.
After Rhoda exited, Amanda held back and showed Billy the note she had from Uri. Something in the way he acted made Amanda feel the need to keep the note from Rhoda... As far as she knew it was related to the time that Operation Possum was in effect. Rhoda did not have the need to know on that case.
She explained to Billy the circumstance that led up to her getting passed the note. Billy took the note and read it.
It was a note quickly scribbled on a napkin. The message however gave Amanda chills.
Scarecrow-Shell Game. Black death
"Is it a warning message for Lee? Could he be in danger, sir?' Amanda desperately looked to Billy for answers.
"I don't know. I do know that Lee has made all his check ins…that he has met Patrovich…things are going well."
"Then what is 'shell game' or 'black death'? Is it code?"
Billy could see the worry written all over Amanda's face. The truth was he had no reassurance to offer, because he had no idea what the note meant. It would take more investigating, information drops, and interrogations to find out. He told Amanda as much.
"Elsa Patrovich is coming in today. We'll start by running this by her…carefully. But the reality is this may have nothing to do with the case Lee is currently working on. You and Rhoda continue, we may find that this note has something to do with the weapons smuggling." Billy said it all in his matter of fact way. Amanda however still worried. She also decided that if Yuri visited the tea room again, she'd be there.
Instead of cars in an alley, this time the two men met in a darkened restaurant. The high walls between booths and low light gave them cover.
"I have received word that all is going as planned," Said the older of the two with an air of satisfaction.
"But Comrade Federov, surely the hard part has yet to come," said the other with agitation is his voice. "Our source says they are on to 'Black Death.'"
Vlad Federov looked with distaste at his associate's nervousness; insulted that he would be doubted. None the less, when he spoke it there was no evidence in his smooth even toned voice. When he spoke it was as if he was reassuring a simple child.
"My dear comrade Glazov that is why we have insurance… You must have patience. Did you find the information?"
Glazov dug through his pockets until he found a folded up paper. He handed it to Federov. He then commented, "I found it in a small town in Virginia called Marion, as you see."
Federov took a document from Glazov, he smiled a devilish smile.
"Excellent work, comrade! You see all is as it should be…We move on to phase two. Agent Volkov will help us yet again, and Lee Stetson will be neutralized."
Amanda rolled over in bed. For a moment she had to remember she was in the apartment. She had kept the Friday routine. Her normal excuse of Friday being her night in the editing room was already flimsy enough. Her mother would notice if her schedule changed just because Lee was gone.
Mostly, however, lying in bed, being in the apartment, made her feel closer to Lee.
It also gave her a place to lay out her investigation. Which at this point was limited to nothing. Nothing on "Shell Game" or "Black Death." For now her focus was meeting up with Volkov again and getting more information. If Lee was in danger…she had to help him.
She had been staking the Tea room out for five days. Every moment she could get away from the Agency, she spent parked in an alley across from the Romanoff Tea Room. Although she had kept this from Rhoda, and from Billy, she suspected they were noticing her neglecting her work.
Just yesterday Billy had insisted she go to Dr. Kelford's office for her scheduled physical. She had missed both her appointment and then re-scheduled appointment. Friday he had ordered to go straight to the doctor's office. As she saw it, she had wasted a whole afternoon being poked, prodded and peeing in a cup.
She hadn't seen much of Rhoda either; who Amanda suspected had been actually focusing on the assignment they were given. After her visit with Dr. Kelford, Rhoda had reminded her that Saturday they needed to revisit some of the drop sites. She had thought any more often and they'd be noticed, but at the same time there might be information to help them get to Vlad Federov. Amanda took it as a hint that Rhoda wanted Amanda to get back to work.
Keeping secrets was giving Amanda an ulcer, she was sure of it. Today, she would go with Rhoda and hope for a miracle.
West Berlin, Germany
Lee's plan had worked like a charm. He and Andrei had seemly just started an innocent friendship over football. The truth was every Sunday, while the KGB goons though they were watching a football game taped off the local TV station's satellite feed, they would really discuss plans to get out of Germany.
The perfect opportunity came when Lee learned that in two weeks an American college football team was coming to play an exhibition game with a US Army team. As Lee planned it, he and Andrei would go to the game. While at the game, with the help of some soldiers, they would lose the guards. And from there they would be transported quickly to the nearby military airstrip. From there they would board the plane and land in Washington D.C.
It was a perfect plan. Too perfect. Lee still had knots in his stomach. Over the years Lee had developed a gut instinct that was extremely reliable. Problem was that this time he was forcing himself to ignore it. If they went as planned, he could be back with Amanda in 14 days. Two weeks earlier than Billy had thought they could complete the mission. Right now getting home to Amanda was all that mattered.
Andrei also seemed to have the single focus of getting to "his Elsa." After talking of the escape plan, conversation would turn to their longing for their wives. Andrei talked affectionately of his wife, how they met, stories about their courtship, and their wedding.
Soon Lee found himself joining in talking about Amanda. Although he had to edit some details of their spy lives, all the stories he told were true. Andrei seemed the perfect person to commiserate with Lee's misery in missing Amanda.
Both seemed to be of one mind. They talked of what they would do if when they were reunited with their wives.
Now they only had to wait two weeks…
Rhoda faked friendship just as well as she did a week before, but Amanda could tell Rhoda was offended by her standoffish behavior of the past week. The truth is Rhoda seemed to have an excellent reputation and Amanda felt as if she was being unfair. She had judged her harshly the first day they met, but in truth Rhoda had been the dedicated agent this past week. Even Francine had sung her praises. Amanda also realized that she could use some help with finding Volkov. So while they were in the car she let her partner in on Volkov, the note, and her week of stakeouts.
"So that is why you been unreachable. I understand now." Rhoda gave Amanda a sideways glance noting, "Billy would be ballistic if he knew you were staking out a drop…one watched by the KGB…"
Amanda drew in a breath and spoke with firm resolve, "If Lee is in danger I have to help him. The only way seems to me to find Yuri Volkov and ask for help."
"Sounds as risky to Yuri as well as you," Rhoda said ominously.
Amanda had no comment. Rhoda was right. If the Russians discovered Yuri was helping a US Agent. Well, the consequences could be dire.
"I understand you have to try. Lee is your real partner. What do we do next?"
A little while later they were at their first drop. This time the note was "accidently" left on the floor next to the scarves. It read 10-3-88- cah 2.
Something seemed to be going to happen, and soon the date was only about two weeks away. Amanda and Rhoda then moved on to the Deli. Amanda stomach was no longer up to the 8 pickle slices. There the sandwich and the 8 pickles where discreetly trashed, but not before a note was retrieved from under its bun. It read flight 1010.
After scarcely any information the previous week, Amanda and Rhoda headed to the Tea Room, with both anticipation and fear. Whatever was developing in the world of smuggled weapons it was developing very quickly.
At the tea room, Amanda couldn't help but notice the tapestry missing. Rhoda had wondered how they would proceed. Amanda said they'd have to improvise. Amanda then asked the waiter where the exquisite tapestry had gone…and commenced to order the cakes and tea, but even an hour later there was no note when they exited.
It was Rhoda who decided they would circle the block and then find a spot to observe the premises.
It took three hours for anything to happen. Then a knock on the passenger window seemed to come out of nowhere.
It was Yuri Volkov. He climbed in the back seat.
He halted Amanda from talking. Then quickly said" I am sorry, but your being here has placed us both in great danger. I am being called back to Moscow, suddenly. "
"Why?" asked Amanda.
"Let us just say that I have seen too much. That Black Death, what I originally believed to be a rogue mission, may in fact be sanctioned by my government. They no doubt want me 'out of the way'...as you Americans might say."
"What is Black death…?" Amanda asked with a hint of desperation.
"To answer that now may mean treason," Yuri said followed by a deep breath,"…I owe you my life. Consider this repayment, for I fear I may never see you or Agent Stetson again. ….Black Death, from what I have seen involves and KGB Agent named Federov."
"Vlad Federov?" Amanda now could see that her original mission of smuggled weapons and the note on black death were one in the same case.
"Yes, I see your agency is at work. He is in your country now."
"Isn't he known for moving people, not weapons?" interjected Rhoda.
"Yes, this has me puzzled. I was ordered by KGB to locate Federov. It was to find a rogue agent, but if it as I think, that he is on a KGB mission…this too has me puzzled. I found him at a place called Mayfield Chemical and he had welcomed me in to his association, but has told me nothing. But the fact is, I still have been allowed to see too much."
"Too much? You said he has told you nothing." asked a very confused Amanda.
"This I know…Black Death is biological weapon. I have seen plans that Federov is somehow working to bring this about. I think it is to be used in America. This came not from Federov, but from a voice on the phone telling me to pick up information. These plans were given to me at the same Tea Room where I met you a week ago."
"Why do you think they let you see too much? What has you puzzled?" Amanda turned to look at Yuri.
"Because the man who left the information, and didn't know that I had seen him, is a very loyal member of the KGB…and a close comrade of Federov," Yuri began to open the back door to climb out.
"Wait what does this have to do with Lee?"
"Of the things I have been shown, one thing Agent Federov truly tried to keep from me is a file. I saw it only briefly. It was a photograph of your Mr. Stetson and the American phrase "Shell Game"…I do not know why Federov had it or what it meant…perhaps maybe we are all being shown too much. I must go. Dasvidaniya, Mrs. King."
Yuri exited the car and was gone in a flash.
"Biological weapon. That is the weapon that is being smuggled?" Rhoda asked in all astonishment. "Definitely not a milk run now…"
Mayfield Chemical was only a slight detour on the way back to the Agency, and although both Rhoda and Amanda knew they were taking a risk they drove by to see if they could spot Federov and confirm Yuri's story.
They parked Amanda's car so that its front peeked around a corner and waited. They had waited for less than 10 minutes, when a car drove up to the door of the long abandoned chemical plant. A woman, young, blond and pretty, got out of the car and knocked on the door. No other than Vlad Federov himself opened the door to her. Amanda quickly snapped pictures of the two. This mystery woman disappeared with Vlad into the building. The scowl on his face made it clear that he wasn't happy with his visitor.
Amanda couldn't help but mutter, "Now who is that?"
"Amanda we should contact Mr. Melrose…" Rhoda couldn't help but feel they were getting over their heads. Amanda could hear the nerves in Rhoda's voice. Although Amanda had no intention of leaving, she did think she needed to get Rhoda out here…and get the information to the Agency.
"You should go to the Agency and fill him in. Right now I think I'd better watch Federov. I have a sense that if word gets to them that we talked to Volkov, they may run for it." Amanda was not going to take her eyes off Federov if there was a chance he could hurt Lee.
"Okay, I'll grab a cab...there are a few over on the next block…but be careful." Rhoda gathered the notes, left Amanda with the camera, and got out of the car and walked up the block hidden behind the car.
Amanda watched through the rear view mirror as Rhoda made her way up the street. Then she set her sight on the front of Mayfield Chemical. She put her camera in under her seat for safe keeping and waited for whenever the mysterious blonde made her exit…but out of the shadows a man appeared.
Inside Mayfield Chemical…
"Are you a complete imbecile?!" Federov spat out enraged at the woman who stood before him. "We are mere weeks from the completion of our operation, and you come here!"
"How dare you talk this way to me of all people! When he hears …"she spat right back.
"When he hears that all he has gone through to bring "Black Death" to this point might be destroyed by your stupidity, he, himself, would put a bullet into that pretty head of yours!"
His words seemed to have found its mark, because the woman appeared to be humbled.
"I had to come. They called me today. It will be mere days before Andrei is here."
The woman game him the date…and Federov smiled, but then frowned, offering one last edged rebuke, "If you haven't drawn attention and suspicion!"
The phone rang. Federov answered. His expression started angry…but then suddenly a great smile spread over his face. He told the person on the phone a definitive 'yes' and set the receiver back in its cradle.
"It seems your idiocy has led to your being followed."
"No, I know I was not…" she quickly protested, but Vlad quickly interrupted.
"It doesn't matter. We have her," Federov said with almost childlike delight.
Before Federov could respond, Amanda was pushed into the room.
"Mrs. King, I am so glad you chose to pay us a visit. I had plans for us to meet soon, but it was so generous of you to deliver yourself," said Federov smiling like a Cheshire cat.
