Authors: Shawn and Tracey
Summary: Just what are suave, debonair Lee Stetson's secrets? Dotty is determined to find out.
Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Warner Bros. and Shoot the Moon Productions. We just took them out for a drive.
The tall, lean man stared out his window at the awakening suburb on the other side of the glass. He ran one hand through his thinning blond hair and smiled grimly.
"It's good to be back," he told the neighborhood's denizens as they continued about their morning commute, blissfully ignorant of his scrutiny. A slight rustle of fabric from the direction of the door to the next room called him back from his reverie. He turned to address his youthful assistant. It seemed they were all so very youthful these days. As though everyone with any wit about him was playing very close to home, preparing for the coming storm. Only the very young and the very foolish still dared to venture beyond the homeland's thinning curtain. Being neither young nor foolish himself, the tall man regarded his assistant with grim resignation. The girl would have to do. His own youth and foolery had long ago been replaced with cagey determination and desperation. That desperation would see them both through the coming days. He would accomplish this mission before all hell broke loose on the home front and what little power remained to him was lost forever. His enemies would pay dearly for their role in the erosion of his power base.
"Is everything ready?" he asked his associate.
"Just as you instructed, sir," the younger brown-haired woman replied with just the faintest tinge of an Eastern European accent.
"Pay attention to that accent, dear," her superior instructed. "You need to sound like you just walked in from the Illinois cornfields. Do you understand? They must suspect nothing."
"They haven't yet, Sir." the young woman answered slowly, carefully accentuating the lack of accent in her speech.
"Mother!" Amanda King called as she raced down the stairs of her comfortable, well-kept home. "Have you seen my new red sweater?"
"No, dear," Dotty West replied back airily. "I can barely keep up with my own wardrobe, much less yours these days. Did you take it to the cleaner's? If so, I can pick it up today. I have so many errands to run this morning before my train leaves. I mean, who would have thought these boys would take more work to keep up with now instead of less?"
"Oh, Mother," Amanda took a cup of coffee from her mother's hands as she passed her on the way to join her sons at the kitchen island. "What would we do without you?"
"Are you fellas ready?" she asked, turning as she addressed the two boys. . . no, she mused sadly, the two young men before her.
"Oh, yeah, Mom," Phillip answered around a mouthful of cereal, "we've got this weekend thing down now."
"Phillip, don't talk with your mouth full," Amanda responded reflexively as she cupped the chin of her younger son, Jamie. "Are you ready, too?" She ran her hand lightly through his darkening hair, noting for the thousandth time that it just wasn't as soft and fine as she seemed to remember. She smiled as his brief life quickly passed before her, sighing as she raised her cup to her lips.
"Hey!" Phillip exclaimed as he cocked his head, "That's Lee's car outside." With no further thought to breakfast, he bolted for the front door, eager to beat the man to the doorbell.
As Phillip opened the front door, he could hear his grandmother complaining about his trying to heat the whole city, but saw no sign of Lee Stetson or his silver Corvette. Phillip stepped outside and looked up and down the street. He knew that engine, he couldn't imagine why Lee wouldn't stop, he had been taking Mom in to work most mornings lately. Looking to his left, Phillip jumped as a gloved hand tapped his right shoulder.
"Morning, chief," Lee Stetson said with a chuckle, his breath swirling in the crisp morning air.
"Lee! You got me!" Philip recovered from his surprise. "I thought I heard the 'Vette, then I didn't see you. Where's your car?" he asked, looking behind Stetson to the driveway.
"It's kinda funny," Lee answered a little sheepishly. "I drove right by your house and stopped around the corner. I, uh, I guess I'm not quite awake, yet. Has your grandmother got the coffee on?"
"Oh, yeah, come on," Phillip tugged at the older man's sleeve, "You must still be sleepy if you forgot to stop, you spend almost as much time here as I do." Phillip finished his ribbing as the two entered the warm kitchen.
Lee nodded to Dotty and Jamie as he walked to Amanda's side, giving her a quick kiss on the corner of her mouth.
"Good morning," she offered teasingly, "you forgot to stop?"
"I. . .sort of parked around the corner," Lee answered lamely as he continued to hold her close, nodding to direct her gaze out the kitchen window. "Nothing like a walk in the crisp morning air to get your blood moving, dear."
Dotty watched her daughter and Lee Stetson carefully. Despite the truth of Phillip's quip, Dotty had begun to realize just how little she knew about this man who so obviously held Amanda's heart. Oh, he was handsome, charming, unfailingly polite, considerate of her and the boys as well as Amanda. In short, everything she would look for in a date for her daughter. But this man had very quickly moved beyond the level of an occasional dinner date to something much more, how much more she wasn't entirely certain. Just as quickly, his relationship with her daughter had reached a plateau that neither seemed willing to leave. They enjoyed each other's company, sometimes overnight, she knew, and Lee had taken to spending more time with Phillip and Jamie both with and without Amanda. But there was absolutely no talk of the future, no mention of commitment, and no ring. Lee was remarkably unforthcoming about anything in his life except his activities with the family. He spoke little of his past or how he spent his time away from them. His reticence in discussing his job rivaled Amanda's, maybe even surpassed it. That he worked with Amanda at that film company was all Dotty knew for certain. He might be Amanda's boss, but that didn't always set quite right. And for a filmmaker, well, Jamie took better photographs.
Yes, there was definitely more to Lee Stetson than what met the eye, no matter how pleasing that part might be. Dotty had been determined for quite some time to get to the bottom of this mystery man, but had yet to be granted an opportunity. This weekend's train trip to visit an old classmate was just the ruse she needed to throw Amanda off track. Dotty had already rented a car and left it at the train station. This weekend would see the undoing of Mr. Stetson's secrets, whatever they might be.
"Earth to Grandma, come in Grandma."
Dotty shook off her reverie as Amanda's and Jamie's voices filtered through. She looked around to see four sets of eyes regarding her with concern. She shook her head of the last tendrils of her own concerns and smiled back at all of them.
"Mother, are you OK?" Amanda stepped away from Lee and took her mother's arm.
