New Beginnings

Summary: While escorting a weapons specialist across the country by train, Amanda and Lee find themselves caught in a web of romance, intrigue and murder.
Rating: PG-13 (mild violence)
Author: Emma

 

Chapter 1:

Scanning the crowd he could find no sight of her. Maybe his boss had been mistaken. After all, maybe she had taken a car or a plane instead. But his boss had been pretty sure of himself. She would be on this train.

He turned his attention to the crowd about ready to board the train. The transcontinental route brought all sorts of people together: families, businessmen, couples on a romantic getaway. And somewhere among these 50 or so people was the woman his boss had sent him to take care of.

He saw her then. Walking towards the ticket counter, her mouth upturned in a smile. Somehow that smile made the anger well up inside him. ĎBut careful,í the boss had said. ĎMake sure she knows she is paying for her crimes.í

ĎOh sheíll know,í he thought to himself. ĎIíll make sure she knows.í

*****

"So tell me about this assignment again?" Amanda asked as she arranged her toiletries in the small bathroom.

Lee's voice carried in from the main room. "In a few moments we will be meeting Dr. Diana Vande Berg and her assistant to escort them back to the Agency. Dr. Vande Berg is a weapons specialist who is being brought in to give a talk at the DOD conference about the new laser defense systems. What are you doing in here? Taking up permanent residence?"

Amanda looked up into the vanity mirror and saw Lee leaning against the doorway. "Iím just making do with limited space. Why didnít we just fly back from LA?"

Lee watched his wife as she placed her things in the drawers. For Amanda everything had a specific place and a specific reason. It was one of the things that made her a good agent. "Dr. Vande Berg specifically requested train travel. No reason was specified."

Lee walked up behind her and slipped his hands around her waist. "Iím so glad to have you here."

Amanda couldnít help but smile. "Iím glad to be here," she said, turning to face him. "Itís been a rough couple of months hasnít it?"

"Yes it has been," Lee said, his voice a mixture of concern and love. "Iím glad youíre better now."

"And that all of my class work is done," Amanda said, remembering how her heart had kept her off the active duty roster for a while. Confined to desk duty and light surveillance, she had completed most of her formal classroom training. Lee had been partnered with Francine for most of the assignments and the two of them hadnít had much of an opportunity to work together, let alone see each other. "But at least the doctor says that my heart can take a little excitement now."

Lee slipped her a sly grin. "I could go for a little excitement too you know."

"Oh you could, could you?" Amanda teased back.

"Mmm I most certainly could," Lee answered leaning in for a kiss.

Just then, there was a knock on the door and a womanís voice called out, "Hello?"

"Why us?" Lee asked, shaking his head. "Can I ever spend a normal moment with my wife?"

"Not when weíre on the clock," Amanda said, disentangling herself from his arms and moving past Lee into the main stateroom. "Back to work, Scarecrow."

"Come in," she called adjusting her sweater.

The cabin door opened and a woman with striking red hair stepped in.

"Ah, hello Mrs. King and Mr. Stetson?" The woman raised an inquisitive eyebrow as she set down her case near the door.

Amanda stepped forward and shook the offered hand. "Dr. Vande Berg, a pleasure to meet you and please, call me Amanda."

A rather tall man stepped into view behind her. His blond hair was slightly unkempt and in his hands were a number of different pieces of paper. "Diana I have the itinerary for the.... um, hello."

Lee stepped forward. "Dr. Phelps Iím Lee Stetson. Weíre your escorts back to Washington."

The tall man nodded in Leeís direction. "Nice to meet you."

"Well, ah, why donít we take your things and get you settled in - our stateroom is through here."

Lee escorted Dr. Phelps into the adjoining room leaving the two women alone in the stateroom. Diana picked up her case and walked over to the bed near the window.

"You donít mind if I take the bed by the window do you?" Diana asked as she began removing items from her case and placing them on the small side table.

"No, of course not," Amanda said.

At that moment there was a loud whistle as the train started up. Diana paused and looked out the window. "You know, the one thing about train travel that never ever fails to amaze me is the scenery. I could sit here for hours and just watch it stream by."

Amanda walked over and looked out the window. The hustle and bustle of the station was beginning to fade and looking towards the front of the train Amanda could see the rolling green hills lying at the foot of the mountains. She let out a content sigh, "Iíve never taken a train cross country before."

