The Past, the Present, and the Truth
truth is rarely pure and never simple."
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.
Disclaimer: Events dealing with when the marriage was revealed to the boys are referenced from the SMK5 story To Tell the Truth by Love.
By: Lori and SMK720-Laura
thanks: A huge thank you to Laura for co-writing this episode and
seeing that it got done. It would not be here today without your skill
in getting it from the idea stage and on to virtual paper. I am grateful
and a bit amazed by the fact that we both saw Jamie's actions playing
out so clearly in the same way. I cannot thank you enough for your willingness
to help with this.
Laura's thanks: Lori, thank you for trusting me enough with your 'baby'. Thanks Tiff, for the encouragement and rush beta job. And to my pal Kelley, thank you for letting me read you to sleep!
"Kidnapped!" Dotty West's voice rose with a mixture of exasperation and incredulity. "My grandson was kidnapped while on vacation and taken from Morocco to London!"
Amanda, Lee, and Jamie had arrived home late the night before. Dotty had just returned from dropping off Phillip at basketball practice. With Jamie getting some much needed rest, Lee and Amanda thought now would be a good time to break the news of the misadventures of their vacation.
"Yes, Mother." Amanda placed a plate of hot banana muffins in front of Dotty and poured another cup of coffee for Lee. She tried to keep her voice calm, but her mother was reacting just as she and Lee had expected. "We didn't want to tell you about it over the phone." She looked her mother in the eye. "You know about our jobs and the risks involved. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It wasn't something we could have prevented." Amanda sat down with her own cup of coffee and raised the mug to her lips. "Everything turned out all right, and Jamie seems to be handling it very well."
Dotty reached for a muffin with a determined set of her mouth and eyes. "So, this side trip to London had nothing to do with your jobs like you told me on the phone? But, you were chasing kidnappers to get Jamie back?"
"That's right." Lee chimed in, his support a reassurance to Amanda. He wanted to keep this as quick and painless as possible. "We were very lucky. Jamie's been through a lot, but we've talked with him about it. Now, he's just anxious now to get back to school and a normal life."
Dotty shook her head. "A normal life? What does that mean for this family? Do you realize that every single member of this family has either been held hostage or kidnapped? There's nothing normal about this family, Lee." Dotty raised and lowered the muffin from the table to her mouth, then set it down and straightened the placemat in front of her. "How did you find him? How could you possibly know he'd been taken to another continent?" Dotty looked at them expectantly, wanting answers but knowing she may not want to hear them once she got them.
Amanda watched her mother's face and actions. Dotty wanted answers, but even with her aware of their work, some details were better left unspoken. She reached down and gave her husband's leg a squeeze, and he took the silent cue.
"It's a long story with a happy ending. Let's just concentrate on that. Amanda and I are trained to deal with these situations, but no amount of training makes you comfortable with them happening to your own family." Lee reached out and clasped Amanda's hand in his. "Luckily we had the resources to get the information we needed." His calm voice soothed Dotty's ruffled feathers, but Amanda knew they were all a bit shaken over the recent incident. "When we learned where he was, I was able to get there and take out the man who was holding him."
"Take him out!" Dotty sat up straight in her chair and pinned Lee with a reproachful stare. Lee's attempt at ending the conversation quickly had failed with that choice of words. "Just how did you 'take out' the man in front of my grandson? Was there violence? Was Jamie hurt? What exactly did he see?"
Amanda decided she should intervene. "Jamie saw Lee with a gun, Mother, and witnessed the fight between Lee and the other man. The man fell off a stairwell. Jamie was pretty shocked and he asked a lot of questions. We tried to answer them as best we could."
"So, how did he take the news you when you finally told him what the two of you really do for a living?" She paused and looked between the two of them, then narrowed her eyes at their silence. "You did tell him, didn't you?"
"Not exactly," Amanda continued. "We didn't think the time or place was right for that. Lee and I know the boys need to be told, and we are going to do that . . . soon."
Dotty crossed her arms on the table. "Well, I'd say that ‘soon' is now."