Amanda looked around. Something was wrong with the location. She had expected to see a lab up and running preparing a weapon, or a storage facility with a place for the weapon. Around her instead was a defunct and dirty office with little activity. There around her were just a few burley Russians, the blond woman, and Federov.
When one of Federov's men came in he gave orders to bring the van around. They were not staying.
"I am so glad Volkov found you. You have no idea how hard it was to give him just enough information to make him contact you. I knew he would of course if I used the name Lee Stetson…and I let him see just enough… almost too much," Federov narrated almost giggling, "But you see once I found out your…Mr. Stetson…was on the case, I needed you, you see. You are about to be my distraction in this little shell game."
"I don't understand," Amanda said completely confused.
"Well, Mr. Stetson is about to transport something we desire. When he finds out you are missing, well, let's just say he will be so concerned about you, that he won't notice us sneaking behind and doing what we want."
"Lee would ever bring something dangerous into this country!"
With that comment Federov gave a full out belly laugh. Even the blonde woman and the burley Russians smiled.
"Oh my dear Mrs. King, not only is Mr. Stetson going to smuggle in a biological weapon, he is bringing with him the scientist who made it!"
"Patrovich." Amanda couldn't help but say out loud. The revelation hit her like a ton of bricks. The job in Germany was a massive trick!
"Yes, Mrs. King…or should I say Mrs. Stetson. And in a few short weeks the friendship between two old allies will be renewed when we deliver them a weapon and a scientist willing to help them get rid of a common annoyance. We are so grateful your husband will be with him for the first half of his journey. Buenos Noches, Mrs. Stetson."
Before Amanda could respond she felt a blow to her head, and the world go dark.
Later that night…
Amanda slowly opened her eyes. Her thoughts were a jumble and her head was spinning. She was lying down, yet the slightest movement gave her a feeling of falling….deep…deep into a void. She saw only black…smelled filth…and oil…gasoline…she wasn't sure….heard only silence…but her eyes would not stay open…the room even in blackness would not stop spinning...and she fell unconscious again.
Two Weeks Later…Washington D.C….
Never had Lee completed a mission with more exuberance. Anyone watching could have actually seen a spring in his step. He nearly whistled in the lobby. He even bid Mrs. Marsten a "Good Morning" with a huge smile, despite the fact that she looked like she'd woken up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.
When he didn't find Amanda upstairs he decided she must be in the bullpen, and he'd just as soon give his report to Billy on Andrei Patrovich, and grab his wife for romantic lunch…without food. Lee smiled at the thought.
He was home. The escape with Patrovich was text book. They made their easily to the base, and the Army transport, with no incident. The only problem has been Andrei's falling ill on the plane. That however had only meant that the Agency had to put of Patrovich's debriefing until he felt well enough. He had been moved to a safe house to recover…and soon to be reunited with his Elsa. Lee smiled at that thought as well. He too was in the mood for some reuniting…if he could find his wife.
The mood in the bullpen seemed just as somber as Mrs. Marsten had been downstairs. He noticed a few agents stop what they were doing when he entered. Now normally, Lee loved a good result on a case, and a hearty heap of attention.…but the faces around him were solemn not congratulatory.
Billy was with Francine when Lee arrived at Billy's office door. He was waved in immediately. Then another odd thing, Francine barely made eye contact and took a file that Billy handed her and walked out. Weird.
Before Lee could say a word Billy asked about Patrovich. Lee gave him a rundown of the extraction in Berlin, and Andrei's being moved to the safe house to recover. But Lee couldn't avoid asking about the mood of the place.
"Billy what's going on…It looks like we've lost the cold war out there," Lee said pointing his thumb to indicate the bullpen.
Billy paused and looked serious.
"While you were gone, two agents went missing."
"Anyone I know, "Lee asked, instantly understanding the mood.
Billy didn't answer but said, "We just had a report that one agent's body was found in the Potomac."
Lee hated hearing about the loss of a fellow agent. He now completely understood the cloud of depression hanging over the Agency. It was like a family member had died, although none of them were supposed to take it that hard. They were supposed to be cold, calculating, professional agents. However, inside all these cold, calculating professionals beat a warm hearts. It was a sorry day.
Then suddenly, Billy did something odd. He went over and closed the blinds. Lee noticed that many an eye in the bullpen was fixed on the office right now. Then the fact that he'd yet to see Amanda hit him. Lee suddenly felt a vice of fear begin to turn in his gut.
"Who Billy…I need to know…?" Lee asked again his voice starting to strain and trail off. This question must now be answered. Lee was afraid; there would be no denying it.
"Sit down Lee…"
Lee did not sit down, but he demanded this time, "Who?!"
That was not the name he expected to hear. For an instant he could breathe again. He had seen Rhoda before…but hardly would be upset enough to explain Billy's actions at the moment. But then it hit Lee that Bill had said that two agents went missing.
Billy saw the shift in Lee's thoughts and waited for him to look up. When Lee did look up he finally spoke again.
"The other agent missing is Rhoda's temporary partner. …yes Lee…," Billy responded answering the question written on Lee's face, "Amanda is the other missing agent."
Lee did sit down then quickly, as if his legs collapsed under him. He raked his hand nervously through his hair nervously. He was suddenly a nervous animal in a cage. In a moment he was back on his feet demanding to know every detail of the case Amanda was working…where she was last seen…what was being done to find her…?
Billy remained calm and answered every question. He told him about the notes, Volkov, and Amanda going out that last day to the information drops. He told them that they had uncovered rumored that the Agency has since discovered is a biological weapon codenamed "Black Death." Billy told Lee he believed Amanda and Rhoda must have found out more when they were snatched. He also told Lee that every agent available was searching D.C., and questioning sources and contacts for information on Amanda.
While Lee was still taking this all in there was a knock at the door. Billy opened the door to Francine. He nodded for her to speak freely.
"Mrs. West called again. She wanted us to get a message to Amanda…on location. I could tell she is starting to get worried." While she spoke, Francine sent sympathetic glances toward Lee.
Billy turned to Lee and told him, "Amanda's family has been told that she was sent on location for a film, and the isolation of the filming location making it impossible for communication by phone. We've been sending her telegrams in Amanda's name." Then turning to Francine, Billy said, "Send her another telegram from Amanda. Write that there has been a delay in the film…weather."
"I am not sure she's buying it any more Billy."
"She won't have to for much longer. If Amanda isn't found by the end of the week, I will go and explain." Billy said looking resigned to finally having to tell Dotty West the true nature of her daughter's work.
"Maybe I could help buy us time," Lee spoke calmly. "I go over and talk to her. Tell her something."
"Good," was Billy's reply. Francine nodded, touched Lee's shoulder and stepped out.
Lee looked at Billy and said, "I hope you're not thinking of benching me during this investigation."
"I know better Scarecrow, but this demands more delicacy than bluster. Being angry could put Amanda in danger…," Billy turned as if contemplating something.
Lee not wanting to wait, announced, "Your right, but I am putting everyone on the Barnstorm list on alert. Someone has had to of heard something."
"Good…Lee I need to tell you something. Something…"Billy spoke as if he was still trying to make up his mind. He then grabbed a folder from his desk. Lee stood watching him, impatient to get started in looking for Amanda, but stood in silence fearful of whatever Billy was going to tell him. Lee waited silently for whatever was burdening Billy.
"I have had this report on my desk for two weeks. It came in the day before Amanda disappeared. I can't look at it without remembering how I deliberately put it aside, believing some budget reports to be so damned important." Billy's frustration was evident in his voice. Lee stood waiting.
"If I had read it... Amanda would not be missing. She would have been benched."
Lee could not figure out what possible information in a report could have stopped Amanda from being taken. Lee was sure if it was related to the case Billy would have mentioned it already.
Calmly Lee asked, "What is it Billy?"
Billy didn't directly answer him but went on, "Technically what is in this report, even as Amanda's partner, you have no right to know…but because of what it contains I suspect you have every right to know."
Lee stood looking more puzzled.
Billy continued, "Amanda received a physical as a part of the completion of her freshman training. This is the report from Doc Kelford. No one else has seen it but me."
Lee's heart skipped a beat and he quickly asked, "Is Amanda sick?" It was clear by his voice that he was scared of the answer.
Billy took a breath, "No Lee...Amanda is pregnant."
With that pronouncement Lee sat down and looked at the floor. This was something he'd never expected, and the wind felt knocked from his lungs.
"I am correct in assuming this is something you have a right to know."
Lee nodded. He looked up and quickly asked, "How far a long is she?"
Billy replied, "The tests don't show that. You should have a better idea…"
"At least two months," Lee said, dazed.
"I told you so that you realize that we have to be careful. We will search every corner, but when we find Amanda we cannot go in guns blazing… you understand?"
Lee again nodded, and looked up to ask, "Who knows about the baby?"
"As I said no one. I have been sitting on the report and Doc Kelford has promised to lose the report for a while. As you know this would normally be kicked upstairs and Amanda would be removed from field duty…but…," Bill said looking at his stunned agent. Then to wake Lee up from the shock he added, "Lee get to your family now…see what they have heard. We will find her."
When Billy said family, Lee's first thoughts were of Dotty, Phillip and Jamie, not Barnstorm. He was resolute, when he found Amanda, and he would not allow himself to believe he wouldn't, he knew that they could no longer live a secret marriage anymore. It wasn't just the baby that had changed his heart. He had decided even in Berlin that he wasn't going to spend one night away from Amanda again. He wanted to claim his family…
To Billy's words, Lee again nodded, but then stood up…he looked Billy in the eye. With a resolve in his voice he pronounced, "Billy there is something else you are going to have to hide from upstairs, but I feel you have the right to know…Amanda isn't just my partner Billy…she is my wife."
With that declaration it was Billy's turn to look shocked…
11 days earlier…
Amanda slowly began to awaken from the darkness. Her eyes burned as they encountered even the dim light being filtered through two boarded windows. Just enough light illuminated the fact that she was in this place alone. The silence, too, told her she was definitely all alone. This place was so very silent, except for a drip from a sink that sat to the right on the wall at the top of her cot. For she had found that she was laying on what seemed to be a smelly cot, covered by a single, filthy, brown blanket. Allowing her head to turn she was able to see that beyond the sink, in what appeared to be a very small doorless closet, was a toilet. On that same wall as the nook of a closet, and directly across from her cot, stood some shelves. She could see from the cot it contained what appeared to be the cans of food, bowls, utensils, a coffee pot…various things one would see in the back room of workplace…for this seemed to be the back room of a mechanic's shop or gas station. She got this impression from the smell of oil and gasoline. Just enough to remind her of the times she's taking the station wagon to the shop.
The first day...if it was the first day for Amanda imagined it must be her second or third day in actuality… Amanda couldn't bring herself to do more than turn her head. When she tried to lift her head she the room would spin and waves of nausea would overpower her. By the next morning she was so thirsty, she had to get to the sink. She prayed that the incessant drip meant that the sink actually worked. She moved slowly and gripping the edges of the bed she lifted herself up to the sink. She was grateful that is was so close to the bed. A dirty mug sat on the sink's edge and Amanda did her best to clean it with the old cracked bar of soap that set next to it...for the sink did work. After two sips, Amanda was forced to move to the toilet with the hopes it too was in working order…after being sick in the toilet, she did her best to stand and look around.
The room was only about twice the length of her cot. Passed the shelves next to the closet, on the same wall was the door. Beyond that, occupying the bottom third of the room, seemed to lay scrap metal, garbage, and debris in a pile. The debris confirmed her early supposition that her holding place was an old car garage of some sort, for the pile contained a lot of old car parts.
Unable to do more, she returned to her bare matressed cot, pulled up the brown blanket and returned to the abyss of sleep.
By the next day, as she could figure day 5, she knew she had to eat and drink to end the weakness that had over taken her. She felt dizzy when she first got up from her bed, but felt it was more from lack of food than the bump on her head. She found on the shelf a coffee pot and a dusty can of coffee. Testing out the outlet, she discovered that she did have electricity, and proceeded to brew a pot of what she imagined to be 'ancient' coffee. She also found a single burner, the kind of extra electric burner people used when they ran short of burners on their stove. Obviously the mechanics who once worked here ate meals in the room where she was being held, for she also found a pot, plates, and a few utensils. Everything was dirty and dented, but nonetheless Amanda found herself grateful. Finding a can opener, Amanda proceeded to put a pot of canned spaghetti on the burner.
