A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
A special thanks to Chris and Sybil for great beta reading. You guys are the best! Also to Sally for her great assistance on the research and development of this episode. Thank goodness you kept the "Rough Guide to Great Britain"!
Amanda Stetson sat at her kitchen table facing her two teenage sons. She drew a deep breath and tried once more to bring up the topic for tonightís family meeting. She had no idea why she was so nervous about this particular topic. She knew it was the next logical step in their lives. She knew it was what she and her family needed. She even knew that it was what she wanted. Unfortunately, she couldnít be sure that it was what Phillip and Jamie wanted.
She could see that they were comfortable with their stepfather. They grew closer everyday. She decided that the best approach was just to say it. She was just going to announce that Lee was going to be moving in with them to be a live-in part of their lives. She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could start, she heard her oldest child nonchalantly say, "So, Mom, when is Lee going to be moving in?" Phillipís query was echoed by Jamieís own, "Yeah, Mom when?"
She let out her preparatory breath and sighed. Well, this was going to be easier than she thought. "Ah, well guys, as a matter of fact, that is why weíre here. I hope that you guys are ready and will be happy to know that Leeíll be moving in here as soon as he can pack and move. Probably this weekend." The nervous mother sat up straight, and watched their expressions. Phillip smiled instantly, and exclaimed, "Cool." Jamie nodded, but withheld comment at that time.
"So, is that why you called a family meeting?"
"Yes, Phillip, it is."
"Well, then why isnít Lee here?"
From the back door came a gruff throat clearing. "Uhumm, I am here."
"But why are you out there?" Jamieís tone indicated perplexity.
Lee entered the kitchen completely, and sheepishly hung his head. "Uh, well, you see, I thought that you might take this news better from your mother. Plus, if you had any objections, I wanted you to feel free to voice them."
By now, Lee had crossed the space between the door and the table, and was standing behind Amandaís chair with his hands on her shoulders. She reached up and patted his hand with her own, and softly said, "I told you so."
Dotty rushed into the room at that point and asked, "What did you tell him? Iím late for the meeting, arenít I? I know I am." Her coat went flying into the closet. "I was so interested in the speaker at the garden club meeting, that I completely forgot about this. Did you know that you could transplant tulip bulbs in the early spring as well as the winter?" She whirled around the table and dropped into a vacant chair. "As long as the ground is cold enough that the bulbs donít sprout, itís perfectly okay! So, what is this meeting about?" She looked at her family and waited for an explanation.
Lee fondly shook his head at his mother-in-law and told her, "Well, we were telling the boys that I would be moving in here, with you guys, soon." He hurried to add, "That is, if itís okay with all of you?"
"Okay? Well, of course it is okay! In fact, it is about time. I mean you eat just about every meal here. You sleep here most every night, now, even if you are coming in so late we donít realize you are here most of the time." The older woman looked at her daughter and son-in-law pointedly. Both boys watched this exchange with knowing smirks on their faces. They didnít know everything there was to know, but they knew enough to realize that Dotty had been very upset for a while after Jamie won that award for his essay and they were told that Lee had married their Mom.
Dotty still felt the occasional need to remind the couple that she was not happy about their mystery marriage. She managed to get one more barb in without being too obvious. "Boys, donít you think it is about time?"
Phillip eagerly agreed. Jamie nodded once more but still refrained from saying anything. Lee and Amanda exchanged worried looks. Jamie was unusually quiet, even for him. He had not spoken up against the move; yet, he had not really acted as pleased as Phillip had.
Dotty excused herself to prepare for her evening date with Kurt and Amanda accompanied her upstairs for a dress consultation. Phillip used the distraction to escape to the backyard for a game of B-ball with the neighborhood crowd. Jamie attempted to slip away as well, but wasnít quick enough.
"Say, Jamie, can we talk just a minute?" Lee shuffled his feet nervously before sitting in Dottyís vacated chair.
The youngest of his stepsonís shrugged indifferently and sat back down.
"So, chief, are you really okay with all of this?"
"Yeah, sure, why not?"
"Well, you just donít seem all that pleased. Donít you want me here?"
The boy looked up in surprise, "Sure I do." His voice said that his words were true.
"Well, then do you want to tell me what's bugging you?"
An eloquent shrug of the shoulders that told him nothing, and nervous finger twitching were all that Lee got. He tried again to reach the child before him. "Weíre friends, right?"
"Yes, of course we are." The rapid response assured Lee that he was on the right track.
"Then, tell me what the problem is. If you have a problem with me being here, I think we need to work it out, now."
Across the table, Jamie slumped lower in his chair and sighed dramatically. "Itís not you being here that I mind. Itís the leaving that I donít want."
"Yeah, leaving. I mean, youíll stay for a while, but it wonít last. It never does."
"Whoa, Jamie! What are you talking about?"
"As long as you donít live here, you wonít get tired of us. Youíll keep coming back. But if you move in, you might start getting sick of me and Phillip and decide that you want out again."
"Jamie, that is not going to happen! I love your Mother, and I...well, Iím crazy about you guys, too."
What came out of the boyís mouth next was too low for Lee to hear. "What?"
Louder this time, "I said, 'so is Dad.' But he left. And we belong to him. Weíre just your stepsons. Why would you stay?" Inwardly, Lee cursed Joe King, not for the first time in the past months. That man had caused more heartache with his selfish actions than he would ever know. Just when he thought that the worst was over, something like this would happen. That idiot thought that just because he was home now, that all his past mistakes were erased. At least, it felt that way to Lee as he now faced the dejected youngster before him.
Lee spoke up loud and clear. He even opened the back door to ensure that Phillip heard the summons. He wanted no mistakes about this. "Amanda, Phillip, Dotty, could you all come back down here for a minute?"
Jamie watched the tall man stand before and face the curious crowd that had appeared before him. He moved to stand next to his brother.
Lee looked at all of them determinedly. "I want you all to know that I am not ever going to leave you guys voluntarily. There seems to be some concern that Iím going to get tired of this family and leave. Well, Iím here to tell you that that is just not going to happen. Iíve been alone for longer than anyone should be. Once, I thought that was what I wanted, but then, I found your Mom, and I knew that Iíd never leave her alone, ever again. Now, I want you ALL to hear and know this."
He stood closer to his wife, and caressed her face. "I love you, Amanda Stetson." He stared deeply into her eyes before moving on to the pair of boys. He placed a hand on each of their shoulders. "I love you boys as well. I am not your father. I donít want to be a replacement for your father. I just want to be your friend, and the best stepfather that I can be." He watched their faces until he felt sure that they were at least trying to understand.
Finally, he stood before his mother-in-law. "Dotty, I never have said thank you." He saw the puzzled look on her face. "Thank you for raising such a wonderful daughter, who raised such wonderful boys. Please, know that I will never allow anything to happen to them. They, all of you, are my life." He swallowed hard to cover the emotion in his throat. He stood before them for a few moments more then turned to the kitchen and said, "So, whatís for dinner?" He rubbed his hands together, and began to move about the kitchen purposefully.
Amanda recovered from her shock at seeing Lee so openly emotional with his family and moved to join him. Phillip shrugged. He wasnít sure what all the fuss was about. He went back to his ballgame in the backyard. Dotty nodded, thoughtfully, and went back to her date preparations. She already loved Lee, and knew in her heart that he loved all of them, too. Perhaps it was time to let go of the hurt feelings over the secret marriage and just get on with their life.
Jamie studied the sight before him. Lee and his mom were working side by side to fix the evening meal. He couldnít remember ever seeing his Dad in there like that. He seemed to make up his mind about some inner conflict, and called out to Lee before running upstairs to his room, "Welcome home, Lee." He was out of sight before the man turned to the sound of his voice and smiled ear to ear.
Happily, the couple returned to the mundane chores that kept a family together and healthy. Lee couldnít have been more content. They spent a quiet evening together, and retired to bed in preparation for the next day of packing and moving.
Lee blinked rapidly as the annoying fly buzzed through his dreams of Amanda and the short white nightie she had worn to bed the night before. He swatted at it, but it just kept buzzing in his ear. Only now, it had taken on the quality of a shrill ring.
"Brrring, Brrring!" Then, a sudden silence followed by distant rumbling.