Amanda set down her cup and placed a hand on her mother's arm. "Remember, Mother, Joe was very opposed to the boys knowing. We had to tell him about all of this over the phone since this changed Jamie's plan of meeting him in Estoccia. He was shocked and immediately thought our jobs were to blame for this."
Lee jumped in. "But we really were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it was our jobs that helped us."
"I think Joe's in agreement that they need to be told. He asked that we wait to make a decision until he comes back to the states from Estoccia at the end of next week so that he can be here. Phillip leaves in a few days for the basketball tournament. When he gets back, we can tell both boys together."
Dotty nodded. "I guess you have to consider his father's feelings." She raised one eyebrow. "But, don't you think maybe Jamie's figured it out already? Or at least knows that something's just not right? He's seen and heard too much over this past year not to have figured out that filmmakers don't carry guns and 'take out' bad guys every day."
"Jamie knows I have some military training and that we work for the government. He seemed satisfied with that for now."
"We realize that if we wait too much longer, they will figure it out. That's why we're telling them next week."
Dotty's skepticism was clear, and her exasperation came to the forefront. "You should have told them long ago, Amanda. I told you last year it should have been then. You've dug yourselves quite a hole by only giving them part of the truth. Did you ever think maybe he would have been less scared if he knew you and Lee had the training and resources to possibly help him?"
Amanda's calm demeanor shifted, and she blinked back an unwanted tear. "Mother, I have thought about everything over the last few days. Maybe we should have told them when we told them about our marriage. Maybe we shouldn't have kept them in the dark. Maybe we should have taken the risk." She paused and took a deep breath, then released it in a shuddering sigh. Lee squeezed her hand and bolstered her resolve. "But we didn't, and now we have to deal with that. I don't know what's best anymore, and I know they're going to have questions about why we didn't tell them the full truth last year. But I do think it's better to tell them together, when they're at home in a safe place and we have time to deal with any questions they may have."
Dotty peered into Amanda's face and stopped short of her next question. She placed a hand gently on Amanda's and her tone softened. "I'm sorry, dear. What you must have gone through when he was missing. Thank God it's all turned out all right." She reached her other hand toward Lee, who did the same. "I'm just glad you're all home safe and that you realize it's time to get the secrets in this family out in the open."
"Mother, I think you're right."
April 29, 1989
"Hey Squirt, welcome home." Phillip greeted his brother for the first time since his return. "Mom and Lee told me what happened when you were away. How come I miss all the fun?"
"Yeah, fun." Jamie didn't expect much outward emotion, but his brother's presence let him know Phillip was glad he was all right. "This was supposed to be my chance to do something exciting and different while you played stupid basketball."
"At least stupid basketball gets me out of school
for a few days this week for the tournament." Phillip plopped
down on the end of Jamie's bed. "You're not even missing any school
since your trip to visit Dad didn't happen."
Phillip leaned forward, his interest piqued. "Like what?"
"Well for one, Lee with a gun and doing some major kung-fu moves on Mr. Drayton to get us out of there."
"Cool! Maybe he and Mom did a documentary on James Bond."
"More like he *was* James Bond. I'm starting to wonder if he's ever made a documentary at all."
"What's that supposed to mean? Lee and Mom make films. What do you think? They're agents in his Majesty's secret service? That's just funny, wormbrain."
"I don't know. It's just weird. He was so cool and comfortable standing there with a gun pointed at him. Like he does it all the time." The scenes flashed through his mind in rapid succession. "And he had this whole system about signaling me when it was a good time to get away. And you should have seen him fighting. It was like something out of a movie."
"So, did you ask him about it?''
"Yeah, he and Mom looked real funny then he gave me some story about old military training kicking in. But, it didn't seem like that at all. He was good at it, like you get when you practice. They just said they were so happy that we were back together again and changed the subject. I knew they weren't going to talk about it, so I just went along with them. But, the whole thing made me remember what Angela said last year."
"What are you talking about, doofus? You haven't mentioned your little girlfriend for a long time."
