Title: Tipping Point
Summary: A vacation in Maine, a social network website, and Amanda's old group, "Mothers for a Safe Environment," converge on the Stetson-King family like a day of reckoning.
Timeframe: Post Season Four - Lee and Amanda have been married for twenty-one years.
Episode References: "Vigilante Mothers" (written by Rudolph Borchert and directed by John Patterson) and "Pharaoh's Engineer," (written by Jaison Starkes and directed by Kate Jackson)
Brief nods are also given to the SMK episodes: First Time, If Looks Could Kill, Filming Raul, Lost and Found, Weekend, Savior, Charity Begins at Home, A Little Sex, A Little Scandal, Ship of Spies, We're Off to See the Wizard, Utopia Now, Stemwinder, It's in the Water, Photo Finish, Do You Take This Spy?
Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King is the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon. I make no money on my story.
Authors' Notes: Many thanks to my east coast beta (wishes to remain anonymous) and my west coast beta (Anne) for generously sharing their time and creative talents as we labored through many drafts. I'm also grateful to another SMK writer for her tips on the creative writing process.
Prologue: The Agency: August 15
The Agency bullpen buzzed with field agents and support staff rushing to meet deadlines in the vain hope of getting an early start on their weekend plans. Lee Stetson, the chief of field section, did his best to ignore the hubbub as he hunched over his computer. Working at a frantic pace, he needed to tie up loose ends before leaving on a long overdue vacation. Traffic out of Washington D.C. on a summer Friday afternoon would most certainly be one continuous nightmare.
With barely a knock, Francine Desmond waltzed into Lee's private sanctum. "Glad to see you finally chained yourself to the desk. Your last rampage through the bullpen had everyone ducking for cover."
"Spare me the office gripes and groans," Lee said without looking up.
"Got a minute?''
"Not really." Bent over the computer with his back to his colleague, Lee braced for the reaction that was surely coming. Immediately he heard an unladylike snort emanating from his colleague.
"Lee, I like your new fashion statement." Sauntering to his side, she ran a finger over the large decal on the back of his gray sweatshirt. Under the picture of a blue hard-shell crab, Francine read aloud the caption - "Maryland Crab." The words had barely left her lips before she broke into peals of laughter. "Oh, Stetson, this is perfect for our crabby section chief. That's what you get for becoming a Maryland resident."
Curling his lip into a sneer, he defended his attire. "I lost an office bet on a Baltimore Orioles game. The sweatshirt was the booby-prize. I had to wear it today because Amanda claimed all my shirts were in the laundry or already packed for our trip."
"Uh, oh, is there trouble in paradise?"
"You've got that right. My wife didn't want me going into work on the very day we start our week-long vacation." Reluctantly, Lee tore his eyes from the computer screen. "Amanda has the kids loaded in the van, and they'll be here in twenty minutes to pick me up," he groused. "I'm expected to put on a happy face and be waiting at the Georgetown foyer when the family pulls up in their three vehicle caravan."
"Charming," Francine said with clear disdain. "You wouldn't catch me in a parade of minivans loaded with fishing tackle, boggy boards and sand buckets, not to mention three teenagers, two stepsons and their wives, and one hyperactive grandchild."
"No, I'm sure you and Jonathan would choose a more exotic vacation over the three-ring circus waiting for me." Impatient to get back to work, Lee failed to offer a seat to the head of the Agency's Q-bureau. "So, was there something you needed?" he asked with blatant irritation.
Francine ignored his bluster and settled in anyway, relaxing in the leather wing back chair as she neatly tucked her white linen skirt around her knees. "Honestly, Lee, I'm surprised Amanda didn't bound, gag and drug you to insure your presence on the trip. After twenty plus years of marriage, she never reformed her workaholic husband."
"Humph," Lee grunted with a self-deprecating laugh. "Amanda seems to have an excessive work ethic, too. She did double duty with the new Agency recruits all week, just so she could have yesterday and today to lead the troops in packing suitcases and cleaning the house."