Diana looked up from where she was sitting. "Youíre in for a treat. This is my fourth time on this particular route. Every time I see something new. Dr. Phelps has only traveled with me once before, but I think heís beginning to see the enjoyment."

"You know, if you let her, sheíll speak about this for hours," Dr. Phelps said entering the room and walking over to where Diana was sitting. Amanda felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see Lee behind her.

"Brian, when youíve traveled on a train as much as I have you gather enough stories so that you can talk for hours without being boring."

There was a light knock on the door and the four of them turned towards the sound. "Come in," Lee called.

A young man in the company blue uniform opened the door. "Good evening ladies, gentlemen. My name is John and I am the porter for these cars. Dinner will be served in an hour and the Captain will make his address then. If thereís anything I can get for you just press this button." He pressed a red button to the left of the door and the white service light lit up. He pressed it again and the light went off. "I hope you have a pleasant stay and enjoy your trip on the American Orient Express."

Chapter 2:

The sultry sounds of Cole Porter and the gentle murmur of conversation drifted through the dining car. Savoring the Cajun spiced flounder as it melted in her mouth, Amanda thought to herself that this was one of the most relaxing assignments she had ever been on. Pleasant surroundings, wonderful company and fabulous food. It seemed more like a vacation than work.

She took a sip of her Pinot Gris and sat back in her chair. "Diana, Iíve been meaning to ask you this. Why did you want to travel by train? Not that Iím complaining mind you."

Diana chuckled. "Well to be honest with you I get horribly sick when I travel in an airplane. So bad that I avoid it whenever possible. Of course we could have just rented a car, spending hours in cramped quarters, then nights hopping from motel room to motel room. Call me crazy but I prefer to travel by train. Somehow it just seems a little more fun."

Amanda smiled as she slipped another piece of flounder on her fork. "Well, when you put it that way."

Brian, having been quiet for most of the dinner, suddenly spoke up. "Of course the enclosed quarters of the train also allow for better security measures."

"True," Lee interjected. "It lowers the options of accessibility and reduces the manpower needed to protect someone. While weíre on the subject, why donít you tell me more about the threats youíve been receiving."

Diana cleared her throat. "A few months ago at Lawrence Livermore Labs there was a break in. A number of important documents were stolen including the blueprints for the latest nuclear weapons systems. Along with those blueprints, some personnel files were taken. Mine was one of them."

Diana paused for a moment and began to twist her fork in her salad. "Shortly after that a few of us began receiving threat letters from an organization calling themselves The Guardians. Nothing too bad. The typical "save the planet", "kill the weapons" fan mail weapons developers are used to. Then two weeks ago the project director received a letter bomb at his residence. He never knew what hit him."

Replacing her fork on her plate, Diana pushed it away, now disinterested in the remaining food.

"The ironic thing about it," stated Brian. "Is that Diana wasnít a part of that team. She was a consultant on Soviet defensive measures. She specializes in defensive weapons, the kind that can protect these people in case Russia or someone else decides to attack us."

"But as people say a weapon is a weapon."

Conversation came to a halt as everyone looked up to see who had spoken. The swarthy man with a handlebar mustache simply smiled, seemingly pleased that he had cause a distraction.

Diana groaned and hid her eyes.

"Wyndom, they let you on this train?" Brian remarked, obviously upset at the interruption.

Amanda turned to Lee and mouthed "Who?" but Lee shrugged his shoulders. Clearly he wasnít quite sure who this was either.

The man started to reach into his coat pocket and brought out a small notebook and pen. "I hear that thereís a special meeting up on the Avenue this weekend. Thought I might be able to get in a few words with the guest speaker."

Diana was more than a little perturbed at the manís rudeness. "Iím sorry Wyndom. You know the drill. Nothing until the press meeting."

"What about the letters?" he prodded with a mischievous glint in his eye. "Are they still bugging you?"

Amanda noticed Diana bristle at the mans words.

"No comment," Brian said as he stood up. "Shall we go Diana?"

Diana stood and brushed past the man without another word. Seeing that he wouldnít be getting his interview right now, he merely repocketed his notebook and slithered back to his table.