"She wasn't my girlfriend, jerk. We're just friends. I don't see her as much this year. We've got different classes. But, remember that whole essay thing and how Mom and Lee were pretty much guilted into telling us they were married?" At Phillip's shrug, Jamie continued. "Well, Angela told me she overheard them saying something about not telling us the truth about their jobs yet. Their words...the truth about their jobs. So, I know there's something they're not telling us."
Jamie went on, hoping to find something that would convince Phillip to take him seriously. "And remember when Mr. Barnhill was here a few months ago and he said something about Mom being a government agent? Mom seemed really nervous that we overheard that."
Phillip waved an aimless hand in Jamie's direction. He wasn't buying it. "Yeah, but he also said that was just something he misunderstood. Remember that?
Jamie shook his head. "But they don't act like filmmakers. Have you ever been to their studio? How come we've never seen any of their films? How come neither one of them can take a decent picture or knows anything about cameras? Lee tries, but come on, I know more about taking pictures than he does and that's just from reading about it and practicing. Wouldn't he be better at it if he was directing films and doing stuff like that all the time? He usually just looks confused when I ask him questions."
Phillip stared at him. "You're nuts, bro. You're just nuts. Mom and Lee make films for the government. What else could they do? They've said there are secrets about it because it's the government. Everybody knows the government has secrets. That doesn't make them some kind of spies or something." Phillip laughed. "My mom's a spy. Yeah, right."
"Laugh if you want, Phillip, but I know something's going on. I was there and I saw things. Lee looked ten times more comfortable with a gun than he ever has with a camera. I don't know what they do, but I just keep thinking about it. Even Grandma acts funny sometimes when she says they're running late in the editing room or on a shoot, like she's worried. Haven't you ever seen that look she gets?
Phillip stood and headed for the door. "Jamie, bro, you're whacked. That's all there is to it. Being kidnapped has obviously messed with your head seriously. I'm glad you're all right, but you really need to stop thinking so much." Phillip grabbed a random shirt off the floor and tossed it in Jamie's direction, then walked out of the room.
Jamie caught it and watched his brother leave. Something wasn't right. And he was going to prove it.
Monday, May 1, 1989
Jamie sat in history class. He'd had trouble paying attention in his last two classes this morning. His mind was still racing. Spring break certainly hadn't turned out as he expected. Maybe Phillip was right. He *was* thinking too much.
Mrs. Swanson was going to talk about their projects today. He'd been looking forward to this all year. It was time to concentrate on finishing the school year. With this big history project coming up, he'd have plenty else to think about. And it sure wouldn't be hard to beat the "C" Phillip got on his project last year.
"You'll be expected to start work this week on your 8th grade living history projects and you'll have about a month to complete them," Mrs. Swanson said as she passed out a stack of papers to the class. "As you know, you'll each be paired up with an older person living in our community who has volunteered to share some of their life experiences with you. History through the eyes of those who've lived it. We're very fortunate here in Arlington to have a wealth of people who've led very interesting lives and are willing to share their time with you. In addition to the interviews you'll have to research the topics they talk to you about for your final paper. Don't procrastinate, there's a lot to do and the time will go by quickly."
Once the papers were passed out to everyone, Mrs. Swanson returned to the front of the room. "On the final page there's a checklist for you to make sure you get everything done. The project will start with your initial interviews on Wednesday. Our volunteers will be visiting the school, and you'll each have a chance to talk with them and get to know them. Please take the time over the next few days to review your notes on World War II. That is our focus time period. Each of our volunteers lived through that time period, as a soldier, a worker, a parent, or even a child, but each of them will bring an interesting and unique perspective on an important time in American history."
"Your initial interview does not have to be very in depth. It's a chance to get to know one another. But you'll need to set up at least two more interviews after that, after school, at the library, or your home. Occasionally families will take an interest in the project and would love to meet the person you're interviewing. That choice is up to you and the person you're working with, but each of our volunteers is willing to be available to you for the time you need. They know what's expected in being involved in this project and are anxious to share their lives with you."