"Your little housewife turned spy pays a huge price for domesticity. Amanda never could bring herself to hire a housekeeper. What was your contribution to the preparations?"
"Hey, I mucked out the stable and took my mother-in-law to Dulles Airport. Dotty is visiting her sister for the week."
"You have it easy, Stetson. Your wife is a saint."
"I know I'm a lucky man. Amanda saves me from myself."
Francine abandoned her perch in favor of a restless stroll around the office. "Well, far be it from me to get in the way of Amanda's fantasy vacation to Maine. However, I need to brief you on my meeting with Congressman Aubrey Penneywell."
Lee sighed and abandoned his task. "Okay, shoot. What's the old Texas sidewinder hissing about now?"
"Apparently the congressman has misplaced one of nation's top climate scientists. Aubrey claims the esteemed Malcolm Earl Jessup, born and bred in Texas, is missing."
"Hell, Francine, why is Jessup our problem?"
She gave him a long-suffering look. "You know how it goes – congressmen get cantankerous when prominent constituents disappear on their watch. Besides, Penneywell and Jessup are old friends, and Aubrey claims we owe him a big favor."
Lee nodded with resignation. "Yes, the congressman did cooperate with the Agency when we had to investigate a congressional scandal. Okay, fine, I'll bite. Does Penneywell suspect foul play?"
Francine shrugged. "It's a possibility we need to consider. The gutsy climatologist harassed the fossil fuel industry and top level government officials. He's also been a thorn in the side to climate change skeptics."
"My God, Jessup is fighting wars on several fronts. Doesn't the man know he's out-numbered?"
"Apparently the feisty scientist isn't easily intimidated." Settling firmly into agent mode, Francine tapped her fingers on the executive desk, her gold bangle bracelets jingling against the hard wood surface. "Lee, you've been following the natural gas boom, so you must know that Jessup was enraged when the 2005 Energy Policy Act was passed into law. Thanks to a loophole, horizontal drilling companies can basically thumb their noses at the clean air and clean water acts. They have free reign when it comes to dumping a toxic brew deep into the earth."
"Yeah, the energy policy bill was highly controversial, but it did fast track domestic extraction of oil and natural gas in the United States. People who lease their land for drilling may get rich quick." Lee turned off the computer and shrugged into a light jacket to cover up his crazy sweatshirt. "Listen Francine, you can handle the Jessup investigation and fill me in when I return."
"Thanks a lot," she said with a sardonic smile. "It won't be easy to track down and protect the elusive scientist, even if he is alive and well. Jessup has been spreading his message of gloom and doom like a prophet on a holy mission. He's sounding the alarm that "fracking" may be coming to fertile farmlands, sleepy towns, and suburban neighborhoods from California to New York State. Needless to say he's been revving people up wherever he goes."
Running a tired hand across his forehead, Lee wished he'd hit the road ahead of yet another snafu. "I imagine Jessup's amassed quite an impressive number of environmental justice groups. All very vocal, I assume."
"Yes, very vocal and highly visible. Protesters usually beat their drums loudly instead of stewing in silence."
"No one knows that better than me, Francine. I married one of the founders of the 'Mothers for a Safe Environment,' and somehow I've managed to father the next Susan B. Anthony. With Jennifer's passion for social justice issues, I'll be grateful if she doesn't turn into the next Carrie Nation."
"Hide your hatchet," Francine said with a smirk. "Thankfully, abolition, temperance, and women's suffrage have already been addressed. What's Jenny's latest cause?'
"Humph, would you believe she's the president of 'Teenagers for a Safe Environment'?"
"I should have known." Francine shook her head, a trace of amusement in her eyes. "You must be so proud."
"Terrified is more like it." Lee ran his long fingers through his graying hair, feeling older by the minute. "I'm afraid my daughter is another risk-taker like her parents."
"Well, Stetson, don't let Jenny get mixed up with the likes of Malcolm Earl Jessup. The man is a hero among the global warming scientists, but he's managed to garner countless enemies and a number of death threats. Maybe the next time Jenny wants to march on Washington, you'd better tell her to stay home and bake cookies."