Realizing that the dinner had come to a rather abrupt halt Lee placed his napkin on the table and pushed his chair back to stand up. As Amanda stood and walked past him she turned and whispered, "So much for dessert."

They caught up with Diana and Brian just outside the dining car. "Who was that awful man?" Amanda said as they continued towards their cabins.

"That man was Wyndom Marshal," Diana responded. "Heís been popping up all over since the whole thing started. Heís itching to write the next installment and for some reason he thinks sticking around us will provide him with a lead."

Diana stopped as they reached the door to their rooms and fished the key out of her pocket.

"He was one of the first reporters on the scene when the letter bomb was delivered," Brian interjected. "His piece in the "Times-Dispatch" moved him up from the backwoods editorials to front page news. Now heís determined to stay on the front page by providing them with the next headline story."

Diana pushed the door open and began to step inside. Amanda noticed the woman suddenly stop, her knuckles white on the doorknob. "Diana, whatís wrong?"

Chapter 3:

"Oh no," Diana said in a strained voice. "Theyíre here."

Amanda looked past Dianaís shoulder and noticed a piece of paper with red lettering laying on the pillow of the far bed. "Lee! Someoneís been in here."

Lee brushed past the two women and went over to the bed and picked up the letter. Noticing the expressions on everyone's faces he read the contents out loud. "Get off at the first stop. Go no further. Your current path leads to certain death. Bonis nocet, si quis malis pepercerit."

Lee looked up from the letter. "Are these like the others youíve received?"

Diana nodded. Her rather tan skin had turned to a pale shade of pink.

Brian stepped forward and took the letter from Lee. "Different handwriting, different paper. But the same tone... and the same signature."

Amandaís forehead creased in dismay. "The Latin phrase... What does it mean?"

"If anyone shall have spared the bad, he does harm to the good," Lee said. "Itís the catch phrase The Guardians use."

"You mean you've had experience with these people before?" Diana asked with a strain of hope.

"The Agency has dealt with them twice before. Once in Kazakstan and once in Estoccia."

Diana looked up at Lee. "And on those two occasions were you able to stop them?"

Lee sighed in resignation. "In only one of the two were we successful."

"And in the other case?"

Lee cleared his throat. "In that one we were not able to stop the perpetrator and the person who we were sent to protect was killed."

Diana sat down heavily on the bed. "Perhaps I should leave then."

Brian came and sat down next to her, taking her hand in his. "Diana, we have two experienced agents here. The best the Agency could send. The President is very interested in hearing about the new laser defense systems, you canít let these whackos get to you."

Amanda spoke up from across the room. "We will do everything we can to protect both of you, should you decide to go on. itís up to you."

Diana looked from Amanda to Lee, "Were either of you involved in the mission that went wrong?"

"No," Lee said. "Neither of us have been involved with The Guardians before."

She stood, "Do you think it would be much of a problem if I went to the observation deck? I'd like to sit and think for a while."

"No, I don't think it would be a problem," Lee said. "There should be enough people around and I donít think this person is going to make another move before tomorrowís stop. And we are only a car away. Dr. Phelps, make sure that she isn't left alone."

"Not a problem," Brian said as he escorted her out of the door. Lee walked over and watched them as they retreated to the observation deck. As soon as they were both safely beyond the door Lee walked back into the room. Amanda was looking up at him.

"Lee, what's the plan?" she said.

He ran his hand through his hair and let out a sigh. "Well we knew there was a possibility that this would happen. We had taken a look at the passenger list and there didn't seem to be any suspicious characters on there. Then again, I don't recall seeing Wyndom Marshall's name there. Some people must have been able to register when they arrived."

Amanda spoke up. "Perhaps the porter would be able to get us a list of the passengers that registered at the station."

"I think thatís the first step, and then interviewing the other passengers in the car," Lee walked over and sat down next to Amanda taking her hand in his. "You know, I was hoping that this would stay a relaxing trip."

"I know you did," Amanda replied, reaching up with her other hand and smoothing back a stray lock of Leeís hair. "But it's all part of working together... it's not you in the field while I'm in the office. No matter how much you think that will keep me safe."

"Amanda," Lee said, his eyes on the floor. "Things have gotten so complicated so fast. While you were recovering and I was on assignment with Francine, I couldnít help but miss you. But at the same time I was glad you werenít in any danger."

