The Past, the Present, and the Truth
truth is rarely pure and never simple."
A SMKVirtual6 Episode
Amanda looked up from her reports, a questioning look on her face. "What Lee?"
"Did you notice the chalk markings on the mailboxes the past few days?"
"Yeah, a series of chalk markings on several mailboxes around town." Lee frowned, not wanting to sound paranoid, but these markings had been bothering him. "Remember? I pointed them out to you yesterday after we left the shopping center?"
"Yes, I do remember. I didn't think about it after you mentioned them. Why?"
"I'm not sure, but something about them is familiar. I think it's a mark for a dead drop."
"What? In Arlington?" At Lee's raised eyebrow, Amanda changed her tune. "Okay, you're right. In Arlington. Why are they familiar to you? What are you thinking?"
"I don't know. But it's some kind of marking for a dead drop. I know I've seen it somewhere before." Pushing back his chair, Lee stood up and pulled his car keys from his pocket. "Is that real important? I mean, can you take a ride with me?"
"To check out chalk marks?" At Lee's look, Amanda shook her head and tried to keep the smile from her face. "No, I can go over these later. So, where we going?"
"Let's go see those markings again and see if we can't figure out what they mean. They've been there a few days, maybe the pick-up was missed."
"Okay, let's go see what this is."
May 4, 1989
Pulling in the shopping center parking lot, Lee whipped the Corvette into a space next to the mailbox. Hopping out of the car, Lee walked around the box, checking the sides.
"Whatever you do, don't reach inside that mailbox, Lee Stetson. Billy still hasn't forgiven us for getting him pulled out of bed when we went looking for that recipe box!"
"Amanda! That was six years ago!"
"I know. I still haven't forgotten that!"
Lee knelt down by the markings, pulling his notepad out as he did. "You never forget anything," he mumbled.
"I heard that!" Amanda sang out.
Rolling his eyes and shaking his head, he copied the markings down and went back to the "Vette. He showed Amanda the pad. "See this? These are simple markings for directions to a drop. It's old school stuff, probably being used because most people wouldn't recognize it today."
"Could it be someone trying to pull you out? I mean, it's in our grocery center, in our town, close to our house."
"Could be. But, Billy isn't too far from here. Francine comes here to shop every now and then. There are plenty of people from the Agency who are in and out of here."
Amanda nodded. "Can you decipher it?"
"Yeah, give me a minute. Like I said, this is old stuff." Lee took the pad and tapped his pen against it, making notations when something hit him. With a grin at Amanda, he turned the key, letting the "Vette's engine roar.
"Figure it out?" Amanda tightened her seat belt.
"Yeah, I did. It's a newspaper machine on Wilson Avenue."
"That's not far from here, there are several, which one is it?"
Pulling into traffic, Lee looked at the notepad again. "The second one, I think. We'll check them all if we have to."
"Okay. Are you sure we aren't chasing phantoms?"
"No," Lee answered fast, knowing they may very well be doing just that. "But we don't know that yet. What's happening in the world?"
Amanda laughed. If anyone knew what was happening in the world, it was her husband. "If you have to ask, you know the answer. Nothing. It's quiet, although there's been some fluster over Gorbachev's meeting with Xiaoping in Beijing later in the month. It's been 30 years since the leader of the USSR has been in China."
"Yes, everything is pretty quiet."
"Well, nothing is going to happen in China that's going to cause someone to put marks on a mailbox. Just humor me. Let's track this down and if nothing comes of it, I promise to drop it."
"Alright, so drop it, drop it!"
Biting off her reply, she serenely turned to her husband and lifted her eyebrow.
Lee shook his head and pulled the ‘Vette to a stop beside the Post paper box. Jumping out of the car, he dropped a few coins in the till and opened the door.
He was about to leave when he squatted down and looked up inside along the top of the box. Reaching in, he pulled a manila envelope down. Lee hopped back in the car and tossed it to Amanda. "Don't open it until we get back to the Agency. I want to do that in the lab."
"Well, I guess you were right. What does this mean?"
"We won't know until we open that."
"Alright. Any place else we need to stop?"
"Yeah, there was one outside the public library, I saw that when I picked Jamie up from his meeting the other night. And another by the bank."
"Could they all be pointing toward this drop?"
"Don't know. Let's check it out. We've come this far." Lee turned the ‘Vette and headed to the Arlington Library.