Later, after eating all she could keep down…Amanda did her best to scout out the room. He first thing was the door. Well bolted, strong, and metal, the door to her still woozy mind seemed impregnable. After having banged on it for a matter of time, Amanda was also face with the realty that no one was guarding the outside. By the echo she could tell that the other side held a great space, and the car garage theory in her mind seemed all but confirmed.
Next came trying to look out one of the two boarded windows. They were both high, and small, and would require her getting up on her cot to see out…which as she tried her head set to spinning again making it impossible…she must lay down. Was it the head injury that made her so sick?
The next day she repeated her drinking…eating…vomiting…banging on the door…and exploring the junk pile. One day after another went much the same. She just felt so muddle headed. It wasn't until day 8 that felt better and could look out the cracks in the windows. She saw very little. From the lack of traffic sounds and the empty field next to the window, she assumed that she was in the country, far out in the country. The place seemed abandoned. Perhaps a highway had been rerouted, or a town abandoned, and no one obviously bothering to travel down the road very often. She had hoped she was still in Virginia, but had no way to know.
By day 11, Amanda's head seemed to finally be allowing her some clarity. She also came to a frightening conclusion that her captors appear to have left her for dead. She had wondered in those first few days if they'd come back and shoot her, but now she looked around her and doubted it. While she pondered why they didn't just shoot her at the chemical plant, she figured they wanted her alive just in case they needed her to get to Lee. There were too many weapons that they had left in her procession, old tools, mental chunks, even her knife and fork. No, Amanda was sure Federov had no plans to ever come through that door... unless….she didn't want to think of the "unless." Looking at her meager supplies, she became determined to find her way out rather than starve to death. She also had an assignment to complete….and a biological disaster to avert!
She knew out in the world the Agency was looking for her, but here and now she had to help herself. So thinking of her duty, her boys, her mother, and Lee…she wracked her brain for a plan.
Somewhere in the suburbs of Washington D.C…..the next day...
In a small house there was a knock on the door. Then an armed man opened the door to a familiar blonde woman.
"Welcome back, Mrs. Patrovich!"
"Mr. Adamson. Where is my Andrei?" Elsa Patrovich asked while her eyes looked around the room. Soon Andrei Patrovich came through the bedroom door with another agent. He gave all appearance of a man recovering from illness. Elsa then ran to him, throwing her arms around him.
"If you will excuse us…," Patrovich said leading Elsa into the bedroom. The two agents went into the kitchen.
In the bedroom, Andrei quickly pushed Elsa away from him. She seemed miffed but accepting. It was clear they were not the loving couple that Andrei had described. In fact Andrei was no longer the quiet thoughtful man he had played for Lee's benefit. Now everything about him was cold and calculating.
"Did you get it in this time," he grumbled.
"Yes, "Elsa said as she pulled out a gun with a silencer from a pocket in her coat. "They think that I am safe for them after three visits. Fools!"
"No you are not safe," Andrei said coldly as she turned to exit the door. Then without a moment's hesitation Andrei fired one shot into the back of the unsuspecting Elsa's head. Then quickly going to a drawer he pulled a package that he had been hiding. Slipping it into his pocket, he walked backed to the door, kicked Elsa's body aside, and made his way for the kitchen…
Arlington, VA…4247 Maplewood…
Lee hesitated outside the door of Amanda's home. He knew he had to walk in the house and tell a lie, that Amanda was safe on a set of a government documentary. Amanda, he knew, wasn't safe at all.
Before he could knock the door swung open. The boys were on their way out.
"Hey Lee," said Phillip.
"Mom isn't here," added Jamie.
"I know," Lee said nodding, "Where is your grandmother?"
"She is in the kitchen," fired back Phillip.
"Where are you off to?"
"Dad's coming by and taking us to a game," said Jamie. "We're going to wait outside."
"Well I am going to find your grandmother. Have fun!"
The boys quickly found their basketball and began passing it down the driveway while they waited. Lee went in and closed the door behind him. He found Dotty in the kitchen looking for something frantically.
"Mrs. West?" Lee said quizzically.
"Lee?" Dotty looked up in that way that said she was worried and was going to harangue him with questions. "Lee, thank God! Maybe you can tell me what is going on with Amanda."
"Going on?" he tried his best to meet her gaze calmly. This was not going to be easy. "She is on location filming a government documentary." He mentally began counting his lies…lie number 1.
"Why can't she call? I mean why didn't she at least tell us she'd be going. I had to call IFF to find it out…and that was almost two weeks ago! I mean Amanda has never been gone this long Lee. I am worried!" With that Dotty sank into the sofa. Lee sat down next to her.
"From what I understand, Amanda was chosen especially for the job. I think it is rather important…one of those special government films. Secret." He added lie two and three to his mental counter.
Dotty seemed to be slightly impressed. She did scrunch her brow one more time and asked, "But why in heavens could she not come home and say goodbye? Why can't she call? And when is she coming home?"
Lee took a deep breath and began lies four, five…and six, "From what I have heard. The job had to be taken quickly for security reasons. The location of the filming is quite isolated, the mountains, I think. I believe now that a lot of mud on the road is the reason why she hasn't come home yet…rain I have been told…caused the mud to slide." Lee had never before been such a crummy liar. He used to be quite good at it…being a spy and all, but he found the story he was telling sounded like a lie even to his ears. He couldn't help but remember Amanda struggling to lie to her mother. Now he wondered if he could lie to her either.
"I think we will know by the end of the week," Lee continued.
Dotty seemed to accept the story Lee was telling her, much to Lee's surprise.
"Oh Lee, the boys and I miss her so," Dotty sighed.
Lee quietly replied with as much feeling, "Me too."
Dotty reached over and supportively grabbed his hands. "I forgot you've been away too…making a film. We haven't seen you around here in months. How are you?"
"I am...okay…like you missing Amanda…everyone," Lee didn't even try to hide his heartache. Dotty squeezed his hands and then released them. He looked up to see her smile.
"We're always happy to have you around Lee."
Feeling bold Lee perked up and asked, "You wouldn't mind it if I was around on a more permanent basis?"
With that Dotty perked up and lit up with a broad smile.
"Oh Lee you are not saying…have you asked her?" Dotty said jubilantly.
"Yes…and she said yes." Lee responded with his own grin. He didn't add that she had said 'yes' a year ago and they had already said "I do."
"Then we have a wedding to plan…Lee" She said starting dashing about as if she had to get planning, but caught herself to hug Lee as he began to rise from the sofa. "I knew you were the right one!"
"I wish Amanda was at home…well one week! Oh I am so happy for you. Wonderful. Wonderful"
Lee asked, "I would like to talk to the boys, when I can…you know before they know."
With that Dotty calmed down, and smiled, "Of course Lee. How about dinner when Amanda gets back?"
"No. How about Friday? I'll stop by after school...if that is okay."
"I insist that you still have dinner with us," Dotty said giving Lee another hug.
"Okay, yeah," Lee responded smiling.
The Agency later that evening…
Lee had been trying to make contact with as many of his Barnstorm family as he could, and didn't return to the Agency until late into the evening. Even though it was late many agents were still were busy working. Lee noticed a commotion in Billy's office. Fearing the worst he went right into the office without knocking.
Billy didn't give Lee a chance to even ask a question when he announced, "We've found Amanda's car. It was in an abandoned warehouse in Bethesda."
Francine added, "The boys in forensics also found Amanda's camera jammed under the seat. We are waiting on the photos now." Francine seemed more upbeat, as if some break through might now be made.
Lee however had only one concern. He asked almost afraid for the answer, "Were there any signs of Amanda…her being hurt...or anything?"
Billy understanding Lee's emotional state more than anyone, spoke directly and stated, "No blood, or signs of a struggle in or around the car."
Lee took a breath and nodded.
"We will find her Lee." Billy stated pointedly.
Lee had received little word back from "the family." Everyone he could contact on the Barnstorm list could only tell him with certainty that Vlad Federov was in the country and that Yuri Volkov was not. He had been sent home. Lana mentioned that a customer had mentioned "black death" while talking on the phone, but only said something about it not traveling well. She promised to call if she learned more.
He went downstairs to the bullpen only to meet Francine arriving with Amanda's photos.
"The pictures…" she announced laying them out on the table. The photo of the blonde woman and Federov, made all their jaws drop.
"What the hell is Elsa Patrovich doing there with Vlad Federov?" demanded Lee.
Billy went immediately to the phone.
"Hello, Gallagher I want the known location on Elsa Patrovich." Billy waited on the phone. In a few moments he said" She is in the safe house with Andrei Patrovich? I want a team to go in and take her into custody right now. I'll wait for confirmation." Turning to Lee and Francine, Billy elaborated, "Elsa has been with Andrei all afternoon. The men in the car out front are going into nab her. If she is working with Federov there is a real possibility she has betrayed her husband and …" Billy stopped interrupted by someone on the phone.
"What!," Billy exploded into the phone. "How can that happen? Where is Andrei Patrovich? An envelope?…bring it in ASAP."
Lee and Francine looked on anxiously and Billy hung up the phone.
He looked at them and announced, "Elsa is dead. Shot in the head from behind. The two agents inside to guard Andrei are dead as well. Either somehow a KGB team got by the guys out front or…"
Lee interrupted realizing the truth, "…Andrei Patrovich lied to us all along."
"They found an envelope with your name on it. It contains a cassette tape. They are bringing it to the Agency."
"It makes sense now why he grabbed Amanda…and sitting in Berlin I told him everything, Billy." Lee said feeling ill. He had told Andrei who the most important person in the world was to him. Patrovich did this knowing that if Amanda was gone, Lee would ignore his assignment, and focus instead on finding his wife. It gave Andrei just enough time to get away. Andrei was right too. In the two days that he'd been back. Lee had not given much thought to the case. Andrei had been sick….Amanda was more important. His been ill was clearly a contrivance to get him to the safe house before his debriefing. Even his proclamations for his love of Elsa had been a hoax. She laid dead no doubt by his very hand.
Amanda was becoming frustrated. In general she was feeling better, but her situation was beginning to feel hopeless. Food was beginning to run very low. She had to find a way out. She lay on her cot that looking at the moonlight stream through the boards across the room. Slivers of silver light, that made lines on the floor, the wall, the door….the door. Amanda suddenly realized something that should have been obvious form the beginning if she hadn't had a concussion. The hinges of the door were on the inside! She didn't know the technical name, but she wondered if she could get the bolts out of the hinges and open the door on the wrong side. It was worth a try. With no light to turn on, her captors had seen fit to leave no light bulbs behind, Amanda made do with a few streams of moonlight coming through the window. Amanda took a case knife like a lever and tried to pry out the bolt. They were tight…but not wanting to give up…and feeling the first rush of optimism in two weeks, she took some motor oil and slathered each of the three hinges…washed her hands…and waited.
She didn't wait passively, but decided to pack up her things with the continued optimism that this would work. She hoped in the semi-darkness that she didn't forget something. After an hour she tried the knife again, and the bolt in the middle hinge started to move…until the knife bent. Remembering the junk pile she looked for anything and found a broken tool. It looked like a wrench that had been shaved off and broken, but it seemed like almost a perfect tool for her task. Sure enough, with the stronger tool the bolt flew from the hinge. Deciding to have gravity help, Amanda continued on the upper hinge, When it was removed she pulled on the door knob. The doors weight fell inside the room. The door, although twisted in the middle by the bottom hinge, was opened! Amanda, who had packed a few things in her brown blanket such as a jar of water, two cans of Vienna Sausages, and a small package of matches she found as she looked through the junk, added the broken wrench to her pile and for the first time in two weeks exited her 'cell'.
Outside she found the inner workings of a garage. Two large stalls for handling car repair, now all dusty and abandoned. The room echoed as she moved to the front door. She found it locked, but with a large window next to it of glass. Taking her wrench she bashed in the glass until she could fit though.