Amanda dipped her head and leaned forward to make eye contact. "Lee, I can take care of myself. Iíve gone through a lot of the training. All I need is the field experience. And to get that I need to be in the field."

"I know that," Lee said, raising his voice a little. "Itís not about you being in the field. Itís about... us being in the field."

"Lee has anything changed?" Amanda asked, her voice light with concern.

"No... yes... I donít know," Lee said. "I donít want anything to happen to you."

"Well I donít want anything to happen to me either. As long as weíre together we can make it through anything. Right?" Amanda lifted a questioning eyebrow, "Right?"

"Yeah," Lee said, quirking up his mouth in a smile. "Of course youíre right."

"And I know you want to protect me, but remember I can protect myself. I had a pretty good teacher."

"Well..." Lee started, smiling at himself. "There were others..."

"Oh not you, Lee: my mother. Have you ever seen the way she can fend off the ladies at a shoe sale?"

Lee chuckled. "Oh Amanda. Whatever am I going to do with you?"

There was the murmur of voices outside the door as Diana and Brian returned from the observation deck. "Well for now youíre just going to have to let me help you," Amanda said just as they entered the room. "Did you have a chance to think it over, Diana?"

"Iíve decided to continue on with the journey," Diana announced from the doorway. "But I think a early nightís sleep is in order. If you donít mind."

Lee stood up. "Well I take it thatís my invitation to leave. Good night Ladies, I guess we shall see what happens in the morning."

Chapter 4:

Amanda sat on the edge of her bed looking out the window. Her mood was mirrored by the outside scenery. Sometime during the night it had begun to rain and now the trees and hillsides lay underneath heavy clouds. Rain drops ran their quiet little paths down the window pane and fell out of view. Amanda sighed. The converstaion last night with Lee had brought up some issues that had been on her mind as well.

Diana walked back into the room and returned her robe to its hook on the small closet door. "Theyíll be stopping shortly to let people walk around the museums and shops of Santa Fe. Itís one of my favorite stops. But it looks like Iíll be missing it this time."

Her shoulders seemed to sag and Amanda felt sorry for the woman. It must be difficult for her to be in this position. Diana was looking in the mirror slipping her hair into a loose bun. "Amanda, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure," Amanda said.

"How do you deal with your job? I mean as an agent you must find yourself in all sorts of situations that require you to make decisions that you wouldnít make in normal life."

"Well," mused Amanda. "There have been some difficult times but we manage. Lee and I have been partners for a few years now, and when one of us gets into a tough situation the other one has been able to pull them through."

"I canít imagine," Diana remarked. "My days are filled with Lab work, and meetings. This is the first time anything like this has ever happened to me."

"Itís never easy," Amanda said. "A few months ago I was caught in some crossfire. I was recovering well, but then had some complications. Iíve spent a lot of time thinking about what might have happened if I hadnít pulled through. What would have happened to my sons? My mother? I couldnít leave the work behind though. There were too many reasons to stay. Every once in a while you just have to stop, regroup and start over again. Sometimes new beginnings can lead to better things."

There was a knock on the door.

Diana turned and opened it, to find Lee and Brian on the other side.

"Well, the porter should be here any moment with the passenger list. I also asked him to bring a breakfast tray along. It seems as if the rain has a few people staying in this morning anyway, so theyíve been offering the continental breakfast."

There was a knock on the door as the porter rolled the breakfast tray into the room. "Here is your breakfast and the passenger list you asked for Mr. Stetson."

"Thank you," Lee said as he took the paper. "That was quick."

"Let me know if you need anything else, sir. Iíll be right down the hall."

The porter turned and left as Lee scanned the names on the list. "It seems that there are only four people who registered at the station: our friend Wyndom, a Mr. and Mrs. Benton, and a Ms. Chapman.... I think that someone should go and check them out before we stop. Amanda, why don't you stay here with Brian and Diana and I'll be right back."

Before Amanda could protest and offer a more logical plan Lee had already left. She shook her head. Some things about Lee would never change.

Brian walked over to the breakfast tray and grabbed a muffin and a cup of coffee. "Well if you ladies donít mind Iím going to retire next door and brush up on notes for the meeting. Iíll leave the door open."