"Very funny," Lee said with a wry grin. "My daughter is a clone of her mother. Just like Amanda, she'd bake cookies for the sole purpose of feeding her group of protestors as they take to the streets."
Francine wagged a beautifully manicured finger in mock warning. "This is what happens when confirmed bachelors marry suburbanites and get seduced by home cooking? Pretty soon there's a baby, or two, or three. And then, the little darlings have the nerve to grow into defiant teenagers."
Lee laughed as he pulled open the office door and prepared to exit. "Hey, I love my children, but I never imagined my dainty little girl growing into a rebel with a cause."
Chapter One: Bar Harbor, Maine - August 17
A sweet serenity settled over Frenchman Bay and Bar Harbor as the setting sun painted the sky with hues of orange, pink and purple. To even the casual observer, nature's wonders were breathtaking to behold. Picturesque islands rose like humpback whales above the shimmering sea. Towering mountain majesties climbed toward the heavens. A profusion of flowers graced the lush green lawns of the waterfront. And tumbling white caps of the mighty Atlantic Ocean surged toward Maine's rocky coastline.
In a rare private moment, Lee and Amanda relaxed on the plush cushions of the double chaise lounge and gazed in awe at the stunning vista. With a light breeze caressing their bodies, wisps of hair played around Amanda's face. Tenderly, Lee smoothed the soft tendrils behind her ears.
"It's chilly," she said, her slight frame shivering in his arms.
He ran a hand over her tan flesh, noting the goose bumps that dotted her limbs. "My cargo shorts and your sundress leave us exposed to the elements." Reaching for a plaid blanket at the foot of the chaise lounge, he pulled the cover over their long bare legs. "Is this better?"
"Much better," she said, sighing with contentment as she nestled deeper into his embrace. "The company is great and the panoramic view is spectacular."
"We needed the down time. Thanks for dragging me on the family trip to Maine."
She nudged him with a playful poke of her elbow. "It was a tough sell convincing you to come to Bar Harbor, especially with the entire clan onboard for the vacation. After all our years of marriage, my loner still balks at extended family gatherings." Amanda laughed and tickled his ribs.
He squirmed at her touch and quickly stilled her roving hands. "Well, I'm sold now." Pointing at the shimmering bay, he diverted her gaze toward a massive sailboat. "Look, the 'Margaret Todd' is out this evening. "She's a beaut."
Red sails in the sunset skimmed across the horizon, merging with the steel blue water and the fading skyline. In the gloaming, the legendary four-mast schooner cruised passed the islands on Frenchman's Bay. "The windjammer must be a 140 feet long," Lee said as he took another sip of wine and offered the same to his wife.
"Maybe we should think about taking an evening cruise." Reaching around her husband, Amanda grabbed the laptop computer, left in wait on the table. It was hastily abandoned by the younger set in favor of a quick trip to the nearest dairy bar for ice cream cones and hot fudge sundaes. "I don't think Jamie and Lisa will mind if I borrow their laptop for a minute." Typing in "Bar Harbor Windjammer Cruise" in the search engine, Amanda scanned the specifics. "The Margaret Todd is actually 151 feet long. The blog also claims the schooner is the favorite romantic cruise of the islands."
Lee winked at his wife. "Then let's make a reservation – just the two of us."
"I don't think it would be very romantic," Amanda corrected him with her best sassy grin. "I suspect you'd better count on eight more family members joining us, along with several dozen tourists, a folk band and, of course, the crew. According to the blog, they even allow dogs onboard for their excursions."
Lee's eager smile drooped at the news. "Forget the cruise; we can always ship the family out to sea without us. We'll create our own romance right here." Moving in closer, he planted feather-like kisses along the long column of her neck. Then tempted by the tantalizingly view of bare skin, he pushed aside the spaghetti strap of her sundress and pressed his lips to her shoulder.