"Yes, dear," Dotty replied, patting Amanda's hand gently, "just woolgathering."
A blaring car horn cut off any further conversation.
"All right, fellas," Amanda said, turning to her sons, "there's your Dad. He'll drop you at school and pick you up this afternoon. Be nice to Carrie this weekend." Amanda continued to rattle off motherly instructions as the boys gathered up coats and backpacks and duffel bags and made their way toward the front door. "Pick up after yourselves. Eat all your vegetables. Try not to fight with each other. And, please, please, brush your teeth." With that last bit of maternal wisdom, she accepted a kiss from each young man as she bundled them out the door, waving to Joe King as he helped his sons load their gear into the trunk of his car.
Amanda returned inside to find Lee fixing his coffee, his coat lying neatly over a kitchen stool. Dotty had retreated upstairs to gather her own bags.
"Mother's trip!" Amanda gasped. "Oh, Lee, I forgot. Mother's going to visit an old classmate in Richmond this weekend. I'm supposed to take her to the train station this morning. I'm sorry, sweetheart. You came all the way over for nothing." As she finished she stepped into his waiting arms.
"Nothing?" Lee asked as folded his wife into his embrace. "Any chance to see you is worth it." He gently kissed her temple then pulled back to cradle his coffee instead.
"Amanda," Lee offered her name slowly, a hesitant caress, "I was going to run some errands this afternoon, but since I can't give you a ride in, I'll go ahead and run them this morning. Can you cover for me with Billy?"
"Errands, Scarecrow?" Amanda gently turned his chin to face her squarely. "Admit it, you were going to stick me with finishing off the Carlsbad report by myself. I know all your tricks by now."
"Would I do that?" Lee chuckled. "You will cover for me, won't you?" He cupped her face with one hand, lightly fingering the nape of her neck. "I promise you won't be disappointed."
"As long as you promise to make it to the office in time to finish that report," Amanda admonished. "With everyone gone this weekend, I have plans for you, Mr. Stetson."
Dotty stood on the last step before the landing, just out of Lee and Amanda's sight, feeling somewhat guilty for eavesdropping--a very rude habit, she had always told her daughter. But Stetson's secrets were already coming to the fore and he hadn't even left the house yet. This weekend might go more quickly than she thought. Billy? Reports?? Cover for me??? Scarecrow???? And just who was 'everyone?'
Dotty lightly bumped her suitcase against the wall to call attention to her descent and joined the couple in the kitchen.
"Here, Dotty," Lee said as he shrugged into his long black coat and helped Amanda with hers, "let me get that suitcase for you."
"Thank you, Lee," Dotty replied as she headed toward the front door, "you're pretty handy to have around."
"I aim to please, ma'am," he said, hefting the suitcase and following the women through the door.
Dotty smiled to herself as she pulled out of the parking lot of the train station two cars behind Lee Stetson. Convincing Amanda to allow Lee to take her the station, after all she hadn't had much time alone with this close friend of her daughter's, had been trying. Convincing Lee to leave her to wait for her non-existent train all by herself had been exasperating. The man was unfailingly polite and considerate. While ordinarily such attentiveness from a handsome young man would please her to no end, today it was a pain in the. . . well, it was a pain.
Lee's first stop after Dotty finally convinced him to go was a small wine shop not far away. Dotty followed him in and stayed hidden behind a shelf of various hard liquors. Lee was speaking with the proprietor, discussing the ups and downs of several recent and not-so-recent vintages. The breadth of the man's knowledge on this subject seemed to be limitless. Dotty became so caught up in their review of a local winery that she almost missed one of Lee's last comments as he paid for his selection.
"That's all I need today, Eddie, the Beaujolais Nouveau. I'm amazed you still have some. My wife has a real fondness for it."
His wife? Dotty thought as she ducked around the corner of the shelf to avoid being seen as Lee walked out the door. I knew it! All this time he's been using Amanda.
Eager for more information on this gentleman turned scoundrel, Dotty followed him to his next stop, a gourmet grocery store. Following him down the small aisles she watched as he gathered the ingredients for a single meal. Twice he looked up and around as though sensing he was being followed, but each time Dotty quickly moved out of his sight.
At the checkout counter, the clerk commented on his taste. Lee responded with a chuckle. "Sometimes you have to go a long way to get out of the doghouse, you know?"
Doghouse? I'll show you doghouse you cur! Dotty fumed as she followed Lee through the parking lot. Not only was he using Amanda, now he was thinking he could just smooth things over with his wife with a little wining and dining. The man was uncaring and insensitive.
Next, Stetson pulled into a drycleaner’s. Dotty waited in her rented car this time, watching him through the plate glass windows. He returned to his car with two armfuls of cleaning, both men's and women's garments, she noted, and laid them carefully in the back of his Corvette. The man must spend a small fortune at this place. Dotty mused. Her thoughts were cut off by the sight of the last item Lee lay out in his car, a very familiar black dress with spaghetti straps. As he smoothed the dress out, Lee smiled to himself and shook his head.
He picks up his wife's clothes, Amanda's clothes, and his own, all at the same time? The cad! What would his wife say if she ever picked up the cleaning? How dare he do this to my Panda! Dotty always liked to think the best of everyone, but getting a glimpse of the "real" Lee Stetson was altering her opinion of this man rapidly. She thought briefly of trying to contact Amanda at work and setting her straight, but before she could decide, Lee was turning out into the street.
She followed him next to a jewelry store and again watched from the car. She wished she could go inside and listen, but there were no other patrons and she hadn't thought to bring a disguise. Lee looked frustrated as he exited the shop, evidently not finding what he was looking for.
He pulled out onto the street and headed west, then three blocks down he turned around and headed back east. Dotty saw his face as he passed her. He looked as though he had forgotten a not altogether pleasant task. She scrambled to turn around and catch up to him, hoping he hadn't seen her.
She now followed him to a small house on a large tree-filled lot. She watched as he got out of his car and went around to the back of the house. "A ha!" she exclaimed aloud. "This must be 'home sweet home.' Why else would he have been dating Amanda all this time with not even a mention of marriage? I'm going to kill him."