May 4, 1989
"I don't see any signs of explosives or chemicals, Stetson. But, we'll open it in the box anyway. Looks just like a paper."
"Thanks, I appreciate that."
John Stafford, the head of the Agency lab took the envelopes and headed to the large, concrete box they used to open items that might contain explosives. Using the remote to control the robotics, Stafford made quick work of the envelope.
"Nothing but papers in there, Stetson." Pulling the opened envelope out, he gave the items to an assistant.
"I'd like to see those, if you don't mind John."
"Don't mind at all, Stetson, but let me check for fingerprints. Anything that has you running around town like this needs to be thoroughly checked out. Any problems with that?"
"No. Thank you, John," Amanda answered in place of her husband. "We both appreciate this, don't we, Lee?"
"Yes. Lots," Lee said, sounding anything but.
Stafford laughed. He was used to the grumbling of Scarecrow. "Just let us dust it and lift anything. It'll only take a few minutes. I mean, honestly Stetson. You've been running all over town chasing ghosts, you can give it a few more minutes."
Lee sat down at Stafford's desk, putting his feet on the desk, leaning back in the chair. The head of the lab just laughed and took the papers into the bowels of the laboratory.
Amanda shook her head at Lee's antics. "I'm going up to the Q-Bureau. Come visit when you get the papers back."
With a nod, Lee watched Amanda leave the lab. Pulling his notebook out of his jacket pocket, he looked over the markings he had copied down.
He knew he had seen these markings before. Tapping his pencil on the desk, he stopped and pulled his feet off the desk, then stood up and headed out.
"Can't handle the wait, Stetson?" Stafford came out of the back carrying the papers from the drops in plastic covers.
"I was going to head up to see Leatherneck. Are you done?"
"So far. You can have your pages. If we come up with any matches on prints, I'll give you a call."
"Thanks." Lee headed to the arsenal where Leatherneck had been doing inventory on the Agency's weapons. He slid his ID through the sensor and stepped into the office. "Leatherneck? Hey! Leatherneck, you in here?" Leaning on the counter, Lee dropped his notebook there and looked through the papers from the drops.
Simple codes. This would probably drive them crazy in analysis. He shook his head and called out for Leatherneck again. "Leatherneck! Come on, man!"
"Keep your hat on, Stetson. What's up?" Leatherneck walked into the cage behind the counter. He wiped his hands and leaned on the counter as he waited for Stetson to fill him in.
"Ever see these markings before?" Lee turned his notepad around.
Leatherneck lifted his safety goggles to get a better look. He whistled then grinned at Lee. "Haven't seen this code since my time in the Mekong Delta. Where'd you dig this up, Stetson?"
Leatherneck looked Lee in the eyes. "Dead drops? As in multiple? You ain't kidding me with this?"
"No, not kidding you. You know anything about who might be using this old style drop code?"
"It's not just a drop code, buddy. This code was used by the CIA when they trained operatives. It was easy to remember, and looked like a lot of the codes in use by everyone else. Except for one little difference."
"Yeah, you read it bottom up, right to left."
"You've had some experience with it then?"
"Yeah, my uncle used it in Nam. It was a holdover from World War II, and post war Europe, right?"
"Yeah, the X-2 used it in Europe. Your kind of people, Stetson."
"Yeah. Tough set of folks. Did some crazy things. Always up to their necks in trouble."
"Gee Leatherneck. Thanks!"
"No problem, buddy. Listen. The Vietnamese used this code too, at least the ones we trained. Have you thought about that?"
"Ah, no. I hadn't. There really isn't anything happening in the world that would activate a cell."
"Just Gorbachev in China. There's always the tie between the North Vietnamese and China."
"Leatherneck, you sure you don't want to come back out into the field?"
Leatherneck laughed, reaching out to slap Lee on the shoulder. "What? And give up all this?" He asked him, waving his hands around the dim interior of the weapons cage.
"You've got a point. I don't have anything I could offer you that could compare with this."
"Well, your missus, but, she's rather partial to you!
"Thank goodness for that."
"Although, I do think she has a soft spot for me; all those times I fixed her car for her or loaned her one. . . ."
"Yeah, yeah, right. Give me that!" Lee grabbed his notebook. "I'll talk to you later." Lee left the office, Leatherneck's laughter echoing in his ears.
