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A SMKVirtual6 Episode

Scarecrow and Mrs. King are the property of Warner Brothers, Inc. and Shoot The Moon, Inc. No infringement of copyright is intended. The author and SMK Virtual Season 6 have not profited from this story. The characters belong to WB and Shoot The Moon, the story is the property of the author.

This episode is dedicated to those who are away from their homes and loved ones at this time of year.

Credits

Story Premise By: smkukfan and SMK720-Laura
Written By: SMK720-Laura
Editors: smkukfan, just browing, not exactly and moosemonger
SMK VS6 Season Creator: BlueAngel
SMK VS6 Executive Producers: SMKTiff, SMK720-Laura

My thanks to the usual suspects; Di, D, K and J. You guys are the best, bester, and bestest! You make it fun to write. And re-write! To Beaman and Francine, it's not Greece; but Beaman keeps his Buick and Francine doesn't have to worry about dodging the mistletoe! <wink> It goes without saying to my husband and sons, the three of you are the finest answer to any question I may ever have! Thank you to the readers of VS6, you're the reason we write in the first place. Enjoy!

Prologue
December 22, 1988 2:37 am
Tremblant Eastin Resort
Quebec, Canada

The man thought he had a chance.

Shadows cast by the massive pine trees were only slightly darker than the frigid December sky at midnight. Stars twinkled brightly in the inky darkness, broken only by the thin sliver of a waxing moon.

His breath rose in clouds, clinging and freezing to his mustache and eyebrows. Making his way to the edge of the tree line the man stopped, listening for the unmistakable sound of the snowmobiles that had dogged him that night.

Silence greeted him as he stepped into the deepening snow that lay beyond the trees. Pushing himself, he plodded through the heavy drifts that lay on the mountain, falling and picking himself up, only to fall again. Swearing, he continued to break trail. His heart was bursting from the effort it cost him to cross the mountain that night. He admitted to himself that fear was also contributing to the pain in his chest. Not fear for himself. Fear of failure.

The wind picked up, as snow swirled around him, limiting his vision and hearing. Then he saw them! The lights of the Tremblant Village lay in front of him. Renewed by the nearness of the village and impending safety, he picked up his speed. As he did, the wind took on an ominous sound, that of a skier schussing down hill.

The man did not stop. He pulled his cellular telephone from his pocket and he hit the speed dial for his office. He cursed himself for the message that announced he was not there; what he wouldn't give to be at his desk right now answering that phone.

The sound became a roar as it closed on him. The man started his message before the beep, his voice a litany, his message a prayer.

"27 abort! 27 abort! 27 abort!" The phone flew from his hand when the bullet hit, his groan and the gunshot that ended his life recorded in his office in Washington D.C.

The skier and snowmobiles stopped by his lifeless body. "Take him to the avalanche line. Let the snow bury him." The skier watched as the lifeless body was tossed on the back of the one of the snowmobiles and taken up the hill into the far reaches of the mountain.

Staying within the shadows of the tree line, the skier waited until the call came confirming that the body had been dropped. Pulling a remote control from his pocket, a sneer appeared on his thin lips as he flipped the switch. Thunder echoed from the mountain tops and throughout the valley below as the charges that broke the avalanche ridge buried all that lay in its path.

He was only sorry that he had to lose two brand new snowmobiles.

Act One
December 23, 1988 3:40 pm
Tremblant Eastin Resort
Quebec, Canada

"Hey guys? Give us a hand with this luggage, will ya?" Lee Stetson watched Phillip and Jamie as they hit the ground running the minute the taxi stopped in front of the Eastin Resort at Tremblant. Freeing another large suitcase from the trunk, Lee wondered how they had gotten the bags in there in the first place.


" Guys? Come on! Gimme a hand here? Now." The two young men stopped and slowly made their way back to the taxi as Lee shook his head. Reaching into the depths of the trunk for a small cosmetic bag; a piercing whistle made him hit his head on the trunk as he straightened.