As she sat watching the house, she failed to notice the black sedan that pulled into the driveway. A few moments later, however, she did notice Lee and an older man being forced into that car at gunpoint. She sat, immobilized, with her lower jaw somewhere in the vicinity of her brake pedal as she watched the car drive away.
"What in the world is going on here?" She thought as she roused herself from her car and cautiously let herself into the house. Spotting a phone, she quickly dialed 911 and alerted the police.
"911, may I help you?"
"Yes," Dotty said breathlessly. "I need to report a kidnapping."
"Where are you, ma'am?"
"I'm not sure, I followed my daughter's boyfriend here, and he was taken with another gentleman."
"Well, I've got the address, I'll send a car."
"I.F.F., may I help you?" the duty officer asked as he picked up the phone.
"This is Officer Downing of the Rockville police, there has been a report of a kidnapping at the residence of Harry V. Thornton. I have a notice to call this number in the event of something happening to Mr. Thornton. We have a cruiser on the way."
"Thank you, we'll have someone out there soon." The duty officer quickly dialed the number to Billy Melrose's office.
"Melrose here," the section chief brusquely answered the phone.
"Sir, this is Officer Chadwick, I just received a report of a possible kidnapping at Harry Thornton's home."
"What the hell?" Melrose all but shouted into the phone, then breathed deeply, calming himself. "O.K. Thanks."
Billy took a deep breath. This day had started badly and it was continuing in fine form. As if three nicks with the razor, an early morning meeting with Dr. Smyth, and Scarecrow's usual ditching of the hum drum end of the spy business weren't enough to foul his day, now someone was gunning for the founder of the Agency and they hadn't even seen it coming.
He quickly dialed the number for the Q Bureau.
"Q Bureau, King speaking, may I help you?" Amanda cheerfully answered the phone.
"Amanda, I need you to meet me in the foyer in five minutes. I think someone just kidnapped Harry," Billy told her.
"Yes sir," Amanda said as she grabbed her purse and headed downstairs.
As they drove to Rockville, Billy filled Amanda in on what he knew. "The duty officer received the call about 20 minutes ago. Apparently, someone saw Harry and another man being led into a car at gunpoint. She went in and called the police, and they called us."
"Sir," Amanda said, "I think Lee was supposed to go over there today,"
"Yeah, I know, " Billy said, "That's what I was thinking, too" They passed the remainder of the drive in silence, each imagining the worst possible alternatives.
The Jeep Wagoneer pulled up to the curb. Billy and Amanda got out of the car and joined the police officers at the scene. As they spoke they pulled out their badges and identified themselves.
"Billy Melrose, here. This is Amanda King," Billy told the detective in charge. "We're from the Agency. Could you tell us what happened?"
"Yes, my name is Detective Oliver," the undercover man said, shaking Billy' s hand. "We are interviewing the witness now. Supposedly she was following her daughter's boyfriend. Thought he was cheating on her or he was married or something. This lady's a little loopy. Anyway, she followed him here, and about five minutes later, she saw the two of them being forced into a black car. She got a good look at the plates, and she said that the grabber was tall and blonde. But that was all she was able to tell us. Oh yeah, we got an I.D. on the other guy. Lee Stetson."
"Sir," Amanda said, her voice rising slightly.
"Yes Amanda, I know," Billy interrupted.
"Do you want to talk to the witness?" Detective Oliver asked.
"We'd better do it now," Billy said. "Are you ready Amanda?"
"As ready as I'll ever be," Amanda answered.
Billy took Amanda's hand and gave it a small squeeze. The two of them then walked over to the police car where Dotty was sitting. Dotty watched as Billy and Amanda walked over.
What on earth was that man doing here? He was that nasty Mr. Melrose. The one who had made things so difficult for Amanda and Lee last year. Why was Amanda here for that matter? Surely the police couldn't have connected her to Lee that quickly. And why on earth would they be walking together?
As she watched them approach, she remembered a conversation she had with Amanda three years ago. Oddly, the memory came to her all at once, in its entirety. Amanda had been trying to convince her to leave town with the boys very quickly. When Dotty challenged her, Amanda had skirted her off for a hushed conference.
"Mother," Amanda whispered, "I'm a spy."
"Of course," Dotty replied matter-of-factly.
"Mother," Amanda persisted, "there's a nuclear bomb in Washington and it's gonna go off unless we find a man named Kruschenko."
"We,' meaning you and the other spies that you work with?"
"Yes, Mother, that's right, now listen. I would go with you to Vermont, except that I have. . "
Here Dotty joined her daughter, anticipating her next words, "vital information that the other spies need in order to find the bomb." Amanda's stories were so predictable, she had mused.
"That's right, Mother." Amanda confirmed. "Mother, it only comes out under hypnosis. . . "
"Amanda," Dotty quickly cut her off, "you did this as a child. You would tell absurd stories when you wanted something. Once, it was a bicycle so that the dragons wouldn't catch you on the way home from school."
"Mother, this isn't like the dragons."
"If you really have a viable reason for me and the boys to leave at the crack of dawn, then all you have to do is tell me, but, darling," Dotty reached out her hand to touch Amanda's cheek, "don't lie to me."
"Mother," Amanda continued plaintively, "Please."
"That's all you have to say," Dotty waved away Amanda's spy story.
"Thank you," Amanda breathed. "All right."
"Spies, bombs, now it's hypnosis," Dotty muttered as she climbed the stairs.
"Yes, Mother," Amanda pushed, "just get dressed."
Seeing her daughter now, Dotty gave more credence to Amanda's words from long ago. It would explain some of her odd behavior over the years, and perhaps Lee Stetson's too? Truth be told, this conversation had risen unbidden to Dotty 's mind more than once, but the notion of accepting its validity was too alarming to consider for long. But now the memory was accompanied by Amanda staring her in the face with a known government agent standing calmly at her side.
Amanda stood with Billy and looked at the police car. Her mother was there. Now she had to go explain what was going on. Not only did she have to worry about her husband, but she had to offer some sort of explanation to her mother. She took a deep breath and walked over.
"Mother," she started. "Are you all right?"