"Mmm," Amanda moaned as she squirmed under her husband's ministrations. Despite a teasing smile for Lee, her eyes remained focused on the laptop, and her fingers danced over the keys at top speed.
Resorting to more distracting maneuvers, Lee employed his magic fingers, hoping for an indelicate proposal from his wife. As he gently massaged the tight muscles in her shoulders, she began to relax under his touch. "How does that feel?"
"Delightful," she murmured. Pausing only to place a kiss on his hand, she quickly resumed her surfing of the internet.
"A-man-da, put the damn computer away. We're not at work. Besides, you're apparently snooping on Jamie and Lisa's websites."
"Sweetheart, I'm not monitoring our grown son and his wife, but parents do have a 'need to know' when it comes to the internet and teenagers. Jenny and the twins were using the laptop before everyone left for town." Amanda held up her index finger, signaling for him to be patient. Persisting in her search, her smile suddenly faded. "Oh my gosh. Did you know our daughter has her own social network page?"
"What?" Lee sat up abruptly, pulling eyeglasses from his shirt pocket and peering over his wife's shoulder. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"Look, she forgot to sign out. Her page popped right up in full view. Oh, Lord, she's put up her junior prom picture and a personal profile under the name of Jenny Stetson – everything needed to lead potential stalkers right to our front door." Amanda dug her nails into her husband's thigh as she read aloud the particulars.
Birthdate: October 31
Birthplace: Arlington, Virginia.
Hometown: Point of Rocks, Maryland.
Parents: Lee and Amanda
Brothers: Phillip, Jamie, Matthew, Robert.
Interests: dance, music, art, soccer, high school yearbook and "Teenagers for a Safe Environment."
Lee snorted with exasperation. Immediately all thoughts of a romantic encounter were subjugated to least importance. "Hell, Jenny knows our rules. No social networking on the internet until she turns eighteen."
"Obviously she jumped the gun by a few months."
"Great, that's just great. Jenny may as well put up billboards from Maine to Moscow. She's practically sent an engraved invitation to our old foes. The damn profile needs to come down, right now."
"We'll talk to her, sweetheart, and to Jamie and Lisa, too. I doubt they knew that Jenny signed herself up for social media." With increasing anxiety, Amanda continued to inspect her daughter's web page. "Oh no, she's put up information about our trip. Last week she posted, "Leaving for Maine with family on August 15."
Lee swore under his breath. "At least she didn't give an exact location."
"Not then, sweetheart, but today she got more specific."
"Show me." Lee's jaw locked, the muscle pulsating with escalating fury. What was his daughter thinking? She was about to start her senior year, and she was still testing the limits. "Damn it, Jennifer is well-versed on the need for confidentiality in the Stetson household."
"Apparently our young lady needs a refresher course on keeping secrets." Reading aloud, Amanda shared another post. "Stuck in Bar Harbor, Maine – Staying at the Sea View Resort with my WHOLE family – BORING!"
"Well, thanks a lot," Lee said, his voice thick with sarcasm. "She not only revealed our vacation destination, but she griped about it, too."
Amanda shared his disappointment as she stroked her fingers along the blonde hairs of his forearm. "Don't be hurt, sweetheart. Certainly you realize all teenage girls act 'put-upon' by their families."
"Yeah, I know her game only too well." Lee shook his head at the incongruity. "However, our Jenny doesn't normally treat us like piranhas. What else did Miss Independent say? I hope she hasn't posted pictures of our trip."
Perusing the page, Amanda eyes widened as older posts and pictures were revealed. "Uh, oh," she gasped. "Jennifer put up a photo of the 'Mothers for a Safe Environment's' annual mother-daughter dinner."
"My God, what was she thinking?" As Amanda enlarged the picture, Lee groaned. "Well, the resemblance is unmistakable. There are my look-alike wife and daughter beaming for the camera, and now the picture is on the internet. Didn't I warn you that your "tree-hugger" events were too high profile for an intelligence operative?"
