Here's Lookin' at You, Kid
Date Written: October 2000-June 2001
Summary: An unexpected visitor starts an interesting conversation.
Feedback: Welcomed and encouraged. You can respond to me personally or the SMK5 crew at SMK5@smkfans.com.
Disclaimer: I do not own Scarecrow and Mrs. King nor it's characters. I am simply borrowing them from Warner Bros. and Shoot the Moon Productions, the actual copyright owners. Please do not reproduce this story without the author's consent.
Author's Notes: Enormous thanks to BohemianFling (PSB and all-around best nagger), Beth J (a friend indeed when I was in need), Dix (a saving grace), and the rest of the usual suspects ( your Highnesses). Also, a tremendous amount of gratitude to Shelly for starting SMK5 and allowing me to be a part of something grand. To all of the SMK5 crew: thanks for the memories, the chats that we endured, the stories when we soared, the goofs and gaffes and stress that never left us bored...thank you sooo much. (my apologies to Bob Hope -- it's very late and I'm a bit loopay.)
The young girl crept as quietly as she could down the dark hallway. The box she was carrying was very heavy -- its contents fragile. She paused at the top of the stairs and listened for the telltale signs that someone else in the house was awake. Met with silence, she continued down the stairs, wincing when a step groaned in protest. The girl paused at the bottom of the stairs and again listened for the other occupants of the large house. Stepping to the front door and shifting the box so that she could grab the doorknob, the girl froze when a deep voice broke the silence of the house.
"Leaving without saying goodbye?"
The girl's voice quaked with fear. "Sir, I…I left a note on my bed. I want to go home, to my mom and dad."
"You have unfinished business here. You still owe me for last week's room and board."
"I will pay you back, Mr. Stancliff. Once I get to my parents' house, I'll send money."
"It's not money I need, Olivia, you know that." The man stepped from the shadows and advanced on the girl. "Don't make me use what's in that box against you. You know I have no qualms about doing what's necessary."
Before the man could get too close, Olivia jerked open the door and ran into the night, careful not to jostle the box too much. Behind her, she could hear the haunting laughter of the man who had been her salvation and her damnation.
Amanda squinted against the sun's harsh rays as she exited IFF. It had been a long night. She had finally wrapped up a nearly impossible case -- *her* case -- which meant pulling an all-nighter to finish the paperwork and debriefings. She had a few hours to get home, shower, and take a much-needed nap. Becoming a full-time agent had meant more paperwork, but she didn't mind. Not much, anyway.
Lee had left for home much earlier, citing the need to return early in the morning for some meetings. If she hurried, she might be able to give him a good morning/goodbye kiss on his way out the door.
Arriving at her Wagoneer, Amanda stifled a yawn as she opened the door and climbed into the vehicle. She leaned over and rested her head on the steering wheel. "Just five minutes to rest my eyes, then I'll go home."
She sat quietly, breathing deeply, knowing that if she didn't lift her head and start the car, she would never get home. Amanda took another breath, then jerked her head up at a noise she heard from the back of the vehicle.
"Who's there?" she asked, turning around in the seat. She saw a blanket in the back move and thought about reaching for the gun that she now kept tucked in her purse. When she saw the young girl push the blanket off herself, she was glad she hadn't made that move.
"I'm sorry," the girl started. "I just needed someplace warm for my baby and me to sleep for a few hours." She bundled up the blanket and started gathering her things. "We'll get out, just please don't call the cops."
"No! Wait," Amanda said, getting out of the driver's seat and hurrying to the back of the Wagoneer. Lifting the door, she asked, "You've got a baby back here?"
"Yes, ma'am," the girl nodded. "I'm trying
to get home."
"Can I give you a ride?"
"No!" The girl shook her head emphatically. "I don't want to be any trouble."
Amanda smiled pleasantly at her. "It’s no trouble. What's your name?"
The girl hesitated then responded, "I'm Olivia." Pointing to the squirming bundle of blankets, she said, "This is Logan."
"Well, Olivia, my name is Amanda Stetson." She held her hand out and Olivia shook it briefly, but firmly. "Why don't we stop at a restaurant, and we can have breakfast?"
Olivia smiled in relief. "That would be great."
Across the street from the IFF parking lot, a man stood in a phone booth.
"They just pulled out. Should I follow them?" he asked into the receiver.
"No, just get the license plate number and get back here. We have other business that needs attention."
The ride to the diner was quiet. Amanda kept sneaking glances at Olivia. She could tell something was bothering the young girl.
"Look, I can tell something's wrong. Maybe I can help," she offered.
"I don't think so," Olivia replied, taking a deep breath. "I'm in a lot of trouble, and some people may be after Logan and me. I just want to get someplace safe for a while."
"You really won't let me take you home." Amanda stated matter-of-factly. When Olivia shook her head 'no', Amanda said, "I didn't think so."
Inside the diner, Amanda watched the young girl eat quickly. Amanda wasn't very hungry. All that she really wanted was sleep.
When Olivia finished her food, Amanda asked, "Why don't you tell me about your problem?"
Olivia shook her head. "I'm pretty certain he's after me. He…he doesn't let people go easily."
"Who is 'he?'" Amanda asked.
The young girl leaned over the table and whispered, "Mr. Stancliff."
"Does he have a first name?" Amanda asked.
The young girl shrugged. "We only knew him as Mr. Stancliff."
"Why would he be after you?" she questioned.
Logan chose that particular moment to let out an ear-piercing wail. Olivia began to rock back and forth, cradling Logan in her arms.
"I have an idea," Amanda said. "Let's go to my house. I need a shower and a change of clothes."
Reluctantly, Olivia agreed.
"Mother, I'm home! I've brought some company!" Amanda yelled as she entered the house. Olivia, carrying Logan, followed close behind.
"Amanda, darling, I--" Dotty came from the kitchen to greet her daughter and stopped mid-sentence when she saw their 'company.' Dotty's gaze fell on little Logan. "Oh, he's adorable," she cooed, stepping closer to young woman and her baby. Holding out her hands and looking at Olivia, she asked, "May I?" At Olivia's nod, Dotty took Logan. She spent a few seconds admiring the precious infant.
Amanda smiled at her mother; this was the reaction she had expected. "Mother, this is Olivia, and her son, Logan. Olivia, this is my mother, Dotty West."
Dotty's eyes never left Logan, but she spoke to the young woman. "Hello, Olivia, it's nice to meet you and Logan."
"Hello, Mrs. West," Olivia replied, smiling at the older woman. "Logan sure seems to like you."
"I bet his grandmother just spoils him rotten."
Olivia spoke quietly. "She hasn't seen him for a while."
"Oh, that's too bad," Dotty replied, meeting the girl's eyes. "You really should take him to see his grandmother."
"I plan on it," Olivia agreed, "just as soon as I can."
"Mother," Amanda interrupted. "Why don't we move into the family room?"
"Of course," Dotty answered. "Where are my manners?"