****

Lee stifled a yawn as he walked down the hallway. Last night he hadnít been able to get much sleep, the rattle of the train and the claps of thunder had kept him awake. Just as he had been ready to dose off, Brian had started snoring too. Being a light sleeper had helped him out in many a situation before, but some nights it was serious problem. So he lay awake for most of the night, his thoughts drifting between his conversation with Amanda and the case.

So far, none of the new passengers looked like plausible suspects. Mr. and Mrs. Benton happened to be a young couple on their first trip as husband and wife. They seemed to be far too wrapped up in themselves to be involved in the terrorist attacks. Ms. Chapman was altogether another problem. The octogenarian was a world traveler, and she made sure to fill Lee in on all the places she had visited. The woman had rambled on and Lee, trying so hard to be polite, had neglected to notice that the train had come to a stop. By the time he had managed to excuse himself and make his way to Wyndomís cabin, it seemed that the man had departed the train with the others.

Lee hit his fist against the door. The reporter was at the top of the suspect list. There was just something about the guy that Lee didnít trust. In resignation, he turned back to regroup with Amanda. He had a feeling that whoever was working for the Guardians would make their next move soon.

He didnít have to wait long.

Chapter 5:

Lee heard the scream from two train cars away and the sound turned his heart cold. Pulling his gun from itís holster, he turned and ran towards the sound. Amandaís voice ringing in his head.

Blindly pushing people out of his way he made his way back towards the train car. "Amanda? Amanda!"

"Weíre here, Lee."

Lee looked in to see Amanda and Diana hovering over Brian. Brian was writhing on the ground, grasping at his throat.

"What happened?" Lee asked, as he assessed the situation.

"We were talking when we heard a crash from the other room," Diana said. "He canít breathe!!"

"There was a doctor listed on the passenger list. Let me go see if I can find him," Lee said as he turned out the door.

Amanda noticed that Brianís fingertips were beginning to take on a bluish tinge, and his ragged breathing had slowed a bit. He was no longer putting up much of a struggle. Diana sat on the other side holding Brianís hand and comforting him.

The door opened and a man, with grayish balding hair, preceded Lee into the room. He set down the trainís emergency first aid kit . Diana backed out of the way as he came over to where Brian was lying. Amanda went over and put her arm around the distraught woman.

Looking over at the bedside Amanda noticed a over turned glass lying on the floor, its spilled contents causing a dark stain to slowly spread over the carpeted floor. She caught Leeís eye and directed his glance over to the fallen object.

"Doc, it looks like he may have ingested something."

"He seems to have overdosed on a bronchodilator, " the doctor said as he measured out liquid. "Does this man have asthma?"

Diana spoke up, "No. Heís never had a problem with that before."

As the doctor continued to work on Brian, Lee went over to pick up the evidence. Reaching over to the sink area, he grabbed the ice bucket. Using a washcloth he gingerly picked up the glass and placed it in the bucket, careful to not get any fingerprints on the glass. There was a loud knock on the door followed by a loud voice.

"Sir? Mr. Phelps? Mr. Stetson? Itís John, the porter. I heard a scream. Is there anything I can help with?"

Lee placed the ice bucket back near the sink and opened the door. The concerned face of the porter looked in, and Lee motioned for him to come inside. "Mr. Phelps has been poisoned," Lee said, flashing his agency badge.

The porter nodded, and gave an audible swallow. "Yes, sir, Mr. Stetson. Should we get him to a hospital?"

Lee looked over at the doctor who was helping Brian as he emptied the contents of his stomach into a basin. Brian was beginning to breathe easier and the color was beginning to return to his face. "No I donít think that will be necessary," the doctor replied. "Luckily he didnít ingest too much of the toxin and we seem to have gotten most of it out of his system. I think he can continue on."

"Yes, sir," replied the porter.

"However," added Lee. "I need to talk to one of the passengers, Wyndom Marshal. Can you tell me if heís returned?"

"I believe so, sir."

"Wonderful. Thank you," Lee said. "Amanda can I talk to you in the other room?"

Lee opened the door to the adjoining room and ushered her inside.

"You know Lee," Amanda said, visibly shaken by the turn of events, "I think this is the one part of the job that I will never get used to. I donít understand why people have to hurt others."

Lee reached over and took her hand. "I know. It doesnít make much sense. But we can do something about it."

Amanda turned and looked at Lee. "We need to find whoever did this, Lee. They donít deserve this."