"Sorry sweetheart. I just wanted the boys to help you, that's all," Amanda removed his hand from where he rubbed the spot he hit and gave him a quick kiss on the head before she turned back to watch the progress of Phillip and Jamie. "Come on, fellas! No skiing until we're settled! The longer you take to get here, the longer it will be before we can hit the slopes!"

The boys broke into a run and grabbed a suitcase in each hand. Why didn't I think of that? Closing the taxi's trunk, Lee pulled cash from his pocket and paid the driver. Turning to look at the sweeping entry of the five star resort, he saw Dotty come out of the front door with a porter and luggage rack in tow.

"Bienvenue a la Ressourse Tremblant d'Eastin! Je suis Michel et il est mon plaisir de rencontrer vous, Monsieur et Madame Stetson. J'ai deja eu le plaisir de rencontrer belle Mme. West!" The porter took Amanda's hand and kissed her knuckles while Amanda raised an eyebrow and gave a slight smile at the scowl on her husband's face.

"Amanda, don't you just love the French?” Dotty clapped her hands together under her chin, her face radiant. “So cultured! So exciting! So...”

"French? Actually, Michel is French Canadian, Mother."

"Yes, darling. And the language! Oh, it sends tingles up and down my spine. Maybe I can take lessons while I'm here!"

"We'll see if we can schedule them in between your ski lessons."

Lee grinned as he watched his mother-in-law follow the porter into the lodge. Taking Amanda's arm in his, he whistled for Phillip and Jamie who were studying the steam rising from a stream that circulated hot water through the outdoor spa.

Once inside the lounge of the resort, the boys stopped and stared at the massive stone fireplace that served as the centerpiece of the entrance. The beams rose stories above as the interior opened to the roof line fifty feet above the lobby.

"Wow! Would you look at this place? Jamie! Look at the slopes out that window!"

"Can we go look, Mom? Just while you check in?" Phillip was already at the bank of floor-to-ceiling windows while Jamie waited for permission.

"Sure, but nowhere else."

Lee checked in and was given key cards for their rooms as well as itineraries for all events held over the Christmas holiday. Signing his name in the guest register, he turned to Amanda and winked.

"This is a wonderful Christmas present, Lee." Amanda kissed him on the cheek then wrapped her arms around him in a hug.

Chuckling, Lee gave his wife a quick kiss. "Remind me where we just left off, alright?" Following the porter, Lee waved to the guys and looked for Dotty. "Ah, Amanda? We've lost your mother."

Amanda gave a soft laugh. "No, we didn't. She's at the concierge desk. She's probably signing herself up for French lessons!"

"She certainly throws herself into things, doesn't she?

"Like mother like daughter!"

"Hmm! Wait until you see the rooms, they're great and very private. We have a great view, a hot tub for two, and a fireplace. A romantic Christmas for Mr. and Mrs. Stetson and family."

"It sounds like heaven! I can't wait to hit the slopes!"

Lee leaned and whispered in Amanda's ear as they waited for the elevator. "I can't wait to hit the hot tub!" He grinned at Amanda's answering smile.

The boys fell in behind them and Dotty rushed over from the concierge desk. "I just met the most marvelous man, Amanda! He's the concierge and his name is Jean Paul. So French! Well, of course French Canadian, but so French just the same!"

The elevator opened and the King-Stetson-West family followed the porter inside. Dotty continued where she had stopped in mid breath. "And Jean Paul has promised to find someone who can help me with my French. It's such a delightful language, dear! Did you know it's the language of, oh my, what did Jean Paul say?"

"French is the official language of diplomacy," Lee supplied.

"No. No, that's not what he said."

"The official language of France?" Phillip asked in a snide voice, earning him a look from his grandmother.

Michel, their porter declared, "Le Francais est la langue des amoureux! For lovuer's!"

"Yes! That's the word he used! Merci, Michel! Merci!" Dotty gave Michael a kiss on each cheek, copying the continental style, much to Michel's surprise. The boys groaned as Amanda studied the ceiling of the elevator while Lee and Michel grinned.