Oh, thank goodness, the fly left. He turned over in the bed to hold his wife and; hopefully, to recapture the delicious dream he had been having. He found that the bed next to him was warm, but empty. Darn fly! It had chased Amanda out of the bed. He blinked once, twice, then focused on Amanda standing beside the bed, holding the fly to her ear. What!? Lee sat up, and shook off the last vestiges of sleep. Not a fly, the phone. The phone had been ringing.
"Yes, sir, Iíll tell Lee, and weíll be right down."
Amanda put the phone back on the hook, and smiled at her handsome, rumpled husband. "Good morning, Mr. Stetson." She reached to him and brushed his longish hair out of his eyes. Lee moved quickly, caught her wrist in his fingers, and pulled her back onto the bed. When she was cushioned against his chest, he returned, "Good morning, Mrs. Stetson." They kissed softly. "Who was on the phone? Iím pretty sure I know and am going to be very unhappy, but go ahead and tell me, anyway."
"Ohhhh, I knew it." Lee groaned his displeasure, and pulled her closer to comfort himself. "What is it?"
"A phone call."
"We have a phone call at the Agency. He thought we would want to answer it."
"Billy called us, on a Friday morning which we took off to move me into our home, all of which he knows, by the way, to tell us we have a phone call?!" His voice rose an octave and his grip tightened around her waist. "Iíll kill him."
"Now, Lee, donít over react. It must be pretty important. He said it came over the wire as code Zulu Blue."
"Zulu Blue? Did he say who it was from?"
"Yes, Lee, he said it was routed through MI6. The voice prints match, exactly..." Her voice was telling him to stay calm, that the news was bad, but that she was there for him, and that they would work it out.
"MI6? Emily? The call was from Emily?" He pushed her gently off of his lap and got out of the bed to pace in his underwear.
Amanda stepped onto the floor and went to the closet to begin gathering clothes for them to wear. Blue jeans and sweats for each of them. It was their day off, after all. She stopped Leeís pacing with a firm hand to his chest. "Lee, stop. Youíre already worrying and this may be nothing more than a routine check in."
"Code Zulu Blue? Routine? No way, Amanda. Not Emily. She would just call if she wanted to check in with us. Something is very wrong. I feel it."
They shared a long look, then dressed rapidly, and went downstairs to leave a note for the rest of the family.
Dear Mother, had to go to the office for a few hours. We wonít be gone long. We may just go to the apartment to start packing before we come home. See you tonight. Love you.
Amanda & Lee
Amanda smiled when Lee added his name, but said nothing. It felt so good to know that they were a family, and that they were able to live as one. Such a small thing, a note to his mother-in-law, but she knew how much he enjoyed being able to sign it.
The ride to the agency was short and silent as they contemplated the message awaiting them. Emily was one of Leeís oldest and dearest friends. She had been his mentor and his partner on more than one occasion. Amanda had known her only a fraction of the time Lee had, but she had loved the older woman immediately, and was also worried for her safety. They entered the Georgetown portal hand in hand, gave the password, and took their badges from Mrs. Marston.
"Mr. Melrose is waiting for you in his office with Ms. Desmond."
"Thank you, Mrs. Marston. Have a good day."
"You too, Mrs. King, err, Stetson."
Lee smiled and shook his head. That was an argument they had yet to work out to his liking. Time for that later. Right now, he was in a hurry to hear Emilyís message. They got into the elevator and rode down the levels necessary to get to Billyís office.
The blinds were down and the door closed. A sure sign that the problem was big. Lee knocked cursorily, and entered. "Okay, what is it? Let me hear it."
"Why, good morning to you, too, Scarecrow, Mrs. Scarecrow." The acerbic edge to Francineís tongue was in full use today. She knew that she was being childish, but part of her just didnít care. Her feelings were hurt that two of her closest friends had not confided in her, and she was not ready to let them off the hook, just yet! Just because she had known in her heart for months that they were more than a couple was no reason for her to let go of her injured pride just yet!
"Can it, Francine! Lee, Amanda, sit down, and listen to this. It came in via MI6 early this morning. Technical says the voiceprints are a match, but it doesnít match any of the known codes used by Emily in the past, or any used by MI6 operatives, past, present, or future, for that matter." William Melrose motioned for Francine to play the tape once again. The distinct British accent was slightly strained and the quality of the recording was not the best, but it was easily recognizable.
"Scarecrow, Iíve been looking at my wall, and I just wanted you to know what a knight in shining armor you have always been. And Amanda, my niece, what a crusader! Together, just as you were years ago, here in the temple. Oh, a picture is worth a thousand words, my dears. I only wish I had one of you both here at Farnsworth Manor."
A loud crash was heard in the background, then a manís voice shouted, "There, get her!"
The next voice heard was once again Emilyís. "Oh, dear. I hope the weather is fitting for your stroll through Temple City. I hope to see you, soon." The call ended with a loud click that indicated that they had been disconnected.
"Well, Lee, Amanda, what do you make of that?" Melrose appeared thoughtful as he waited for an answer to his question. He steepled his hands before him as he propped his elbows on his desk.
Lee and Amanda exchange bewildered glances. Lee shook his head and shrugged, "Nothing, Billy. Absolutely nothing."
Amanda disagreed, "Not quite nothing. I mean we know that she is trying to tell us something. It is obviously a hidden message of some sort, to both of us. She called you by codename and me her niece. I think that she definitely wants us to figure something out of this jumble of words."
"Yeah, but what?" Lee ran his fingers
through his hair and blew out an exasperated breath. When she only shrugged in
response, he turned to Billy and said, "Well, I guess I wonít be moving in with
my family this weekend, huh?"
"Oh, yes, you will. Smyth says hands off on this one. MI6 forwarded it to you only as a courtesy. Whatever Emily was onto is not our business. You go move into your house, and if we get anything else, weíll call you. Besides, if you donít get out of here, now, Smyth may see you and renege on his agreement for this long weekend for you two." Billy stood up and ushered them to the door of his office.
"Billy, I canít just forget about this. Emily intended that message for me and Amanda. Weíre going to figure it out, and when we do, weíre going to go get her!"
Together, they left the agency and drove to Leeís apartment. As they neared the building, Lee muttered, "Well, we wonít get much moved with my car, but at least I can start packing up."
"I wouldnít be too sure about not getting anything moved, Lee. Look." She pointed at the front of his building. Her Grand Wagoneer was parked out front, and Dotty and the doorman were engaged in what appeared to be a heated debate. Phillip and Jamie hung back, as if slightly embarrassed. Lee pulled in behind the Jeep, and quickly exited the low-slung car. He swiftly assisted Amanda out of the car and joined his mother-in-law on the sidewalk.
"Mr. Stetson, this broad says she is your mother-in-law and that she is here to help you move out! She wanted me to let her in." The cheeky young man stood back and waited for the blow-up he expected from the tenant that had just arrived. Mr. Stetson had been very specific when he told him not to let anyone in his apartment, except him and the chic with him, Mrs. King. He was very proud that this long-winded lady before him hadnít fooled him.
Lee lowered his voice and intoned, "This Ďbroadí is my mother-in-law. And if you ever call her that again, you will be opening doors in Nome, Alaska, for the Eskimos, got that?"
"Yessir! Sorry, sir. I didnít know." The doorman stood out of the way and watched as the motley crew before him trouped up the steps and into the building. He swallowed hard and wondered if Stetson could really put him in Alaska. He had seen lots of strange things happen in this town, and he wasnít willing to take that chance! No wonder the old doorman had retired, if he had to put up with threats like that.
Upstairs, Lee and Amanda packed up the bedroom, while Dotty supervised the boys in packing up Leeís electronic equipment from the living room. Most of his furniture would be stored, but the TV, VCR, and stereo were going to be installed in the master bedroom at their Arlington home.
Lee turned from the closet to find Amanda holding a framed picture and staring into space, obviously disturbed. "Amanda, whatís that? Whatís wrong?"
He stood next to her, and gently turned the frame around. It was a picture of him, Amanda, and Emily, taken by a tourist on the street in front of the cafť they ate at during their stay in Austria. Heíd had it framed and kept it next to the bed. He teased her by saying it was a picture of him with the only two spies he loved.