"Not really, Amanda. What is going on? And why are you here with that man?" Dotty determined that she would have the unvarnished truth once and for all. It was the day for secrets to be revealed, after all.
"Oh gosh, mother. It's a long story. Have you told everything to the police?"
"I think so. Why?" Just then a police officer came over to speak to Amanda.
"Ma'am, my captain sent me over to tell you that we're through here. He said that this is Agency jurisdiction. My name is Sergeant Davis, Agent...."
"King. Thanks for your help. If we have any questions, we'll be in touch."
Dotty looked over at Amanda with thinly veiled amazement. Finally she spoke, "Amanda, what's the Agency?"
"I can't tell you here Mother. I'll explain in a little while."
Billy walked over to where Amanda and Dotty stood and spoke, "Amanda, are the police done?"
"What do they know?"
"Not much more than they've already told us, Sir. Apparently Mother was following Lee, and saw him and Harry being led at gunpoint into a car."
"Well, let's get back to the agency then. Mrs. West, if you would come with us."
"No I won't," Dotty said angrily. "You've got some explaining to do, Missy."
"Mother," Amanda said as plaintively as she had in Dotty's memory, "Please, just get into my car." The three of them climbed into Amanda's car. The ride back to Georgetown was eerily quiet. No one offered or asked for information or explanations.
When they returned to the agency, Amanda led her mother and Billy up to the Q Bureau. Dotty took in her surroundings with a glance, the place certainly looked harmless enough.
Amanda looked at Billy and her mother, took a deep breath, and began to speak. "O.K., Mother, I guess I need to tell you a few things. Lee and I work for the government. . . ."
"Yes, I know that Amanda. IFF is a government film company."
"IFF is a cover. Lee, Mr. Melrose and I are government agents. Do you remember the time three years ago when I told you I was a spy? "
Dotty glared at her daughter. Remember? She remembered little else at the moment. "Amanda, don't be ridiculous. You? A spy? I told you before. Just tell me the truth...."
"Mrs. WEST," Billy interrupted. "Amanda is telling you the truth. I'm her supervisor. Amanda has been an intelligence agent for over four years."
Dotty sat down with a bemused look on her face. Oddly, Melrose's words carried more weight than her own daughter's. Somehow the independent verification from an almost stranger gave truth to all the lies and made straight all the twisted paths Amanda seemed to have been walking for so long.
"Well that certainly explains a few things," she said with a sigh.
"I hated to lie to you, Mother," Amanda said, sinking next to her on the couch, "It's just that it could be dangerous for you. I just wanted to make sure you and the boys were safe."
"How did you get involved in this?" Dotty asked wearily.
"Lots of men in red hats."
"Amanda King, I'm not in the mood for jokes," Dotty replied.
"I'm sorry Mother, it's a long story." Amanda regarded her mother for a moment, then relented. "Lee gave me a package, told me to give it to the man in the red hat, except there were 25 men in red hats. So I kept the package."
"Who was the man Lee was with?"
"Mrs. West," Melrose interrupted, "you have to understand that there are some things that we simply cannot tell you. There are matters of national security at stake here."
"Oh, right, national security." Dotty casually regarded her surroundings again. "I can see how important that is."
"Let me explain it this way," said Billy. "That man is more important to our nation's security than all the Joint Chiefs put together. It's likely that Lee just walked in on a situation. However, until we find out why they were kidnapped and by whom, there's not much we can do."
At that moment the phone rang. Amanda answered it, "Q Bureau, King speaking."
"Are you sure about that?" a voice responded.
"Who is this?"
"If you want to see Lee Stetson alive, you will do what I say," the man snarled. "I expect you to be at the Washington Monument alone at midnight tonight. You will receive further instructions there."
The phone cut off with a loud click.
"What did he want, Amanda?" Billy asked.
"I'm supposed to meet someone at the Washington Monument at midnight," Amanda answered. "I have to be there alone, or they will kill Lee and Harry."
Dotty was halfway asleep. Amanda and that Melrose man had left her here, alone, so they could discuss 'national security' in private. She was glad that she and Amanda had cleared some air, but still she felt like there was so much to resolve. It was a little hard to take, all this spy business. Sure, she had expected something like this, but to have it so blaringly confirmed. She did a little praying, too, as she waited for her daughter's impromptu 'security council meeting' to end. Wherever Lee had been taken, it couldn't be good. No matter how the man was treating Amanda and his wife, he probably didn't deserve the treatment these spy people seemed to think he might be getting.
The opening of the door interrupted her thoughts. Standing in the doorway was a young woman with light brown hair. She looked at Dotty and smiled.
"Yes, may I help you?" Dotty asked.
"I'm sorry," the woman said. "My name is Agent Dunbar. I'm here to take you to a safehouse."
"A safehouse?" Dotty asked. "Well, since it's not safe for you to go home, Mr. Melrose thought you'd be more comfortable there. This way, you can sleep in a bed, not on a couch. "
"Well, that does sound nice," Dotty agreed. "Would Amanda know where I am?"
Dotty and Agent Dunbar walked down to the back stairs. They walked through the parking garage until they reached a blue Chrysler. "This is my car, Mrs. West. Make yourself comfortable."
"Thank you, dear"
The two women drove for approximately thirty minutes. Dotty thought she recognized the area. If she wasn't mistaken, this was where the Connie Beth Cosmetic people had gotten in trouble several years ago. She remembered reading about it in the paper.
The car pulled into the driveway of a small, immaculate house. Dotty got out of the car and followed Agent Dunbar into the house. In the living room, they were greeted by a tall blonde man. He looked at Dotty and then at Agent Dunbar.
"Who is this?" he spoke with a slight Russian accent.
"The witness I was telling you about. She was there when you grabbed Stetson and Thornton. I figured you wouldn't want any loose ends."
"Yes, well you could have been followed," he said.
"I wasn't. I was careful."
Meanwhile, the object of Dotty's morning investigation was reclaiming his consciousness. Lee Stetson groaned as he struggled to sit up on the small cot beneath him. His tall form overbalanced the government issue cot and he found himself splayed across the cold cement floor.