"Lee, I've tamed down my social activism in recent years, but when I discovered a chapter of 'Mothers for a Safe Environment' in our Maryland community, I thought it was a good way to show support for Jenny's interest in the environmental rights movement. She feels affirmed knowing her mom is interested in protecting the planet, too."
"Well, I'm concerned about keeping my wife and daughter safe from more immediate danger." Lee's fingers curled into a fist as his memory conjured up an old case. "I'm sure you remember the college student who put green dye into the Washington D.C. water purification system to prove it was vulnerable to attack. Damn it, I don't want Jennifer turning into another Carmine Davis."
"Good, Lord, Lee, Jenny doesn't go to extremes in order to make a point."
"Let's hope not." Continuing to scrutinize the page, Lee spied pictures from their Arlington days. "Great, Jenny also put up old photos of you and the environmental radical, Mrs. Courtney. See, there you are strutting through the streets with your eye-catching placards, 'No More Poison' and 'Save Our Air and Water.'
Amanda cringed as she pointed out another entry. "Oh, you'll love this one, sweetheart. Someone even snapped a picture of you at the 1985 'Mothers for a Safe Environment' meeting. It must have been taken when you showed up at the community center to hear Leonard Fletcher's speech."
"Dammit, I was there to investigate the guy, not to protest with a brunch of 'do-gooders.' How the hell did Jennifer get a hold of ancient photographs?"
Amanda leaned in closer, scrutinizing the details of the entire webpage. "Oh, no, you'll never guess who is included in Jenny's list of friends."
"You don't mean . . . ."
"Oh, yes I do! Mrs. Courtney. Apparently they can tag and share each other's pictures. "
"Hell, I don't want an extremist getting chummy with our daughter. That woman has a mob mentality."
"Oh, for heaven's sake, Lee, you're exaggerating. Edwina Courtney must be seventy years old now." Amanda flattened her hands against his chest in a futile effort to sooth the savage beast. "Mrs. Courtney's methods were a bit overzealous, but she definitely got results. However, I do agree that she should not be trading pictures and messages with Jenny on a social network web page."
Lee's jaw clenched with frustration as more unsettling revelations hit the fan. "It gets worse. Here's a photo of you with Jean Kearsley at your infamous march on the Bethesda Ordnance Laboratory in 1985. There you are with your arm around the gullible accomplice of Robert Castille, the notorious weapons broker and murderer."
Amanda shot her husband an incredulous look. "Jean Kearsley didn't knowingly help the man, and, besides, the picture doesn't really look like me. My hair was much shorter in those days."
"Humph," Lee said with a contemptuous grunt. "Thank God you picked that year to be scalped by a scissor-happy hairdresser. The short hair worked better than any disguise the Agency could have cooked up."
"Well, thank you very much."
Lee felt a twinge of regret for his comment, but decided to ignore her ruffled feathers. Peering over his reading glasses, he scowled at his wife. "I don't know why you make light of the vigilante mothers' fiasco? Your group brought every media outlet in the D.C. area to your march on a secure government facility. And your demonstration spelled disaster. Amanda King, you nearly died that day."
"You mean Amanda Stetson," she corrected in clipped words that hit their mark. "Listen, Buster, after two decades the threats to the environment have grown worse, while government officials and much of the public remain mired in denial."
Lee finally relented. "Okay, okay, I hear you. Your cause was worthy of action. However, times have changed." Placing an arm around her shoulders, he tried to bridge their divide. "We both know people are more polarized over environmental issues today. Differences of opinion have bred intense animosity. You and Jenny are inviting trouble every time you mount one of your soapboxes."
Amanda stiffened at his remarks. Taking a deep breath, she was undoubtedly preparing to serve up her best concerned citizen's speech. "Lee, there is an obvious threat to the whole planet, and I still believe mothers and fathers should stand up for the future of their children. Maybe as a bachelor in 1985, you were comfortable watching from the sidelines, but now your neutral stance is hindering solutions." She crossed her arms in protest, her brown eyes pinning her husband with clear accusation.