"Amanda, weíre going to figure it out. If we donít hear anything from MI6 soon, I promise, we are going over there and find out what is going on. She is a smart woman, and a damn good agent. Whatever she is dealing with, she can handle it."
"Lee, she means so much to me. She believed in me almost before you did. She really is like an aunt to me, too, you know. If she needs usÖ"
He raised her face with his index finger on her chin, and looked her in the eye. "If she needs us, weíre going to be there, I promise." He placed his hands on her elbows and pulled her into his embrace. The soft kiss he placed on her mouth deepened and was soon bursting with emotion as they sought solace in each other. They had just moved toward the bed, when Dotty, standing in the doorway, cleared her throat. They jumped apart, and sheepishly shrugged at the older woman. "Sorry, Dotty. We, uh, weíre not used to other people being here." He attempted to look contrite, but just couldnít manage it. Instead, he smiled winningly and arched his eyebrow in question as if to say, ĎSo, are we forgiven?í
"You two! Lee, Iíve a feeling that I am going to have to watch you more closely than Phillip and Jamie. Amanda, weíre outnumbered now, you realize that, donít you?" Dotty scolded, but her tone was no more menacing than that reserved for her grandsons.
"Yes, Mother, but just think, now you and I have another adult on our side." She also sent her mother a winning smile.
"Adult?" Dotty harrumphed, and led the way to the living room. "Weíve packed all we can get into the Jeep. Letís take this load, get lunch, and then come back for more this afternoon."
All parties agreed, and they caravanned back to 4247 Maplewood Drive and unloaded the contents of both vehicles before lunching on sandwiches and chips with lots of hearty family laughter.
Later that evening, Lee and Amanda worked side by side in their bedroom, putting away newly unpacked items. They had two distinct piles growing on the floor, one to keep and one to discard. The keep pile was decidedly larger than the discard pile, much to Amandaís consternation. "Lee, how did you ever accumulate so much stuff? You were a bachelor with an active lifestyle. You werenít even in the apartment enough to have all this!"
"I donít know, Amanda. I just did. Whatís that youíve got?" Lee peered at her over his shoulder as he tried to make room on the closet shelf. He thought he recognized the box she held and was just a bit embarrassed that she had found it.
"I donít know." She shrugged her slim shoulders. "It just says Ďus.' What does that mean? Who is Ďus?'"
Lee grinned and left the closet to take the box from her. "Us isÖus." He continued after seeing her still blank look. "Us, Amanda, you and me. Itís just a few things that I kept to remind me of the important moments in our relationship."
"Momentos? Scarecrow keeps momentos?" She took the box back from him and opened the flaps for a better look. The first item she removed was a small snapshot, taken from the wedding cruise they had taken while working undercover. It was the two of them, leaning against the rail of the ship, just before departure. The eager crewman who had taken the shot, had given them the picture as a reminder of the trip. Lee had pocketed the snapshot, and she had assumed it had been lost in the following days of melee. She brushed her fingers across their faces on the paper and smiled. Lee had kept this. Way before they started dating, Lee had kept this.
Lee saw the tears misting her eyes, and shook his head. She was going to be emotional about this. "Let me have the box, Amanda."
She shook her head negatively. "No, I want to see what else you kept." She delved into the box, again, and pulled out a hairdryer. "A hairdryer? Lee, why would you keep a hairdryer?"
"Well, my fearless partner defended me with that hairdryer on an unusual case. I just wanted to always remember how quick she was to come to my assistance." He barely held back the chuckle that wanted to erupt from his mouth.
"Fearless? I think you mean delirious. Oh my gosh, Lee, I canít believe you kept this." Amanda shook her head in remembered embarrassment. She had hoped to forget all about that particular case! She threw the offending item at the still amused Scarecrow. He caught it deftly, and tossed it back onto the bed.
Now, more intrigued with exploring the contents of the box than embarrassed that she had discovered it, he sat next to her, and reached inside for the next item. He pulled out a small, wrapped parcel and shook it gingerly. It jangled softly, and a few notes of warped music were emitted.
He smiled, and recalled what he had to go through to get this particular item. He hadnít even known the thing had been recovered until a few months ago. He had to sign off on an inventory list of evidence pertaining to cases he had resolved. A perfunctory scan had nearly missed the last entry on the page; music box, square, blue, broken.
He had charmed its location out of the bewildered steno pool clerk, and managed to convince the attendant at the warehouse to show him to the storage bin. He had pocketed his prize without a thought to the consequences, and carried it home to place with the rest of his treasures. Now, as he saw realization dawn in her eyes, he knew it had been worth it.
"Lee, is thatÖ?"
"Yes, it is. I found it a few months ago at the warehouse where old evidence is stored."
"And they just gave it to you?"
"Well, not exactly. I sort of had to arrange for it to find itís way into my pocket."
"Lee, you stole this from evidence? WhyÖ?"
"Itís why I have you, now, why we have each other. It should belong to us. It does belong to us."
In an uncharacteristic gesture of avarice, she clasped the box to her chest and nodded her agreement. "Youíre right. It is ours. I never thought my life could hinge on an inanimate object like this music box, but it did, and I thank God for it." She raised her face up to her husband and kissed him.
He deepened the kiss, and for moments, the world consisted of only the two of them. Then, they heard a loud crash from the room across the hall, Phillip and Jaimeís room.
"Oh, well, welcome to the family, Lee." Amanda chuckled gently.
"Thank you, I think. So do we see what that noise was?"
"Nah, no one screamed. No blood in sight. Itís okay."
"But what if theyíre unconscious? I mean, what if they fell and hit their heads orÖ" Lee started to get up and go to the door just as feet were heard pounding down the steps.
"Stop it, Phillip. Donít you dare call and tell her I said that!"
Amanda gave her husband an ĎI told you soí look and patted the space beside her to indicate that he sit back down.
He did so, and then asked, "How did you know they werenít hurt?"
"Oh, Lee, the boysí heads make a very distinctive thud when they hit hard surfaces. That crash was just dishes, Iím sure!"
He briefly wondered if she was serious, then ascertaining that she was, he accepted her explanation and prayed he would live up to her parenting example. He looked back to her to see her digging into the box once more.
She withdrew a manila envelope and opened it. She took out the sketch of Lee and herself done by Emily, in Austria, several years ago. She smiled at the memories it brought back. "Lee, letís have this framed. I mean, itís a really good sketch and I would love to see it everyday."
"Sure, whatever you want."
He kissed her gently on the forehead, and returned to his tasks in the closet. He didnít see her face turn thoughtful and the gears in her mind start to turn.
She moved the box to the floor and stood to pace, while gazing at the picture. "Lee, I know what Emily is telling us!"
Impatient now, she hurried to his side and thrust the sketch in his face. "I know what she is telling us. Do you remember how she led us right to her captors in Austria? She put clues in the sketches she made. Letters? Remember?" He nodded, and Amanda continued. "She said on the phone that she was looking at her wall. Emily told me, one time, that she had a wall, in the library at her home, that was full of pictures, some photos, some sketches. But they were all important to her. They had meaning. On the phone, she said she wished she had one of the both of us on her wall."
"Yes, so?" Lee queried.
"Lee, she has pictures of us. She has sketches of us. She doesnít need a picture of both of us. She wants us to go there and see the wall! She said ĎA picture is worth a thousand words.í She wants us to go see the pictures on the wall!"
"You may have something there, Amanda. But we donít even know if sheís been home recently. She may have been working. She only stays home when Lord Farnsworth is present. Between his banking, and his responsibilities as Lord, he isnít there much. She says the Manor is too lonely without him."
"So, letís ask Billy to check with MI6 and see where she was last. If she was home, then we know thatís where to start looking. We have to start somewhere." Amanda handed Lee the phone receiver from the bedside table.
Lee nodded, then dialed the number, "Billy, we have something we need you to check out for us. We may know what Emily was saying."
Finally accepting that Billy wouldnít hesitate to call if he found out anything about Emilyís whereabouts for the last several weeks, Lee and Amanda had fallen into a fitful sleep, around midnight. Of course, after the third phone call had ended with Billy hanging up on them when they demanded to know what he knew, it hadnít been an extremely hard decision to make.
Another early morning phone call woke Lee and Amanda, again, the next day. Lee leapt from the bed to grab the phone and barked into it, "Scarecrow"
"Good morning, Lee." The placid voice of Billy Melrose greeted him.