Heading to the Q-Bureau, he thought about what Leatherneck said. Lee opened the door, walked to his desk and sat down. Amanda watched him, waiting for him to explain what was going on.
"Well, the lab is checking the fingerprints out. I showed the code to Leatherneck. It's a code that the X-2 used behind the lines during World War II. He said he hasn't seen this used since the late 60's, and in Viet Nam at that. I remember my uncle using this, but he flew in Nam.
"Do you think this has something to do with the Vietnamese mission?"
"I don't know. Now these papers are simple rhymes. If I didn't know better, I'd say that Dr. Smyth was playing games with us."
"Don't even say that in jest, Lee."
"Well, somebody is playing a game." Lee tossed the contents of the envelopes on his desk, pulling first one, than another in front of him, deciphering, then reading the rhyme.
the need to hide
"Amanda? I think we've got a problem."
"I'm not kidding. Here, read the three of these together." Lee got up and handed Amanda the ciphers and the translation.
Amanda read them, looking at Lee when she had finished. "Someone is going to tell the boys what we do. Lee? We can't let this happen." Amanda jumped up from her chair and headed toward the door.
"Amanda, wait. . . ." Lee tried to stop his wife from running out, only to stop when Billy opened the door to the Q-Bureau.
"Caught you just in time. Lee, Amanda, I understand there has been a dead drop activated. In Arlington no less. What's going on?" Billy closed the door as he spied the papers on Amanda's desk. Sitting in her chair, he read the cipher and the translation.
"What does this mean? Who's using this old code? Friends of yours, Stetson?"
"We don't know Billy. We just picked this up today. I think…" At Amanda's look he added, "We think that someone is going to tell Phillip and Jamie about our jobs."
"After Jamie's misadventures in Morocco, I would have thought that he knew by now."
"Uh, sir, Joe didn't want us to tell them. Period. And after Morocco, he wanted us to wait until he was home so he could be there when we tell both of them."
Lee's jaw tightened when Amanda mentioned her ex-husband. Billy nodded, understanding the problem they faced. "It seems you may not have the luxury of waiting for Joe. Why not tell them both now, and deal with Joe later?"
Amanda leaned on the door, the impact of her career, her marriage, her choices weighing heavily on her. "Phillip is away at a basketball tournament. He won't be home until later in the week. Joe isn't back until a day or two after, I think."
Lee put his arm around his wife's shoulders, offering his strength and comfort. "Look, Amanda. We'll do what we have to do. Both boys are old enough to understand what we do for a living, why we do it and why we felt it best for all of this to remain hidden from them."
"I know, it's just that. . . ."
"Regretting our marriage?"
Amanda gave Lee an angry look. "Of course not!"
"Do you regret what we do with our lives?"
"No, it's not that, it's just. . . ."
"Just what? That it's been hard? That it's dangerous? That what we do is important in the scheme of things and that it matters?"
Billy held up a hand, stepping in as a referee. "If I might offer the voice of reason here. This is not a referendum on your careers or your marriage. This is simply the time to tell your children what you do for a living. What you do is important, in fact vital to our nation. I'm sure that Jamie and Phillip will understand that."
"If they don't?" Amanda asked, chewing her bottom lip.
"We'll deal with it, Amanda. Together. Alright?" Lee hugged her and gave a nod to his boss. He opened the door for Amanda when Billy stopped them short.
"After you've made your confessions, I want you to find out who is threatening my agents with these dead drops. Understand?"
"Yes sir!" Amanda left the room, leaving Lee to close the door.
Lee followed Amanda to the steps, heading down after her. "It's going to be fine, Amanda. We'll make it work."
"I know we will, Lee." She reached back to take his hand in hers and lead him out the door.
Above the street, Billy watched as his agents left the Georgetown foyer. Sighing, he turned from the windows and surveyed the Q Bureau. Nice. Nice and cozy, he thought. No wonder Stetson always gave him a hard time when he teased him about coming back downstairs to the bullpen.
Spotting the refrigerator, Billy raised his eyebrows, looked over his shoulder and opened the door. "Ohhh! Nice!" Billy pulled out bread and cold cuts, mayo, mustard, pickles and a few other items. Setting them down on Lee's desk, he went about making himself a sandwich.