An hour later, Dotty was gone, and Logan was asleep. Olivia sat quietly on the couch waiting for Amanda to come downstairs after showering. She thought briefly of telling Amanda a false story, but something told Olivia that she could trust this woman.
Amanda smiled as she walked into the room and looked at Logan. "Well, I see the little guy is asleep."
Olivia returned the smile when Amanda sat down next to her. "I don't know who was more tired, Logan or your mom."
"She does love babies." A silence fell between the two. "So, are you going to tell me why you're running?"
"Mrs. Stetson, I'm in trouble." The young girl paused, and her next statement came out in a whisper. "If I don't do what I'm told, he'll kill Logan."
Amanda reached over and placed her hand on Olivia's arm. "No one is going to kill Logan. Now, tell me everything from the beginning."
Olivia took a deep breath and began her tale. "When I found out that I was pregnant, I panicked. I had just turned sixteen, and I didn't know how my parents would react. I waited a few months, until I started showing, saving as much money as I could, then I ran away. It's probably the second stupidest thing I've ever done."
Amanda patted the young girl's arm and gave her a small smile. "It's all right; we all make mistakes."
Olivia nodded, and continued. "I didn't know where to go, or what to do. I lived on the street for a couple of weeks, but I knew that wouldn't be good for me, or my baby. So I started looking into adoption agencies." Olivia stood and walked over to where Logan was sleeping. She crouched down next to him and softly rubbed his head.
"I'd heard of places that would take me in, give me some place to live, food, medical care. I just had to find one. Word got out that I was looking." She stood and began walking nervously around the room. "One day, an older gentleman approached me. He told me his name was Mr. Stancliff, and that he helped young girls in my…situation. I was scared and had nowhere else to go, so I listened to what he had to say. He would take me into his home, along with a couple of other girls he was helping. He would provide everything I was looking for, including a way to keep my baby. He felt it was better for a baby to be with his natural mother. Mr. Stancliff said he lets the mothers stay with him until they can manage on their own, no matter how long it takes."
Amanda nodded in understanding. "What did he expect in return?"
Olivia turned and faced Amanda, a sad smile on her face. "We worked for him. We did odd jobs, delivered messages, packages. Basically, whatever he wanted. We never questioned him. He gave us money, too, just like we were working real jobs. Whenever we tried to pay him rent, he would tell us to save the money so that someday we could move out on our own and be 'self-sufficient.'"
"Sounds like a perfect situation," Amanda said.
"It was," Olivia responded with a tremor in her voice. She clasped and unclasped her hands in front of her. "Until one of the girls never came back from a delivery. We…we heard on the news that a Jane Doe had been found, shot. We knew from the description that it was Darla. Mrs. Stetson, her baby was only three months old. It was supposed to be her last job for Mr. Stancliff before she moved into her own apartment."
Amanda stood and walked over to Olivia, placing her arm gently around the girl's shoulders and steering her toward the couch. "What happened to her baby?" she asked as they sat.
"We're not sure. We all went to sleep one night, and when we woke up the next morning, the baby was gone."
"Mr. Stancliff never told you what happened," Amanda stated.
Olivia shook her head, trying to stop the tears that were filling her eyes. "No. Some of the girls who had been there for a while told us that this wasn't the first time that someone had disappeared. Mr. Stancliff never said anything about any of the girls that left. He told us to forget about them, to 'move forward' with our lives."
"So, why did you leave?" Amanda asked quietly.
Olivia took a shaky breath and said, "I was getting ready for a delivery. I went to Mr. Stancliff's office and overheard him talking to some men. I couldn't understand them; they were speaking another language."
"Do you have any idea what language?" Amanda asked.
"What did you do?"
"I ran downstairs. I didn't want him to think I was spying on him."
Amanda nodded. "But he knew."
"Yes. He approached me later that night and told me that my delivery the next day would cover any expenses I had left. Then he said that I shouldn't plan on coming back to the house. I didn't know if that meant he was kicking me out, or if I *wouldn't* be returning to the house. I panicked. That night, I packed Logan and some of our things in a box. I tried to leave without anyone knowing, but Mr. Stancliff was waiting for me at the door. I ran, and ended up in your Jeep."
"It's all right," Amanda said softly. "I'm glad you did. Maybe I can help you."
"No!" Olivia stood and shook her head ardently. "I don't want to put you in danger. I've probably already done that. So, when Logan wakes up, we’ll leave."
"No, you won't. I can help you," Amanda stated firmly. She stood next to Olivia and placed her hands on the girl's shoulders. "If something illegal is going on at Mr. Stancliff's, the authorities should know."
"No 'buts,'" Amanda said, enforcing her words with her eyes. "Just trust me. I can help you."
Olivia smiled weakly, and nodded in agreement.
"Tell you what, I bet you could use a good nap." Amanda flashed an encouraging smile. "Why don't you go upstairs and lie down for a little while. I'll take care of Logan; I'm pretty good at that."
Amanda watched Olivia disappear up the stairs. She waited a few minutes before picking up the phone and calling Lee.
"Amanda, where have you been?" Lee asked worriedly. "I expected to see you at least for a minute this morning."
Amanda smiled at his tone. "Something came up, and I had to help a friend."
"You *should* be sleeping," he said firmly.
"I know," Amanda agreed, "but I think I might have something."
"What? A cold?" Lee asked.
"No, Lee," Amanda answered, exasperated. "Didn't Mr. Melrose say something in the Monday morning briefing about a courier service using young girls? No one knows who they are, or where they're from?"
Lee hesitated before answering. "Yeah, I think he did mention that. So?"
"I think I know who they are and how to find them."
"How?" he asked.
"I'll explain later," Amanda said. "Let Billy know that I might have a lead, and get the case files together for me. Please?"
"All right," Lee relented, "but I want to know *how* you know."
"I'll explain later. Right now," Amanda said as she stifled a yawn, "a couple hours sleep sounds pretty good."
When he wasn't in meetings, Lee had been gathering the information his partner had requested. It was just after lunch, and he was expecting her in at any time. On his way to the Q-Bureau to wait for her, he perused some of the files he was carrying.
He opened the door to the office he shared with his partner and wife and stopped. There before him sat his wife, holding a…baby. He leaned against the doorframe and watched her for a moment while she talked to and played with the infant.
After a minute, Amanda realized that it wasn't Olivia who had entered the office. She turned to find her husband staring, mouth upturned in a slight smile, at her.
"Well, hello," Amanda said quietly. "Why don't you come over here and meet this little fella?"
Lee stood up straight, his expression turning serious. He cleared his throat. "Ah, no…no, I'm fine right here."
Amanda smiled at his shyness. "Lee, just come over here. He won't bite." She grinned at him. "He doesn't even have any teeth yet."
Reluctantly, Lee nodded. Walking to her desk and laying down the files he had been holding, he leaned over her shoulder to get a closer look at the tiny person Amanda held in her arms.