"Billy, what do you know? Where has Emily been? Is Charles Farnsworth home? When did he last see Emily?" Lee fired the questions at the section chief. He looked over to see that Amanda had sat up and was listening avidly.
"Whoa, Lee, slow down, let me tell you what I found out!"
"Okay, okay. Iím sorry. Go ahead." Lee sighed and ran his free hand through his disheveled morning hair. He sat on the edge of the bed closest to Amanda as she moved up higher to share the phone with him.
"Thank you. Now, listen up. MI6 says that Emily requested an extended leave of absence just two weeks ago. She wanted to stay home with her husband as he recovered from an episode with a stomach ulcer. She checked in four days ago and picked up messages. None were particularly alarming. The only one anyone really remembered as different was from a William Norville. All other calls were from known associates or other agents. This Norville fellow has never called Emily before, nor was he willing to leave a detailed message. He just left his name and thatís it."
Billy paused in his relaying of information as Lee and Amanda heard his office door open and close. "Thank you, Francine." Papers rustled then Billy began to speak to them again.
"William Norville is reported to be an old school friend of Emily and Charles. Heís also a fellow banker. He and Charles belong to the same social circle, share the same business associates, and also have memberships in the same clubs. Norville told MI6 that he hadnít received an answer to his message, and that he hadnít seen Emily or Charles in at least two weeks." Billyís voice trailed off as he waited for Lee and Amanda to assimilate the information.
Amanda took the receiver from Lee and asked, "Sir, did MI6 say that they believed this Mr. Norville? I mean, did they check into his story? Has anyone spoken to Charles Farnsworth?"
"Yes, no, and no." Melrose chuckled into the receiver. "Amanda, I know that you arenít going to be satisfied until you are over there looking for her, yourself, but there is no way I can officially allow you to two go over there. Dr. Smyth has remained adamant about this one, strictly hands off!"
Amanda relayed the message to Lee, and thanked Billy before hanging up the phone.
"He says we canít go, Lee. Smyth still has a hands off attitude."
"Yeah, well, weíll see about that. Come on, get dressed, weíre going to see the good doctor." Lee strode to the closet and began riffling through the contents for clothes.
Amanda watched his near frantic search, and shook her head. ĎMy hot-headed Scarecrow!í "Lee, slow down. Itís only six AM. Smyth just got back into town last night. He wonít be available until at least ten. Weíve got plenty of time." She sighed and watched as he turned with a grim expression on his face.
"Amanda, Iím sorry. Youíre right. I wish, just once, that we could do something the easy way. We were supposed to be working on our family this weekendÖ" Lee stood up beside the bed and gazed down at his wife.
"Hey, this is about family. Emily is very important to both of us. This means as much to me as it does to you." Amanda stood beside him and, on tiptoe; she kissed his mouth and patted his chest. "Letís go get breakfast, wake the boys, and explain to mother whatís going on."
"What are we going to tell them?"
"The truth. Our friend is in trouble, and we are trying to go help her."
"Do you really think Dotty will be satisfied with that?"
"No, but itís a start."
Lee and Amanda walked briskly down the hall toward the offices of Dr. Austin Smyth. This was an unfamiliar journey. Smyth always came to them, usually with bad news or sarcasm. Today, they went to him. Today, they were going to demand to be allowed to go to Emilyís assistance. She was a good friend, and a great ally to the Agency. They were going to make him see reason.
Abruptly, Amanda stopped walking and dragged Lee to a halt with her. Lee swung around to face her and asked, "What? Whatís wrong?"
"What if he doesnít know?" Amanda stared at him with wide brown eyes. She rethought the statement and said, "Or worse, what if he does know?"
"Know what?" Lee was bewildered.
"That weíre married! What do you think?" She slapped him on the arm, not that gently.
Lee shrugged and tried to sound nonchalant. "Well, what if he does? Or doesnít? Iím sure he wonít waste any time letting us know one way or the other. Besides, what did we think was going to happen? That we were going to tell everyone but Smyth?"
Amanda glared at him. For such a highly trained agent, he could be so obtuse at times. "Of course not, I just thought that Billy would tell him or that he would get a memo or something."
"Amanda, this is Smyth we are talking about. He probably knew before we did. The man has eyes and ears everywhere. Now come on, Emily needs us, whether Smyth knows weíre married or not." He took her hand and tugged her down the hall toward their destination.
They paused at the desk of the secretary, and Lee began to speak in his most persuasive Ďgive me my wayí voice. He flashed his million-dollar smile at the woman, fully expecting her to melt under the heat of it.
"Hello, Ms. Tyler is it? Good morning. Iím Lee Stetson, is Dr. Smyth available? You see weíre old friends, and I really needÖ" He was cut off mid-sentence by the bland voice of the young, red-headed bombshell Smyth had personally picked for her Ďtyping skills.'
"Yes, of course, Mr. Stetson, Dr. Smyth is expecting you." She pressed the button on the underside of her desk that unlocked the private, inner sanctum of the Agency Director, and then moved to open the door and usher them in.
They crossed the threshold and stared at the back of the skinny man standing, gazing at, the no doubt priceless artwork on the wall. Lee took one deep breath and opened his mouth to speak, but was once again cut-off.
"Scarecrow, Mrs. King, or should I say Mrs. Scarecrow? Iíve been expecting you." He blew out a puff of smoke, and turned to face the agents. "I want you to know that I DO NOT think you should be involved in this mess that Lady Farnsworth has gotten herself into, however, you will be on the next flight to London this evening, and you will find out what happened to her, and you will be back here by Tuesday, at the latest!"
"Sir, may I askÖ why?" Amanda began to inquire as to his reason for the change of mind.
"No, you may not! However, I will tell you, kiddies, that you have been summoned to appear before the Lord Farnsworth, immediately. If I find out that this is contrived in any way, you will be sorry. Lord Farnsworth may hold the Ace of Spades in London, but Iím the Wild Joker here!"
The obviously agitated man threw a file toward the stupefied pair and gestured for them to leave at once. Before they could each the door, he stopped them with "Oh by the way, I want you to know that you havenít gotten anything over on the old man with your little marriage scheme. I hope youíre enjoying your wedded bliss. Just because the cat was away and the mice did play, doesnít mean it will end happily ever after. Even Cinderella had to come home from the ball."
Angered by the older manís attitude, Lee began to point his finger in Smythís face but stopped when his wife poked him in the ribs. She hissed under her breath, "Lee, stop it. Letís go before he changes his mind!"
By the time they reached the bullpen, Billy had been notified of their trip and had made all the needed arrangements. The file Smyth had grudgingly provided had been supplemented with all the information that Francine could dig up on Norville, Lord Farnsworth, and any connection that could be found between the two men.
Lee and Amanda sat together looking over the additional file Billy had handed over with their tickets. It contained personal and business information on William Norville and Lord Charles Farnsworth. Norville certainly seemed like an upstanding businessman. But they knew, all too well, that things were not always what they seemed.
"Amanda, I think the first thing we should do is check with MI6 and see if theyíve turned up anything. Then weíll go see Charles Farnsworth at Farnsworth Manor."
"That sounds like a plan to me. Have you ever met Lord Farnsworth?"
"No, Iíve never had the opportunity to meet him. He stays pretty busy with his work and his political life. Emily started working with MI6 as a civilian, not unlike you, on a part time basis, to keep busy. She discovered she liked it, and was good at it, so she started full-time. Before you knew it, she was top level security, and, well, the rest is history."
"FLIGHT 236, NONSTOP TO HEATHROW AIRPORT, IS NOW BOARDING AT GATE 26."
Amanda raised her head, and listened to the loudspeaker, "Thatís our flight."
"Yes, it is. Letís go."
Together, they made their way to the boarding gate, and onto the plane. They had adjoining seats in the first class section. Rather surprising, until they realized that their flight had been booked from London by Lord Farnsworth, himself. It seemed he was determined to have their assistance in this matter, at any cost. Lee settled in, and took Amandaís hand. Soon, they were airborne and on their way to London.