Grinning, he sat down in Lee's chair, lifted a hefty wedge of bread, meat, cheese and fixings, and was just about to take a bite when the door to the Q Bureau swung open.
"Well, well, well!" Francine Desmond said, stepping in and closing the door behind her. "New haunt, Billy?"
"No, this is a first." Billy said as he took a bite, and chewed, savoring the mix of flavors.
Francine watched him, walked over and hopped on the corner of Lee's desk. Reaching for the remaining half sandwich, she was surprised when Billy swatted her hand.
"That's mine. Make your own." He told her, willing to defend his afternoon snack.
Francine narrowed her eyes, a grin starting across her lips. "I won't tell anyone your new favorite hiding place if you share."
Billy looked at Francine, knowing she would do exactly what she said she would. It was worth half a sandwich for the peace and quiet. He nodded to her and watched as Francine picked up the sandwich and took a bite. She nodded her approval as they both sat there eating.
Both finished and cleaned up the crumbs left on Lee's desk. Francine headed to the door. "Well, that was good. Mine are better though."
"You can prove it. Tomorrow, 3:00 o'clock, here."
Francine grinned. "You're on!"
Amanda and Lee walked through the kitchen door. Dotty was pouring herself a glass of iced tea as they came in.
"Hello, Mother. Is Jamie home?"
Looking at her daughter and son-in-law, she set the glass down. "The time's come, hasn't it? You're not waiting for Joe to come home?"
"No, we're not. Jamie needs to be told. Is he home?"
Dotty shook her head. "He had a meeting with Mr. Jameson, his subject for his history project."
Amanda nodded, picking up her mother's glass of iced tea. Dotty rolled her eyes, pulled down two more glasses and filled them; one for her and one for Lee. "So, what's precipitated this change in your plans?"
"Why does anything have to have changed, Mother?"
Dotty set her glass down and skewered her daughter with a look. "Amanda West-King-Stetson, don't try your diversion tactics on me!" As Lee covered a laugh with a cough, Dotty turned on him. "And you, Lee Stetson, don't laugh. You're next! I've observed the two of you enough to know that when you don't want to answer my question, you throw one back at me."
"Is this your psychic connection, Mother?"
"No, this is a Mother who loves her daughter, her grand children and her son-in-law, and I don't like to see any of the suffering. It's time, Amanda. They are old enough to know. They are old enough to understand, and they are old enough to be guardians of information this important. Trust us, Amanda, as you want us to trust you."
"Oh Mother!" Amanda threw herself into her mother's arms, seeking the comfort and understanding that only a mother can give to her child. "I've made such a mess of things."
"No, you haven't, darling. You've tried to do what was best for all of us. Both of you have. Now, why don't you tell me what's going on, and maybe I can help you with Jamie."
The three of them sat down. Lee reached out to take Amanda's hand in his own. "We think that someone is about to tell Jamie what we do. I found some dead drop markings. . . ."
"Some what? Dead drops?"
"All it is are markings that tell a spy where to find information. No face to face contact."
"And someone was leaving you these messages?"
"Yes, Mother. In code. It's a very old code that was used in World War II through the 60's in Viet Nam. Lee recognized it, and we were able to get the drops and decipher the drops."
"Did they make any threats?"
"No. Just that the boys were going to be told. We just found this today, so I'm confident that everything is going to continue for awhile. That's why we want to tell Jamie now, before he's told in a manner not of our choosing."
"Who would do this?" Dotty was worked up and ready to defend her family against anyone who would harm them.
"We don't know, Mother, but we are going to find out. Not all the people we deal with from the other side wish us harm, but we have to consider that stirring up trouble could be a cover for something else that is about to happen."
Dotty looked at Lee, who nodded his agreement.
"Well then. I suggest you two find Jamie and tell him. Then find the scoundrel who's doing this and give them what for!"
Standing, Lee pulled Amanda's chair out. "Come on, Amanda. There's a son to tell and a scoundrel to catch."
"My favorite kind!"
Dotty followed them to the door, watching as Amanda and Lee climbed into the ‘Vette. She waved, "Go get ‘em, dears!" Spotting Mrs. Ferguson on the other side of the hedge watching with interest, she called out. "Hello Mrs. Ferguson! Lovely day, isn't it? Just waving Lee and Amanda off, something to do with baseball. Or is it basketball. I can never keep their agendas straight!" Going back into the kitchen, she took a large gulp of iced tea.