Everyone followed Michel to the suite and he opened the door. Lee smiled when he heard Amanda's gasp.

"It's beautiful. Lee, it's beautiful!" Amanda followed Michel as he showed them the features of their suite.

Phillip came out of the bedroom, a smirk on his face. "Hey Mom? There's a huge tub in the middle of the balcony surrounded by glass doors! How're ya gonna get a bath in that? It doesn't have a door or curtains?"

"It's a hot tub, stupid!" Jamie rolled his eyes at his brother.

"Don't call your brother stupid, Jamie," Amanda, Lee and Dotty chorused together.

"Perhaps if I showed the young masters their accommodations first, then the Madame?" Michel offered, holding his arm out to Dotty so he could escort her to her room.

Dotty smiled and took Michel's arm with a sly grin to Amanda and a wink for Lee. Phillip and Jamie walked to the door, shouldering each other to get through first, leaving the door to the suite wide open as they followed their grandmother. Amanda bit her lip to keep from laughing, while Lee had no problem with his mother-in-law hearing him chuckle at her expense.

"She seems to be enjoying this," Lee indicated with a nod at Dotty's retreating voice.

"You know Mother! This is right up her alley."

"And her daughter? Is this right up her alley too?" Lee placed his hands on his wife's waist and pulled her up against him.

"Perhaps!" She replied in a terrible French accent as she toyed with the button on Lee's shirt. "Perhaps zer are other zings zat are up my alley, as you say."

Lee's voice dropped low as he answered her, and Amanda shivered in his arms. "Perhaps you need a guide?"

"Are you offering, mon amour?"

"Yeah, I'm offering." Lifting Amanda's chin with his finger, he settled his mouth on hers as he pulled her close against him. Amanda sighed and the tip of her tongue touched his bottom lip. Claiming the kiss she offered, he groaned as he heard the knock on the door and the less than discreet cough that interrupted them.

"What is it with these damn interruptions? Did the Soviets plant a proximity alarm on us?" Lee grumbled as he crossed the room to the door. A tall, slightly balding man with a mustache stood at the door. He was impeccably dressed and possessed the air of one who was accustomed to having his orders carried out. Lee pegged him as either the assistant manager of the resort or the concierge.

"Monsieur Stetson, I am sorry to interrupt, but I am Jean Paul Fournier, The Eastin Tremblant concierge. Madame West inquired about lecons Francaises; French lessons. I am happy to announce that I am available to assist Madame, if she is agreeable."

Lee looked the concierge over; something about the man was familiar. Lee gave himself a mental shake; Get a grip, Stetson, everyone looks familiar to you. "I'm sorry, Mrs. West isn't here right now, but I'll be sure—"

As soon as the words left his mouth, Dotty's voice raised in excitement had both men turning in her direction in the hallway.

"Jean Paul! What a pleasant surprise! Oh! I see you've already met my son-in-law, Lee." Reaching the door, Dotty linked her arm with Jean Paul's, giving him a bright smile as she escorted him into the room. "Amanda? This is Monsieur Fournier, our concierge. Jean Paul, my daughter, Amanda Stetson."

"Enchante', Madame Stetson," Jean Paul said as he leaned toward Amanda.

Lee's eyes narrowed as he watched the concierge kiss his wife's cheeks. Taking a step toward the man, he came up short when Amanda caught his eye, her own sparkling with laughter and blinking with each kiss she received. He relaxed then watched as Jean Paul stepped away from Amanda and turned toward Dotty.

"Madame West, I am unable to find a tutor for you that is amenable to your schedule. I wish to offer myself as your humble instructor, if you find that I would satisfy your needs?"

"I certainly don't wish to keep you from your duties here, Jean Paul. I'm sure that everyone at this resort depends upon your expertise."