Amanda entered the night air, feeling better than she had in weeks. Looking in what she thought was miraculously bright moonlight, she evaluated her options. She could see a highway to the very far right in the distance. Probably the new one from which traffic has been rerouted, she guessed. Her gut told her to avoid the highway. To the right a field and then woods…to the left the same. She suspected and hoped that a town would be found to the left…but before she could make up her mind, she saw a car exit the big highway and little headlights slowly coming towards the road that was in front of her. Relying on her gut, she ran with the little energy she could to a copse of trees that lead into the wood on the left. She kept moving quickly, not looking back to see if the car was a threat or just people looking for a short cut.
Staying out of sight she kept the road in sight as she moved swiftly through the woods. In what she imagined was a half hour, she came to a house. She resisted the urge to go knock on the door. In the dark her imagination had exaggerated every fear and she expected that this house close to the car garage might actually be the bad guys. Instead she waited until she got to the next house…the lights where on in the front room. As she approached the door she could hear a game show on the television. Amanda now, sweaty, dirty and tired set down her parcel and… knocked on the door.
The Agency …
A small group gathered around a cassette player in the bullpen. Billy hit play and they heard crackling followed by what Lee confirmed with Andrei Patrovich's voice.
"I want to thank you Americans," said the recording of Patrovich, "For letting me into your country. Of course let's just say I want to be left alone. I had hoped to be a guest of your capitalist hospitality only a little longer, before I had to…well make things messy. Dreadfully sorry about your agents, but they just couldn't get in the way of my plan. I request that you just stop looking for me…fewer will die that way…but if you think you can stop me, remember…Lee…I know you are listening… If you try to stop me…I will do to your wife what I have done to mine. Of course…hahaaaha …I suspect you may actually mourn Amanda…"
Lee slammed down the stop button in disgust. Looking up he could see the questioning faces of Francine, and the other agents. The cat was out of the bag, but he couldn't care less. Nothing mattered without Amanda, and she was still in Patrovich's clutches. Before he could speak, Billy handled the situation, "By Patrovich's own tone, we can assume Amanda is still alive. And we can assume his plan includes a biological weapon. Whatever his plan may be, it no doubt will be executed soon. Jackson," Billy said looking at an agent across the table, "Get the White House on the phone. Everyone else get on every contact that you have. Anything about Patrovich, Federov, and of course any word on Amanda Ki…"Billy said stopping to correct himself,"…any word on Amanda Stetson and I should be notified immediately."
Billy looked at Lee sympathetically. Jackson told Billy that the he had the White House ready for him. Billy went into his office. For a moment Lee just stood not sure of what to do. Then he reached into an inner pocket of his suit jacket. Out came his wedding ring. He remembered Amanda giving it to him when he left for Berlin. Then right there in the bullpen, without ceremony, he slipped his wedding ring on his finger. He looked up to see a few faces watching, but he made no acknowledgement.
Francine came over and looked at him for one second, and then hugged him. It was a brief hug from a true friend. Without saying a word she moved away and reached out to answer a ringing phone.
"Hello…who? Amanda?" Francine asked while her voice was slowly going up octaves. Then suddenly she yelled to the room. "AMANDA IS ON THE PHONE!"
It was an elderly couple who had opened the door. At first they looked shocked. Amanda wondered how bad she must look to make people take a step back from the door. It only took a moment for the woman, who introduced herself as Emily Baxter, to grab her and pull her into the house. It was clear that they thought she'd been in some sort of car wreck. She quickly explained she had been attacked by some very bad men and needed to call the authorities. The old man, Cyrus, quickly went for his shot gun and began watching out the window for "trouble" as he called it.
Amanda dialed the agency...
"Francine? It's Amanda…Amanda." She heard Francine make her announcement to the room.
The next voice she heard, however, wasn't Francine, but Lee. "Amanda?" he said, with a desperation that broke her heart, "Where are you?"
"Lee, are you okay? Your mission was a trick! Patrovich isn't an honest defector…" she said hoping that whatever Patrovich was doing he could still be stopped. "Have you stopped him?"
"Not yet…where are you? Are you hurt?...I need to come get you!,"
Amanda admitted she had no idea. She quickly asked the Baxters, who gave her their address, all while looking wide eyed at the notion they had gleaned from Amanda's conversation. They had a spy in their midst!
Amanda told Lee the address.
"I am going to hand you over to Francine. Billy is getting the chopper ready and we should be there in less than an hour….I love you."
Before Amanda could respond, Francine was back on the phone.
"Amanda you'll have to save your information until we are on a secure line. We are notifying the local authorities to come to you at that address…I am glad you are okay," Francine said, with such obvious sincerity that it touched Amanda.
"Is Lee okay?" Amanda was worried that they were not telling her something.
"He is now that you are safe."
"Francine, I am going to go wait for Lee. I will see you soon," Amanda said sounding as tired as she felt. The Baxters phone was in their hall with no place to sit, and she needed to sit. Feeling dizzy seemed to be her continued punishment for getting hit in the head.
"See you soon Amanda."
Amanda hung up the phone and turned to face the Baxters. To their credit there was no interrogation. Instead Mrs. Baxter asked if Amanda would like a shower. Amanda would have hugged her if it wasn't for the fact she reeked.
Amanda was led into a bathroom all decked out in pink and frills. Mrs. Baxter went into another room and returned with a change of clothes, shampoo, soap, mouth wash, and a comb. She then left Amanda alone. In less than 10 minutes Amanda was clean, and felt as if she was newly born. She was dressed in a slightly oversized black sweatshirt with a cartoon character on the front, and a pair of jeans. The jeans were a bit large, but Mrs. Baxter had included a belt in the clothing pile.
Amanda exiting the bathroom was about to thank the Baxters, when she heard them talking to someone at the door.
"Howdy," said Mr. Baxter.
"We are looking for an escaped prisoner. A woman. She is very dangerous. Have you seen her? Tall, brown hair, thin?," said a man from the other side of the front door. Amanda went back in the bathroom and looked out the window. It was one of Federov's goons. Amanda heard Mr. Baxter deny they had seen anyone. Amanda was grateful for his trust. For all he knew she really could be an escaped prisoner. It seemed they believed Mr. Baxter until they seemed to spot something. Amanda couldn't figure out what could have changed their minds, until she heard the word blanket.
"Oh my gosh," she whispered in dismay. She had left her makeshift blanket suitcase on the front porch. Amanda could hear Mr. Baxter continue to "play dumb", but Amanda could feel the need to exit the house as soon as possible. She could tell by the tone of the men, they would be coming in one way or another.
Amanda quickly hid her old clothes behind the waste bin in the bathroom, crept across the hall to the bedroom, opened the window, and climbed out. As she made her way out, she landed rather hard on her ankle, but other than cringing in pain, she kept going.
She had just pasted a small shed which gave her cover, when she saw one of Federov's men heading to the back door of the house.
Amanda looked for a place to hide and decided it was back into the woods for her. Glad she had on dark clothing, she made her way strait back from the shed into a grove of trees that lead into the woods. From there she decided to be illogical and head back to the car garage. She hoped they would think she would run the other way.
She had arrived at the back of the first house she passed earlier that night and decided to rest. Suddenly exhausted, she finally realized she just couldn't go on. She was tired, sick, dizzy, and her ankle throbbed. She was certain it wasn't broken, but twisted, but none the less it hurt terribly. Amanda found a group of shrubs, and crawled into wait...for what ever happened.
It didn't take long for her to hear sirens. She was sure that was the local authorities Francine had contacted. Just as she was about to find a second wind and go back to make contact, Amanda heard footsteps followed by whispers in Russian. Sinking further into the bushes, Amanda did her best to hide.
Thankfully, they passed and went on without seeing her. They had been moving quickly, no doubt to avoid the police and agents already in the area.
Even though she no longer heard any sign of them, Amanda stayed quiet and secure in the bushes. Soon she heard a chopper overhead. She could only think one thought, "Lee." It was this thought that compelled her to once again make her way for the Baxters. Limping, she walked carefully back in the direction which she had come.
When Lee landed with Billy and found that Amanda was gone he was in a state of panic. He paced and ran his fingers through his hair. They had found Mr. Baxter bleeding, hit by what he kept calling a "damned lying commie." Mrs. Baxter told him that poor, hurt, nice lady had made a run for it.
Lee left the house and tried to gage the direction which Amanda might have run to avoid the KGB agents, when he saw something in the side of his vision. Coming out of the woods, was Amanda. Twigs in her hair, and limping…she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. Without thought or hesitation he ran to her.
Lifting her into arms, he kissed her, repeating, "Thank God, thank God…" and kissing her again.
Amanda couldn't say a thing. Tears of exhaustion and joy ran down her face. She felt so weak. Lee must have felt her strength leave, because he picked her up and carried her to an ambulance sitting in front of the house. He yelled at a medic who brought out a gurney.
"No, we have to get Federov and Patrovich," Amanda protested as he placed her on the gurney. He leaned into kiss her again. If she hadn't felt so badly she may have noticed that his affection had become very public, but her head swam in a seas of weariness...and singular focus.
"You have to be checked out. You…and the baby." Lee said searching her reaction for any chance she knew. Her shock told him that she has spent this whole harrowing experience ignorant to the fact she was pregnant.
"Baby?" Amanda said weakly.
Lee smiled at her and said, "Doc Kelford's physicals find some amazing things sometimes."
Amanda was taking a moment to let the shock wash over her when the medic began hooking her up to machines and taking vitals. Billy soon joined them.
"I am so very glad to see you Amanda," Billy said smiling. Amanda could only smile back and nod, because the medic had stuck a thermometer in her mouth. When the thermometer came out, Billy was given a run down about her capture and where she had been held. Lee realizing what she had gone through held her hand and grimaced. More and more lately he felt that he had done wrong by Amanda by bringing her into this business, while at the same time couldn't fathom how he'd live without her.
"Amanda, can you tell us anything more about what Volkov or Federov said to you…or anything from your meetings that day," Billy inquired one last time.
"As I am sure a Rhoda told you, we had the two messages at the drops sites and then Volkov…," Amanda stopped talking when she saw something in Bill and Lee's expressions change. "Didn't Rhoda tell you anything?"
Lee squeezed her had a little more and said, "Amanda, Rhoda never made it back to the Agency."
"Are you looking for her too," Amanda asked anxiously…hoping ... She suspected what they had next to tell her, but she dreaded hearing it. It was her fault. She had pushed to go on to the chemical factory and not the Agency. Looking up to Billy she mentally prepared for what he said next.
"We found her in the Potomac only a few days after you disappeared."
Amanda turned her head away. The guilt was sharp and acute. Lee could read it all over her face. He turned her chin so that she was looking at him. Looking into her eyes he said emphatically, "It is not your fault."
"I am sorry Amanda but I need to know what was in those messages and what Volkov told you at that second meeting," Bill had compassion in his voice, but it was direct and to the point.
Amanda looked at Lee, a taking some of his strength, began her telling of her last day before her capture. She told them of the notes of "flight 1010" and "10-3-88-cah-2." She then told them of the conversation with Volkov.
Lee commented, "Clearly he was a unsuspecting player the 'shell game ' part of the scenario. The KGB knew of Amanda and my working with him a few years back. They rolled the dice and figured he'd tip Amanda off about something involving me. Volkov was allowed to see enough that they could use him…then they sent him back."
"I am disturbed that this is all KGB sanctioned. We know Patrovich has brought something biological…this could be the first shot fired in a World War III!" Billy emotions showed the intensity they all felt.
"Sir," Amanda said, "Something odd… this Mr. Federov said. He said that this was something between friends…and he also spoke Spanish. He was mocking my ignorance I am sure…and I don't think he intended for me to get out of this alive…so I think those things are important."
"I agree Amanda," said Billy now looking up at the sound of another helicopter landing. "We will finish talking at the Agency. This is your ride to the Agency hospital…Lee, Amanda…I will see you back there…" Billy stepped back and let the medics strap Amanda in the gurney and took her to the medical helicopter. Lee followed quickly behind.