"How they ever kept it secret this long is a miracle!"
May 4, 1989
"Lee! Look! That's a new marking on the mailbox. And it wasn't there when we came home!"
"I see it, hold on! Maybe we can catch whoever it is at the other mark sites." Lee spun the Corvette, causing Amanda to tightly close her eyes.
"I hate when you do that!" she grumbled, hanging on for dear life.
Speeding to the library, they saw the mailbox had already been marked. Lee impatiently waited as the light changed, then stepped on the gas as he headed to the box by the school.
The closer to the school he got, the angrier he became.
"Lee? Sweetheart, you need to slow down. This is a school zone." Amanda laid her hand on his arm to garner his attention.
Expelling his breath, he nodded and pulled his foot off of the gas, the ‘Vette immediately responding. Rounding the corner, they saw a figure by the mailbox.
"I can't believe it!" Amanda cried out.
"Son of a . . . ." Lee said at the same time. Hitting the gas, Lee zoomed toward the box. Amanda hit the button to roll her window down.
Pulling alongside the mailbox, Amanda unbuckled and leaned out of the window while Lee jumped from the car.
"Jamie King! What in the world do you think you're doing?"
May 4, 1989
"So, I tried and tell you that I knew. And then I got this history assignment and I decided to tell you the way that spies trade information."
"We lift the telephone or make an appointment, Sport."
"Jamie, you scared the daylights out of us. And not only that, we feared that a cell had been activated. That code is very old and has it's history in. . . ."
"World War II, behind enemy lines, I know, Mom."
"No, listen to what your Mom was gonna tell you."
"The CIA used that code to teach the Vietnamese during the Viet Nam war. There are groups here that the use of that code could be tied to, or could be used to activate them. Using codes for dead drops can be risky business, Jamie."
Jamie looked at his Mom, Grandmother and Lee; the latter two nodding at what his mom had just told him. "I'm sorry. I guess I kinda got wrapped up in it, huh? I didn't mean to hurt anyone."
"You didn't hurt anyone, Sport. You caused us some worry, but no one is hurt. I don't suggest you do that again anytime soon, but, I have to tell you, you did a good job of it. You executed the drops perfectly."
"LEE!" Both Amanda and Dotty cried out, their faces reflecting their shock that Lee would encourage Jamie after what they had been through.
"What? I'm not going to lie to him anymore, Amanda. He did a good job. He needs to know that. But doing a good job is not always enough. Jamie, you were playing around with something that you only had nominal knowledge of, and in this field of work, that can be dangerous."
"I understand. Can I ask why you didn't tell us when you told us you were married?"
Amanda looked at Lee and sighed. "Sweetheart, your dad wasn't sure it was such a good idea for us to tell you, and he wanted us to wait. We tried to honor his wishes. I guess we didn't do a very good job of it."
"I wouldn't say that, Amanda," Dotty interjected. "Don't forget that Jamie is a very observant young man, and he's had questions for some time. Don't take away his ability to make a connection and figure some things out on his own."
Nodding, Amanda sat back, exhausted. Lee picked up where she had left off. "When Phillip comes home, we'll be telling him. Your dad will be home soon as well. He had wanted to be here when we told you, but it hasn't worked out that way."
"Will Dad be mad?"
"Oh, he might be, sweetheart. But Lee and I will deal with that. You have to understand that your father just wants the best for you and Phillip. And he wants you to be safe."
"Well, I think I'm safe with you and Lee, aren't I?"
"Of course you are. Sometimes things happen, like in Morocco. Our jobs helped us to find you."
Jamie's eyes widened as a sudden thought crossed his mind. "Oh! Christmas! Those people who were there filming the avalanche footage? Are they spies too?"
Lee looked at Amanda as she raised an eyebrow back at him. "Yes, they're spies too. Jamie, we prefer to be called intelligence agents."
Nodding that he had heard Lee, Jamie went on. "So, we weren't really there for a vacation. We were there for spy stuff?"
Dotty smiled, lifting her iced tea and taking a drink to hide her grin.
"No, we were there on vacation. But, we seem to have a Christmas tradition of landing in some less than timely situations on Christmas Eve."
"So there isn't going to be a documentary on avalanches?" Jamie sounded dejected. The subject had interested him.