Lee tried to suppress the grin that pulled at his lips. Dotty was putting up a very weak, half-hearted argument. He knew his mother-in-law would soon be having French lessons with the Tremblant's concierge. He coughed to cover the chuckle that escaped at the thought that he would have to keep an eye on them to make sure it was just lessons in the language of love that the concierge was giving her.

"So it is settled then. We will have cafe together this evening at nine in the Lounge. We will begin your lessons then."

"Thank you ... um, merci, Jean Paul, merci beaucoup!"

"Ah! I see that our exceptional atmosphere has already inspired you, Madame! Until the evening, jusqu'a plus tard, au revoir!" With a slight bow, Jean Paul walked to the door, followed by Dotty, after she allowed herself to savor the attention of the moment.

"Jusqu'a plus tard, until later, Jean Paul!" Closing the door, Dotty leaned against it and sighed.

"Well Mother, it seems you have made a conquest already and you're not even unpacked!"

"Amanda! If you don't ask, you won't ever experience life the way it should be experienced. Oh, what am I saying! You of all people, Amanda!" Giving Lee a hug, Dotty waggled a finger at Amanda. "Now don't you go and get all prim on me, Amanda Stetson! It's just French lessons."

With a wide grin, Amanda nodded her head at her mother, trying desperately not to laugh. "I'm sure it is, Mother! I'm sorry! Not another word!" Amanda pulled her thumb and forefinger across her lips.

"I'll see that the boys get settled. Perhaps Lee can improve your attitude toward the French and their wonderful culture." Swinging open the door, Dotty left the suite only to pop her head back in the room. "About an hour, Lee?"

The closing door didn't cover Dotty’s laughter as Lee reached for his wife. "I can guarantee the view, the company, the food, and the ski conditions. I can't guarantee an hour, but I intend to make the most of it, however long it lasts!"

"I've always said I like how you think, Stetson!"

"Let's check out that tub on the balcony!"

"I'm way ahead of you, Big Fella!"

With a grin of his own, Lee followed the soft laughter of his wife into their bedroom, pulling the double doors closed behind him.

Act Two
Le Savoire Restaurant 6:00 pm
Tremblant Eastin Resort

The soft glow of candlelight shimmered in the bay of windows that faced the lake. Voices murmured on low and discreet servers moved among the tables with the grace of dancers. The aroma of food made Lee's mouth water as he followed his family to their table by the windows.

Phillip flopped in his chair at the table only to jump up again at Lee's raised eyebrow. "Wow! Lee, this is pretty fancy. I'll bet everything on the menu is in French. How're we gonna know what we're eatin'?

"They have pictures for stupid Americans," Jamie shot back as he held his grandmother's chair for her, copying Lee as he held Amanda's.

"No, there aren't pictures, but I think I'll be able to help; I'm pretty good at deciphering a menu." Lee sat in his chair as he nodded at Phillip to sit as well. The waiter handed each of them a menu and excused himself.

"Hey Lee, look at that over there! Those people have only gotten a little piece of something on that plate! We're never gonna get enough to eat in this place. I'm gonna be too hungry to ski tonight!"

"Phillip, you'll get plenty to eat and I guarantee you'll be ready to ski tonight."

"But mom, we're gonna be here all night trying to get enough to eat!"

Lee sighed. "They're having traditional European service, the courses are brought individually. It makes for a leisurely meal with time for conversation with your dinner companions." As Phillip began to interrupt, Lee continued. "We have other plans for the evening and won't have traditional service tonight. But, we will one night before we leave; it's an enjoyable custom and you should experience it."

Opening their menus, Phillip and Jamie quickly scanned the contents. Probably looking for pizza and burgers, Lee thought with a smile. Looking up from his menu, he caught the look of surprise in Amanda's eyes and quickly turned to follow her gaze.

Beaman! What's he doing here? Lee looked at Amanda and saw the same question in her eyes. Giving a slight shrug, he put his menu down and placed his napkin on the table. "If you'll excuse me, I see a business colleague to whom I'd like to say hello. I'll be right back."