"I know," Lee sighed. "I need to go find Wyndom Marshal. Thereís something I just donít trust about that guy. Do you think you can stay here with them?"

Amanda nodded. "Yeah, I think that would be a good idea."

"Whatís this?" Lee smiled. "Youíre agreeing with me?"

"Oh donít look so shocked, Lee. It has happened before." Her voice became serious. "Letís find out who did this."

********

Lee found the reporter in the observation deck, scribbling intently in a notebook.

"Mr. Marshal?"

"Yes?" Wyndom said, as he removed his reading glasses. "Oh itís you. Has Dr. Vande Burg decided to talk to me?"

"No," Lee replied. "But I have some questions for you."

"Oh now Iím intrigued," Wyndom said, as he smoothed one side of his mustache. "By all means ask away."

Lee flashed his agency badge. "Can you give me your where abouts for the last twenty-four hours?"

"The last tenty-four? Let me see."

Just when Lee thought the man couldnít exude more slime, he did.

"Oh! You think Iím a suspect in this. How wonderful! I can see it now ĎReporter suspected in terrorist activities.í"

"Cut the crap Wyndom," Lee said. "This is serious."

"I am being serious. Headline articles are nothing to sneer about."

"Look," Lee said, as he reached down to grab the manís collar. "I need to know where you have been for the last twenty-four hours."

"I was...."

Before Wyndom could answer completely the train made a sudden lurch backwards and the cabin was bathed in the blue hue of the emergency lights.

Chapter 6:

Amanda busied herself cleaning up the room. With help from the doctor they had moved Brian into the other room. Diana was in there with him now, receiving instructions in case there were any further complications.

There was a knock on the door. Amanda went over and opened it.

"Oh, hello. John wasnít it?" she greeted when she saw the porter.

"Yes, maíam. I was just stopping by to see if you needed anything."

"No, I think we have it all under control. Thank you, though."

"Perhaps I can take some stuff for you? Get the dining cart out of your way?"

Amanda looked over at the porter. This was the first time she had really noticed him and he looked a lot younger than she had previously thought. "Well Iím afraid not. Some of the stuff here might need to be contained as evidence. If there is anything I can think of though, I promise to give you a call."

The porter hesitated.

"You donít have to stay, honestly." Amandaís voice wavered as she noticed him begin to wheeze. "I think we have it all under control now. Are you okay? The doctor is right next door, let me...."

"No thatís okay, maíam," John said as he reached down to pull an inhaler out of his coat pocket. "Just a bit of Asthma."

"You know you have to be careful with that stuff. Too much of it can kill you... oh." Amandaís eyes widened as she realized the connection.

Suddenly John looked up. "Maíam, I wish you hadnít noticed that. "

Amanda felt like a deer caught in headlights. Her mind quickly searched for possible weapons, defensive moves, places to hide, any escape from this situation.

"Amanda..." Dianaís voice came in from the other room. The door opened slightly allowing Diana to see the porter and the look on Amandaís face. Realizing that she had entered a volatile situation, she gasped and took a step back promptly closing the door behind her. Amanda heard the click of the lock sliding into place. She realized that this left her only one chance for escape.

Pushing the dining cart towards the porter, she knocked him off balance causing him and the cart to land in a tangled heap in the middle of the hallway. Seeing that he now blocked her path to the observation deck, she began running in the other direction, slowing once to look back. She saw the man look up, his face a contortion of rage. He stood, a knife from the dinning cart grasped in his hand. Slowly he began to move towards her.

Amanda kept running towards the back of the car frantically looking for an escape. The door to the next train car was closed and in her haste she couldnít get the latch to open. Giving up on the latch, she began hitting the window. Looking up she noticed the emergency pull cords near the door. She reached up and gave them a tug, but nothing happened.

"Oh come on." She looked back and saw the porter. He was slowly getting closer, the train wasnít stopping, and she could think of no other escape.

With her back towards the door she continued to tug on the cord. He was now only a few feet from her.

"Iím sorry to have to do this to you, maíam," the porter said as he slowly waved the knife back and forth.

Her time was running out, she had to think of something, and fast. Suddenly she felt the floor underneath her shift as the train lurched to a stop.