"To be honest with you, there is. There was footage shot and when the film is finished, I promise you that we'll take you to the premiere. How's that sound?"
"Cool! I thought that was all a cover, ‘cause you never take us to the movies that you've done."
"They're boring." Lee grimaced as Amanda nodded in full agreement. "I promise, the next time we show one, I'll make sure you have a front row seat for it. But don't say I didn't warn you."
"Okay. Does this mean now if I have a question, I can ask you and you'll tell me the truth?"
"Sport, what this means is you now know what your mother and I do for a living. We'll tell you as much as we possibly can. Secrets are secrets, and it's our jobs to keep them or take them back from someone who has stolen them. So, if we only give you sparse information, it's not because we don't want to tell you, it's because we can't."
"I understand. What you do is important."
"Yes, it is sweetheart."
"Mom? Are you like a girl James Bond? Can you kick butt too, like Lee did that day in London?"
His grandmother burst out in laughter, Lee joining her. Even his mom joined in.
"No sweetheart, I'm not a female version of James Bond."
"Your mother's strengths lay in other areas, Jamie. Your mom has her own unique way of doing things. We make a pretty good team, your mom and I."
Jamie nodded, trying to let everything that he'd heard this afternoon find a place to settle in his mind. That's when he remembered the letter that Mr. Mel had given him to give to his parents. Opening his backpack, he pulled the envelope out and handed it to his mom.
"Mr. Mel told me to give that to you. He said you'd be interested in this."
Amanda shrugged as she glanced at Lee. Opening the envelope, she pulled out the paper and read the contents. She handed the letter to Lee with a smile. Surprise and then comprehension came over his face.
"Jamie, have you been meeting with a Melville Jameson?"
"Yep. Do you know him, Lee?"
"I've never met him, no. But I know who he is. He knew my mother and father. He said he'd like to meet with us and talk about my parents if that would be alright." Lee looked at Amanda for support.
"Cool! You'll like him Lee. He kinda reminds me of you, only old." Jamie scooted back in his chair and stood. "Can I go now? I have to get started on my report. I really am sorry about this. But I'm glad you told me. It feels good to know."
Amanda nodded and Jamie bounded up the steps to his room. Leaning back in her chair, tears stung her eyes. She tried to blink them back, but failed when Lee reached over and pulled her into his arms.
"Hey, that wasn't that bad. He's a smart kid and had pretty much figured things out. Now why are you crying?"
"It's such a relief to finally tell him. Oh, Lee, it's like a weight is off of my back!" She put her head down on his shoulder and silently cried, relief at telling, relief that her son was safe, relief that nothing was amiss in their little section of Arlington other than her ingenious son and his chalk markings.
"Yeah, well, since you're so relieved, you can tell Billy tomorrow. Remember, he said he wanted a full report on this."
"Oh, dear." Dotty stood and left the table. "I'm glad I'm not the one who has to tell that Mr. Melrose what happened. That man has depths to him that I can't fathom." She left the room on Lee's laughter.
"She's right you know."
"I'm glad I'm not the one who has to tell Billy about this." Lee laughed, hugging Amanda to him again.
"I'll be right there with you. Partners to the end!"
"Yeah, you'll be right behind me, pushing me all the way!"
"Glad to do it, Amanda. Glad to do it." He gave her a quick kiss, took the letter and went in search of the telephone.
Amanda sat at the breakfast table, thinking about what had happened. She jumped when her mother called her name. "What's up, Mother?"
"I was just thinking, darling, how nice it is to be one, big, happy spy family!"
Amanda laughed as she got up from the table. She may have to hit clean up with Billy tomorrow, but Lee was going to take them all out for dinner tonight!
And she was going to make him take them to his most favorite place of all; Marvelous Marvin's!
"That old guy is really interesting. And the stories he has!"
Amanda laughed and looked over her shoulder at her exuberant son. On their way home, they had just spent the evening with Melville Jameson reliving his adventures in Germany during and after the war. The night had been extra special for Lee when Melville had told him the stories of his mother and father.
"It was a special night."
Lee glanced over at her. "I can't believe he remembered my mother's name after all these years, especially when Jamie told him our names. That he would put it all together is amazing."
"Well, that's why he was so good at what he did. A good analyst makes those jumps."
"Yes they do!"