Amanda and Lee sat in the hard plastic chairs of the waiting area, outside the office of the international liaison, at MI6 headquarters. They waited on said liaison to be free to talk with them concerning the disappearance of Emily Farnsworth. Lee mused that it really was amazing that no matter where or when, all bullpens were alike. A maze of desks, a cacophony of ringing phones and beeping computers, and agents bustling about, intent on saving the world from the evils of terrorism and communism.
They had been waiting for twenty minutes and were just about to become impatient, when the office door opened and a small nervous man stepped into the doorway, glaring at them. "Are you Lee Stetson?" The words came out in the brisk, no-nonsense British tone they had so often heard Emily employ.
Lee and Amanda stood hurriedly and greeted the man before them. "Hello, Mr. Carsons? Iím Lee Stetson; this is my partner, and wife, Amanda Stetson. Weíre friends of Emily, and are hoping that you may help shed some light on this whole matter."
"Well, Mr. Stetson, first of all let me say that I do not appreciate your meddling in the business of MI6. Emily Farnsworth is our agent and we can take care of our own. However, since Lord Farnsworth is demanding that you be briefed and allowed to take charge of the search for his wife, I am willing to grant you access to what information we have."
The previously brisk manner now bordered on rude, and Amanda glanced briefly at her husband to see that his temper was bordering on out of control. She intervened by quickly thanking Mr. Carsons and accepting the files he shoved at them. "Thank you, Mr. Carsons, where may we work?" Her soft voice and manner reminded the men that they needed to work together, not against each other, and they nodded slightly to indicate that awareness, and a hesitant truce was silently declared.
Warily, Lee and Mr. Carsons settled across from each other at the long table in the boardroom attached to Mr. Carsonsí office. Amanda took the chair at the head of the table, and they began to sort through the two files, the one from the Agency computers, and the one provided by MI6.
"Mr. Carsons, this information provides us with no more than what we already know. The only things that are really different are these references to Norville being involved in the Templar Knights organization."
"Indeed, Mrs. Stetson, he is a known member of that group." Carsonsí words indicated that he had little more to add to his statement. However his tone revealed much more. The near disgust he felt toward the group known as the Knights was obvious to all occupants of the room.
Amanda, being Amanda, was not ready to let it go as such. "But Mr. Carsons, I thought the Templar Knights was simply a fraternity of sortsÖfor bankers and businessmen. You make it sound like some kind of secret gang or cult. I actually thought the Templars were recognized and respected in England and Europe." Her tone indicated her puzzlement, and she leaned back into her chair, waiting for an explanation.
Reluctantly, the nervous man began to talk about the organization. "Well, Mrs. Stetson, you are right, to a certain extent. The modern day Templar Knights are known as a respected and dignified portion of the populace. Unfortunately, in the last several years, a splinter group of the original organization, calling themselves the Righteous Templars, have made their presence known by disrupting bank meetings and interfering in the investigation of fires at several Bank of London-subsidized buildings. We believe they are involved in arson, tampering with the economic balance by manipulating the stock market, even some ordinary run-of-the-mill bank robberies."
Lee gestured expansively in the air, "Thatís a pretty broad range of alleged crimes, Carsons. Do you have proof to back those accusations?"
"Not yet, but weíre working on that. In fact, Emily was working on that." The British man stood and began to pace, obviously agitated. It seemed he was being forced into revealing more than he had intended and didnít like it one little bit.
"But Mr. Carsons, sir, we thought, I mean we were told that Emily was on a leave of absence, staying with her husband as he recovered from some stomach problems. In fact, we were told that she had no active case files, at this time, at all." Amanda leaned forward, eager now, to hear what else this man had to say. It seemed that all was not as it appeared.
"Well, technically, she didnít." The proper gentleman wavered for a few moments, then finished telling them what he knew. "This is all off the record. Most of the suspected members of the Templars are quite highly placed in London society and government. There was no official investigationÖfor that reason."
Carsons checked the door and blinds, then sat down once more and continued with the explanation.
"Emily came to me some weeks ago with her husbandís suspicious of Norville. It seems that the two men belong to the same chapter of Templars, but on one evening, Norville attempted to recruit Farnsworth for the Righteous Templars. When Charles Farnsworth made it very apparent that he had no desire to join the infamous group, Norville became indignant and belligerant. Another member interrupted, blaming Norville's behavior on excessive drink."
He pulled another file from his nearby desk, and extracted a picture from inside. "This is the other member. There was no further contact between the two men, and when Charles Farnsworth became ill, Emily went to be with him. I assumed she was too concerned for her husbandís health to worry over this matter any further. That is, until she picked up her messages several days ago and mentioned that she had some information to be sent over by courier. The information never came and then, three days later, Lord Farnsworth notified us that she had gone missing, and, well, here we are."
Lee glanced at the photo and passed it to Amanda. "So you mean that you suspected that Emily was in trouble three days before you were notified, and you still havenít done anything to try to find her?"
"Now Mr. Stetson, I had no choice but to play this one rather close to the vest. We were never officially investigating this situation, and we could not officially look for her without arousing suspicions from the Righteous Templars. I feared for her safety if they discovered we were looking for herÖand them." Carsons raised his hands defensively and eyed the agitated Scarecrow.
His defensiveness was not misplaced as Lee stood and leaned over the table to glare Carsons directly in the eye. "Just how close to the vest have you played this? Has anyone been looking for Emily?" His cool, calm tone was, to those who knew him well, a clear indication of how angry he truly was.
Unfortunately, for the other man, less versed than Amanda in the body language of Scarecrow, Carsons took the calm nature of his query as a good sign and relaxed noticeably. His voice was smug as he imagined that he had the upper hand here. "Well, now, Mr. Stetson, as a matter of fact, Iíve looked into this myself. Iíve a number of good leads, and will be happy to share them with you as you are at a bit of a disadvantage."
At the head of the table, Amanda braced herself for the outburst she knew was coming. Most any other time, she would have attempted to intervene on behalf of the soon to be aggrieved party; however, she found herself annoyed at this pompous little man and; therefore, only leaned back so as not to get caught in the cross-fire.
Before Carsons could begin to offer his Ďexpertise,' Lee had leaned further over the table, gripped the smaller man by the lapels, and hefted him bodily from his chair. "You let me tell you something, you arrogant son of a bitch, if Emily is hurt, at all, and I find out it could have been avoided if you had acted sooner; you will pay, dearly." He shook the man, not so gently, and then dropped him, unceremoniously, back into his seat.
Twenty minutes later, Lee and Amanda walked out of the MI6 office and to their rental car. It hadnít taken Carsons long to spill what he had managed to find out about Emilyís investigation and possible whereabouts. It wasnít much and they were really no closer to finding Emily than before, but Lee felt immense satisfaction as he remembered the expression on the impossible little manís face as he landed back into his chair. The next thing he felt was chagrin that he had lost his temper. Amanda was always talking about how he needed to control his temper. Lee figured heíd better go ahead, apologize, and get it over with.
"Uh, Amanda, I guess I really need to apologize to youÖ and Carsons, for loosing my temper like that. I should have been calmer butÖ" He stopped, mid-sentence, as he saw Amanda smile at him and shake her head.
"No way, Lee. Iím glad you did it. That man was more worried about offending some nobleman, than finding Emily! If you hadnít told him off, I was going to." She patted his firm chest to emphasize her approval of his actions.
"Oh, really? Well, next time, Mrs. Stetson, heís yours." Lee bent and kissed the tip her nose playfully.
"Yeah, well, Iíll just stick with the good cop bit. You make a much more impressive bad cop than I do." She shot him an impish look as she slid into the car seat and reached over to unlock his door.
"Speaking of good cop, bad cop, how about later we head to our hotel room and practice our not so evasive maneuvers?" Lee grinned that grin and winked at her as she rolled her eyes.
"Well, Iíll tell you what. You keep that temper reined in for the rest of the day, and Iíll see what I can come up with for later on."
Lee waggled his eyebrows at her and quickly kissed her, hard on the mouth. "Until later then." They buckled seat belts, and soon were pulling up to the gate of Farnsworth Manor.
The light blue rental car pulled to a stop in front of a pair of tall iron gates. The gates were flanked on each side by statuesque concrete horses. A large, scrolling ĎFí graced the middle of the entrance, at the topmost point, to Emily Farnsworthís home. Before Lee could stop completely, the gates swung open. He and Amanda exchanged bemused glances, "I guess weíre expected."