Amanda watched her husband's face as he leaned over the baby. She whispered, "Lee Stetson, meet Logan. Logan, *this* is the mighty Scarecrow," she finished with a low chuckle.
Lee looked at her, narrowing his eyes. "Funny," he remarked smartly. He returned his attention to the baby, who returned Lee's gaze.
The three stayed that way for a few minutes, Amanda watching Lee; Lee studying Logan; Logan inspecting Lee.
Amanda broke the silence. "Wanna hold him?" she asked.
"Who? Me?" Lee asked, eyes widening.
Amanda nodded. "Mm-hmm."
"No." Lee backed away from her desk and moved to his. Sitting down in his chair, he said nervously, "I don't need to hold him. I think he's just fine where he is."
"Oh, come on, Lee. He's just a baby." Amanda carried Logan to her husband. Trying to place the infant in Lee's arms, she said, "Just hold out your arms."
Swallowing hard, Lee did as he was told. When the baby was placed in his hands, he stiffened, afraid he might drop the fragile cargo.
"Relax, Lee," Amanda smiled. "You'll be fine, and so will Logan." She stood after making sure that Lee had a firm but gentle grasp of the baby. Stepping back, she watched her husband slowly relax when he realized that nothing terrible was going to happen.
"Hey," Lee said. "This isn't so bad."
"No, it's not," Amanda agreed.
"He's soft," Lee whispered, then crinkled his nose. "And he smells…funny."
Amanda softly chuckled. "That's just a normal baby smell."
"You mean they all smell this way?" he asked.
"Generally," Amanda nodded.
"Oh." Lee paused, watching Logan carefully. "He doesn't do much."
Amanda shook her head. "Not yet, he doesn't. In a couple of months, he'll be more active."
Lee nodded his understanding.
Amanda took a deep breath and moved swiftly to the door. Glancing back at Lee, she laughed at the look of terror that crossed his face.
"Calm down," she said soothingly. "I'm just going to check on Olivia; she went to the bathroom."
"What…what if he…what do I…?" Lee stammered.
"If he cries, try rocking him back and forth. If that doesn't work, give him this," she said, placing the bottle of milk on Lee's desk.
"That's it?" he asked incredulously.
"For now," Amanda said.
"Okay," Lee responded uncertainly. "Hurry back," he quickly added.
"I won't be long," she assured him.
He sat for a moment or two, just watching the little person he was holding. Logan carefully watched Lee's face; Lee felt a little uneasy under the scrutiny of the infant. It was as if Logan knew how uncomfortable Lee was while holding him.
Lee decided to break the silence that had fallen on the room. "So, you're a baby."
Logan blinked his wide eyes.
"You don't talk much," Lee said. He looked down at the baby's legs, noticing how they just sort of rested on his own arm. "Guess you don't walk yet, either, huh? So, we'll just sit here, nice and quiet, until Amanda comes back, okay?"
As if sensing what Lee wanted, Logan, in typical baby fashion, did just the opposite: he let out a piercing wail that would have shattered crystal.
Amanda hesitated at the door to the Q-Bureau. She hadn't meant to be gone so long, but Mr. Melrose had been in the hall when she and Olivia had come out of the bathroom. He wanted to start debriefing Olivia immediately, so Amanda went with them to make sure the young girl was as comfortable as possible, under the circumstances.
Placing her hand on the doorknob, she wondered why it was so quiet in the office, and why she hadn't received any frantic phone calls from Lee. Taking a deep breath, she swung the door open and saw…Lee Stetson holding a peacefully sleeping Logan.
"Shhh," Lee whispered. "He just fell asleep a few minutes ago."
Amanda walked over to Lee and sat on the corner of his desk. "Looks like you two got along pretty well."
Lee laughed gently as he met her gaze. "Once we established who was in charge, things settled down."
Amanda's eyes widened in wonder.
Lee looked down at Logan. "He's a demanding boss, but as long as you give him what he wants, he's pretty easy to get along with."
Amanda laughed softly, watching how gently her husband held the baby. Noticing the empty baby bottle on the desk, she reached over and picked it up, holding it for Lee to see.
He answered her unspoken question. "He assures me it was a *very* good vintage."
Billy gestured to the map lying in the center of the table. "We've got teams watching the main drop locations that Olivia told us about," he informed his agents, who were seated around the table. "We're trying to set up a stakeout on Stancliff's home, but it's in an isolated area."
"Any vacant houses in the area?" Lee asked.
"Two, actually," Francine interjected. "Very conveniently located at the ends of his street."
Amanda hesitated, then asked, "Wouldn't it seem a little suspicious to have either house filled so soon after Olivia escaped?"
Billy nodded. "Exactly why we're not going that route. We watch the other locations -- see who shows up, who deals, who doesn't."
Lee nodded in agreement. "Olivia has been looking at mug shots to see if she recognizes anyone."
"Any luck yet?" Billy asked.
Lee stood and reached his hand out for Amanda's. "We were just about to go find out."
Smiling, Amanda took Lee's outstretched hand and allowed him to lead her to the door. She stepped through after he opened the door for her, pausing when she heard Billy.
"Yeah?" Lee stopped and turned.
Billy smiled. "How was the little guy after I left?"
Lee froze then smiled half-heartedly. "Ah…fine, Billy. Just fine. Thanks for asking."
As Lee turned to leave, Billy could see the smirk that Amanda now wore. He laughed as the door closed on Lee's, "Amanda, I can explain…"
"Are you positive?" Amanda asked Olivia. They were looking at a picture of a face very familiar to Lee and Amanda.
"Yeah. I've met with this man several times. Some of the other girls have, too. He asked us if we wanted to be mud wrestlers." Olivia giggled. "He was really goofy."
Amanda nodded and laughed with the young girl. "That's Auggie."
Lee smiled. "I think it's time to have a little talk with my favorite snitch."
"Auggie! Auggie, are you here?" Lee called while he and Amanda navigated through the old junk heaps and car parts littering the lot in front of the garage. "Auggie!"
Amanda stopped and pointed. Lee followed the path of Amanda's outstretched finger to see a pair of feet sticking out from under a limousine. He walked over and kicked the feet.
"Hey!" came the muffled reply. "That can be a dangerous thing to do when a guy's laying under two tons of steel." Auggie slowly rolled out from under the car. Seeing who the kicker was, Auggie immediately smiled and sat up, exclaiming, "Lee! My man!"
Auggie held up his hand, which Lee promptly grabbed, immediately regretting doing so. Auggie's hand had been covered in grease. Lee snatched a rag from the grease monkey's coverall pocket, then forcefully wiped his hand.
"Sorry 'bout that, Lee." Auggie said, wincing. Noticing Amanda standing there, Auggie turned his 'gentlemanly' charms on her. "Mrs. King--" Auggie stopped, sensing Lee's glare before seeing it. "I mean, Mrs. Stetson--" Amanda's raised eyebrows caused Auggie to stop again. "Mrs. King-Stetson? Mrs. Stetson-King?"