Amanda reached across and squeezed his thigh. "I'm so happy for you, sweetheart. It was wonderful to hear those stories. Your mother was very brave." Amanda was referring to the story Melville had told them about Jennifer Hamilton Stetson saving his life in the Russian section of Berlin.
Jamie scooted forward to the edge of the back seat. "Does this mean I can go and visit with him after the project is over? I really like talking to him."
"I don't see why not, Jamie. As long as you don't take his history lessons as object lessons."
"I promise. I'm done trying to pull spy stuff over on you two. You're pretty good at it."
"Why thank you, sweetheart."
Lee turned the Wagoneer into the driveway. The house was dark. Dotty must be out for the evening with Captain Kurt.
Phillip was due home in a couple of days, and Joe would be home right after that. Amanda was anxious to get everything out in the open and to move on. Both she and Lee were very proud of the way Jamie had handled the information of their jobs. He showed a lot of maturity in his questions and hadn't pushed either Lee or her for more information when they told him it was out of bounds.
Following Jamie through the kitchen door, she heard him bound up the steps, calling out his ‘goodnights' as he did so. Her hand found the wall switch and she turned on the lights in the kitchen as Lee closed and locked the back door.
"That was a very nice evening. I'm looking forward to the weekend when he comes here for dinner. Thank you, Amanda, for inviting him."
"I was glad to. It will be nice to talk more with him. His stories are fascinating."
Lee nodded his agreement. "You know, Billy took it pretty well, the dead drops being Jamie's."
Amanda's eyes narrowed as she closed in on Lee. "I never did get the chance to talk to you, buster. You pushed me into Billy's office and left me there alone to explain what had happened! That was not fair at all, especially since you promised to be there with me!"
"I promised I'd be right behind you. And I was."
"Yeah, right behind the door!"
"Minor details." He laughed, taking Amanda in his arms. "What arrangement did you come to?"
"I don't know what you're talking about." She ran her hands over Lee's chest, trying to divert him from his questioning.
Grabbing her hands in his, Lee laughed. "You aren't going to get away with that. Billy told me you had reached an understanding. Now, what is it?"
Amanda glared up at him, wrinkling her nose as she did so which earned her a kiss on it from her husband. "It seems Billy has discovered the refrigerator in the Q-Bureau."
"He gave me a list of things he likes on his sandwiches."
Lee laughed, putting his arm around Amanda and leading her to the steps. "So he's blackmailing you with cold cuts?"
Lee laughed harder, closing their bedroom door behind them. "Okay, let me get this straight. Our boss, the DC Section Chief for Counterintelligence is letting a near department wide manhunt slide on the strength of a sandwich? That's pretty good, Amanda."
"I thought so."
"That's it? Nothing else?" Lee dropped his shirt in the laundry as they both got ready for bed.
"Well, since you had abandoned me in there, I wasn't going to tell you the best part."
Amanda pulled the comforter back, and sat on the bed, slipping her legs under the cool sheets.
Lee laid on his side, his head resting on his hand as he waited for Amanda to fill him in.
"Well, it seems that Francine likes a good sandwich too. They take turns raiding our fridge and making sandwiches that they share."
"Okay, so Francine likes a good sandwich." Lee shrugged, waiting.
"It seems that Francine takes all the crumbs and scatters them in your desk drawers."
"Why that . . . . I'll kill her! That's why there are all those ants in my drawers!"
Amanda laughed. It seems she hasn't forgiven you for that last remark you made about her hair."
"That was a month ago!"
"You did say it looked like a rats nest, Lee."
Lee turned over onto his back, both of his hands behind his head. Amanda could see the wheels turning in his mind as he worked on the possible retaliatory actions he could take against Francine.
"You know? I'm rather glad that Jamie knows. I'm rather impatient for Phillip to come home so we can finish this once and for all."
Lee nodded, putting his plans for revenge against Francine and her ant colonies on the back burner. "Two down, one to go."
"One to go!" Amanda shivered then smiled as Lee gathered her to his chest.
"Just a chill."
"Hmm, I could take that as an insult, you know?"
"Really? How so?"
Lee looked into the warm depths of Amanda's eyes and smiled. He took her chin between his fingers and let his lips settle on hers. "I'm not sure. Let's find out, okay?" he whispered against her lips. He pulled Amanda close, forgetting everything else in the arms of his wife.
Amanda's last coherent thought was the relief she felt knowing that all her secrets would be told at last.