She nodded and replied, "I suppose so."
The pair proceeded up the curving cobblestone drive, and parked in front of the massive oak doors. Lee hurried around to assist her from the vehicle, and together, they stared up at the impressive brick structure before them. The home was obviously old and well preserved. The oak doors gleamed, and the brass knockers shone in the sunlight. Ivy crawled up the walls of the home and twined with the ornate wrought iron shutters.
"Wow, this is gorgeous. Iím surprised Emily ever leaves here." Amandaís eyes were wide with delight and discovery. She hurried up the walk to inspect the formal flowerbeds gracing either side of the wide arched entry.
Lee watched her progress with a besotted eye. Heíd been to London many times. While he had never been to Farnsworth Manor, he had been to any number of other noble residences and heíd thought he wouldnít be that impressed. But now, like any other time he saw something through Amandaís eyes, the sight was bright and shiny, and he greedily drank in the beauty of the estate. He promised himself that he would bring her back here, sometime, for purely recreational reasons. But for now, they had business to attend to, and an old friend to find.
"Amanda, letís go find Lord Farnsworth, now." He held out his hand to her, and together, they waited for a response to their use of the brass knockers.
Moments later, the door opened, and a staid balding gentleman, dressed in the somber, black uniform of a butler, motioned for them to enter. "Please, follow me, Mr. and Mrs. Stetson, weíve been expecting you. If you will have a seat in the library, Lord Farnsworth will join you momentarily." Without waiting or expecting a response, the butler ushered them into the nearby library and left them alone to occupy themselves.
"Well, I see now why the butler is always the one who-done-it in the murder mysteries. He has no personality at all." Lee sneered at the door the man had exited through.
"Lee, be nice. Iím sure heís just acting the way that butlers act. You know, proper, respectful, responsible." Amanda attempted to explain away the manís behavior in the way only she could. "Besides, Emily always spoke of her household in such affectionate terms. Iím sure he is very worried about her, too."
"If you say so." He grinned at her cheekily. Before she could reprimand him for his behavior, the library door opened, and Lord Farnsworth entered. Leeís demeanor turned respectful in the blink of an eye. He stood taller, his shoulders squared, his eyes focused straight ahead.
The short, stout man wore woolen slacks in somber gray, a white oxford shirt, and black cardigan sweater. His sandy hair was thinning on the top, yet, what was there, was in stern formation on his head. His cheeks were ruddy, and he puffed slightly when he came to stop before them.
"Mr. and Mrs. Stetson, I presume?" He extended his hand, briskly shook Leeís hand, and gave a rather courtly bow over Amandaís before squeezing it softly.
"Yes, sir, Lord Farnsworth. Iím Amanda, this is Lee." Amanda smiled gently at the man before her. He might be a Lord, but right now, he just looked like a man worried about his wife. Heaven knew, sheíd seen that look often enough in Leeís eyes. Before they could say anything more, Charles Farnsworth began to speak.
"First of all, let me thank you for coming to my aid. That idiot, Carsons, is so afraid of offending anyone, that he hasnít done anything to find my wife. After all she has done for that organization, he wonít officially look for her in case he pushes the wrong personís nose out of joint!" His voice rose and the flush on his cheeks deepened in his anger.
"Weíve met Mr. Carsons. Not the most helpful man Iíve had the opportunity to meet. He did give us some information on a Mr. William Norville that we found to be most interesting. Are you familiar with Mr. Norville?" Leeís tone of voice was intended to sound curious to those who didnít know him, but to Amanda, it was almost suspicious.
She discreetly poked her partner in the ribs with her elbow, and looked at Lord Farnsworth apologetically. "Lord Farnsworth, Iím sorry for the questions. My partner is a bit over zealous when heís especially concerned. And we are both very concerned about Emily. Can you please just tell us what you know about the situation?" She attempted to soothe the tension between the two men as best she could and threw Lee a quelling look.
Stetson drew a calming breath and nodded to Amanda and Lord Farnsworth. "Of course, I apologize. I really am very concerned about Emily, er, Lady Farnsworth."
"Mr. Stetson, I know that you and Emily are very close friends. She speaks of you very highly. You are two of her favorite people. That is why I called, rather insisted, on your presence. If anyone can find my Emily, itís you two." As he spoke, he had crossed the room and removed a framed photo of himself and Emily from the mantle of the fireplace. He gazed at their likenesses and clutched the smooth glass close to his chest. "Emily is the most important thing on Earth to me, and I fear I may never get the chance to tell her so again. I think that the people who have her are angry with me. I think she is being held for revenge."
Amanda swiftly joined the distraught man in front of the fireplace and guided him to sit on the nearby chair. "Lord FarnsworthÖ"
"Please, call me Charles. Emily speaks of you so often, I feel like I know you." The man patted Amanda on the arm to emphasize his words.
Amanda ducked her head, and smiled shyly before agreeing. "Okay, Lord, umm, Charles. How about if you tell us everything you know about the people you think have Emily?" She held out her hand to Lee, and he joined her in sitting on the sofa across from the wing chairs, before the fire. Lee sat in the corner of the brocade-covered sofa and pulled Amanda down to sit next to him. Unconsciously, she shifted to sit as close as possible, without appearing brazen.
Charles Farnsworth watched this action without comment, remembering how he and Emily had done the same thing when they were first married, then began to recite his story with some urgency. Heíd been happily married for some time now, and he had no intention of losing that happiness to a group of belligerent, near-mad Knight want-to-beís.
"I belong to a group of businessmen, a club of sorts, known as the Templar Knights. It dates back centuries really. The first Knights were monastic. They lived with vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Templars original purpose was as a military organization. They escorted travelers through dangerous lands. Protected them, and their possessions, from bandits and rebels. In exchange for part of that same money, of course. Over time, the Knights became quite wealthy, and respected by most of Europe and the Holy Land. They were a formidable military force to be reckoned with. Soon, they became a sort of traveling banking association. They transported money all over the continent and Holy Land. But as with all wealthy and successful businesses, some grew jealous of their organization and began to make trouble. The Templars were accused of crimes they didnít commit, and lost most of their holdings and money. However, they did recover, in time, and become an important part of culture, again. They will always be known as the founders of the modern banking system."
He glanced at his audience and saw that they were wondering what this had to do with the situation. He explained further. "The Knights of today are really just regular businessmen. We have no real political or military purpose. However, several months ago, a few members decided that the entire organization needed to be revamped, so to speak. That we needed a purpose and a goal. That goal was to become the most powerful organization on the continent, again. And they decided to start right here, in London. Their ideas were not met with approval from the rest of the group, and they splintered off to become the Righteous Templars. Theyíve been recruiting members from the various branches of the Knights for weeks now. They approached me, and when I declined, rather abruptly, they were obviously displeased."
Lee interrupted at this point. "Did they threaten you, or Emily?" He sat up straighter as he waited for a response.
"No, not directly. But I knew what they meant. I came home, and I told Emily what had happened. Over the phone that is. She was away on assignment. She flew in immediately, and we began to look at this thing a bit closer. She arranged to take some time off and started to investigate this on a personal level. No matter what she told the higher ups at MI6, they refused to investigate officially. Carsons always said that it was too politically dangerous to buck the system and wouldnít back her up. I think he was too scared to thumb his nose at the political powers that be. So Emily found her own leads and went off to check into them. I wanted to accompany her, but she absolutely refused to allow me to get more involved. That was seven days ago. She checked in several times. The last time I heard from her was about four days ago. When she didnít call again as she promised, I called Carsons, but he wasnít willing to get involved. He said he would try to look into the situation quietly, but I donít believe he ever did. At least not that I can see."
The proper manís voice had grown agitated once more, and he had stood to pace in front of his guests, while relaying this information. Now, he stopped and gestured toward the wall most distant to the furniture. It was covered with photos and sketches, some formal, some very casual, but all with a touch of Emily to be found upon closer inspection. "The answer is here, Iím sure of it. That phone call she made, the one that Carsons didnít want me to tell you about? Well, she talked about her wall. Thatís what she says when she means her pictures. She also mentioned you two, and thatís how I came to suspect that she wanted you to come here."