Breathing slowly, Lee worked to reconstruct his memory of the last few hours. He had left Dotty at the train station against his better judgment. Then he had spent his morning collecting everything needed for a romantic weekend with Amanda. Then he had gone to see Harry. That was where the memory began to collapse. He remembered talking to Harry briefly, then. . . .a needle prick in his arm and being walked outside at gunpoint, his mentor behind him. Something about getting in the car if he wanted the antidote to the poison now coursing through his veins. Then another needle prick and he passed out.
Now waking up . . .here. A cold, cement floor. No lights on, but a faint dusting of sunlight from a window near the ceiling. A basement? Two green Army issue cots, one folded back in on itself, the other supporting an unconscious Harry Thornton. No sanitary facilities. A very tightly closed door. A cell?
Lee staggered to the door, pulling on the doorknob. Locked. Yes, definitely a cell. As he examined the hinges, Lee searched his memory for clues as to their captor's identity.
"Lee," Harry croaked weakly, "you there, son?"
"Yeah, Harry," he replied, "although I can think of a few places I'd rather be."
"Really?" Harry breathed deeply as his mind cleared. "I was just thinking how plush the accommodations are."
"Why are we here, Harry?"
"I don't know what he wants, Lee. Revenge, I guess." Harry glanced across the room at the folded remains of the other cot and rose gingerly.
Lee turned his attention from the door to his friend. "What who wants? You know who has us?"
"Didn't you see Gregory at the house?"
"No. He got me from behind. Once that drug set in, I. . . ." Lee slumped back against the wall next to the door. "I'm guessing that second needle I felt was his antidote?"
Harry began pacing the room in an effort to revive his circulation. Lee soon followed suit.
"Gregory?" Lee asked. "We haven't heard much from him since he was recalled after his little slip up. We really put one over on him."
"Lee, between you and me and Melrose, we've dealt Gregory some pretty ugly hands to play with his superiors. I'm sure it was Gregory I saw at my house. I imagine you and I are the reason for his being in the States."
"Oh, damn!" Lee muttered, "dinner. . ."
"What was that, son?" Harry stopped pacing and turned to face his prize recruit.
"Hmm? What?" Lee turned toward the window and the small amount of waning light it allowed in. "Oh, nothing, Harry, just thinking about someo. . . I mean, something."
"Ahh, I see." Thornton nodded sagely. "Since it looks like we're going to be roommates for a while, Lee. . .Sit down, son, anymore pacing will make me nauseous."
Lee settled himself carefully onto the cot next to Harry. Both men leaned back against the wall and stretched their legs out before them. "So, Lee, how's our Amanda doing?"
Lee turned to Harry and smiled softly.
Sometime later, movement outside the door startled them both out of conversation. Three people entered the room. The sight of the first gave Lee a moment of hope. He recognized this young female agent, he had led her Orientation class a year or so ago. The sight of the second person filled Lee with guilt. How Dotty West became involved in this fiasco he wasn't sure he wanted to find out. If he had only waited to see her on her train, she wouldn't be in this mess now. As the third person came into view, Lee allowed the faint twinge of dread to color his thoughts. Harry was right, Gregory was gunning for them.
"Nice to see you're awake, Kolinski," Gregory smiled thinly. "I'd rather you be conscious as your house of cards collapses around you."
"What's your game, Gregory?" Harry asked wearily. "We can't play if we don't know the rules."
"No rules, old friend. Watch it, Scarecrow!" Gregory raised his voice as Lee began to reach for the gun that was trained on Harry.
Dotty gasped at the tall blond man's use of that name for Lee Stetson. It was the same thing Amanda had called him that morning. She pondered its significance as the man now trained his gun on her.
"We'll just eliminate the witnesses, and then we can settle. . ."
"No!" Lee shouted, quickly stepping between the gun and his mother-in-law. "Leave her alone, Gregory," he whispered harshly.
"If that's the way you want it, Scarecrow," Gregory turned and fired the gun at the young agent, ripping a hole in her chest the size of a grapefruit. As the young agent collapsed, Dotty ran to ease her fall. She held the young woman as she breathed her last. Dotty looked frantically from one man to the next, barely able to breathe. They all seemed to be frozen in place. Lee's eyes were open wide, as though shocked by the killing, but his mouth was set in a determined line, taking the shooting as a personal affront. The tall blond man still held the gun out from his body, ready to fire again. Lee's friend merely stood, staring intently at the blond man.
"One of yours, Gregory?" he asked, nodding at the dead agent.
"Yes, but not a very accomplished one. You don't train them like you used to, Kolinski," Gregory relaxed his hold on the gun slightly. "Still, the little dear served her purpose. As will both of you, gentlemen."
"Lee?" Dotty asked quaveringly. "What is going on here?"
Lee turned and glared intently at Dotty, willing her to understand. His mind had not yet determined if Dotty would be any safer if Gregory knew of their connection. Then again, maybe he did know. Why else would Gregory have dragged her into this?
"So, our witness is more than just a witness after all, hmm?" Gregory cocked an eyebrow first at Lee then at Harry. "Well, then, a little more bait to sweeten the deal." Gregory chuckled as he moved toward the door. "I'm sure your lady friend here can help me convince Melrose to bargain for both of you," Gregory grabbed Dotty's arm roughly, taking her through the door with him. "And even if Melrose won't play, I should at least be able to spur Mrs. Scarecrow into action."
Gregory tossed his words over his shoulder as he closed the door on Lee and Harry. Just before the door closed Dotty shot Lee a glance filled with confusion and disgust.
"Mrs. Scarecrow?" Harry queried as the door lock clicked. "Something you need to tell me?"
"Ahh, Harry," Lee dissembled, "he probably just means Amanda. She is my partner, after all."
"Right, partners," Harry grinned at the look of embarrassed wistfulness on Lee Stetson's face. "You know, Lee. Amanda is quite an amazing woman. I have the utmost confidence in her."
"I know, Harry," Lee refused to return his mentor's penetrating stare. "Amanda hasn't let me down yet. She's not about to start now. Come on, stay sharp. I wanna be ready the next time that door opens."