Mrs. Swanson walked to her desk and retrieved a stack of half-sheet papers. "And now, the moment you've all been waiting for. As I call your rows, you each may come up and randomly chose a slip of paper written with that all important person's name and a little bit of their background. No peeking and no trading."
Jamie waited anxiously for his row to be called. Phillip had hated doing this project and didn't think the person he'd been paired with was very interesting. He'd wanted a soldier, but got a meteorologist. Jamie looked forward to it. No matter who he got he knew they'd have interesting things to discuss. History was cool.
Finally it was his turn and Jamie pulled a slip of paper from the pile in front of Mrs. Swanson. Hurrying back to his seat, he sat quickly so he could look at his paper.
"Melville Jameson, age 70, retired analyst. First year teacher in 1942, recruited for work with OSS in 1943." OSS. That sounded so familiar. Jamie searched his mind and finally came up with the answer. Office of Strategic Services. He'd been paired with a spy! Oh, boy, this was going to be interesting.
A spy. He was going to talk to a spy. Jamie bounded up the steps to his room, tossing his backpack on his bed as he passed it on his way to his desk. Pulling the 'O' book from the row of encyclopedias, he slumped in his chair, and pushed his glasses up on his nose as he flipped through the pages of the book.
". . .O.S.S. Hmm." Not finding what he wanted, he looked elsewhere. "Office of Strategic. . .Ser. . .vices. Alright!" Leaning his head on his hand, Jamie read the pages of the encyclopedia, pulling other volumes as articles were noted.
Finally pulling off his glasses, he rubbed his eyes. There was more to this spy stuff than he thought. Dead drops, spy rings, agents, double agents, triple agents. Covers. . . . Covers? I wonder. . . . Putting the books back on the shelf, he grabbed his jacket and ran downstairs.
"Mom? Grandma? Lee?"
"In the kitchen, Jamie!" Dotty sang out. "How are you, darling?"
Jamie came to a sliding halt at the kitchen island where his grandmother was looking through the mail. Jamie grinned as she looked at him over the tops of her glasses; the look that asked questions, scolded, teased and warmed you all at once. "Can I go to the library, Grandma? I won't be long, I promise." He grabbed one of the cookies out of the cookie jar, munching away as he waited.
"Library. . .do you want me to drive you?" Dotty asked, still reading the mail.
Jamie pushed away the fear that rushed through him. He was home. He was safe. He could go to the library by himself. Couldn't he? Thinking about being alone frightened him so much all he could think of was running around the counter and begging his grandmother to hug him and not let him go.
He closed his eyes and willed his beating heart to stop slamming against his ribs. Jamie opened his eyes to find his grandmother watching him closely, her eyes shiny with unshed tears. Pulling himself up as tall as he could, even leaning on his toes to appear taller, he shoved out his chin and shook his head.
"Thanks, Grandma, but, I'll be fine." His shins hurt, so he let his heels drop to the floor again, but he never took his eyes from his grandmother's face.
She nodded at him as she set the mail down on the counter. Dotty walked around the island and hugged him with arms that said she had seen the experiences of life, someone who had lived forever. "Alright, but not too late."
Hugging her back, he nodded. He didn't mind that his grandmother hugged him every chance she got, or his mom too, for that matter. He was just glad that Phillip wasn't around to give him a hard time about it.
Grabbing a couple of cookies as he went out the back door, he hopped on his bike and headed to the Arlington Public Library. Images of James Bond, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart and Batman ran through his head. He didn't know where he got the Batman thought from. Maybe because Lee had been so cool and calm when he was kidnapped. Maybe Lee had an alter ego too. Maybe Mom did? Like who though? Jamie gave a mental shrug, his mom was, well, just his mom.
Stopping at the street light, he pushed the pedestrian button and waited for the walk signal to change. He nearly laughed out loud as he continued to think about his mom as a super hero. Not Catwoman, not his mom. Bat Girl? Well, sometimes her hair did get messy like he thought hair would be after bats flew in and out of it, but Bat Girl wore those tight black things, and well, his mom was really not that kind of person. Wonder Woman? He didn't want to think about that!