"Auggie," Amanda interrupted. "Why don't you just call me Amanda?"
Lee loudly cleared his throat and said, "Enough chit-chat. We need some information, Auggie. I think you know about who."
"Lee," Auggie whined. "You're gonna get me killed. This guy doesn't play. He's dangerous."
Amanda shrugged. "So why get mixed up with him in the first place?"
"Well," Auggie smiled guiltily, "there's a lot of money at stake with a man like that."
Lee was getting impatient. He started to run his hand through his hair then paused, remembering the grease that the snitch had so willingly offered. "Come on, Auggie. Talk. What do you know about Stancliff?"
"Well, you know," Auggie started slowly, rubbing the ends of his index and middle fingers against his thumb, "if I tell you *anything,* he's gonna find out."
Lee narrowed his eyes and reached into his pocket.
Auggie grinned at Amanda. "I gotta have something to show for all my trouble. After all, I am an information broker."
Lee peeled a couple of bills off the roll of money he had pulled from his pocket and slapped them into Auggie's hand. "You're a *snitch,* Auggie. Talk." He stuffed the rest of the money back into his pocket.
"Lee," Auggie frowned and covered his heart with his hand. "I'm hurt that you think so little of me."
"Auggie," Lee growled. He pulled the money back out and tore off two more bills, shoving them against the snitch's chest. "Now talk!" he demanded.
Randolph Stancliff looked up from his work and focused his eyes on the door. Heavy drapes covered the large windows behind his desk, leaving the office dark, save for a lamp on the desk illuminating his work area. Stancliff reached to the side of his desk and flipped a switch, which turned on several more lights.
Stancliff took in the appearance of the short, stocky man standing just inside the door. His hair was thinning on top, his belly protruding over his belt, and his clothes looked as if he had slept in them. Not exactly the appearance Stancliff would have chosen for someone who had become a trusted employee, and who sometimes represented Stancliff's interests in his absence. Despite his apparent weaknesses, Max somehow always got the job done.
"Max." Stancliff used the man's name as a greeting. "I thought I gave you an assignment this morning."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Stancliff, you did," the short man licked his lips nervously and shuffled from foot to foot. "I thought you might want to know that I think some of the drop locations are being watched."
Stancliff sighed. His employee was a smart man, well able to think on his feet, but Stancliff enjoyed intimidating people, especially those who worked for him. "I don't pay you to think, Max. Are they being watched, or not?"
"Well," Max began, then cleared his throat. "Of the six locations I scouted this afternoon, two had more people than usual. They were just kind of standin' around, some of 'em readin' newspapers, some that looked like they were just waitin' for somethin' to happen."
Randolph Stancliff grinned ferally as Max seemed to shrink under his intense glare. He spoke slowly and confidently. "Are they being watched, Max?"
The shorter man swallowed hard. "Yes, sir, I'd say that they were bein' watched."
"Then relocate all drops scheduled for those two locations." Stancliff waved his hand in dismissal and returned to his work. "Now is not the time to be sloppy, Max. It's business as usual."
"But, that girl!" Max exclaimed, taking a step forward. "She got away. What if she brings the Feds in here?"
"Relax, Max," Stancliff replied, smirking at his own rhyme. "The 'Feds,' as you call them, will not come here. As long as those girls are upstairs with their babies, I am safe."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Stancliff." Max nodded and turned as if to leave the room, but stopped when his boss spoke again.
"Oh, Max? Please contact Korylov's people and have him meet me here." He smiled at Max's hesitation. Although he was a smart man, Max was weak when it came down to taking care of business.
"But…Mr. Stancliff, you never have anyone meet you here."
Stancliff lifted his head and looked at Max with eyes aflame with malevolence. "Plans have changed, Max. As soon as the deal with Korylov is complete, you and I will be moving."
"Yes, Mr. Stancliff." Max turned to leave the room, swinging back around to stare with wide eyes when he realized what his boss meant.
"Auggie says Stancliff started out as an information broker, too," Lee said, leaning against the doorframe in Billy's office. "The difference is that Stancliff took bigger risks, made more money."
"What exactly does he deal?" Billy asked.
"Anything that people will pay a lot of money to get their hands on," Amanda supplied, placing a folder on the desk in front of her boss. "He's sold information as trivial as the itineraries of low-level government officials, all the way up to preliminary plans for the Strategic Defense Initiative."
"Star Wars?" Billy questioned.
"Yeah, Billy," Lee confirmed. "The guy's got his hands in everything. He's worked up quite a network of contacts. The President doesn't go to the bathroom without Stancliff finding out about it."
"So he's getting inside information."
"Apparently, sir," Amanda verified. "And not just from the White House, but from Congress, the Pentagon, and any number of companies that might have a government contract, or contact with a company that does."
Billy leaned back in his chair, deep in thought. "So why haven't we heard about him before?"
Lee began pacing. "There've been rumors, Billy. Always something insubstantial, something that we can't confirm. We've never tried to tie it all together before, but it makes sense now." Lee stopped and faced his boss. "He's been using these girls as couriers because no one would suspect a sixteen-year-old girl of something like this."
Billy nodded slowly. "I'm beginning to see all the connections myself. Now we just need to figure out what to do about it."
"Excuse me, sir," Amanda began, glancing from Billy to Lee and back again. "We can't just barge into his house, not with all those girls and their babies inside. Someone is bound to get hurt."
"We've got to move carefully," Billy agreed. "Stancliff would be just the type to use those girls as a shield." He hesitated, searching his mind for a place to begin. "Lee, do you think that any more of your contacts would have information on Stancliff?"
"I'll check, Billy. T.P. might be able to shed a little light on this whole thing."
"Sir," Amanda interrupted. "If you don't mind, I'd like to take Olivia and Logan home. They've been here all day."
Billy smiled. "Certainly, Amanda, but I don't think they should be at your house."
Before Amanda could voice her protest, Lee spoke. "Billy's right." He moved to stand by her chair, then knelt down next to her and grasped her hands in his. "If Stancliff has as many eyes and ears as we think we does, that could be putting our family in danger."
Amanda's eyes met Lee's and held them for a moment. Her house had been used so much for Agency business that she just took it all in stride. A few weeks ago, Lee had balked at the idea of Marvin Metz staying there. He had been outvoted. This time, though, Amanda couldn't deny the look in his eyes. He was afraid of the man called Stancliff, afraid for her family -- their family. Finally, she nodded in agreement.
Billy cleared his throat, startling the couple, and started issuing instructions. "Amanda, why don't you get them settled in a safe house and take the first watch. Lee can relieve you later tonight, and I'll send Francine over in the morning to take a shift. Let's keep this between the four of us. We don't need to give Stancliff an opportunity to find out what we're doing."