Gregory led Dotty up to the ground level of the house to a neatly furnished sitting room. He pushed her roughly into an easy chair.
"How do you know Stetson?" he asked her bluntly.
"He's a . . .a friend," Dotty replied. Not that I consider him a friend after what I learned about him this morning, she mused.
"Are you one of his family?" Gregory pushed.
"No, I've never even met Lee's family. That's how I. . .well, I mean, you don't really want to know about all that," Dotty met Gregory's gaze boldly. The shooting downstairs had startled her, but now, here, in more normal surroundings, her natural fire had been stoked. Regardless of Lee's lack of a personal moral code, he and his friend downstairs. . .Kolinski, this man had called him? . . .seemed to be the ones she should try to help.
"Oh, but I do," Gregory purred.
Sensing that being completely honest with this man might not be in everyone 's best interests, Dotty began nevertheless relating her morning's adventures. She cast the story in a slightly altered light, making no mention of Amanda and leaving Gregory to believe that Dotty herself was involved with Lee Stetson and had been following him that morning, thinking he had been cheating on her.
"And that's when the agent, the girl, the one you. . .killed," Dotty's boldness faltered near the end of her tale, "that's when she brought me here. She said it would be a safehouse, but I don't feel very safe, Mr. Gregory."
"Nor should you, dear lady," Gregory grinned as he listened to her story. Yes, she would do. He still needed to reel in Melrose and King, and maybe this was the angle to use. "But, if you co-operate, you may be able to feel safe again. You might even be able to help your friends downstairs."
"I find it odd," Gregory continued after a brief pause, "that Scarecrow would focus his attentions on you; nothing personal, you understand. You just don 't seem to be his type."
"I've thought exactly the same thing lately," Dotty uttered with a dash of her new-found disgust for Lee Stetson. "Mr. Gregory," she continued more calmly, "just what is it that you want from me? I'm not wealthy heiress or a Senator or a. . .a spy," she lowered her voice to a whisper as she ended.
"I want you to convince a couple of people to pay me a visit. You're going to make a little recording, dear lady. You can say anything you want, as long as you don't tell them where we are. They will know where to meet me in due time. Your responsibility is to assure them that, for now at least, you and Scarecrow and Kolinski are alive and well."
"For now?" Dotty exclaimed. "You said if I did what you wanted, I'd be safe, they'd be safe. This is not what I had planned for this weekend."
"Your safety depends on my success. Let's get started on your recording career. I have an audience waiting for you."
"Who am I supposed to talk to?" she asked.
"Melrose and King," Gregory replied, "I want them all to understand at once." Seeing Dotty's start of surprise at the mention of the name 'King,' Gregory continued, "So, you are acquainted with the better half of my favorite duo. I imagine she'll be none too pleased to learn of your relationship with Scarecrow, but that's really not my concern. Just let them know you are all here."
Gregory led Dotty into the next room. In the center of a large oak table was a standard tape recorder. Gregory indicated for Dotty to take a seat.
Dotty' s mind raced feverishly. She quickly examined and discarded several possible statements that she could make. After the scene in the basement, she had little hope of leaving this house alive. This recording may be her one chance to cry for help. Amanda would hear this. . . . .her little panda, a spy! It was still too much to really accept. All the lies, all the evasions, and the one time Amanda had been completely up front with her, she had laughed it off. Of course it was true, she could see it so clearly now. But Amanda would hear this. . . Dotty knew roughly where she was, she had recognized the neighborhood during the drive here, maybe she could get a message out that would help all of them.
"Since you're probably going to kill me today, do you mind if I ask them to pass along a message to my daughter? We had a disagreement when I last saw her, and I'd like to. . . ." Dotty searched Gregory's eyes for understanding, either of her emotional state or her ulterior motive. She found only barely tolerant amusement.
"Sure, it doesn't really matter," he interrupted. He then reached out slowly and pressed the play and record buttons.
"Melrose, here's my end of the bargain with King. Now you be prepared with yours." Gregory motioned for Dotty to begin speaking.
"This is Dorothea West. I've been asked to inform you that Lee Stetson and his friend, uh," she paused, looking to Gregory for a name, which he provided, "his friend, Harry Thornton are safe and unharmed at this time. I saw them myself just a few minutes ago. He says they will remain unharmed until he has what he wants. I assume you know what that is, because he hasn't told me.
"He has told me that I can leave a message for my daughter. Please make sure she gets this. Panda, I am so sorry for that fight. I'm sorry I told you and Joe not to buy that house; if you two want to live in a house built for a king, who am I to argue if you can afford it. Tell the boys that I love them and tell. . . . oh, tell them that I left their science project supplies down in the basement. I love you, too, Panda. I wish. . . . I wish you would've trusted me more. I hope you can forgive me and trust me now if I make it out of here."
Dotty took a deep breath as she finished, not daring to look at Gregory. She felt certain that if she looked at him he would know what she had said, how much she had been able to tell Amanda. As long as he didn't shoot her before Amanda had a chance to figure it out. As long as Amanda could figure it out. Dotty shook her head, struggling to think of a way to get out any more information, but nothing came to mind.
Gregory depressed the stop button on the tape recorder. The loud crack as the two buttons snapped back up echoed loudly in Dotty’s ears.
Amanda stood at the base of the Washington Monument. As she looked around, she couldn't help but feel uneasy. She knew that Billy had plenty of hidden backup, but still she didn't like being here in the dark alone. At exactly one minute after twelve, she noticed a lone figure walking up to the pathway that circled the monument. He approached her and gave her a manila envelope.
"Who sent you?" she asked.
"It's not important," the man said in heavily accented English.
"Yes, it is, he has my partner."
"Your instructions are in the envelope. Read them, and you'll know what to do next. Don't let the agents surrounding this place follow me. That will only get them killed," he said as he turned to walk away.
Amanda turned around and faced the Potomac Power Van that doubled as the command center. She spoke into the microphone hidden in her collar.
"He gave me some papers, but that's it."
"Roger, Amanda. Let's go back to the agency. It's cold out here," Billy said as Amanda started to walk across the grass and over to the van.