The emergency lights came on and she found herself plunged into a blue tinted darkness. There was another sudden shift in the motion of the train and she lost her balance, falling back against the door. The madman was suddenly on top of her, his weight causing her to fall against the door. She tried to push him off of her but he was too heavy. Under the added weight she began to slide toward the floor, just as the train came to a stop and the doors opened.

"Lee!"

*****

"Amanda! Amanda!" Lee yelled as he turned and noticed a commotion in the back of the adjoining train car.

Lee struggled to get past Wyndom, who was blocking the path. Through clenched teeth he addressed the man. "Wyndom, either you get out of the way now or I will force you out."

Sensing that Lee meant what he said the swarthy man stepped aside. Lee brushed past him without another thought. Running past the cabin doors, and the frantic people who were stepping into the hallway, he made his way to the back of the train car. At first he could see no sign of Amanda, but as he neared the end of the car he heard the rain and realized that the doors must have opened in the emergency. Looking out into the rain he saw Amanda holding a man down on the ground, her arms and part of her sweater tinged with blood.

"Oh God, Amanda," he said rushing over to her. "Are you all right? What happened?"

"He came after me, Lee. He must have fallen on the knife when we stopped."

Lee took a look at the man on the ground; there was a steak knife protruding from his chest.

"He tried to remove the knife, Lee, but I held it in. I remembered from the Agency Rescue course that if he removed it he would die."

Lee looked up at the crowd that had began to gather. "Someone go get the Doc!"

One of the onlookers left to go back into the train and Lee turned his attention back to the fallen man. Checking the porterís pulse he found it fast and thready. Leeís thoughts of a punctured lung were confirmed as the mans body spasmed in a cough and blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth.

The doctor, followed by Wyndom Marshal, rushed out of the train and knelt next to the man. After checking the porters pulse and listening to him breathe, the doctor motioned for one of the members of the train staff who was standing in the crowd. "I need a gurney over here. We need to get this man out of the rain and off to a hospital."

Lee watched as a gurney was brought over and Wyndom, instead of taking out pen and pencil, helped lift the man and carry him back onto the train. "Come on, Amanda, letís get you out of this rain."

He placed his hand on her back and helped her up. "Goodness, youíre shivering."

"I didnít want him to get hurt, Lee," Amanda said. "I just wanted to get away...."

Amandaís voice cracked as she began to cry. He pulled her to him and she buried her face in the warmth of his shoulder. He couldnít feel her tears through his rain soaked sweater, but he could feel her pain. His heart ached for her. This, more than anything, was what he had wanted to protect her from.

"Shhhh," he whispered, smoothing back her hair. "Itís going to be all right."

Chapter 7:

Five days later....

"Iím glad that the two of you made it back okay," Billy said, sitting at his desk. "How are you doing, Amanda?"

"Fine, sir," Amanda replied. "Howís Brian?"

"The doctor gave him a clean bill of health. Diana gave her talks this morning at the DoD, but it seems she is going to step down for a little while."

"Who can blame her?" Francine questioned from the back of the room. "This was a very traumatic experience for her."

Lee, sitting at the extra desk in Billy's office, looked over at Amanda. It had been a tough assignment for everyone.

Last night, when he was dropping Amanda off at her place, she had indicated that she wanted to talk. So they had sat in his car in front of her house and they had talked: about the case, about the past few months, about their relationship... about their marriage and all of the complications that work had created... about Dotty and the boys, and how bad Amanda felt keeping so many secrets from them.

They had spent a good couple of hours in the car, watching as the lights from inside the houses along the street went off one by one. At one point Amanda had begun to cry again, and Lee had kissed away the tears running down her cheek. As morning began to inch its way across the horizon, they had come to only one conclusion: they couldnít do this on their own. They needed someone who knew about their situation, someone who could offer them a different perspective.

Billyís voice brought Lee back to the present. "... you need to be ready to go on this case next week. So you better get started on the background."

"Oh joy," Francine quipped as she opened the door to the bull pen. "More paperwork. Next time I want to be an escort."

"Itís all yours" Lee said as he closed the door behind Francine.

Turning back to Billy, he cleared his throat.

Billy looked up from the papers on the desk. "Is there something else you two needed?"

Lee looked towards Amanda for confirmation, and she nodded encouragement.

"Ah, Billy? Thereís something Amanda and I need to talk to you about."