Max sat in his car outside the IFF building. The weather was hot and muggy, and he'd had to turn off the air conditioner for fear of overheating the car. He'd been sitting in the same spot for over an hour waiting for that woman to show. Her vehicle was in the parking lot, so Max knew that she was in the building.
Seeing the woman and the young girl come out of the building caused Max to sit up straighter in his seat. As he watched them walk to the woman's vehicle, he started his own car, sighing in relief when the cool air from the vents brushed across his sweat-soaked face. After the woman's Wagoneer had pulled into traffic, Max allowed two cars to pass him before he, too, entered the stream of cars moving down the street. He followed as discreetly as possible, always keeping cars in between them.
After driving for what seemed like hours in the never-ending traffic, and almost losing the woman several times, Max was grateful that she was finally pulling over to the curb. He drove past the house she was parked in front of and turned at the next corner. He now had the street sign and house number. Mr. Stancliff would be pleased.
Amanda exited her vehicle and stopped after closing the door. She took what she hoped would be a cleansing and relaxing deep breath. She seemed to remember that Phillip and Jamie had enjoyed car rides when they were babies, even falling asleep most of the time. Logan, on the other hand, had cried nearly nonstop since they'd driven away from the Agency. Amanda quickly walked around to the passenger side of the car to help Olivia. This morning, the young girl had had almost nothing with her but the clothes on her back and a few blankets and t-shirts for Logan. Leatherneck had been able to scrounge together more clothes for Olivia and a few outfits and toys for Logan.
Upon entering the house, Amanda set down the items that she carried in, then instructed Olivia to remain at the front door. Amanda placed her hand on the gun tucked into the waistband of her jeans. She systematically checked all the rooms for any unwanted occupants. Finding none, she went back to the front door, where she'd left a worried Olivia and a fussy Logan. She smiled warmly at Olivia and said, "Let's get the two of you settled in."
"I have the address, Mr. Stancliff," Max said into the telephone receiver.
"Very good, Max," Stancliff responded.
Max winced at the derogatory tone his boss used. "What do I do now?" he asked.
"You get the address to me and then continue on your normal business. I will personally see to the details in this matter."
"But, Mr. Stancliff--"
"Max, I know of your dislike for such things, and I wouldn't want anything to go wrong. I will handle this."
"Yes, Mr. Stancliff," Max replied solemnly. He hung up the phone and sighed deeply. He'd turned a blind eye to these things for years. What difference would one more make?
By the time Lee arrived at the house two hours later, Amanda and Olivia had fixed a bed for Logan and given him a bath. Olivia had been able to enjoy a long soak in a tub full of hot water. When Lee walked in the front door, he found Amanda sitting on the couch, her feet propped on the coffee table, Logan lying on her legs.
"Hi," he said softly, walking into the room.
"Hello," Amanda responded. She spoke to Lee, but she never took her eyes from Logan. "We were wondering when you were gonna get here."
"'We'?" he questioned as he sat down on the couch beside her. He reached out and took one of Logan's hands in his own.
Amanda laughed. "Sure. This little guy needs a male influence." The look that Lee shot her made her laugh even more. When she stopped, she asked, "What did Mother say when you dropped by the house to pick up our things?"
"She's worried about us, but she's more worried about Olivia and Logan." Lee smiled at the baby, who had tightly gripped onto Lee's finger while he had been talking.
His smile didn't go unnoticed by Amanda. "Anything else?" she wanted to know. She knew her mother; there had to have been more than that.
"Not really," Lee replied nonchalantly. "Just a dozen or so comments about how nice it was to have a baby in the house again."
Amanda hung her head in exasperation. "Mother…" she said resignedly.
"Oh," Lee added, "she mentioned how well I'd stepped into the role of father for the boys."
"Not very subtle, is she?" Amanda asked, meeting Lee's eyes with her own. An unusual sense of unease settled between the couple. This was a topic that neither had brought up, but apparently one which both had been thinking about for a while.
Amanda tore her gaze from Lee's. She didn't think she was quite ready for this discussion, especially not with Logan in her lap. Speaking quickly and changing the subject, she asked, "Did T.P. have any information on Stancliff?"
She couldn't tell from the look on Lee's face whether he was grateful or disappointed that she had avoided delving any deeper into that issue. She suspected it was a little of both, much like her own feelings right now.
"Yeah," Lee responded, removing his finger from Logan's grip and rising from the couch. "After I called him this afternoon, he did a little more searching."
"Definitely." As Lee focused more on the case, he began pacing. "Do you remember Alexi Korylov?"
Amanda searched her memory for a moment. "Wasn't he the Russian agent that was caught selling Soviet secrets to the U.S?"
"That's him. He was sent to Russia to stand trial for treason." Lee paused his pacing and faced his wife. "He's back."
"He's back?" she repeated, her eyebrows rising questioningly.
"Yeah," Lee answered, then he resumed his pacing. "He convinced the Kremlin that he was only doing it to earn the trust of a *certain* American."
"Stancliff," Amanda said with certainty.
"Right." Lee stopped and smiled at her. "He claimed that he never gave Stancliff anything that the U.S. government wouldn't have found out on its own within a year."
"So, why is he here?"
"It seems as if Stancliff has been hoarding information, things that aren't intended to see the light of day for 30 years or more, according to government regulations. He stands to make a tidy sum of money from Korylov, who now has the financial backing of the Soviet Union."
Amanda shifted Logan to her shoulder and started rocking back and forth, patting him on the back. "Did TP know when Stancliff will pass the information to Korylov?"
"All that he could find out tonight was that it would be some time tomorrow. He said he'd call if he got anything definite." Lee watched Amanda closely. "Time for bed?"
"I think so," she replied, moving the baby into her arms. "He had a late nap, but he's had a very difficult day." Amanda could tell that Lee was distracted by her actions with Logan. She stifled the smirk trying to form on her face.
Lee cleared his throat, trying to stay on track. "Ah, I talked to Billy on the way over here. He's assigned a few agents to see what they can do about finding out when the meet will take place -- so, you just rock him like that?" He'd been derailed; he was fascinated at the apparent ease with which Amanda handled Logan.
"Sometimes. Babies like to be rocked to sleep." Amanda was amazed at her husband's wonder regarding the baby. She knew that he had not spent much time with infants. "You wanna try it?" she asked him.
Lee's eyes widened, and he shook his head 'no' at the same time that he sat on the couch and reached out to hold Logan. Amanda laughed out loud at Lee's conflict. She couldn't help but wonder what he would be like with his own child. Her laughter slowly faded away. He'd once made a couple of comments about 'his kids,' but they'd never really discussed having their own.
Amanda gently placed Logan into her husband's waiting arms. Lee still handled the baby just as carefully as he had at the office earlier. She watched him settle into a more comfortable position on the couch and place Logan against his shoulder. When Lee started trying to rock back and forth and pat the baby's back at the same time, he couldn't do it. Amanda started to laugh, which she quickly turned into a cough. She didn't want to bruise his fragile ego at this point.