Amanda sat on the couch in the Q Bureau. Billy had told her to sleep, but she couldn't. All she could think of, was the fact that her husband was being held captive by a mad man. And Mother? Where had she gone now? How could one woman manage to stumble into so much trouble? Every time she closed her eyes, images filled her eyes. She could see her mother in the kitchen that morning, could it really have been less than twenty-four hours since this all had started? As she sat in the dark, she finally gave into tears.
Down in Billy's office, the mood wasn't much better. Billy lay down on the sofa in his office. "I'm too old for this," he thought. He was getting tired of losing friends, never seeing his wife and children. Now his best agent and friend was missing. He chuckled to himself, as he remembered the obnoxious freshman agent that had been assigned to him all those years ago. It was amazing how much Lee had changed since meeting Amanda. He was still deep in thought when the phone rang.
"Melrose," he answered.
"Ahh, Billy. It is so nice to speak to you this evening."
"Gregory, what the hell do you want?"
"Now Billy, is that anyway to talk to the man who holds Kolinski's life in his hands?"
"Now, I want you to listen to this tape. Oh and don't bother trying to trace this call. It won't last long enough," Gregory said, laughing as he started the tape.
Billy immediately recognized Dotty West's voice, but whatever she said made no sense whatsoever. Why on earth was she talking about a house? "That must be where Amanda got it from," he thought as he shook his head. He rewound the tape in the machine, and headed up to the Q Bureau.
Amanda was still on the couch, trying to sleep, when she heard the knock on the door.
"Come in," she said.
"Amanda, I've got something you'll want to hear."
"We just got a message from Gregory, he taped your mother speaking. It doesn't make sense, but I thought you'd want to hear it."
"Yes, sir. But how. . . ?" she said as she got up from the couch and met Billy over by Lee's desk.
Billy put the tape in the player, waving her questions aside for the moment, and hit play. They listened to the message together. When they got to Dotty's message to Amanda, Amanda grabbed Billy's arm and gasped.
"Oh my gosh, I know where they are."
"What do you mean you know where they are?" Billy exclaimed.
"Mother just told me."
"Excuse me, but what are you talking about, Amanda?"
"What house? You're losing me here, Amanda."
"I'm sorry, sir, when Joe and I were looking for a house, we had a hard time agreeing. Joe wanted a house in Betsy Ross Estates, but it was way too expensive. Mother is trying to tell me that she's in Betsy Ross Estates."
"How can you know that, Amanda?"
"Because she called me Panda. That was my nickname when I was a little girl. She knew that would get my attention. She's in a house somewhere in that neighborhood."
"Are you sure Amanda?" Billy asked.
"Well, let's go wake up Francine and get a team together. We've got a lot of work to do."
Within fifteen minutes of the phone call, Billy had a team in the conference room.
"OK, Peterson, you and Andersen go in the lead car. I want Fletcher and Desmond as backup. Amanda and I will go in together. "
"Now, Amanda," Billy said. "I want you to explain exactly how you know where they are."
"Yes, sir. Well, first of all, they're in Betsy Ross Estates. That one was easy, when Joe and I were trying to buy a house, we looked there. The house Joe wanted, it was way too expensive. Mother actually talked us into the house on Maplewood. As for why Mother said a house fit for a king, all the streets in Betsy Ross Estates have a Revolutionary War theme. The house that Lee and the others are in must be on George Street. Get it? Betsy Ross? George Washington? King George? She also said something about a basement. So, they are in the basement of a house on George Street. "
"Give me a break," Francine cried. "Are we really going to pull out a full-fledged attack based on this? Billy, you cant be serious."
"Can it, Francine, Do you have a better idea?"
"No, sir," Francine quickly said.
"OK then, any questions?" Billy said looking around the room.
When he saw there were none, he said, "Good. Well, what are we waiting for, people? Let's get moving."
At approximately four thirty in the morning, the first car pulled on to Adams Street. It was followed by two more. The various and sundry men and women, dressed in black, got out and convened at the lead car.
"OK, people," Billy started, "here is the plan. George Street is three blocks over. It's a cul de sac, so there is only one way out by car. I want you two," he said pointing at two men to his right, "to go through the yards over here, and come in the back. Desmond, King, and I will go through the road. We'll meet up in front of the house at the center of the road. Let's go."
At Billy's command, the small group dispersed and went off in three separate directions. As Billy and Amanda reached the street, they were met by the first two agents. They did not have to wait very long for the next group of two, as they came running over.
"Sir, we found a body. It's Agent Dunbar. She's been shot."
"What?" Billy asked. "Where?"
"Behind that blue house over there. We found her in the hedges."
"Damn," Billy swore. "OK, people, let's be careful; one of us has already been killed. Amanda, I want you and Francine to go and check out the yards over there. You two go over to the next house," he said pointing at the other group. "Williams, you and Craig take me to where you found the body."
Amanda and Francine walked over to the house. As they walked around the front yard, something caught Amanda's attention.
"What is it Amanda?" Francine asked.
"This is my mother's, I gave it to her for her birthday," Amanda said with one blue knitted glove in her hand. It went with her black coat she was wearing today."
"OK, so she's here somewhere, but where?"
"I know she's here, let's look around," Amanda said.
"We'll find them Amanda," Francine said as she reached over to touch Amanda's shoulder. Amanda and Francine walked around in the yard. When they got to the area under the kitchen window, they heard a voice.
"OK, you are going to cease to be a nuisance any longer. I'm going to kill you like I did my little friend. Then Stetson and Thornton will be next. I'll find another way to get to Melrose and King."
"It's Gregory," Amanda hissed.
"I know, call for backup," Francine hissed back.
"No time," Amanda said shaking her head.
"Amanda," Francine warned as Amanda went to the kitchen door and opened it. Amanda quietly looked around the corner and peered into the dining room. She could see Gregory's back and beyond him her mother. He had his gun pointed at the back of her head, and was prepared to kill her execution style. Amanda quickly walked up to him and pointed her gun at his head.
"Drop it Gregory," she said in a quiet voice.
"Mrs. King," Gregory said. "How nice of you to join us."
"Gregory, I said drop the gun."