After a few minutes, they were high above the Virginia countryside….and then the monuments of Washington D.C. Unable to talk to Lee due to the noise, Amanda fell asleep. Before her eyes closed she saw a flash of gold on Lee's left hand…
When she woke up she was in a bed at the Agency. Lee was sitting next to her holding her hand. Sunlight streamed through the room.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to fall asleep," Amanda said apologetically.
Lee leaned in kissed her and smiled at her. "You were exhausted. You needed the sleep."
"But we have a case…" Amanda said trying to get up.
"Amanda you have been benched by the Agency. You are just here to be examined, and then sent home." Lee said holding her back. Lee had a feeling Amanda was going to be stubborn about being off the case.
"Benched?!...Why…I may be able to help," Amanda voiced in puzzled frustration. She lay back down, but clearly not resigned to being "benched."
"Amanda King," Lee replied with that slight chastisement in his voice ,"you have been hit in the head, held captive for two weeks, nearly starved, and run for your life twice…not to mention being very pregnant…of course your benched."
Amanda gave him a look as if she knew he was right, but wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of agreeing with him.
A moment later a nurse came in to take Amanda for some tests.
"Excuse me Mr. Stetson. I need to collect Mrs. Stetson for her ultrasound. The doctor wants to make sure everything is okay…you may come if you'd like…," the nurse said cheerfully.
For Amanda her thoughts paused on the words 'Mrs. Stetson'. Quickly she remembered her ride in the helicopter…that flash of gold. Sure enough their on Lee's finger was his wedding band. Her eyes darted from the ring to Lee.
"What is it Amanda?" Lee asked noticing her tension.
"What did she call me?" Her voice was slightly high pitched as she spoke.
Lee looked at the nurse and asked for a few minutes. He knew he had a lot of catching Amanda up to speed.
She looked at Lee and asked, still a little high pitched, "They all know were married!?"
"Patrovich announced it in his cassette recording, and I didn't deny it," Lee said simply. The lowering his face and voice he said, "It's all my fault. I told Patrovich all about you in Berlin. To be honest I enjoyed talking about my wife. It made it easier when I was missing you." Lee looked up looking ashamed, "Patrovich talked endlessly about his wife only to 'bring me out' so to speak, and I took the bait. He would never have had you grabbed if not for me."
Lee continued, "When I came home and you were gone, Billy shared with me that you were pregnant…I told him. I knew that no matter what happened I couldn't go on not being what I was…your husband...a part of your family. Amanda," Lee said looking at her and sounding afraid of her reaction, "I saw your mother. Knowing about the baby…I knew…well I knew we'd have to get 'married' for her benefit …so"
Lee hesitated. Amanda waited with wide eyes to what he said next.
"She now believes we are engaged." Lee had said it quickly, as if the quicker he said it, the easier it would be for Amanda to hear. He looked up shame faced, "Actually as we speak she is probably planning the wedding. I am having dinner with your mother and the boys tomorrow to ask if it's okay…Well you know…permission and everything"
Something about Lee caring so much about the boys, and her mother…and the obvious love for her, Amanda thought he looked like a downcast little boy. She could see the situation gave him little choice. She looked at him, sat up, touched his face and said, "I love you, and after these last months, I know I can't spend another night away for you again. Besides our baby should have his father around every night as well."
Lee looked at her with a smile that always made her feel that the sun had come out. He beamed with happiness and pride...She looked at him and couldn't help but fall in love all over again.
Lee arrived in the bullpen the early afternoon to announce to Billy that he was to be a father in April. Billy patted him on the back.
"How is Amanda?"
"Fine. The doc says she'll need to stay off the ankle, and take it easy for a few days…but she is remarkable."
Billy chuckled. Lee was on cloud nine, like a typical expectant father.
"I hate to change the subject Scarecrow, but we have to get back to business."
Lee looked serious when he asked what they found out since last night.
"Well, we know that flight 1010 is an incoming flight to Dulles on October 3rd at 9:00 a.m. Its origin is Bogota, Columbia…but a dozen other South American countries fly in there. I think we can assume someone is coming in to meet Patrovich. It could be anyone with a connecting flight. I have Francine checking for a list of who is on the flight."
"That goes along with what Amanda said about Spanish and old friends...especially if one thinks of a very good friend of the USSR named Fidel."
Billy agreed saying, "I am starting to think, our good friend Patrovich is not planning to use his weapon, but sell it."
Lee shook his head, "Maybe, but why not just fly right to Cuba, why this song and dance to come to America?...Unless part of the deal is to have the weapon in place."
Francine arrived at the door and was waved in and announced, "Julio Garcia is scheduled to be on the flight 1010."
Lee looked confused asking, "Who the hell is Julio Garcia?"
Francine clearly impressed with her news said, "Julio Garcia is the once used alias of a Carlos Estrada."
"The Carlos Estrada…assassin?" Lee replied incredulously.
Francine went, "This man is an expert at getting in taking out his target and getting out just as quickly…with a lot of help from Cuban intelligence and the KGB. Although he never used a biological agent…" She then added, "I also found that Andrew Smith…aka Patrovich is scheduled on the next flight back to Bogota."
"So it will be a hand off to Estrada in the airport," Lee replied.
"I think Patrovich will be handing the weapon off to Estrada tomorrow, and Estrada then will hit his target that same day. Same m.o. as all of his jobs," said Billy clearly feeling they were on to the truth now.
Lee nodded but then asked, "But who is the target. Who does both Moscow and Havana hate so much to kill, right here right now?"
No one had noticed that Amanda had come to the door, until she said, "Enrique Fernandez."
"Amanda, you are supposed to be off that ankle and resting," Lee said with exasperation in his voice.
Amanda replied forcefully, "Right now we have a biological weapon out there…in our community… where my," Amanda paused and rephrased her words, "Were our family is...the boys…I'll sit down, but I am not sitting this one out. Besides I may have information I don't even realize I have…"
She gave Lee a pleading look. Lee gave Billy a pleading look.
"She's right Lee," Billy said point blank. "Amanda , if you're up for it, take a seat…Why do you think Enrique Fernandez?"
Amanda tried to ignore Lees 'not happy' face, and elaborated, "I just heard you say what person is hated by the Russians and Castro…Well, I just read in the paper when I was upstairs about Congressman Fernandez and how he has been actively helping sneak in defectors of both countries. His family is from Cuba and his wife is from Leningrad originally. Up till now he has helped a couple of baseball players and a ballerina, but maybe he has been helping someone that both groups don't want helped...someone who knows something…"
"Maybe, but is he even in D.C. today? I thought he was out of town for a rally in Miami" Billy asked.
Francine chimed in, "Actually he is giving a speech at the Continental American Hotel. I think for donors before heading to Miami...where if I remember right he was going to have the rally and a press conference…You don't suppose?"
Lee was catching on to her thought and finished, "That he has another important defection to announce?"
"Wait a minute!" Amanda said looking as if she had a breakthrough, "The Continental American Hotel…what time is lecture?"
Francine thought for a second, and replied, "Two o'clock, I think. Why?"
Amanda looked at each of them and said, "October 3, 1988….C-A-H-2…. Continental American Hotel, 2 o'clock."
Lee smiled quiet little smile of pride that seemed to say, that's my Amanda.
Billy sounding pleased, "So we now have who and where. We still need more about the why, and how. But, right now we know enough to get agents in place at Dulles. We need to stop the trade off, and grab Patrovich before he leaves the country."
"I'll get on to the Congressman to find out more about his announcement." Francine said heading out the door.
"Lee did you ever talk about Patrovich's work while in Berlin…anything that could give us an idea of what this weapon will do?" asked Billy.
"Not really. He played a man disillusioned with his work, and as if he didn't want to talk about it," Lee said remembering how most of their time was spent talking about their wives and the escape. Then he remembered something. "Wait…When he was over the last time…we actually watched a football game, he made a comment. He said of the bad call that, 'I could make a virus that could kill the referee and not hurt anyone else…unless they were related to him.' At the time it seemed like a joke. But I believe it was rumored that the KGB were working on viruses that could pinpoint people by using their DNA, or that of a family member."
"You are right. I'll get on to our guys and find out what they know. For now take Amanda home. Will set up the team and I'll fill you in when things are in place."
Lee nodded figuring there was nothing more he and Amanda could do, but Amanda wasn't prepared to be out of the loop yet.
"But Sir, Isn't there something..." Amanda questioned.
"At this point, Amanda, there is not much more we can do but prepare for tomorrow. You did good work today Amanda….and by the way congratulations," Billy said with a grin.
It took a few seconds before Amanda could sort through and figure out for what she was being congratulated.
Billy went on good naturedly, "Lee says April. I think William is a lovely name for a boy."
"We'll consider that," Lee said chuckling. Amanda who was still getting comfortable about the whole idea, just smiled.
"I'll call you this evening. Will you be at Amanda's?"
Lee looked at Amanda and said, "We'll go to the apartment tonight. You can reach us there."
Amanda, resigned that nothing more could be done, thanked Billy and left with Lee. It was going to take her a while to adjust to everyone knowing she was Mrs. Stetson.
Lee kept watching Amanda…sometimes with concern…sometimes with a goofy grin. Amanda decided she was so happy to be back that she'd let him "mother" her just a bit. Besides she still had a few aches...and her stomach still felt woozy at times. At least she knew she was a victim of morning sickness and not a complication from a concussion.
After they ate dinner, that Lee expertly prepared, Amanda called her mother to tell her that she was "on her way home," and should be there by tomorrow afternoon. She was amused how excited her mother sounded. Knowing that Lee had told her mother of their 'engagement' she knew her mother was enjoying a secret of her own. Amanda more than anything wanted to talk to the boys. She had missed them dreadfully. Her maternal instinct was to run home, but Lee had decided to let her have one more day to recover from her ordeal before going home. He thought whether she wanted to acknowledge it or not, she was tired, bruised and rattled.
One more day also gave her time to think up a reason for being m.i.a. for two weeks. Amanda had agreed, but it never had been comfortable lying to her mother. After Lee told her what the 'story' was so far had been told to Dotty, he let Amanda fill in the rest of the information. She kept it simple. She was on a film shoot in the mountains, lots of rock slides, and bad weather, "secrecy" and then a minor accident, kept her incommunicado and delayed.
Now as the sun went down Amanda sat with Lee on the couch. After getting Billy's phone call that all was going as planned, Lee and Amanda finally had a moment of peace. Amanda was pulled into Lee's arms until her head leaned on his chest. His arms wrapped around her in a wonderfully warm and possessive embrace. Amanda was finally relaxed. Lee gently readjusted himself to grab something off the end table. Then, a ring at a time, he slipped on her engagement ring and wedding band.
"We can wear these now at work, but how long before we can wear them every day? What date shall we give your mother?"
Amanda thought for a second, "I suppose we will have to get married quickly…with the baby on the way." She suddenly looked slightly sheepish, and said, "I don't know how or when I am going to explain about the baby to mother." Amanda was a very traditional woman. Lee he respected for it, but now it amused him greatly. It was rather funny that this baby conceived very much in wedlock was going to look…well, if it had been anyone else she wouldn't worry. He knew Amanda; it was going to bother her.
Amanda noticed Lee's amusement and chastised him, "Don't laugh."
"I think your mother has figured out that you were not spending every night in the editing room," Lee said with a smirk and a wink as she shifted to look up at him.
"You're not helping." She said in mock annoyance. He could tell that while she took it all seriously she was at least finding his amusement funny. Leaning in, he gently kissed her lips.
As she looked at him delighted at the kiss he asked, "So when do I get to go home with you for good."
Amanda looked at him, thought, and said, "Four weeks. That will give you time to get out of your lease." Then Amanda got a strange look of concern.
"What?" Lee asked wondering what was going on in his wife's head.
"I was wondering if you'll like leaving all this behind," Amanda said gesturing slightly to the room, but clearly meaning his current life. "You will be Lee Stetson, normal man, husband, and father…and son-in-law…," she grinned, "…in the suburbs."
Lee looked at Amanda and reflected on all that he thought he had lost in the past weeks, and all that he had now gained. He looked into the face of his friend, partner, lover, and wife. Then he said in a voice that Amanda knew was heartfelt, "If normal means Phillip, Jamie, Dotty, and especially you…not to mention the one in here," he patted her abdomen, "then I love normal. I can't live without normal. I won't live without normal for one more day than I have to." He leaned in this time giving her a long sensuous kiss.