After a few minutes of peaceful quiet, Amanda stifled a yawn. The rest that she'd gotten from the short nap she'd taken that morning was dwindling away. She glanced at Lee, noting the contentment on his face.
He smiled at her and whispered, "Why don't you go lie down? You need sleep."
She glanced at Logan and noticed that he hadn't gone to sleep yet. She started to take him from Lee, but her husband gently shook his head.
"I'll take care of him," he told her. "I just have to put him in his bed when he's asleep, right?"
"Are you sure?" she asked. Lee nodded his confirmation. Amanda placed a light kiss on his cheek. She was a little stunned at Lee's willingness to take care of Logan. Was there no end to the surprises this man would have in store for her the rest of their lives?
Francine stood in the doorway, mouth agape, eyes wide. The sight before her was one she'd never seen before, one that she'd never expected to see. Lee Stetson was holding a baby. Not only was he holding a baby, he was playing with said baby. The squeals of delight he elicited from the infant pierced Francine to the core.
"Well, good morning, Francine," Lee said cheerily. The twinkle in his eyes and the faint smirk on his face let her know that her reaction had not gone unnoticed. She quickly composed herself and strode purposefully into the room.
Setting her purse on the coffee table, she spoke in as business-like a tone as she could muster. "Good morning, Lee. I trust everything has been quiet -- well, as quiet as can be expected with one of those --" she gestured dismissively toward Logan "-- around."
"Oh, everything has been perfect. Right, Logan?" Lee asked Logan as he rose from the couch. Francine noticed how relaxed and natural Lee looked carrying the baby around the room. Her heart nearly skipped a beat when he stopped in front of her and tried to place the infant in her arms.
"What are you--?" she sputtered, her arms automatically reaching out to take the squirming bundle.
"He's all yours, Francine," Lee said with a flourish and a wink and placed Logan in her outstretched arms.
"I can't -- I'm not --" she stammered. She held the baby as far away from herself as she could.
"Good morning, Francine," Amanda remarked when she walked into the living room. She pointedly ignored the other woman's apparent predicament. "Olivia will be out in a few minutes; she's on the phone." Although Amanda tried to hide it, Francine caught the devilish grin on the other woman's face.
Lee and Amanda quickly gathered their things, ignoring Francine as she followed them through the room trying to hand Logan to one of them. Finally reaching the door, Amanda opened it and stepped onto the porch.
"Goodbye, Francine," she said.
As Lee got to the door, he turned and stopped short. Francine was right behind him. "Have a good time," he told her and promptly closed the door.
"I *will* get you back! Both of you!" Francine called out to the already-gone agents. She stood for moment and just looked at Logan as he squirmed in her grasp. A smile slowly spread across her face, and she pulled the baby into her arms. "Shows what they know," she said to him in a conspiratorial whisper. "They aren't the only ones who can keep secrets." And Francine spent the next few minutes playing with Logan.
"You know that Francine will have her revenge," Lee told Amanda as he drove his car through the quiet neighborhood. "We'll have to watch our backs for a while." His serious tone belied the humor that lay just under the surface. The self-satisfied grin he wore indicated that he was pleased with the way things had gone back at the safehouse.
Amanda's expression mirrored his. "I know."
"If she ever finds out that it was your idea, *you* are gonna be in big trouble," he warned.
"I know," Amanda repeated. She secretly suspected that Francine would enjoy spending time with Logan. She hoped so, anyway, or else she'd need to keep a close eye on Francine for some time.
The car phone rang, startling both agents. Amanda quickly answered it. "Hello … we just left … no, sir … yes, sir … on our way." Hanging up the phone, she said to Lee, "We need to go back--now."
Immediately, Lee made a U-turn then asked, "What happened?"
"An anonymous call came into the Agency," she told him, her voice tinged with worry. "Stancliff knows where Olivia is, and he's sent someone after her."
The car screeched to halt in front of the house. Lee and Amanda quickly exited the vehicle and started toward the house. At the sound of a gunshot, both agents dropped into a crouch and reached for their own guns. Silently, Lee directed Amanda to go in the front door; he would go around to the back of the house. She nodded her understanding and crept slowly to the front of the house, counting to ten to give Lee enough time to get in position.
Peering in the window, Amanda's eyes widened when she noticed an unconscious Francine sprawled on the floor near the front door. She also saw Olivia, whose eyes darted from side to side. On her right, Logan lay in an infant carrier. To her left stood a tall, masked man pointing a gun at the baby. Amanda, expecting the worst, burst through the front door at the same time that Lee barreled his way in the back door. The masked man's eyes reflected his shock at the intrusion of the two agents. Shock was quickly replaced with a look of frightening determination. The man squeezed the trigger of his gun. Olivia dove in front of Logan, her left side jerking backward from the impact of the bullet. At the same time, Lee took aim and fired at the intruder. The man slammed into the wall behind him, then slowly slid to the floor.
Amanda ran to Logan and checked him over quickly but carefully. Verifying that he was fine, she breathed a sigh of relief, which caught in her throat as her gaze fell on Olivia. The girl was unconscious, a red stain spreading across her chest.
"…and he threw Francine into the wall headfirst, knocking her unconscious. You two showed up right after that," Billy said, concluding the explanation of what happened at the safehouse up to the point when Lee and Amanda arrived there. "Francine is down in the E.R. right now. She has a nasty bump on her head and a slight concussion, but she'll be fine."
Lee nodded. "Do you know who the caller was this morning?"
"Not yet," Billy answered. He opened a file on his desk and summarized the information contained inside. "We managed to trace the call to a pay phone in the middle of D.C. The boys down in the lab couldn't get any clean fingerprints from the phone booth."
Amanda shook her head in mystification. "How did Stancliff know where we were?"
"We don't know that, either, but it's not your fault," the section chief told her, holding her gaze for a moment until she gave a small nod. "Did you get in touch with your mother?"
"Yes, sir. She should be here any minute." Amanda hesitantly added, "Are you sure she'll be safe here with Logan?"
"We'll have guards posted downstairs, more at each elevator, two outside Olivia's room, and another in the nurse's station just in case."
"Thank you, sir."
Billy nodded and was about to continue the conversation when a frantic Dotty West exited the elevator.
"Amanda!?" she called, her voice trembling.
"Over here, Mother," Amanda answered, excusing herself from the current conversation with a nod. She led Dotty into Olivia's room, and there they found both occupants sound asleep: Olivia on the hospital bed and Logan in a crib supplied by the hospital.
Dotty immediately hurried to the crib to check on Logan. Softly rubbing the top of his head, she whispered, "Thank goodness he wasn't hurt."
"Olivia protected him," Amanda announced proudly. "She jumped between Logan and the gunman."
Satisfied that the infant was unharmed and sleeping peacefully, Dotty walked to Olivia's bedside. She picked up the young girl's hand and stroked the back of it soothingly. "She will be all right, won't she?"