Holding in his temper, Lee held up his hands in silent defense. God, his wife could certainly raise his hackles when she got on her self-righteous high horse. "Amanda, I do sympathize with your concerns. However, there are fierce arguments on both sides of environmental issues that have to be addressed, and some people can use ugly means to be persuasive. As intelligence agents, we don't usually have the luxury of choosing up sides. We have to confront any trouble that erupts in either camp."
"I know that, Lee."
Still frustrated, he swiped long fingers through his hair, choosing his next words with great restraint. "Need I remind you that there are climate change deniers who adamantly oppose environmental alarmists? Some extremists would drool at the chance to make life extremely unpleasant for the daughter of Lee and Amanda Stetson. Our Jenny is much too vocal with her protest marches and letters to the school newspaper."
Amanda nodded, acknowledging with a small smile that she understood his concerns. "Yes, sweetheart, our daughter is passionate about protecting the environment. For her own sake, Jenny needs to tone down the rhetoric and keep a lower profile."
"I think the choice belongs to me," said a prickly voice from inside the condo.
Lee and Amanda looked up in tandem as Jennifer Grace Stetson marched through the deck door. With her fists clenched and brow furrowed, she appeared ready to do battle with her interfering parents. "You've been spying on me," she accused with youthful outrage.
Amanda fielded the first onslaught. "We weren't exactly spying, Jennifer."
"I bet." Assailed by the breeze, Jenny's delicate hands brushed back the long brunette hair that whipped around her face. Her pointed chin trembled as she waited for an explanation.
Lee hesitated while he studied his sweet but spirited daughter. Dressed in green Crocs, rumpled khaki shorts, and a "Save the Polar Bears" t-shirt, she was a walking advertisement for social justice. The peace symbol hung from a chain on her neck, and tiny green hearts dangled from her earlobes. How on earth did his adoring daddy's girl turn into a "bleeding heart liberal"? Lee shook his head at the incongruity. However, he only needed a quick glance at his wife to affirm the truth was self-evident. Jennifer Stetson was every bit her mother's child, not just in looks, but in passionate concern for all creatures great and small.
"Come here, sweetheart," Lee said, treading lightly in her presence. "We didn't expect you back so soon."
Jennifer's only response was grim silence. Lining up behind her, with equally morose faces, were her younger brothers, Matthew and Robert. When push came to shove in the Stetson family, the thirteen-year-old twins usually sided with their sister.
"What's going on?" Phillip asked as he appeared on the deck with his wife, Heather, and their three-year- old daughter, Mandy.
Moving to the side, the group made room for Jamie and his wife, Lisa. By the looks on their faces, the jury had considered the evidence and found Lee and Amanda guilty of invasion of privacy. Caught red handed with the computer in their laps, there was no denying the truth.
With her dark eyes blazing, Jenny crossed her arms around her petit frame. "Mom and Dad don't trust me, so they've been poking into my personal business."
"Busted, huh?" Phillip offered a sly grin. "Gosh, this brings back memories."
As all the Stetson-King siblings exchanged sympathetic gazes with their sister, little Mandy struggled out of her father's arms and took up sides with the enemy. "Hi, Nanny and Poppy", the blue-eyed child greeted her grandparents. "I have chocolate ice cream." Climbing onto the chaise lounge, she thrust the dripping cone toward them. "Want some?"
"Not now, baby," Lee responded softly. Grabbing a handkerchief from his back pocket, he wiped the melting ice cream from her hands and chin.
Amanda smoothed down Mandy's blonde curls and then rose to speak for the defense as she conjured up a bright smile under the questioning gazes. "Honestly, this is all very innocent. Dad and I borrowed the computer to look up information on the Windjammer Cruises – you know the boat with the brilliant red sails? I thought the whole family may like to go sailing. Did you know tourists can join the action and help to hoist the sails on morning cruises?"
"Mom," Jamie interrupted in his most patient tone. "You're welcome to use our laptop, but why is Jenny so upset?"