Later that night, Amanda woke up. The room was dark. She panicked. Was she still in the dark of the car garage? Was she still trapped? Did she just dream she had come home? Fear rose in a wave…she was overcome by fear and screamed, "Lee! Lee!"
Lee sat up in an instant and put his arms around her…
"You're okay Amanda. It's okay. I'm here…I'm here…"
Tears fell from her eyes, and she held on to Lee like a woman drowning. He settled back in bed, holding her tight. He caressed her hair and face until she calmed. They needed no more words. They held each other with the acute realization of how much they could have lost…and how much love they had.
Lee's thought when they went to bed tonight had been just to lay next to the woman he loved. That was enough. She had been through too much. But suddenly Amanda's lips found his and kissed him passionately. She needed him as much as he needed her…he hesitated and she reassured him that she was okay. Then Lee Stetson gently, but thoroughly, made love to his wife…
Lee woke up just as the sun began to rise, and found that he and Amanda still clung to each other. He dared not move, or he'd wake her. Not that he wanted to move. He could live in this moment for the rest of his life. Using a soft touch, he traced the side of her face, her lips, and neck. Lee could never imagine he could be this happy.
The phone rang. He carefully reached for the receiver. Amanda barely stirred. Quietly he said, "Hello."
"It's me Scarecrow," said Billy, "I am finishing getting the agents into place at Dulles and the hotel, just in case. Francine is going to monitor the activity from the Agency; I thought you might want to join us at Dulles. I need you as soon as possible…"
"Okay Billy I'll be there within the hour…"
Billy's voice shifted its tone, "How is Amanda?"
"Recovering, and sleeping," Lee replied looking down at Amanda not showing any sign of stirring.
"Good," said Billy emphatically, "that is what she needs. See you in an hour."
Lee put the phone back, and still trying not to wake Amanda, he extricated himself out of bed. She turned over. The morning sun caught her in its light. Lee could see the beauty of her face, and form. He also couldn't help but notice the scar that ran down her chest. It did not damage the image of her beauty in Lee's eyes, but it did remind him of his own scars, and the danger he and Amanda faced in their work. Was it all worth it?
Grabbing some clothes he made his way to the bathroom. He showered and was ready in fifteen minutes. He was putting on his gun holster when Amanda finally opened her eyes.
"Where are you going?" She asked sleepily.
"Billy called. They are getting agents in place to try to stop this whole thing at Dulles. I am going to join the team there. Francine will be at the agency monitoring. You rest here, and I'll be back afterwards..., " Lee said, all the while noticing that Amanda was now fully awake and prepared to be stubborn. For as he spoke, Amanda was getting out of bed, limping slightly, and starting to make her way to get dressed. "What do you think you are doing Amanda?" Lee had that 'Amanda your being foolish' tone that sometimes made Amanda want to sock him. Now especially. Instead she ignored his temper.
Yelling from the bathroom, she yelled over the shower she had just turned on, "I'm going."
"Amanda, you are not going with me…," Lee replied emphasizing the 'not' in his point blank statement. "You have just been through hell, you need to see your family, and if you haven't forgotten…your three months pregnant."
Lee, getting annoyed now, bellowed over the noise of the shower spray, "Did you hear me Amanda King? You are not coming with me!"
The shower stopped and Amanda stepped out, wrapped herself in a towel. She leaned against the wall and looked at him as if he was being silly in overreacting.
She then said, "I didn't mean I am going to go with you to Dulles, but I am going to go into the Agency to monitor with Francine. My car is still in the Agency garage."
When it looked like he was going to balk at even that idea, Amanda gave him a stern look and said, "You seem to think that you are the only one who for two weeks was scared that the person they love was in danger," Amanda's voice cracked with emotion, "Well you weren't….I spent the time trapped wondering if part of their plan was to kill you…" Amanda's eyes formed tears at their rims. "Remember you said you could no longer hide the fact that you were my husband, then don't you see, that I can't stand back and not be your wife? I have to be today at least, when you face Patrovich. I want to be there, doing what I can do, even if it is only waiting at the Agency knowing that you are okay."
Lee was instantly sorry for his reaction and began to say, "Amanda, I am so sor…," but then just leaned in kissed her.
"I love you Amanda King," he said with a smile of admiration. Then he said sitting and putting on his shoes, "Get dressed quickly. I'll make us some coffee."
Lee left the room. In twenty minutes Amanda was dressed in khaki pants, a plaid shirt, sweater vest, sneakers. Her appearance was completed with her hair, and make up, done. She was amazing his wife. She took hold of her purse, glad, that Lee had recovered it from her car when it was found. Grabbing the coffee he held out for her, and Lee taking his coffee along, they left the apartment and headed toward the Agency.
Once there he kissed her goodbye as she exited, and he then drove towards Dulles.
Even though her ankle hurt, Amanda did her best not to limp. She also did her best to ignore that the coffee she just drank wanted to come right back up again. Pregnancy never has been much fun. It was even less fun after the experience of the last two weeks. She didn't want to appear weak and be sent home.
She entered the bullpen and found Francine in the conference room surrounded by men listening to radio chatter. When she saw Amanda she looked surprised.
"Amanda, I thought you'd stay home…Lee's…your…" Francine awkwardly stumbled over her word choice now that she knew Lee and Amanda were married. In truth, Amanda did not blame her.
"I had to be here to monitor with you today with Lee out there…and to see the end of this case. Besides, who knows what Doctor Smythe will allow Lee and me to remain partners now that he knows we're married. I have to be here as Lee's partner this time, even if it's the last…. Now what can I do to help?"
Francine nodded in understanding, and then she said, "Not much any of us can do at this point, but wait. I am going to try to call Congressman Fernandez's secret service one more time."
"Aren't they cooperating? Is the Congressman going to cancel his speech?" Amanda was nonplussed about the idea that an assassins' target wouldn't help save his own life.
Francine looks perturbed, "Yes and no. They have let us in on his schedule, he will cancel only if he absolutely has to, but they have yet to give us a straight answer on his announcement. They claim it's such that only a few can be in the inner circle. We do have a team at The Continental American, but hopefully we will grab Patrovich and Estrada at Dulles during the exchange."
Amanda remembering the blow to her head, asked, "What about Federov?"
Francine had no answers, but hoped that when they grabbed Patrovich he could be compelled to give them more answers.
Somewhere in D.C.…
Federov looked disturbed as Patrovich placed the vile in a specially made attaché case. Patrovich looked down right jolly.
"This is too easy comrade. Your plan lacks sophistication…care," said Federov.
"Sophistication…"Patrovich said incredulously, "You are just annoyed that you are no longer in charge of the operation. Besides your plan was hardly perfect...Amanda Stetson escaped."
"It does not matter. She was only there to distract…she did. Stetson took his eye off the 'pea' in our shell game…you. You are in this country, unscathed, no?" responded Federov who clearly felt he was working with an ungrateful, arrogant fool.
"Yes, my dear Federov, and now I am in charge. I will exchange the vial with Estrada, and then he will kill Fernandez. I will get a wonderful hero's welcome in Havana. You of course will be on the next flight to…where was it comrade Federov?"
"Newfoundland. I leave in one hour. There, no agent will think to look for me. Then I will go back to Moscow," Federov said clearly feeling his plan far superior. "But then again, I have never been caught by these Americans."
Patrovich laughed arrogantly, "You are an artist Vlad, but your type of operation is out of date. Now we just finish things without the drama." With his words he put a fully loaded clip into his gun. "If I have problems at the airport, I will take care of it."
Dulles International Airport…
Billy looked around from behind a newspaper. He could see several of his agents going about the business of "blending in." Carter was at the ticket desk, Wentworth and Simms were playing the couple ready to go off on a honeymoon, Lassiter was a business traveler…and dozens of others blanketed the terminal for Flight 1010 arrival.
He knew Lee was out of sight watching security monitors….and waiting to spot Patrovich.
Over the intercom came the announcement that Flight 1010 from Bogota had arrived.
"Here we go." He announced on his mike to alert the agents. It took a few minutes before passengers disembarked the plane. The stream of people was slow but steady, but with no sign of Estrada.
"Remember no one is to act until after the signal…after the drop has been made."
Lee was impatient in the security room. He watched every access point like a hawk. Then he spotted Patrovich. Bold as brass, he came in the front entrance. It was clear he didn't even guess that the Agency could have figured out his plot in so short a time. Lee mentally gave credit to Amanda.
"Billy," Lee said into his microphone, "Patrovich is at the front door and is headed for your location."
Patrovich made his way to the ticket desk, checked in his bag, but kept his attaché case. He then walked to the waiting area. He found a seat to the side, sat down his attaché case at his feet, and sat down. He pulled a magazine from his coat pocket, and began to read. Anyone looking would never guess he was the quintessential evil scientist. Lee could only shoot daggers at him through the screen of his monitor.
Out of the plane came Estrada. He held a briefcase like the one Patrovich carried. Not surprising anyone he walked over to where Patrovich was sitting, sat down his briefcase and began looking at his watch…and around the room. Lee had the impression that Estrada was on the verge of figuring out he was surrounded by agents. Lee relayed that information to Billy.
"We have to wait for the switch..." Billy responded both to Lee and the agents in the terminal.
Back at the Agency the conference room was wall to wall people. Francine and Amanda sat nearest to the transmitter. Amanda heard Lee's back and forth with Billy, and sat with a sudden fear that if Estrada was on to them this could all go wrong.
Abruptly, Estrada seemed to lose the face of suspicion. He reached down and "accidentally" grabbed Patrovich's attaché case. Then he stood up and started walking away toward the exit.
Billy gave the order for the terminal team to grab Patrovich and the team at the door to grab Estrada.
Lee, shot out of the security office, with his gun drawn. All he could think about was getting his moment with Andrei Patrovich.
When everyone started to move, Patrovich realized he was surrounded. Taking out his gun he began firing randomly. The room was filled with screams and chaos. Civilians raced to find cover. Agents were blocked in getting to Patrovich in the uproar.
As bullets whizzed by, Agents did their best to clear the area of civilians…Patrovich took advantage of the chaotic scene and began reloading and firing. Spotting an exit, he moved in that direction. Lee found his way to the exit in Patrovich's sights. Waiting for the right moment, Lee stood out of sight.
Then as agents made their way at his position, Patrovich became distracted enough that Lee quickly moved around the corner. Using his whole body he plowed into Patrovich. Knocked to the ground, Patrovich's gun flew from his hand. Lee, feeling an anger he could only feel for a man who had put his wife in danger, he grabbed Patrovich's shirt and then with his clenched fist he met Patrovich's face with a tremendous blow. Patrovich lay limp, but alive.
Billy came on the scene and ordered agents to take Patrovich back to the agency. He then asked the condition of Estrada.
A voice came through on Billy's earpiece, "Negative, Billy, we do not have Estrada. I repeat we do not have Estrada. The subject never came through the exit."
Later they found a shot out window in the corridor that lead to the exit being guarded. Estrada hadn't been heard because of the tumult that was occurring in the terminal.
Billy spoke emphatically, "Fernandez will have to cancel his speech. Call his office." The order was directed to an agent waiting at his side. The agent nodded and walked away.
Billy looked at Lee, "Now we go in and sweat Patrovich."
Lee arrived at the Agency a short time later. His eyes searched out the bullpen for Amanda. When he didn't find her he went up to the Q-Bureau. He found her behind the computer looking up all she could on Estrada. When she saw him she rose and moved quickly across the room. Relieved he'd come back safely, she flew into his arms and cried.
"Amanda?" Lee asked puzzled to know what was wrong.
She just held on to him and sniffled and said, "Hormones."
Lee chuckled. Then leaned down and kissed Amanda. The kiss deepened, and as they kissed Amanda noted, "This is very unprofessional…" She continued kissing Lee and added, "Anyone could…come in the door…When we are at work… we are supposed to behave like…oh who cares." Amanda gave up and gave in to the kiss.
Lee and Amanda broke of the kiss after a few minutes, albeit reluctantly.
"Boy, the welcome back greetings have definitely improved around here," Lee said jokingly, still holding Amanda in his arms. "Did you find anything interesting about Estrada?"