Giving himself a mental shake, he focused on spies and what he knew about spies. The library loomed before him. He rode his bike into the bike bar and hopped off, then locked the wheels before running inside.
"Mr. King! Please!" shushed Mrs. Carlisle, the librarian at the front desk. "We don't run in the library!"
Jamie offered an apologetic look and slowed to a sedate walk until he got around the first stack of books. He picked up speed and headed straight to the card index files to seek out information on the OSS.
Sighing, too loudly it seemed since the research librarian ‘shushed' him, Jamie went from subject to subject, but didn't find too much information. He stopped and looked at the research librarian again. Nobody ever wanted to ask Mr. Martin a question. He didn't look like a librarian. He was a big man with a short military type haircut. He had a scar on his cheek and wore a big ring on his right hand with the Marine Corp insignia on it. Frankly, Mr. Martin, the research librarian scared the dickens out of everyone.
Well, he'd been scared plenty lately. There wasn't much left to be frightened of. And Jamie doubted that Mr. Martin, the Arlington Public Library's research librarian had anything that he couldn't handle.
Taking the scrap of paper where he had scribbled Dewy Decimal numbers and book titles, he went and stood in front of Mr. Martin's desk. Jamie cleared his throat and waited for the librarian to look up at him.
"Yes, Mr. King. How may I help you?"
Inhaling a deep breath, and reminding himself that no one ever died from hearing a deep, gravely voice, Jamie handed him the paper he held in his hand. "Mr. Martin, I've been assigned a project in school about the OSS. I'll be meeting a man who worked for them during World War II, but, I'm having trouble finding any information about the OSS. Can you help me?"
"I take it that you'd like to go into this interview with some background on the subject, correct?"
"Yeah, uh, yes sir. I think I'll get a better interview if I know something about what he did. That way I'll be able to get deeper into the subject with him," Jamie finally looked Mr. Martin in the eye, "find out more stuff from him."
"Excellent plan, Mr. King. I'd say you have the basic understandings of how an intelligence agent should work. Pre-planning would be key, wouldn't you agree?"
"Yes, sir. Can you help me?"
"Let's see what we can find. And if we can't find enough information to satisfy you in the library, I'll call around and see what I can uncover for you."
"Thank you, Mr. Martin. I really appreciate this."
"You're welcome. Let's see what we can find."
May 1, 1989
Flying up the driveway, Jamie navigated around the cars parked in the driveway. He'd seen his mother watching the street from the window. She was probably worried about him being out on his own. Sometimes he was worried about being out on his own.
Putting his bike where it belonged in the garage, Jamie lugged the stack of books and articles that he and Mr. Martin had found at the library. Mr. Martin said that Jamie had more than enough to get started with. Thinking about the research librarian, Jamie decided that he wasn't as scary as he seemed. He was a pretty cool guy, and he listened to what you had to say. That was one thing he noticed that had changed since Morocco. A lot of the things that used to bug him or bother him just didn't seem that important. And he looked at people differently too.
The back door swung open for Jamie. "Well hello there, stranger. How was your trip to the library? Find what you need?" Amanda ran her hand through his hair as he passed by her.
"Yeah, I did. Thanks. Mr. Martin helped." Jamie held tight to the resources he carreied. He really didn't want to talk to his mom about spies. Just yet.
"Mr. Martin, huh? I thought nobody liked Mr. Martin."
"Nah, he's okay, Mom. He was really good helping me find things, and he's kinda nice. I like him."
His mother raised her eyebrows at him. He tried hard to show her that the kidnapping hadn't changed him, but she could always see right through him. She'd know where he was more thoughtful and less concerned with much of the stuff that bothered him before they left for Morocco.
"So. . . what are you working on?"
"School project. The encyclopedia didn't have much information."
"Well, what information do you need?"
"We've been assigned someone who was involved in World War II."
She nodded. "Ah, this is your big history project. No meteorologists this time?" Jamie made a face and his mother smiled. "So, you've gotten information about that? What part of World War II?"