Lee picked up on the comment about Carsons not wanting them to know about the phone call as did Amanda. Together they began to speak, "What do you mean, he didnít want us to know about the phone call? I thought that phone call went to MI6?" Their words tumbled over each other as each voiced similar thoughts.
"No, no. Emily called me here and left that message on our machine. When I heard it, I forwarded it to MI6, and Carsons, so that he could get it to you. He told me that he wouldnít send it, and that it was none of your business. So I told him that if he didnít send it on, I was going to raise such a ruckus that every political figure in London would hear me, and he would never be allowed to work in this town again."
Amanda sighed, and nodded her head thoughtfully. "Well, that explains why Carsons was so belligerent toward us."
During this exchange, Lee had left the sofa and walked across the room to stand in front of the pictures. Now, Amanda and Charles Farnsworth followed him, and they perused the scenes before them. "Amanda, Emily said in her message that she hoped to see us together, here. I think she wants us to look at the pictures of the two of us. There are only these two. This one of us at the house in Arlington, and this sketch of us in Austria. I donít see anything obvious in either picture."
"Maybe we arenít supposed to look in the picture, but behind it? Maybe she put something behind the pictures?" She looked at Charles for permission to remove the frames from the wall. He nodded eagerly, and she gently removed the photo from its hanger and turned it over. She pulled the backing away from the frame and saw another picture turned face-up. She plucked it from its hiding spot and handed it to Lee. He glanced at it and turned it to be visible to Farnsworth.
"Lord Farnsworth, do you know this man? Who is he? He looks familiar."
"Thatís James Croft. Heís another Templar Knight. But judging from what heís wearing, Iíd say that heís joined the Righteous Templars." The snapshot was taken in front of an older building, the outside rough, but cared for. The tall slender man was dressed in dark jeans, topped with a peculiar white tunic embossed with a crimson Latin cross. "The original Knights wore just such garb, and Iíve heard rumors that the Righteous Knights had adopted the same style."
During the explanation, Amanda had remained thoughtful and now snapped her fingers in realization. "That man, heís the same man from the file at MI6. Charles, isnít this the man that intervened the night that Norville approached you concerning joining the Righteous Knights?"
"Oh, my dear, I believe it is. That man must have Emily!" Lord Farnsworth snatched the surveillance photo from Leeís hand and shook it menacingly. His five foot five inch frame shook with his indignation. The calm control he had struggled to maintain thus far wavered for moments. Despite his diminutive size, there was fire in his eyes as he considered the man who possibly held his wife.
Lee nodded grimly. "I bet youíre right, Charles. I think Emily was onto him and his Righteous Knights, and when he realized that he was about to be caught, he took her and decided to kill two birds with one stone. He quieted an attempt to expose their little gang and got his revenge on you as well. Norville was probably his accomplice. Now, we just need to figure out where they have her."
"Lee, I think Emily told us that, too. She mentioned about us walking in Temple City. Weíve never been to Temple City together. She wants us to go there. That must be where they are keeping her!" Amandaís words tripped over themselves in their rush to be heard.
"Yeah, youíre right. Charles, isnít there an old church in that area that was used by the original Knights?" Scarecrowís tone demanded a response, and the older man immediately nodded.
"Yes, Lee, there is. The Temple Church, it was built in the 12th century by the Templars. Itís still open to the public, on occasion."
"Well, these Righteous Knights, Iíd just bet that they would love to hold their meetings in just such a place. Amanda, come on. Weíre going over there, now. I know weíll find Emily right there in that old church."
The pair rushed out the door. Belatedly, Lee turned to speak to Farnsworth, only to find him right on their heels. "Where are you going?"
"Iím going with you. Sheís my wife, and Iím going to help her get home." The man before them was Lord Charles Farnsworth once more, and he would not be denied.
Lee briefly thought of arguing, but realized it was no use. If he was in Charlesí position, and he had been on more than one occasion, he wouldnít be deterred either. "Fine, but you wait in the car!"
The nobleman nodded, and the trio ran to the car to make the trip to Temple City.
Lee and Amanda circled the small stone church and found the back entrance. A glance over their shoulders confirmed that Charles Farnsworth was, indeed, waiting in the car, and being thus reassured, the pair inched the heavy wooden door open. Amanda winced as the old hinges screeched protestingly. Lee looked to her for confirmation of her readiness. He held his gun at the ready, and indicated that she should do the same. When he was satisfied that she was suitably armed, he nodded once, then proceeded through the darkened entrance. He beckoned her forward with a jerk of his head. They stood in the small entry hall. They faced three doors, one directly in front of them, one to the left, and one to the right. Deciding, hurriedly, that the side doors were probably storage areas, they approached the door directly across the room from the outside entrance. Lee stood ready to open the door; Amanda poised behind him. He threw open the door, and stepped into the arch with his gun held out in front of him. Shaking his head to indicate that no one was there, either, Lee stepped in and allowed his partner to join him.
She entered, and circled around him, to the opposite side of a small hallway. This time only one pair of double doors awaited them. They swiftly crossed the narrow hall and opened those doors to be met by the assembly room of the congregation. It was deserted. Amanda surveyed the scene and softly called his name. "Lee, I donít see that anyone has been here in some time."
"There must be another room or hidden area." Lee put away his gun, and ran his hands through his hair in frustration.
Amanda had returned her weapon to her purse, when suddenly inspiration struck. "Lee! The guidebook."
"What?" Lee normally took pride his ease in following her leaps of thought, but in this case he was totally lost.
"The Rough Guide to Great Britain." Amanda dug into her handbag, and brought forth the book. "I bought this several years ago, when we first came to England on assignment. I picked it up on the way out the door this morning, and just stuck it in my purse on impulse. Anyway, I think there is a mention of the Temple Church in here, and I think they said that there was a small roomÖ"
Amanda, who had begun flipping through the book as she spoke, soon had the right page found and was reading to him from its text. "See? It says right here, that there is a small cell that was used to keep disobedient knights confined. It should be right here, at the top of those stairs." She turned in a half-circle, walked out of the general assembly hall, across the narrow corridor, and back into the entry hall. She quickly opened the door on the left and pointed to a narrow stairway leading up about five steps. "Right here!"
"Good job, Amanda! Letís go check that cell and see if we canÖ"
A scrapping on the stone floor drew their attention to the outside door. A slight figure stood in the shadows, holding a weapon aimed at the pair. "Donít make another move, Stetson, and I wonít kill anyone, yet." The man took two steps forward into the light.
"Mr. Carsons? What are you doingÖ?" Amanda attempted to speak. When Carsons menacingly aimed the gun at her chest, Lee pushed her behind him and tried to get the MI6 traitorís attention.
"So you knew all along. I should have known that MI6 wouldnít just abandon Emily like this. You never took this to anyone, did you? Of course not, after all, if it got investigated any further, they would find out that you were involved." Lee raised his voice and stepped closer to the small man.
"Involved? Not quite. I could never be a Knight. Oh, no, Iím far below their social status. I could never be a part of their society." The liaison between the two agencies sneered his disgust. "However, I could definitely interfere in their society. So for a nice tidy sum, I kept the investigations to a minimum and would have been set for life, quite soon actually, if not for the Farnsworths. Oh, no, Lord Charles Farnsworth had to tell his nosy little agent wife about his suspicions. I tried to keep her out of it, but she simply wouldnít let it go. She feared that her husband would be in danger by refusing their invitation. She took her personal time and began to get real nosy around the wrong people."
The man nervously motioned for the pair to sit on the floor in the middle of the room. He glanced toward the stairs and the cell and swallowed hard.
Lee, noting his discomfort, tried again to make him talk. "So, you grabbed Emily and had her locked up here. She trusted you, and you betrayed her, not to mention your country and government."
Carsons shook his head in defiance. "No, it wasnít like that. I didnít grab Emily. That was Norville. He and his partner, Croft. They took Emily and brought her here. Iím just their protection. I keep the hunting dogs at bay. I never bargained on Emily, or anyone else getting caught. But now, it seems that I must take matters into my own hands. Or I will not be able to enjoy my hard earned fortune. Croft is too lily-livered to do the deed himself, and Norville is just too drunk. Therefore, I will kill you all, and then never be seen in London, again."
He raised the gun, again, and aimed at Leeís head. Amanda saw him raise the weapon and inch his finger toward the trigger. She swallowed hard, and desperately tried to think of a way out of this.