Crossing the restaurant, Lee came to Beaman's table and pulled out a chair and sat down. "Why are you here, Beaman?"

"Hello, Stetson. Have a seat, why don't you?"

"What are you doing here?"

"I'm having dinner. What does it look like I'm doing?"

"Beaman...."

Sighing, Beaman set his fork down and took a drink of water before answering. "The Secret Service lost a man last night. He was an advance man for 'POTUS'. He managed to get off a call to his office answering machine with the message '27 abort', and then a gunshot and his groan as he was shot. The cellular phone was still on, and the message recorded some voices on snowmobiles, and a skier who seems to be the man in charge. The skier ordered the body taken to the avalanche line. And then the skier activated the charge. You could hear the echo in the recording. Oh. He didn't give the snowmobilers time to leave the area. Nice guy to work for, huh?"

"What does it have to do with this resort?"

"I pinned the final signals of the cellular phone to an area just south of the tree line, right out that window in the lounge."

"You're kidding me!" Lee took one look at Beaman’s face and recanted. "No, you're not. And you're here to find what?"

"The killer. POTUS refuses to cancel his annual February ski trip. The 27 abort code is used only if an assassination is imminent. The Secret Service is going nuts, so Smyth got called and here we are."

"We?"

"Yeah, Desmond and me."

Lee laughed. "You and Desmond? That must have gone over really well with Francine! Where is she?"

"I don't know."

"What do you mean you don't know? Aren't you usually tailing her?"

Beaman shook his head and shot Lee a disgusted look. "I'm here to do one thing; Desmond is here to do another. And you're here for...?"

"Christmas."

"Ah, family vacation. How's it going?"

"Fine, until you showed up."

"Stetson, I'm not here to screw up your vacation. However, finding you and Amanda here doesn't exactly thrill me either. The two of you have the ability to create havoc out of thin air."

"Funny, Beaman. Look, we're on vacation. No coming to us for help, understand?"

"As hard as it may be, I'll try to keep from running to you for hand-holding. Amanda is looking concerned, Stetson, I suggest you go back and enjoy your dinner. And try to stay out of my way, will ya?"

Lee stood up and pushed in the chair. "No problem, Beaman." Returning to their table, Lee sat in his chair and smiled at the expectant faces watching him. "Ah, a man that your mom and I work with is here scouting locations. His name is Efraim Beaman, and he's here with another colleague, Francine Desmond."

"Cool! Location scouting? That sounds really interesting. Do you think he'd talk to me about his work?"

"Ah, I'm sure he'd love to Jamie, but he's on a really tight schedule. Maybe another time. So! Has everyone decided?"

"We didn't. We need you to help us. Amanda and I were able to decipher a few words, but..."

"I'm sorry. Here, let's look." Picking up the menu, the family tried to decipher the menu, laughing over the descriptions everyone was coming up with. Lee caught Amanda's eye and winked.

* * * * *

With dinner over, Phillip and Jamie ran back to their room to change into their ski clothes. Amanda, Dotty, and Lee followed at a slower pace. Walking through the lobby, Lee and Amanda both smiled as Dotty glanced toward the Lounge.

"Amanda, I think I'll find a nice chair by the fireplace, maybe enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and the fire."

"I think that sounds very nice, Mother."

"Do you want us to sit with you? We'd be happy to stay with you, Mom."

"Ah, oh no, Lee! There's not need for that! I'll be fine. I mean what could possibly happen to me in the Lounge? Unless there's something that's worrying you since you ran into your co-worker?"

"No, I have no concerns because Beaman is here. We honestly do location scouting, because we do make and distribute documentary films. Beaman is scouting the location for a documentary on avalanches and avalanche survival techniques."

"How...interesting. So you see? I'll be fine. Enjoy your night skiing. I'm looking forward to my first ski lesson tomorrow. Bye now!"

Dotty walked into the Lounge. Amanda stifled a giggle as the sway in her mother's hips became more pronounced the further into the Lounge she walked.