Jamie started to back away, wanting to get the books to his room before his mom saw the topics. "What do you mean?"
His mother cocked her head. "Well, Jamie. There are plenty of topics if you're studying World War II. Pearl Harbor, the war in Europe, the South Pacific and more. You can study D-Day and the invasion of Normandy, or just a specific battle."
Jamie grinned. "Well, stuff in Europe, you know, advancing troops and all that." His foot hit the bottom step, and he turned to run up to his room.
His mom's voice stopped him in his tracks. He turned and leaned on the banister, his eyes raised in question.
"I'm glad you're home, sweetheart."
"Me too, Mom. I'm gonna get to work now,
"How did you hear me?" Lee wrapped his arms around his wife and snatched a piece of the carrot she had been cutting. He popped it in his mouth and waited for Amanda to answer his question.
Turning in her husband's arms, Amanda smiled. She pointed to the window over the sink. They both looked at the glass which reflected their images back to them.
Lee chuckled. "I guess you still have the home advantage."
"And don't you forget it!"
"Jamie finally came home?"
Amanda nodded as she went back to her cutting. "He's upstairs now working on his school project. He has a stack of books that he got from the research librarian."
"Really? The feared Mr. Martin? That's a change." Grabbing another carrot, Lee leaned against the counter, crunching, as he watched his wife.
"I know. It's like he had to grow up too fast because of Morocco."
"Amanda, he's growing up regardless of what happened to him. And maybe leaving the fear of Mr. Martin the research librarian behind him isn't such a bad thing."
"Leaving one fear behind and replacing it with another isn't what I wanted for my son."
"Come here." Taking Amanda in his arms, he hugged her to him. "I know it's not what you had planned, but Jamie is a thoughtful kid, and he's going to process this and make changes in his life in a way that makes him comfortable. He's found that the world isn't what he thought it is. In good and bad ways. That's what everyone finds out sooner or later."
"I'd rather it was later."
"Maybe, but then you'd be the one dealing with ole gravely voice Martin down at the library, and you know how much you love that."
"I hate it when you're right. You know that, don't you?"
"It doesn't happen often, that's for sure." Sneaking another carrot, and dropping a kiss on his wife's cheek, Lee headed back for the family room and the evening news.
Amanda tossed the carrots in the pot with everything else, pushed it into the oven, set the timer and checked the thermostat one last time. As she washed her hands, she looked out the window and into her backyard. Maybe Lee was right. Maybe it's just that I didn't want my boys to find out about the bad things in the world.
Looking her reflection in the eye, Amanda nodded at herself. Maybe Jamie wasn't the only one who had learned a lesson about the world. Amanda had learned one too.
Maybe ignorance isn't bliss.
May 2, 1989
The day seemed to drag for Jamie. His teachers kept asking him what was wrong and even though it was on the tip of his tongue to tell them he didn't want to be in their classes, he had shrugged and forced himself to pay attention to what was being said in class. But his mind kept drifting to the notebook in his backpack filled with questions to ask one Melville Jameson, 70, retired analyst for the OSS and CIA.
More than that, he wanted to see if some of the stuff he had read about spies was true.
Walking into Mrs. Swanson's room, Jamie immediately saw their guests sitting in the back of the room talking with Mrs. Swanson. He put his books on his desk then sat and turned in his chair to study the group of people. Who was the spy he was assigned to? He watched each of the guests in turn, trying to figure out who was who.
He had gone through the group and was starting back when he noticed the one gentleman with the receding hairline and the glasses. No different from the other men there in physical appearance, but something about him stood out. It was the way he looked at everything, like he was really seeing it. He'd seen that look before.
Lee did the same thing.
The bell rang and Mrs. Swanson called the class to order. "As you may have noticed by now, all of our guests are here and are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to talk with you. Does everyone have their list of questions for their initial interviews?" She looked around the class, smiling as everyone held up their hands in answer. "Alright, let's get started!"