Amanda moved from Lee's embrace and walked around the desk to the computer.
"Not really. I found out pretty much the same as what already exists in his agency file…they work he has done performing assassinations for Cuba, China, and the Soviet Union… the only new information I found is that for a while Estrada and Fernandez actually lived in the same small town in Cuba. Although, I don't see how that matters…they were only about 7 years old at the time."
"Well, I am moments away at interrogating Patrovich. He will fill in the gaps…and let us know where Federov is at…" Lee replied with a definite tension in his jaw. The look worried Amanda. Lee was angry, and she wasn't sure how he'd handle the interrogation.
"Lee, you will not lose your temper with Patrovich," Amanda stated. "I want you to remember, Dr. Smythe is watching, and why he hasn't put us both on report is beyond me…except that he is watching...waiting. Perhaps hoping we'll make that one mistake and he can toss us out of the Agency. But if we are careful, and do a good job, we make create enough 'goodwill,' so to speak that we may not be split up here at work….but you can't lose your temper."
Lee looked into Amanda's eyes. She was right. They need to prove that they can be both married and good partners. Although he had not made his presence known, Lee was sure that he had been informed of their marital status…and was waiting coiled like a viper.
Lee nodded and promised not to lose his temper…
The Agency, Interrogation…
Lee was not the first interrogator in the room. Patrovich had been interviewed by a number of agents before Lee entered. So far they had learned nothing. Patrovich sat and ignored them.
When Lee came in, Patrovich's attitude changed. At first he clinched his jaw and looked serious, but then he went from a sullen insubordinate, to being jolly and "helpful." Lee knew it all was a dance to get to him…so he'd play along…but thoughts of beating the guy into a pulp were not too far from Lee's conscious thoughts.
"My dear Mr. Stetson…I was wondering if we'd get another chance to watch one of those dreadful American football games. I don't suppose you have come with one now, because even that would be better than the utter boredom I am experiencing with your fellow agents. Why next to them, your company in Berlin was almost tolerable. By the way how is the wife?"
"How is yours Andrei?" Lee asked, managing to hold back a snarky tone.
Patrovich laughed, "Oh you know wives, work has left her dead on her feet. I hear yours was out of your hair for a while…"
Lee decided to get out of this loop of pointless baiting and just ask, "Where's Federov, Andrei?"
"Federov, my dear Lee, I am afraid he has exited your country...be grateful, now my country must, as you Americans say, 'put up with him.'"
"Have a falling out did you?" Lee asked always amazed at how Soviet spies seemed to often be a mismatched crew chosen by an unseeing Soviet computer program.
"No…ask me another question…better yet, how about you answer one of mine…How are, what are their names," Patrovich said pretending to try to remember, "Oh yes, Phillip and Jamie?"
Lee did his best to control his desire to beat Patrovich to within an inch of his life. Lee's body became ridged, and no longer was Lee in the mood to play any of Patrovich's games. Patrovich seemed amused.
"What is 'black death' and how do you intend to use it to kill Fernandez?" Lee's tone practically demanded the answer.
"Oh, let's just say, that a virus will be like an arrow finding its mark. I am quite proud of it. Absorbed, inhaled, ingested…it will kill your Congressman and just your Congressman…or his children. Actually rumor has that you, Stetson, came into contact with its predecessor...PD-2. Oh I worked with my team, Scarlet Rose, for years on that one! I quite enjoyed imagining all you stupid capitalists dying with a sneeze or a cough," Patrovich stated with egomaniacal glee.
Patrovich seemed to enjoy his bragging more than keeping a secret and continued, "But PD-2, my first child, was more like tossing a bomb in a room…no BD-6…well it is as I say...an arrow."
"It uses DNA," Lee replied.
"Yes, Stetson…but enough…All this is a waste of your efforts. Estrada will not miss with his little arrow. The weapon is no doubt already flying in the air towards Fernandez's heart…let us talk of my most recent projects."
Lee found this whole conversation unsettling, but considering Patrovich's current move to tell them everything, he could not just punch him in the face and leave.
Lee asked, "What are your most recent projects, Andrei?" Lee could no longer hide his disgust for the man.
"One is very dear to me, and one is very dear to you," Patrovich said cryptically. "My favorite is a device that can fit in a tooth completely undetectably. Unlike the days of old... this is slower to act…A captive can press down and twist on this tooth and an serum is discharged and no one will notice…death with in fifteen minutes…less drama than those old cyanide capsules…no one sees and the 'poof,' no one to interrogate any more…"
What Patrovich was saying dawned quickly on Lee and the agents in the interrogation room. Lee, well as the other agents, rushed to Patrovich who sat with a grin on his face. Lee grabbed him by the lapels.
Patrovich just looked up at him and ominously chuckled, "It is too late Stetson… I discharged the serum in my tooth the moment you came through the door. You should ask about the other project that should be dear to your heart...before it is too late."
Lee shook him, "What the hell have you done!"
"DNA Stetson…your DNA. My colleagues have it now…all that time in West Berlin," laughed Patrovich, "You…your family…anyone with your DNA…never safe again…"
Suddenly, Patrovich's breathing became labored. The grin gone from his face he gasped several times, looked at Lee, and suddenly tried to smile again…saying one last phrase in gasping breaths… "Federov …Newfoundland...gift." With his last words he was gone. His eyes open were glassy and empty. Lee walked away as other agents tried, and failed, to revive him….
"Lee…Lee," Bill said trying to get Lee's attention after Patrovich's death. Lee seemed stunned. When he heard Billy he did his best to shake it off and pay attention.
Billy, now seeing he had Lee's attention, continued, "I need you over at The Continental American if you are up for it."
Francine came in and announced that Congressman Fernandez was not going to cancel his speech.
"As he sees it," Francine explained, "His speech maybe the only way to draw Estrada out."
Billy replied, "He may be right. As I was telling Lee, we have to finish putting the team in place as soon as possible. Lee, are you up for this…? I can't have you this distracted during the operation. For all we know Patrovich was lying. "
"My gut says he isn't Billy. If it were only me…I wouldn't care, but Patrovich has put Amanda and my baby in danger Billy. Frankly it scares the hell out of me."
Francine once again looked surprised. "Baby?" she said amazed, "Marriage and now a baby? I am wondering how many more secrets you can possibly have Scarecrow…" Francine didn't seem mad, but perhaps amazed and a little hurt.
Lee replied, "I am sorry Francine. What is happening right now is the exact reason Amanda and I wanted to keep our marriage a secret. Agency and family life don't mix well. The fact that my unborn child is a potential KGB victim is not something the average expectant father has to fear. How on earth am I going to tell Amanda, Billy?"
"Right now, you don't. She has been through enough. You have forgotten if we stop Estrada we should get a hold of Patrovich's designer virus. If or scientists learn its secret they may be able to develop a vaccine before Patrovich's virus, if it even exists, ever gets to you. Let's keep our heads in the game and do our job."
Billy's level headed pep talk seemed to help.
Lee sobered, "Your right. For now I leave Amanda out of the loop, but only until we get the virus that is out there." Lee looked at his watch, "We have two hours. I'll get my things and join the security at the hotel."
Billy replied with a simple, "Good." He then looked expectantly to Francine.
She quickly said, "And I'll call out the Biological clean up team to be at the ready." That too merited a 'good' from Billy.
Billy added, "And I will be calling the Canadian government and the airports in Newfoundland to be on the lookout for Federov. Now that we all have a job to do, let's do it. If we are lucky, maybe this case will be all sown up by tonight."
The two left his office.
Lee went upstairs to the Q-Bureau. When he got there Amanda was eager to hear how it went with Patrovich. He updated Amanda in everything but the threat to himself and the baby.
"So he is dead, " she said, "Is what he said about Federov true…could he be in Newfoundland?"
"Billy is checking it out."
"What next?" Amanda asked.
"I will be joining the team at the hotel. Our goal is to locate Estrada before he can deploy the weapon."
Lee noticed Amanda's fear and quickly continued, "The weapon will only work on Fernandez, I am not in any danger." As soon as the words came out of his lips he felt like a liar. He hadn't intended to lie. It was true that this weapon couldn't hurt him, but there very well could be a weapon that could…and not just him. As if by instinct Amanda put a protective hand on her abdomen.
"Lee, be careful," Amanda said walking over to him and putting her arms around him. He lifted her chin and kissed her.
"I love you," he said looking in her eyes.
"I love you…so be careful," she replied back to him.
The Continental American Hotel…
The Agency team was in place. Supporters had already arrived in the large hall in the hotel where the Congressman was going to speak.
Lee walked through the crowd keeping himself alert. Estrada could be anywhere. Lee could see other agents circulating looking like supporters, wait staff, and housekeeping. The venue was well covered. Lee's biggest fear was that Estrada would not show up after the shootout at the airport.
Billy has recommended that Fernandez not eat or drink anything. Heating vents and every inch of the ventilation system was inspected. In fact as much as possible, every inch of the hotel was inspected.
Currently Fernandez was in a room on the second floor. He was waiting there until his speech at two o'clock. Lee checked out the time. The clock above the door read 1:38. There was not much time.
Then the radio crackled to life, "Home Nest to all agents…The sparrow is missing from the nest…repeat…missing from the nest." It was the guard from Fernandez's room. The congressman was missing!
Lee's eyes darted around the room. He exited the hall doors and headed around the back of the hotel. Other agents darted around looking for the Congressman. Had Estrada grabbed him?
Lee didn't want to even think of a mission failure. His life seemed to be as much in the crosshairs as the Congressman. Lee hurriedly tried to look at every obscure corner of the hotel that he could.
Lee walked by a small hallway near a back service entrance. There he caught sight of a man with a sweatshirt hood over his head opening a door. Lee hid himself to watch as the hooded man let in none other than assassin Carlos Estrada. Lee could see that Estrada had the briefcase in his hand. This was it, they had him. Lee unholstered his gun and slowly aimed it toward the two men.
Looking down his gun, Lee was startled when the hooded man turned and faced him, and he looked into the face of Congressman Fernandez.
In the hotel room of Congressman Enrique Fernandez…
"I can explain," said the Congressman. His wife held on to his arm. Estrada stood in a corner cuffed with an Agency guard next to him.
Billy and Lee stood incredulous. Before either could respond, Fernandez's wife spoke up and said, "No I need to start this story. It all begins with me any way." She stepped away from her husband and paced for a moment as if trying to collect her thoughts.
Mrs. Fernandez then spoke with a hint of a Russian accent, "My maiden name is Natalya Putina. I was born in Leningrad, and came here on a student visa in 1982. My stated purpose for being in America was to attend the University of Miami and to earn a degree in political science. While there, I went to a rally to elect Ricky Fernandez to U.S. Congress. He was already involved in aiding defectors from my country, and other countries. He was as you say 'going places.' It only made sense that I would meet and fall in love, and then even marry such a man, no? "Natalya paused and looked directly at Lee and Billy. "It would be a wonderful story if I wasn't a KGB lie."
Lee stood silenced, completely dumbfounded.
Billy could only looked perplexed and say, "KGB? I don't understand."
"No? It is quite logical. I was assigned by my government, by the KGB, to infiltrate the life of a 'thorn in their side'. I was to get close to him in any way possible…marry him…get information. I did, for a year. I married my husband with no love in my heart, but a plan to kill him if he caught on to me. Can you imagine?" Natalia looked away and then looked at her husband who stared at her lovingly with compassion. She exhaled and turned back and continued, "Me kill this man who looks at me with such love? But the KGB knows nothing about the human heart. They did not guess that I could love him back. It was not long before I not only loved him, but his country. They would say I was seduced by the capitalist West… yes…but I was willingly seduced. I told Ricky all of it, I cried and begged him to forgive me...and he did." Natalya smiled at Fernandez. "I then decided to work for my new home. I have been a double agent since that day. They trust me back in Moscow… I have always given them just enough information to stay on their good side…they think I am still their comrade …I am not…"
"I must pick it up from here," Fernandez spoke up, "I have always believed my mission was to make a way to America for the down trodden…to help those seeking political asylum…defectors. I know it is because my father was killed by the government in Cuba. He spoke out against the government, and having no way out, he paid for it with his life. My mother and my two bothers rode a raft to freedom to America when I was 8 years old. I never forget the faces I left behind in that brutal regime. One stands over there," Fernandez motioned to Estrada. "Carlos was my childhood friend. Three months ago he got word to me that he wanted out. He no longer could continue what he was brainwashed into doing. He was a broken man. He also told me they would never let him go unless he was on a mission…" Fernandez looked up to Lee and Billy and stated,"…and we know what sort of missions for which Carlos is known. I had to find a way to get him to America."