"I'm afraid she' going to throw out her hips if she keeps walking like that!"

Lee chuckled and took Amanda's arm as they walked toward the elevators. "Let her be, Amanda. I think your mother is capable of taking care of herself. Besides, this is her vacation too. Let her enjoy it."

"It's a habit to keep an eye on her, just like she keeps an eye on all of us. But I promise not to be too concerned! So! Night skiing with lit torches. Pretty interesting activities you have lined up for us, Stetson. I hope the boys don't burn anything."

"I hope their mother doesn't burn anything."

Amanda planted her finger on her husband's chest. "Only the midnight oil, if my husband doesn't tire himself out on the slopes this evening. Are you really unconcerned about Efraim's presence here?"

"That was a sharp change of subject from midnight oil and me to Beaman."

"Well, are you concerned? You always try to avoid answering a question if you don't want to answer it."

Shaking his head, Lee grimaced. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned. We must have the worst luck in the world. I tell you, Amanda—"

"You're doing it again, Lee."

"Sorry. He's here with Francine."

"Francine? Oh dear!"

"Exactly. Seems a Secret Service agent was killed last night, right out there on that mountain. He was doing advance work for the President. He issued a 27 abort code just as he was killed. It all recorded on his voice mail in DC. Beaman is here to find out what happened. Francine is here to scout the location for pre-visit tactical hazzards, and both of them will be looking for the killer."

"Here? At this resort? You're right, Lee. We have bad karma."

The elevator doors opened to reveal Francine Desmond. "Well, well, well! Look at who we have here? Do the two of you always manage to take your vacations in a den of spies and killers?"

"It's become something of a tradition, Francine."

"Amanda, you need a new family tradition if this is one of them!"

"We agree, don't we sweetheart?"

Lee nodded. "I ran into Beaman at dinner."

Giving them a very pretty pout, Francine glanced toward the restaurant. "He was eating? He didn't wait for me? What am I supposed to do now? Dine alone?"

"He said he didn't know where you were. And he didn't seem concerned either."

Francine grimaced and sighed. "I told him I'd think about it and let him know."

Lee and Amanda both laughed. "Oh Francine! I guess he gave you his answer to wait and see, didn't he?"

"His answer? I'm sure I can come up with an appropriate retort, Amanda. I'll just look over the menu and order room service. I have plenty of work to keep me busy. Amanda, dear, you wouldn't want to—"

"No, I wouldn't, Francine. I'm on vacation."

"Well, it was worth a try. I'm going to see if I can't find Beaman and give him a piece of my mind for leaving me high and dry for dinner. Have fun you two! Don't break anything!" And with that final shot, Francine headed into the restaurant.

Lee and Amanda stepped into the elevator and pushed the button for their floor. "I think I might actually feel sorry for Beaman. She's going to eat him alive." Lee wasn't too sure if he liked feeling sympathy for Beaman.

"I think Efraim is able to handle the situation just fine."

"He must like living dangerously then."

Amanda laughed again. "Of course he likes living dangerously! He's a spy!"

"I hope they finish what they're here to do and leave. I don't want our Christmas embroiled in Agency business. I think we've had enough of that in the past!"

" I agree. Let's not worry about it right now, okay? We have more pressing, immediate worries."

"And what might they be?" Opening the door to their suite, Lee and Amanda walked in and closed the door. "I can't think of anything more worrisome than Francine and Beaman running around this resort conducting Agency business."

"Phillip, Jamie, and me on skies with torches! You might find yourself schussing down the slopes with your hair on fire!"

"Don't make jokes about my hair, Amanda."

Moving into the bedroom of their suite, Amanda's voice filled with laughter floated out to where she had left Lee standing. "In that case, Stetson, maybe you had better wear a hat!"

The Slopes of Mount Tremblant 8:55 pm
Night Skiing

"I can't believe they actually warm your ski boots and gloves for you before you put them on! I've never heard of that before! But it's wonderful, isn't it?"