"Well, you see, it was just an accident," Amanda said, tap dancing around the real issue. After I looked up Windjammer Cruises, I did a little surfing on the net, and Jenny's social network page popped up." Pausing, she scrutinized her daughter's angry demeanor. "Sweetie, you really should sign out when you leave a site."
A bright red crimson spread from Jenny's neck and fanned out over her cheeks. "Mom, I can't believe you and Daddy snooped."
"Guilty as charged," Lee said as he set Mandy on her feet and moved to stand by his wife's side. "Jenny, you should have asked us before you joined an internet social network. You know how vulnerable the whole family is when too much information is shared publicly."
Jamie shot Lisa a pointed look, and she shook her head. "Sorry," he said. "We honestly didn't know about Jenny's participation on the site."
Amanda nodded in understanding. "We assumed you were in the dark, too." With a long pause, she studied each somber face, waiting until she commanded their full attention. "Your dad and I know it seems unfair, but our jobs necessitate parental vigilance. Our awareness could save your lives."
Jenny rolled her eyes. "Everything is a life and death issue for you two."
"They're spies, Jen," Phillip said, calmly. "Our parents are just trying to protect all of us."
"Exactly." Lee slowly walked toward his daughter and placed a finger under her chin, forcing Jenny to meet his gaze. "You'll need to take your page down, princess," he said, invoking the childhood moniker.
Jenny's mouth flew open in protest. "Daddy, I don't want to take the site down. All my friends are signed up. And besides, there are lots of Jennifer Stetsons listed. Maybe you and Mom could modify the page, so I don't give away any family secrets." For her closing argument, she locked eyes with her father and offered a heart stopping smile.
Despite his fierce intent, Lee wavered, knowing full well his daughter had honed her female wiles to perfection and could work those innate charms to her own advantage. "I don't know, Jennifer."
"Dad, all I really want to do is communicate with the kids from school. You and Mom could even approve my friends and my posts."
"We'll see." Lee blew out a harsh breath as warring emotions tested his resolve. Leave it to Jennifer to make him second guess himself. However, in this case, harsh reality precluded parental leniency. "Jenny, you revealed personal information about our family and, even worse, you announced the exact location where we're staying this week."
"No, I didn't," she said with clear consternation. "Yes, I put up a few pictures and friended some people I've known for years, but, no, I didn't post details of our family. Nor did I reveal anything about our vacation destination."
Amanda came forward with the laptop in her hands. "See, Jen, you posted our family names, and gave the name of the town and condo where we're staying."
Jenny shook her head in fierce denial. "Honest, Mom, I didn't post any specifics about our family or our trip."
"Then who did?" With his hands braced across his chest, Lee perused the glum faces of his children. From the corner of his eye, he saw the twins nudge each other. "Okay, guys, what do you know about the postings?"
"Search me," Matthew said with a shrug, his best Stetson poker face practically set in stone.
Robert, the normally compliant twin, merely stared at his sneakers. "How would we know about social networking? We're not old enough to join."
"Uh huh," Lee said, realizing the twins were stonewalling. Leave it to Robby to answer a question with a question. The boys were undoubtedly hiding something. When the two seventh graders dug in their heels, even a lie detector test and sensory deprivation would fail to break them. "Jennifer," he continued, "did your younger brothers witness your social network activity?"
Jenny squirmed, obviously not wanting to betray the twins. "Well, I guess they sort of peered over my shoulder when I was posting."
"I see." Lee pointed a finger at his sons. "Listen, guys, if you two are messing around on the internet without permission, I expect you to stop right now. Sooner or later, the social networking craze is going to spell disaster for someone, and I don't want it to involve our family. Got it?"
"Yeah, sure," Matt replied, his square jaw jutting out with false bravado. "We got it."
Robby's soft brown eyes bore into his father's gaze. "Don't worry, Dad. We're not going to invite trouble."
"Don't count on it," Jamie added with a wry laugh. "In this family, trouble doesn't need a special invitation."