Everyone turned in their seats to look at the group of people in the class. Jamie felt himself drawn to Mr. Jameson, watching him as he watched the rest of the class. When his name was called, he jumped up from his chair and walked directly to the man he had decided was Mr. Melville Jameson. He hadn't been wrong.
Jamie thrust out his hand out and introduced himself. "Hi. I'm James King. But you can call me Jamie, everyone else does."
"It's nice to meet you, Mr. James King, Jamie. I see you had decided who I was beforehand. Excellent observation skills! Well, I'm Mel." He shook his hand as Jamie started to object to calling the older man by his first name. "No, I'm too old to be reminded how old I am with polite manners. But in a concession to your teacher and parents, call me Mr. Mel."
Jamie grinned. He decided that he like Mr. Jame. . .Mr. Mel. "I know that this was supposed to be a ‘get to know you' meeting, but, I did alot of research, and I have tons of questions for you. Do you mind?"
Melville Jameson chuckled. "Not at all. Fire away!"
Jamie pulled his notebook out and opened it. He had done a good job of putting the questions he wanted into categories, hoping to keep the retired analyst from figuring out what he was doing. But he had a feeling that he wouldn't be able to fool Mr. Mel at all. Well, he still had to try.
"Were you always an analyst? I mean, you were with the OSS during World War II. Did you stay with them after the war was over?"
"I became an analyst in the 60's. Do you know what job an analyst does?"
"Yes sir, I think so. Raw intelligence comes in and it's the analysts job to decide what is important and what isn't."
"Something like that. All information is important, Jamie. It's what you do with it that information that makes is important."
Jamie rolled the pen between his fingers as he pondered that thought. "How important is it to keep the information secret?"
Mr. Mel's answer would help Jamie decide a course of action. What that course was, he wasn't sure, but Jamie could see Mr. Mel understood.
Leaning forward in his seat, Melville nodded and smiled. "That's why the term ‘Top Secret' means what it does. Secrets are best kept that way."
"Is that because we can win?"
"Winning isn't always the goal in the intelligence business. It seems that way many times. I suppose you can always boil it down to winning and losing. But there are more important reasons to keep secrets."
"Safety. Many times the secrets that are kept are maintained because many people wouldn't be able to live a normal life otherwise. Many people would live in constant fear."
"But if everybody knew the secret, no one would have to worry about it, because it wouldn't be important anymore." Jamie was particularly proud of that thought. It seemed logical to him, if there was no secret, there was no reason to worry.
He jerked his head around, nearly losing his glasses. Jamie pushed up his glasses and peered at Mr. Mel. "I don't know what you mean. If there's no secret, no one can get hurt."
"That's not always the case. I'm afraid in the world of intelligence, knowing a secret is sometimes an invitation for some very unpleasant business to take place."
"Like someone getting hurt?"
Nodding, Jamie thought about that for a moment. "Did you always want to be in that business?"
Mr. Mel smiled. "The spy business?"
Jamie grinned back. "Yeah, I guess that's what it is, isn't it?"
"That's as good as any term for it. And no, I didn't always want to be a spy. I rather fell into it."
"How do you fall into that kind of work?"
"Being in the right place at the wrong time, or the wrong place at the right time! In my case, it was the right place at the right time!"
"So you didn't go looking for it?"
"I wouldn't exactly say that. World War II was a time all to itself as far as the spy business went. Americans were traveling the world. Many of us had contacts of one sort or another in Germany, France, Italy. And we wanted to help our country. There were some of us who were involved before the war, but most came after Pearl Harbor. We even had a group of Washington DC attorneys that got into the spy business. Even Julia Child!"
"Yep, the chef."
Nodding, Jamie looked over his notes. "So, anyone could be a spy."
"Well not today. It would depend on their skills."
That's what Jamie thought too. What skills did his mom have? He didn't know what she could do that would make her a spy. But then, he didn't know what skills she had that made her a filmmaker either.
"What if a spy doesn't have any skills?"
"I'd say that the person observing isn't looking for the right things. And that's what spies do. They hide their skills."