Natalya said, "I knew the only way was to call my contacts and request an assassination of my own husband. They trusted me enough to take my advice for the assassin…a Cuban. The Cuban named Carlos Estrada. Soon all was in motion. Federov contacted me with a plan involving a new weapon created by a mad man named Patrovich and a special exchange between the USSR and Cuba. Patrovich was to be a 'bonus' to the Cubans for letting Estrada do this job. The Cubans would get the scientist…The Soviet Union an assassin…and both would be rid of my husband for good. They did not know the plan was always to get our Carlos out."
Carlos Estrada took a step towards them, but was stopped. Then with pleading eyes he spoke, "Please, do not be angry at my friends. For years I do my job…my government tell me to do. Soviet…Cuban...Chinese government…I kill those who they hate. They send orders to kill...I kill. My family eats good, lives in a good house…so I do as I am told. Then sickness comes…I lose my mother and father. When I refuse to go on a job, they shoot my sister. I see the fool's bargain I have made. I know of Enrique. He is a legend to those who want to leave Cuba. I get a message…he gets one to me and tells me he will help, and not to be afraid of my next mission. I don't understand, but then it comes. I am to come to America to kill Enrique Fernandez. At first I am afraid, but I remember that I would be coming to America…and I understand. I get another message to pretend until I see Enrique, so his wife will still have cover. I was so nervous when I come today, I almost give away secret at the airport when I see your men. But I know that no one can know. I must be prisoner…to keep them safe. Now I tell America all I know…and live in freedom."
Lee had to speak, "So this whole time it as all been away to get a defector in the country? Why didn't you tell anyone…the Agency?" Lee couldn't hide the fact that all this made him angry. He wasn't thinking like an agent, but as a husband again. He was too overwhelmed by this new information that he he could care less. He thought of all Amanda had suffered. He also thought of Rhoda and the agent's dead at Patrovich's safe house.
"I had a contact in several agencies…even yours, but it was decided not to share with many people. So many things could go wrong. If the KGB learned of Natalya…I couldn't risk losing her. You understand. We were surprised when your agents informed us they had learned of Estrada's entering the country. It then became vital to the operation that we continue the subterfuge. I know others have died. I feel the weight of it Mr. Stetson. I also know with this weapon in our hands, and the information Carlos has to tell, that many more may people won't die. It felt the risk and sacrifice was worth it."
Knowing what could be gained by this defection and the possession of the biological weapon, Lee couldn't disagree, but it was a steep price that had been paid.
"To continue the ruse, we will announce Estrada's arrest. I will have my agents escort Estrada back to the Agency to be debriefed. From there it will be up to the Government," Billy said, and then gestured for his agent to take Estrada out. "I'll take the briefcase, Congressman." With that Billy took the case and walked out of the room.
Lee turned to walk out when Fernandez spoke to him.
"Mr. Stetson, I have been informed of what you have been through. I am sorry."
"Not as sorry as I am," Lee said, his voice still betraying his weariness, "Because somewhere out there is a Russian scientist building one of those viruses with my DNA. I don't give a damn about myself. You and I, the agents that died during this operation, chose to take on the risks. But I too have a wife, and right now she is carrying a child with some of my DNA…and I have no way to protect him. So I hope you are right that lives will be saved… and I hope to God, that his little life is one of them." With that Lee left the room. Agents swarmed about as Lee left the hotel.
On the drive back to the Agency he looked at Washington D.C., took a deep breath and tried to let it all go. It was over…at least for now.
Lee found Amanda waiting for him at the Q-Bureau. Without having to say a word she wrapped her arms around him and laid her head on his chest.
"Amanda the mission was a success you know," he said looking down at the top of her head.
She at him and said, "Well, you didn't see your face when you walked through the door. You look like the weight of the world is on your shoulders."
Lee went on to tell her what had happened at the hotel. She had heard most of the story already. As he had expected, she had been with Francine monitoring the situation. She told him they had caught Federov in Newfoundland boarding a plan to Finland... and no doubt them to Moscow. She was so glad it was over.
Lee then faced an internal struggle on whether to tell Amanda about the threat made by Patrovich. He didn't want to lie, and he didn't want her to have to carry a burden of fear. He looked at her and was reminded they were partners is all things. He would tell her, but he began by choosing his words carefully. He was surprised when after telling her she didn't look panicked, only resolute.
"As I see it there is nothing we can do. It is in the hands of Dr. McJohn now," Amanda said stating the facts.
Lee voice wavered in emotion, "That is just it Amanda! There is nothing I can do. I can't protect the baby. We spent all this time keeping are marriage a secret, and I blow the whole thing…I put our family at risk, and I can't forgive myself."
Amanda looked into his eyes, "You missed me. You love me. You wanted me so much you talked about me. How is that a mistake?"
"It is, when I put you all at risk."
"Then you have to blame me too. I wasn't careful enough in investigating this case. I was so concerned about you, I was captured. Talk about really putting our baby at risk…not to mention that I became a spy in the first place…I have been putting my family at risk since I joined this Agency. So I am to blame." Amanda stated. When Lee began to disagree, she silenced him. "No Lee. I am going to always be worried about our family. A part of me is scared to death, but what good will that do? I am going to pray that Patrovich was lying. But I am not going to dwell on what has already been done done…right or wrong…but what I can do. Right now we are safe. Right now what we can do is be together, believe that the Agency will do all it can to neutralize this weapon, and…," Amanda said changing her tone and looking at her watch, "go and change so that we can face my mother and the boys at dinner in two hours."
Lee chuckled. Leave it to Amanda to meet it all with a level head. She moved away and grabbed her coat and purse. Still limping slightly, Amanda made her way to toward the door. He grabbed his keys, but stopped and kissed her before they could go out the door. He looked at her at said, "I love you. I am glad you trusted me in that train station."
Amanda replied with a hint of smile, "That was definitely no mistake." She then leaned in and kissed him back.
4247 Maplewood Drive, Arlington, Virginia…
Amanda straightened Lee's tie at the door. She looked at him and smile and said with humor in her voice, "This is the beginning of the rest of your life..."
"Very funny," he said smiling at her.
Amanda turned the key and was met by a wave of greetings. The boys came grabbing Amanda for hugs.
"Oh, thank God you are home Amanda!" Dotty exclaimed. She also found her daughter for a hug. "Amanda King don't you ever do that again! Two weeks…no note…no phone calls!"
"I am sorry mother. Lee told me that he told you about the sudden assignment," Amanda said penitently.
"Yes, but…You're limping." Dotty said noticing Amanda's injury.
"That is one of the reasons I am late. Turned my ankle…mud… lots of rain...rockslides."
Dotty looked concerned, "Rockslides? Where on earth were you…it sounds dangerous."
"Don't worry mother, they had me practically locked up for the whole two weeks in an office."
Lee had to cover up a chuckle with a cough at that comment. Amanda gave him a sideways glance.
The family made its way to the dining room, which was decked out with dinner. It was obvious that Mrs. West had gone the extra mile for this special dinner. Lee was touched….and suddenly more nervous than before.
"Mrs. West, it looks wonderful," Lee said admiring the spread.
Dotty smiled. "Thank you Lee…and please call me Dotty," she paused and then said quietly so the boys could not hear, "…or Mother."
"Yeah, Grandma had us get down the china that we only use for special occasions…and the silver…Then we had to peel potatoes… do a lot," Phillip said dramatically acting as if he and Jamie had been over worked by their Grandmother.
"I did the carrots," chimed in Jamie.
"Thank you fellas," Amanda said putting her arm around them. They all then sat down to eat.
Later when everyone looked done, Lee asked the boys to join him outside. Phillip said, "Sure," but Jamie looked a little worried.
The boys got up and went toward the back door. Lee took a deep breath and got up from his chair to follow. He received a smile of support from an excited Dotty, and a quick hand squeeze of support from Amanda.
"Here I go…" he said exiting the room and making his way to face his step-sons.
"Thanks for the nice dinner guys," Lee began.
Phillip seemed nonchalant about the whole thing, "Yeah sure what's up?"
Lee waited a moment and then continued, "You know that I love your mother."
"Yeah," said Jamie. Phillip nodded. Like typical boys, they were not too fond of "love" talk, but they were both at full attention.
"What do you think about your mom and me getting married?" Lee said and then held his breath waiting for a response.
Phillip immediately said, "Fine with me…will I get to drive the 'Vette?" Lee told him maybe when he was older. Even the chance of driving the Corvette, got a "gnarly" out of Phillip. Phillip always was one of Lee's biggest fans. Lee then turned to Jamie, whose expression was a lot harder to read.
Jamie looked thoughtful. Then he asked, "Are you going to live here or do we have to move?"
"I'll live here," Lee said calmly. He understood that Jamie was scared about the change.
Jamie continued, "What about Grandma? Is she leaving?"
"While that is always up to your Grandmother, I don't want her to leave," Lee replied and then added, "Jamie, I want to join your family. I don't want to change it."
"But it will change…you'll be my step-dad. What do I have to call you? I have a dad, you know," Jamie said showing not hostility but his insecurity.
"What is your problem, Jamie? Lee isn't trying to be dad," Phillip replied in his totally annoyed big brother way.
Lee put a hand on Phillip's shoulder to calm him, but turned to speak to Jamie. "You will call me Lee of course. Jamie, I have no intention to be your dad. I know, and like your dad. But I hope, as your step-dad, that we can be friends...You are right though there will be some changes. There will be changes for you and there will be changes for me. I have never had a family."
"Not since you were a kid?" Jamie asked.
"Not even then. When I was five years old, my parents died. I went to live with my uncle, who was a military man. I grew up living on military bases around the world, but never in a home…never with a family."
"Crazy," said Phillip.
Jaime for the first time looked directly at Lee and asked, "Was it hard to grow up like that?"
Lee replied, "Yes, that is why I will need your help. I want us to start out on the right foot. That is why I want you to give your mom and me your blessing."
"That's like saying you want our permission to marry mom, right?" Phillip asked.
"Not exactly. I want to marry your mom no matter what, but I don't want you to be unhappy. You matter to me," said a very vulnerable Lee Stetson.
Jamie looked at Lee and asked, "Do you really love my mom?"
Lee looked to Phillip and then Jamie, "More than anything in the whole world."
Then Lee waited for Jamie to think again. Jamie looked down for second to think. Then he looked up and said, "Then I guess it's okay if you marry mom."
In Amanda's kitchen…
Amanda handed Lee another dish to dry. The boys and mother had gone to bed. Amanda had volunteered for dish duty…In many ways it helped Amanda feel like things were back to normal. It also gave her some alone time with Lee before he went back to the apartment all alone.
"I am glad it went well," Amanda said with a serene smile. She was happy.
"But you didn't tell your mother about the baby," Lee said amused.
Amanda looked embarrassed and said, "I'll tell her after we are married at the end of the month. Besides, she was all aggravated by the fact she has only weeks to plan a wedding. I figured…"
Lee gave her a sideways look, letting her know that he knew exactly why she didn't want to tell her mother.
"Stop it," she responded in mock annoyance. Lee just laughed.
They finished the dishes, and sat down with some coffee. Once on the couch, Amanda leaned against Lee's shoulder.
"How is your stomach?" he asked knowing Amanda was struggling with morning sickness.
"A little off, but I am too happy to care."
Lee looked around the room, at Amanda and said, "Home, finally."
Amanda put her arms around him. He set his coffee down and put his arms around Amanda.
Then changing his tone, Lee joked, "I have decided we are going to have a boy."
"You have?" Amanda replied sitting up to look at her husband, "Well I have decided we are having a girl. What do you have to say to that Scarecrow?"
Lee beamed and kissed her and said, "To that I say…What will we name her?"