Suddenly, from the doorway, came the sounds of running footsteps, and a voice yelled, "Drop it, nice and easy, Carsons. Youíre surrounded, and there is no way out of this one."
Carsons, never the most courageous of souls, stiffened, and held his gun by two fingers. Lee rose cautiously, took the gun from the smaller man, and assisted Amanda to her feet. He quickly cuffed Carsons, who had withdrawn into silence at his defeat, to an exposed beam, and turned to see who had rescued them.
From the shadows of the doorway, entered Lord Charles Farnsworth carrying a childís water pistol, rather realistic in appearance, if you didnít note the bright orange color of the plastic. Amanda gasped, "Lord Farnsworth! Who else is with you?"
"No one, my dear. It seemed that my staying in the car was not quite the thing to do when I saw Carsons go in with his gun drawn. He was in the car with Croft and Norville. They argued, then Carsons got out, and the other two drove away. I flagged a passing constable, instructed them to apprehend the car and its occupants, and then I followed you in here, and well the rest is history." Farnsworth shrugged eloquently, and tossed the toy pistol over his shoulder without another thought.
"But, Charles, where on earth did you get that gun?" Amanda couldnít stop the laughter from creeping into her voice.
"Well, I commandeered it from a tot on the street. I fear I may never be his hero! But I had to do what I could to save my Emily."
"EMILY!" The three would-be heroes rushed to the cell, and quickly released the lock with the key so thoughtfully left hanging on the hook next to the solid wood door.
The door was flung open, and soon, a dusty, disgruntled Emily stepped into the light of the hall and into the arms of her husband. "Why, itís about time you got here. I was beginning to think you didnít get my message!"
Lee and Amanda exchange bemused, yet, slightly exasperated looks over her head, and Lee replied, "Oh, we got the message, all right! We just didnít get the message!"
"You mean I didnít make myself clear?" Emily asked as she accepted hugs from the American agents.
"Oh, yes, maíam. It was clear. Clear as mud."
The four laughed and exited the church as constables began to flood the area to secure Carsons.
"A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words" Conclusion
Lee and Amanda sat at Heathrow Airport waiting for their flight to be called. After resolving the case of the Righteous Templars, finding Emily, reuniting her with her husband, Lord Farnsworth, and spending one romantic night at Farnsworth Manor, the pair was more than ready to head for the good old US of A.
They had asked Emily to come with them for an extended visit, and she had agreed rather quickly, but on one condition. After her forced exile from her home and husband, she was more than overdue for some rest and relaxation, but she was unwilling to do so without her husband. She wanted to bring Charles with her. While he had many responsibilities, he also had many perks, and one of those was the ability to jet off whenever he wished. Therefore, he and Emily were flying in the next day for an extended vacation in and around the DC area. Lee and Amanda had been thrilled with the idea, and were rushing home to prepare for the visit.
"Oh, my gosh, Lee, I canít believe that Emily and Charles are coming for a visit. It has been so long since she was in America. I canít wait to show her all the sights again."
"Amanda, she didnít really need to be shown all the sights last time you played hostess. She is very familiar with the DC area. Actually, they even own a home quite near the Agency," Lee gently reminded his wife. As he waited for a response, their flight was called, and they stood to make their way to their boarding gate.
"Oh, I know that. But we had a great time shopping and walking and looking. I canít wait to spend some more time with Emily." Amanda paused before entering the hallway to the boarding area and looked at her husband. She grinned a secretive grin as she remembered some of their more enlightening conversations about a younger Lee.
Lee saw her grin, recognized it as one of mischievous intent and began to grow curious as to its cause. "What exactly do you talk about with Emily? Or your Mother, or any woman for that matter? I mean, Iíve always wondered about the ritual of shopping." He held her hand, and her eyes, and watched closely to see how she answered his question.
"No way, Scarecrow. That is classified information. Definitely need to know. And you do not need to know." With that, she quickly pecked him on the cheek, and sauntered onto the plane.
Scarecrow stared at his wife, first in consternation, then amusement. "Hey Amanda, wait upÖ"
The next night at the Arlington home
Emily and Charles sat in the comfortable family room, watching as Lee, Phillip, and Jamie put together a model car on the card table they had set up nearby. Or rather, Lee and Phillip put it together as Jamie read them the directions and told them what they were doing wrong. They had been working on this particular project for at least half an hour, and they hadnít accomplished much more than decide that is was a sports car, and it would be silver, just like Leeís Corvette. However, they were together and enjoying themselves immensely.
"No, no, no, Phillip. The directions say that you have to take all the pieces out of the plastic, lay them out in order, and then start gluing them together. Lee, make him stop. The dufus is going to make a big mess out of everything!"
Lee looked at his younger stepson in mock disapproval. "Jamie, donít call your brother dufus."
Simultaneously, from the kitchen, came Amandaís voice as she echoed his admonition. "Jamie, do not call your brother dufus." Jamie shot his older brother Phillip a look of malice and a stealthy kick under the table. Then, he took off like a shot, and Phillip pursued immediately.
"Hey, guys, knock it off will you? We have guests, remember?" Amanda appeared in the kitchen doorway and called her request up the steps after her fleeing offspring. She shook her head, and walked to the family room to join Lee, Emily and Charles in after dinner coffee. "You know, I had hoped that Lee would have a calming effect on the boys. A steady male influence ought to be good for them."
Lee smiled a bit and replied, "Iím trying hard. Itís not my fault they make me play with them!"
Emily laughed out loud at the contrite look on his face and commiserated with Amanda. "I fear that you are fighting a losing battle, my dear."
"Emily, I think youíre right!" Amanda swatted Lee on the arm, but rewarded his errant behavior with a smile.
The four adults shared a laugh just as Phillip, Jamie, and Dotty entered the room, all wearing mysterious smiles. Phillip and Jamie whispered furtively and poked each other in ribs. Dotty shushed them and cleared her throat to call for attention.
"Uh humÖMay I have your attention, please? We, that is, myself and the boys, have a surprise for you, Amanda and Lee. I found this after you left last week, and, well, it was wrapped up and packed away so carefully, that we thought it must be special to you."
"Mother, how did you find it if it was packed away so carefully?" Amanda arched an inquisitive brow at her mother.
"Oh, well. You see, I was unpacking the boxes that you left just lying in the middle of your bedroom floor, and when I tried to put a larger one away, this one fell out, and, well, I might have opened it just a little. Anyway, I knew when I saw it that it must be special. So we took it to a repair shop, and, well, here, open it." Dotty held out a small wrapped package to Lee. "Itís sort of a 'Welcome to the House' gift, for you, and a 'Welcome Home' gift, for Amanda. Go on, open it."
Lee exchanged a glance with his wife, handed her the package with a gallant bow, and sat down beside her on the arm of her chair. Amanda looked at her family who were practically bursting with suspense as they waited for a reaction. She shrugged her thin shoulders, eloquently, and began to carefully remove the ribbon. Eventually, she had the ribbon removed, the tape peeled from the edges of the flap, and the gay red paper pulled away. She held it up to Lee, and he took over the task.
Lee pried the flaps of the box apart, and lifted out the cotton packing from around the item. As it came into view, he inhaled in astonishment. He had never seen it whole, and had never expected to. "Oh, guys, this is great."
"Lee, what is it?!" Amanda pulled his arm down, and peered into the package. "Oh, my gosh! Lee, is that Ö?"
"I think so." He lifted it out and handed it over to his wife.
She caressed the top, and swallowed hard past the lump in her throat. She fought the tears unsuccessfully and jumped up to embrace her mother and boys, before returning to Lee.
Together, they turned the key, set the small, square, blue box onto the mantle, and listened to its tune.
Lee pulled his wife into his arms, and they swayed gently to the music. Nearby, Dotty sat next to Emily Farnsworth and asked, "Do you have any idea why that is so special to them?"
"No, not exactly. But I think you have done a wonderful thing by restoring it for them." She nodded at the couple before them. "Your daughter, and your wonderful family, have made Lee so happy. Just look at them."
Dotty watched them for several silent moments. Finally, she shrugged and asked, "Who knew that ĎSomewhere over the Rainbowí could be such a romantic song?"