"Why? Why would they do that? I mean, could spies have families and not tell them? Would they keep it from their family?" This is what Jamie really wanted to know, and he had his own spy here to tell him.
"Whoa there, Jamie! Let's start with why. How good do you think a spy would be if everyone knew what they were capable of doing? Most spies that I knew were quiet, family men and women."
"Families? A spy can have a family?"
Mr. Mel laughed. "Of course! There's nothing in the spy handbook that says you can't. Many don't, because it can be hard to settle down; you don't exactly meet someone you'd want to spend the rest of your life with in this business."
"But it happens?"
"Sure does. It did for me. But not when I was young. I met a wonderful woman and settled down. I came in from the field and became an analyst, but not at first."
"Did you have kids?"
"My Katherine and I had two daughters and a son. I lost my Katherine last year."
Jamie saw the sadness in the older man's eyes, and knew that Mr. Mel missed his wife very much. "Did you tell your kids what you did?"
"Well, not at first, no. It was too much for them to understand, and much too dangerous for them to know about."
"Wouldn't it have been better for them to know about?"
"Let's say you're a few years younger than you are now, and you're out on the playground with your friends. And one of them makes you mad and you tell them that you're gonna get your dad to take care of him because he works for the government as a spy. And he has a gun and knows things about people. What do you think would happen?"
Jamie laughed. "No one would ever say that!"
"No one ever told you they were going to tell their parents that you did something to them?"
About to say no, Jamie stopped. "Yeah, that did happen. My friend's dad was a police officer, and if we didn't always do what he wanted, he used to tell us he was going to get his dad to get us in trouble. But he never did."
"You don't know that he never told his father. His dad was probably a pretty smart man and knew his son was trying to bully his friends. But a spy? A spy never knows, or never knows for sure, who might be interested in what he's doing. And his family could be in danger if they know what they do for a living and use that knowledge indiscriminately. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"I think so." Jamie sighed. He thought it would all be so clear to him, and here he was more confused than he was before.
Mrs. Swanson broke into Jamie's musings. "Ten more minutes, class! And don't forget to make arrangements for future talks here at school after classes are finished for the day."
Jamie shrugged off the perplexing thoughts. He had better get down to the information he'd need for a report. "Thanks for all that information. I was kinda curious who spies were. I mean, why they were spies, if they were like James Bond. Stuff like that."
"I think I understand. I never knew a James Bond, but I knew people who were skilled like James Bond."
Laughing, Mr. Mel slapped his knee. "Well, I'd like to think so, but I never thought of myself that way. I was just someone who was doing an important job. I never fell out of a plane without a parachute, or drove a car into the water and have it turn into a submarine. But, I had to think on my feet to get out of some tight situations."
"In World War II?"
He nodded. "Yes, I was a field agent then."
Jamie's excitement grew. "Cool! What did you do? I mean, can you talk about it?"
"Sure can. Most of it has been in movies. Not me, but the missions we carried out. The rest is available somewhere in a library."
"Cool! So, you were in the OSS? What did you do?"
"Actually, I was in the X-2, counterintelligence behind enemy lines in Germany and France."
"Wow! Did you ever blow anything up?"
The old spy laughed, the excitement Jamie felt contagious as he launched into details of his exploits. "I blew up loads of things! Railroads, bridges, roads, buildings. I helped to smuggle people in and out of Germany. People who were about to be killed by the Gestapo, and those who had information that would help the United States and Great Britain." Looking at his watch, he saw their time was coming to a close. "What do you say I come back tomorrow, and we meet in the cafeteria after school? Your teacher told us she would be there for an hour after school to help all of us meet with her classes. Can you make that?"
"I sure can!" Jamie pushed his glasses up his nose, his mind awhirl with thoughts. "I'd love to talk to you more. I'll have better questions tomorrow, I promise!"
"I think you had some pretty good ones today, Jamie. It's been a pleasure to meet you." He put out his hand to shake Jamie's and smiled back.
Jamie was going to enjoy this time talking with Mr. Mel about his life. He knew the old spy felt the same.