Amanda smiled at her mother. She was always so concerned about everyone's welfare and took it to heart when someone she cared for was hurt. "She'll be fine, Mother. She'll have to stay here for a few days, though."
"What about Logan?" Dotty asked, glancing again at the little boy who lay sleeping.
"Olivia called her parents early this morning. They were making arrangements for Olivia and Logan to get home." Amanda paused, thinking back to the phone conversation she'd had with Olivia's parents. Moving to stand next to her mother, she said, "I called them again just a few minutes ago, and they'll be here by lunchtime tomorrow."
Dotty nodded, and then she leaned toward her daughter and whispered conspiratorially, "Why am *I* here, Amanda?"
Amanda couldn't help but laugh. Her mother's hushed tones sounded so much like her own when she'd first started helping Lee. "Well, Olivia woke up for a short time and asked what was going to happen to Logan. When we told her that we'd be bringing someone into the room to look after him, she requested you. Since you already knew them, Mr. Melrose agreed."
"Will we be safe here? I mean, you took them to a 'safehouse' and this happened --"
"Mother!" Her mother had a valid point. If Stancliff were to find out where they were, things could get pretty dangerous. Pushing aside her own fears and putting her trust in Billy's judgement, she comforted her mother. "There are guards posted everywhere. Besides, we hope to get this wrapped up by tonight. You should only be here for a few hours."
Dotty hesitated a moment, and Amanda knew that she was trying to assess how much trust Amanda had in her own words. She hoped she'd learned to hide her own fears as well as Lee hid his. She must have, because her mother nodded, accepting her words. They both lapsed into silence while they watched Olivia and Logan sleep.
"How does someone so innocent and naïve get mixed up in the spy business?" Dotty whispered.
Amanda thought back to her own first foray into the world of espionage. While she couldn't claim complete innocence in all things, her naivete regarding the activities of the intelligence community was astounding. Most people never knew about the things that happened every day all around them. Most never suspected how many times this country, even the world, had been 'on the brink.' She wondered exactly when she'd lost her own 'innocence,' when she'd become so…jaded.
"I don't know, Mother," she replied pensively. "If I ever figure it out, I'll let you know."
Dotty turned to her, and Amanda saw on her mother's face the realization that the question could almost apply to her daughter as well as Olivia. Before Dotty could say anything more, Lee opened the door.
"Amanda," he called softly. "We've got a new lead. Billy wants us to check it out."
"I'll be right there." She turned to her mother and planted a quick kiss on her cheek. "Thank you for coming, Mother. I'll call in you an hour."
Dotty nodded and smiled sadly at her daughter. Watching Amanda leave the room, she quickly called, "Be careful!"
"How's Olivia?" Lee asked, sitting on the edge of Amanda's desk.
She turned to look up at him, a small smile turning up the corners of her mouth. "She's still sleeping, but she's stable."
Amanda grinned. "He's being respectfully quiet. Mother thinks he knows Olivia is sleeping and needs her rest."
Lee chuckled. Just as he was about to speak again, Amanda's phone rang. She picked up the receiver. "Q-Bureau."
"Is this Amanda Stetson?" asked a rough male voice.
"Yes. Who's calling, please?" a bewildered Amanda asked.
"Tonight, six o'clock, Randolph Stancliff's home," the man said quickly. Amanda cradled the phone between her ear and shoulder and gestured for Lee to get a trace on the call. He moved to his desk and picked up his own phone, setting the trace in motion.
"Alexi Korylov will be there," the anonymous voice droned. "The meeting will take ten minutes. Five minutes later, Stancliff's home will explode. Seven young women and four babies will be in the house at the time."
Before Amanda could speak, she heard the distinctive click of the line being disconnected. Speechless at what was just revealed to her, she held onto the receiver for a few seconds before slowly placing it back in the cradle. She looked hopefully to Lee, wondering if they'd managed to get a trace this time.
"It came from Stancliff's house," Lee informed her. Amanda told him of what the caller had said. Lee was stunned. Would Stancliff really blow up his house and everyone inside it? "Either someone on the inside finally developed a conscience, or we're being set up."
Max slowly and quietly placed the receiver back into the cradle. He jumped when he heard the voice at the door.
"M-Mr. Stancliff," he stammered.
"I thought you had work to do, Max?" Randolph Stancliff asked.
"Uh, yes, sir. I was…I was just checking in with some contacts," he said, gesturing to the phone.
"Of course you were, Max." Stancliff strolled to the couch and sat down. "The man I sent to kill Olivia this morning failed," he informed his employee matter-of-factly.
Max hoped the relief he felt at hearing that news didn't show through on his face. He'd wondered if his call had been in time. "What happened?" he asked.
Stancliff looked him directly in the eye. "Someone tipped off the federal agents. Have you any idea who that was, Max?"
Max swallowed hard. If his boss knew that Max had made the call, Max would be dead right now. You didn't cross Randolph Stancliff and live to tell about it. "No, sir, Mr. Stancliff. I don't know who would have done that."
"Good, Max," Stancliff said and rose from the couch. Straightening his jacket, Stancliff stepped in front of Max and stared at him. Picking a piece of lint from the shorter man's coat, he said intently, "I'd hate to think that a trusted associate had turned on me."
After Stancliff left the room, the 'trusted associate' let out a puff of breath. His boss suspected. It was time for Max to leave -- the house, the district, the country.
A quick call from Lee to Billy had put the Section Chief into action. By the time that Lee and Amanda arrived in the neighborhood where Stancliff lived, a full-scale Agency tactical team had been put into place. Billy nodded at the two agents as they walked toward him.
"When do we move in?" Lee asked him.
"When Korylov arrives. We don't want to scare him off," Billy replied.
"Excuse me, sir," Amanda interrupted. "Won't all of this--" she gestured to the activity around them "--scare him away?"
"You're right, Amanda, it might," Billy answered, then explained, "That's why we're going to pick him up as soon as he enters the neighborhood. We have a look-a-like who will be taking his place."
"Are the dogs ready?" Lee asked.
"The bomb squad and the K-9 units are ready to go," Billy answered. "Amanda, we'll need you to go in with the team and get those girls out of there."
"Yes, sir," Amanda responded.
"Lee," Billy said, turning to the senior agent. "Find Stancliff. Don't let him get away."
"Will do, Billy," Lee replied, determination in his voice and his eyes.
While the rest of the agents prepared to enter the house through the doors, Lee had decided that it would be better to try a sneakier approach. He climbed through the window to what he hoped was Stancliff's office. He knew that Stancliff would probably be in the room, but he also knew that the other man wouldn't be expecting him.
The room was empty. Lee considered that to be a good thing. He walked to the large oak desk that occupied one side of the room. Checking through the papers on the desk and finding nothing of interest, he began searching the drawers. Finding one locked, Lee pulled out his lock picks and set to work. In a few seconds, the lock clicked and he was able to open the drawer. Inside lay a large brown envelope. He picked it up and turned it over in his hands. Not finding any markings on the outside, he opened one end. The first page was stamped, 'Top Secret.' Satisfied that he had found what he'd been searching for, Lee closed the drawer and started around the desk. He stopped short when he noticed a man in the doorway.