"Now, why would I do that?" he asked
"Because, I'll kill you if you don't," she answered.
"Amanda, what are you doing here?" Dotty asked.
"Not now, Mother," Amanda replied through clenched teeth.
"This is your daughter?" Gregory asked in amazement.
"I'm serious," Amanda said. "I've never shot anyone before, but I will shoot you."
At that moment another door to the dining room opened. Billy and Francine entered, with Lee and Harry in tow. Gregory looked over at the agents with disgust.
"Kolinski," he spat. "I see that your people have found you yet again."
"I trained them, Gregory, what did you expect?"
"I expected you to die," he said as he quickly fired over in Harry's direction. Harry fell back as a bullet struck him in the right shoulder. At the same time Gregory received a shot in the back from Amanda's gun, and toppled over onto Dotty. Billy and Francine ran over to Dotty, and helped her out from under Gregory's body. Harry looked over at Lee and spoke.
"You'd better go take care of her, boy."
Lee walked over to Amanda's side. She was standing silently, gun in hand, staring at Gregory's body. He reached over, and tried to take the still warm gun from her hand.
"It's over. Let me have the gun," he said.
"I shot him, Lee."
"I never wanted to have to do that," she whispered.
Dotty walked over, and took Amanda in her arms. As her mother held her, Amanda began to cry silently.
"Come on, people," Billy said. "Let's get out of here."
Dotty found herself waiting in Doctor MacJohn's office at the Agency clinic. She wasn't sure exactly what had happened today. All she knew, was that her baby had killed a man. Granted, he was preparing to kill her, but still. Her thoughts were interrupted by a blonde woman entering the room.
"Mrs. West, we met last year, when there was that little security mix-up. My name's Francine Desmond."
"I remember. Where's Amanda?"
"She's busy at the moment. I can't really tell you where, but she should be done shortly. I need you to come with me. We have a few questions we need to ask, but it shouldn't take too long. I know this has been a rough day."
"Yes, it has," Dotty replied.
Dotty followed Francine to Billy's office. As she crossed the bullpen, she saw Amanda coming out of the conference room.
"Amanda," she called out.
Francine interrupted her, "I'm sorry, but you can't talk until this is over." Francine opened the door to Billy's office, and led Dotty inside. Billy looked up and motioned for Dotty to sit down. After she was settled, he began to speak.
"Mrs. West, I'm sure that you have a lot of questions. I'll do my best to answer any I can. But first, I need to ask you some questions about what happened. Do you think you can handle that?"
"I'll try," Dotty answered.
"Good," Billy said. "Francine, would you do me a favor?"
"Sure, Billy. What?"
"Could you go down to the cafeteria and find some sandwiches and coffee? I'm sure Mrs. West is hungry."
Francine left the office and headed down the hall. Billy looked back at Dotty and began to speak.
"OK, Mrs. West. I know a lot of things have happened today. I'm sure you're confused and a little disoriented. The man who abducted you was named Gregory. He was an agent for the Soviet Union. He had a grudge against Harry and Lee. Unfortunately, I can't tell you anymore. I have to impress upon you that anything you hear in this office, must remain private. National security depends upon that."
Seeing her nod, Billy continued, "OK, exactly why were you following Lee Stetson?"
"I wanted to see why he wouldn't marry my daughter. I figured he was married. So, I was just going to watch him for a little while, and see what I could find out," she answered.
"Where did he go?"
"To the grocery store, the wine store, the jewelry store, the drycleaner's. Can you believe that he picked up my daughter's stuff with his wife's?"
"Mrs. West, can you go on?" Billy interrupted.
"Then he went to a house. I figured it was his house. But not long after he got there, he and another gentleman came out. Some other man had a gun on them."
"Go on, please," Billy prompted.
"I called the police, and then all hell broke loose. You and Amanda came there, and you know what happened from there."
"OK, why did you leave the Agency?"
"That poor girl," Dotty sighed. "I believe her name was Agent Dunbar? She told me that you wanted me to go to a safehouse. When we got to the house, I've never seen anyone get killed before..."
Billy walked over to the couch and sat next to Dotty. Dotty looked up and smiled. After a moment, she composed herself and went on with her story. "Lee and Harry were down in the basement. Lee looked awful, like he had gone three rounds with Mike Tyson. After a while, I went back upstairs."
"How did you get the message across?" Billy asked.
"I asked him and he let me. I figured that if there was any chance that Amanda got it, she would understand."
"Well, thank God that she did," Billy answered.
"Now, you said you would answer any questions I had?"
"Is Lee married?"
"He's not married to anyone else, if that's what you're asking. He loves your daughter very much."
"What do you mean not to anyone else?"
"Just what I said."
"Well, if he's not married to anyone else, then who is he married to? I distinctly heard him tell the wine shop manager, that his wife liked a particular kind of wine."
Billy looked over to Dotty and smiled.
Suddenly Dotty looked up at Billy and shook her head. "I'm going to kill them," Dotty said. "Why didn't they tell me?"
"They didn't tell anyone, until recently. They told me about two months ago. They're trying to find a way to tell everyone, but still keep them safe," Billy said as he placed his hand on her forearm.
"I guess that I can appreciate that, but still....." Dotty sighed.
"I felt the same way, too. I love Lee like a son. It hurt to find out he was keeping something so important a secret."
At about that time, Francine knocked on the door of Billy's office. She opened the door and came in. She brought in a cart with sandwiches and coffee on it. Billy looked up and smiled. "Thanks, Francine, I appreciate it. We're almost done here. What's going on with Amanda and Scarecrow?"
"They're done, and waiting in their office," Francine answered.
"Thanks, could you give us a moment please?"
"Sure, Billy," Francine said as she turned out and walked out of the office.
Billy turned back around and looked at Dotty. "OK, that's settled. Now, we have to figure out some way to convince those two they're being stupid."
"What do you suggest Mr. Melrose?" Dotty asked.
"Just little hints about how great marriage and family is. Oh and the name's Billy, considering we're family and all."
"I like the way you think," Dotty said with a smile.
"I have one question though?" Billy queried softly. "How in the hell did you follow Lee Stetson without him knowing?"