Lee laughed as Amanda continued to go on about the heated boots and gloves. Looking over his shoulder, he watched as the lift came up behind them. Sitting on the chair, he pulled his wife down on the chair with him, Amanda never missing a beat in her ramble. "Are you finished yet?"

"I'm sorry Lee. This is just more than I ever expected!"

"It's part of the service of the resort. One of many reasons why it's a five star property."

"It's wonderful, and so beautiful! Look at the skiers down there. It looks like ribbons of fire weaving down the trails!"

Lee managed to drag his gaze away from the delight on Amanda's face to the slopes below. Movement to his left caught his eye and he shifted to get a better look.

Two people on snowshoes plodded toward the tree line that edged the slopes. That has to be Beaman and Francine. Lee watched them dig in the snow. Probably looking for the cellular phone.

Lee was just about to turn away when the faint reddish glow of a laser targeting sight showed against the starkness of the snow. He was just about to yell, when he saw Beaman jump on Francine as a shot rang out from the tree line.

Amanda grabbed Lee's arm as she looked around the slopes. "Did you hear that, Lee? It sounded like a gun."

Lee pointed toward the tree line. "I think Francine and Beaman were the target. They're on snowshoes down there."

"Are they all right? They're down!" Amanda and Lee watched as Francine started to struggle, pushing against Beaman and finally managing to roll him off of her. Beaman stood up and tried to help Francine up, only to have her swat away his hands. After several attempts, Francine held her hands up to Beaman for help. "Thank goodness they're alright! Poor Francine, she's going to have to be nice to Efraim now that he saved her life!"

"I think she might have preferred to be shot."

"Lee?"

"Yeah, I know."

"What is going on here? Why is someone shooting at Efraim and Francine? The boys will be down on that mountain in a few minutes."

"We'll be with them, Amanda. I'll check into it when we get down and give Beaman a call. We know that Beaman and Francine are all right. We'll stay close to the boys. Tomorrow, we'll evaluate the situation and go home if Beaman and Francine don't get a handle on things."

"Alright. Maybe we should just go back to the rooms for the evening."

"We still have to ski down the mountain, Amanda. And to be honest, I don't think that whoever took that shot is going to stay on the mountain tonight to take another. It's too dangerous for them with all these people and the ski patrol out."

"You're right. You are right, aren't you?"

Lee hugged his wife as the ground came up under them. Skiing off the lift, they made their way to where Phillip and Jamie were collecting their torches for the run down the slope.

"Hey, Lee! This was a pretty cool idea. Thanks!"

"You're welcome. I'm glad you like it!"

Phillip nodded and smiled as his torch was lit. "Yeah, Jamie's right. This is pretty great! Thanks! You ready, worm brain?"

"Yeah, I'm ready. Bet you can't keep stay up on your skis all the way down."

"You wish! If I win, I get to go first on the video games."

Both boys pushed off, becoming part of the line that slowly snaked down the mountain. Amanda looked at Lee and smiled, her eyes glowing. AThank you, for everything, Lee." With her torch lit, Amanda pushed off, keeping an eye on Phillip and Jamie a few yards ahead of her.

Lee nodded as he found it hard to swallow past the lump in his throat. He pushed off right behind Amanda, coming up along side of her.

"Having fun?"

"This is great, Lee! Aren't you afraid being so close to me? Hat or no hat, I still might set you on fire!"

Lee laughed along with Amanda as they both hit their edges to catch up the guys. Lee watched the tree line as they skied past. Francine and Beaman were nowhere to be seen.

"Come on, slow poke! You don't really think I'd set you on fire, now do you?"

Coming up alongside Amanda, Lee leaned as close as possible to her, his voice dropping an octave or two so only she could hear him. "Set me on fire? Only every time you look at me."

Amanda smiled and winked at him, her face flushed and her eyes shining and bright with the reflection of the firelight. Lee felt his heart slam in his chest as he smiled back at his wife.

"Yeah, Amanda, every time you look at me."

Go to Act Three