"I believe that belongs to me," the man stated calmly, gesturing to the envelope.
"I don't think so, Stancliff," Lee replied. The agent started to reach for his gun but stopped when Stancliff pointed a revolver at him.
"Please place the envelope on the table," the traitor instructed. After Lee complied, Stancliff told him, "Now, very slowly, please remove your gun and place it on the desk."
Lee sighed and did as he was told, careful not to place the gun too far out of his reach. He moved even more slowly than the other man had possibly intended; he needed to stall Stancliff and allow Amanda and the other agents the opportunity to get the girls and their babies outside and away from the house. They suspected the bomb would be on a timer, but they didn't want to take the chance that it could be remotely operated.
"Very good, Scarecrow," Stancliff chided. Lee's eyes had begun to narrow at the man's remark, and then the surprise at hearing his codename uttered by this man widened them. "Of course I know who you are. I've done some extensive research over the last two days. I was overjoyed at being able to add your file *and* that of your partner, to the information for the Russians. I'm certain it will drive the price even higher."
Lee's jaw clenched and unclenched, the muscles in his jaw twitching. Finally he said, "You won't be selling anything to the Russians. By now, Korylov is in custody. He never even made it to your driveway."
"Untrue," Stancliff responded with certainty. "His car just pulled into the driveway. I came to retrieve the envelope."
"Did you get a good look at him?" Lee asked confidently. "It wasn't Korylov."
"You're bluffing," Stancliff countered, the only indication of his surprise was the slight lowering of his gun.
Lee let a half-smile form on his face. "No bluff, Stancliff. You're information brokerage business is busted."
Stancliff laughed fiendishly. "Ah, but that we had met earlier in my career. You would have been a worthy adversary, Scarecrow."
"If we had met earlier, your career would have been shorter," Lee stated matter-of-factly.
"You know, I've never killed a man," he informed Lee. "Not personally, anyway. I've sent other men to do my dirty work. Today, I will enjoy doing it myself." He raised his gun then paused and cocked his head in thought. "I wonder how much the Russians will pay for a dead Scarecrow?"
Lee watched the other man closely, waiting for the chance to retrieve his gun. That chance came when a sudden loud noise erupted in the hallway. Stancliff turned his head slightly, which allowed Lee enough time to grab his own gun and duck behind the desk. When Stancliff realized the sounds from the front of the house meant that Lee had been correct, he started firing randomly in the direction of the desk. Lee waited until he heard Stancliff's gun clicking. He stood and aimed his gun at the other man, who was now out of ammunition.
"It's over, Stancliff," Lee said.
The look of malicious intent that filled Randolph Stancliff's eyes at that moment stunned Lee. He'd never seen a man so filled with malevolence. Lee stood mesmerized as Stancliff slowly reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small black box. Instantly, Lee knew that it was a remote control for the bomb intended to destroy this house and everyone in it. He prepared to fire, hoping he could shoot the other man before he had a chance to detonate the explosives in the house.
Lee hesitated when shock suddenly filled the traitor's face and the man fell to his knees. Stancliff swayed there for a moment then fell forward, the box tumbling from his hand and bouncing across the floor.
Lee looked up when someone stepped into the doorway. Relief flooded his features as he recognized Amanda. That relief was quickly replaced with irritation. "Amanda! What are you doing? He could have blown us all sky high."
"No, he couldn't," she replied as she stepped over him and set down the thick hardcover book she had used to knock him unconscious. She picked up the black box and explained, "We got all of the girls out, and the bomb squad disarmed the bombs. I didn't know if Stancliff had a gun, and I didn't want you to get shot if his detonator didn't work."
"Amanda." Lee practically growled in frustration. He took a deep breath and holstered his gun. "Did they get Korylov?"
"He started talking the minute they stopped his car." She laughed as she remembered Billy's quickly recited rendition of events before they stormed the house. "He promised to tell everything he knew as long as they didn't send him back to Russia."
Lee shook his head in disbelief at his wife. She was so calm. It was a distinct difference from the woman he met five years ago at a train station. "Let's get out of here," he said and walked until he was next to her. He held out his hand, and when she grasped it with her own, he started to lead them from the room.
"I thought that I would call Mother and tell her to bring Logan home for tonight," Amanda said nonchalantly.
Lee stopped abruptly and turned to face her. "You mean he'll stay with us tonight?"
"Well, sure. There's no reason for him and Mother to stay at the hospital now. Besides, Olivia needs her sleep, not a baby crying all night," Amanda reasoned. She asked, "Will that be all right with you?"
Slowly, Lee nodded and smiled. "I think that would be just fine."
"Great," Amanda said as they resumed their route to the door. "Of course, we'll have to listen to Mother go on and on about babies and how much fun they are, and how much she misses having a little one around…"
Lee stopped in the doorway and mock-glared at Amanda. She chuckled and continued to lead them from the room.
Lee stood in the doorway, watching Amanda change Logan's diaper. "This is kind of nice."
"What is?" Amanda asked, picking up the baby and leaning him against her shoulder.
"Watching you with a baby. I missed that with the boys."
"Well, you better pay close attention tonight and tomorrow morning, because after lunch, this little man is going to his grandparents."
Looking down, Lee sighed. "Yeah."
Amanda carried Logan to the portable crib they had set up in the living room, gently set him down and draped a small blanket over him. She turned to Lee, not missing the look of longing on his face. Amanda knew they needed to talk about this, but tonight just didn't seem like the right time. "Lee," she said softly. He didn't answer her, lost in his thoughts. Walking over to him, she gently caressed his cheek. "Lee, let's get some sleep."
With one last glance at Logan, Lee turned and allowed his wife to lead him to their bedroom.
Amanda woke to an empty bed. It was still dark outside, but she could just see the faint beginnings of the sunrise through her window. She silently climbed out of bed and slipped on her robe. She could hear Lee's voice and followed the sound to find her husband standing by the window, cradling Logan close to his chest.
Lee was singing softly to the baby. "Happy trails to you, until we meet again. Happy trails to you…" Sensing Amanda's presence, he stopped and turned. "Oh, hi. I didn't know you were awake."
Amanda smiled. "I wasn't, but I heard some noises and thought I should check on Logan. I see you beat me down here."
"Yeah, well, he was…you know." Lee took a deep breath and looked down at Logan. "Music is supposed to soothe the savage beast--and babies," he added quickly. Looking at Amanda, Lee grinned sheepishly. "'Happy Trails' is the only song I could think of that wouldn't scare the little guy."
Amanda walked over to her husband and placed one hand on his back, gently caressing the baby's head with her other hand. She gazed for a minute at the little miracle called Logan, then raised her head to meet her husband's eyes and whispered, "We have to talk."