Title: Gone and Back
Author: Amber/Stasia
E-mail: adpaz@bigfoot.com
Fandom: 7 Days/Scarecrow and Mrs King
Rating: PG
Summary: Amanda is killed while she and Lee are on assignment to help a defector defect. The defector has information about a terrorist group that will be waging war on American soil and Frank must backstep to stop it before it all starts
Series/Sequel: Probably not
Pairing: Lee & Amanda from SMK, Frank from 7 Days (though other characters from both series may appear)
Disclaimers: I do not own the characters in this story, nor do I own most of the stories written about them. However, I do own this story and, as such, I would appreciate anyone that wants to use all or part of it to get permission from me before doing so. I'm not making any money from the writing of this story, nor would I take any if it were offered to me. That said, sit back and watch the story unfold.
Archive: Please include in the WWOMB archive... I will also be placing it in the SMK Fan Fic archive
Other websites: http://smkfanfic.scriptbits.net
Warnings: Other than the fact that this is one of the first fan fics I've written all by myself, so please be gentle with me, I can't think of any warnings. For the Scarecrow and Mrs King fans, this takes place about 14 years after the end of the series. I'm trying to avoid gratuitous violence or sex (since one of this lists is 13 and up), so this should be a safe read for almost everyone.

Scarecrow knew he and Amanda had been in some tough spots before, but something about this job just wasn't sitting right with him. Call it a sixth sense, if you will, but he had a really bad feeling about it. He and Amanda were supposed to make contact with a defector. He had been part of a radical movement in Russia, one that had been trying to recreate the USSR of the cold war. He was positive that no one would know he was missing right away. It was supposed to be an easy job. Billy promised them because, after all, tonight was their 14th wedding anniversary. Lee smiled as he thought about the secret ceremony and how they kept the secret from everyone for so many years. But now, he thought, everyone knows the truth. And it makes it so much easier.

He tried to pull his mind back to what he and Amanda were doing. They were to meet him at an abandoned warehouse downtown and bring him in their car back to the Agency. That's when his sixth sense started to buzz in the back of his mind. He tried to tell Amanda, but he couldn't quite put his feelings into words. "Lee," Amanda had told him, "This is what you always call a cake job. You're probably just worried that it will take longer than we expect and we'll keep everyone waiting at the party tonight." Amanda laughed, put her arms around him and kissed him until he forgot about his reservations about this assignment.

But now that they were waiting for the contact to show, the doubts redoubled. There was something that just WASN'T right here. He started to turn to Amanda and ask her to go wait for him in the car when they saw a man ran around the corner into main room of the warehouse. "Go!" the man screamed.

Lee whirled around in time to see two men coming hard on the heels of the first man. They both carried guns and were shooting at the man they were following. "Amanda, get down!" Lee called to his wife. He unholstered his gun and rolled behind a nearby pillar. From the corner of his eye he saw Amanda do the same. They both began to shoot at the persuers, trying to lay down covering fire for the defector. Both men took up similar stances behind pillars closer to the door as the man they were chasing ran toward Amanda for cover.

When he almost reached her, he tripped over an uneven crack in the floor. As he tried to stand up, Amanda broke cover to help him to his feet. The minute she came from behind the pillar, two shots cracked through the air from the opposite side of the building. Amanda spun around, hit by the impact of one of the bullets. Lee watched in horror as his wife crumpled to the floor. Lee emptied his clip at the men who shot Amanda and, as he was reloading his gun, they ran back around the corner to the door. A part of him knew he should follow them, get the papers back. But as he looked again at Amanda and saw her not moving, he knew the only choice he could make was to go to his wife.

As he ran to Amanda, he also noticed that the man they were to meet there had been shot in the back and was not moving either. But Lee couldn't take the time to pause and check for a pulse. Amanda needed him more. When he reached her side, he could tell that she was still alive, but barely. She'd been shot in the chest, close to the heart, but just barely missing it. Still, there was a lot of blood. "Amanda, I have to get you out of here. I need to get you to the hospital." There was panic in Lee's voice that Amanda had never heard before. She raised a hand feebly as he took her in his arms. "Lee." she gasped, "I don't know."

"Don't say that!" Lee barked. "Don't even think it. You'll be fine. Just let me get you to the hospital." He started to lift her and carry her to the car.

Before he could do so, Amanda put her hand on his shoulder. "Wait. man?"

"No, they shot him too. But we will get them. You and I together. I just have to get you."

"Lee." Amanda's voice was getting weaker by the moment. She could see the fear in his eyes and wanted to tell him that it would be alright. But the words just wouldn't come. All she could say was "I love you."

Lee watched the light go out of her eyes and felt her body go limp as she died in his arms. And all he could do, this agent who had watched countless friends die in the line of duty, was cry and whisper his wife's name.

Frank walked into the briefing room and sat down between Olga and Donovan. Looks like it could be backstep time again, he thought after surveying the serious faces on the people he worked with. For once, even Ramsey didn't have a smart remark about him being the last one into the meeting.

"Frank, we're glad you could join us," Talmadge said after Frank sat down. "As you've probably guessed, we have been given authorization for a backstep."

"What's the situation?" Frank asked, leaning into the table.

"Three days ago, a team of agents was supposed to meet a man by the name of Yuri Ventlovich. He had been part of a Russian resurgance movement that was taking place by some radicals in Russia. He decided to defect to the United States and give us information on what the movement was planning in return for safe harbor. He said he had news of plans by these radicals to do serious harm to America. He had a plan for getting away from the others in the movement, and asked that this team of agents meet him at an abandoned warehouse in downtown DC. They met him, but he was being persued. In the resulting crossfire he and one of the agents was killed. Today, the radicals have struck. They're bombing schools. Elementary schools, middle schools and high schools. Both private schools and public schools. They've started with schools in the Arlington area and say, unless their demands are met, they will continue bombing schools until we have no children left in the United States."

Frank's thoughts immediately went to his son and his body went tense. He looked at Talmadge and saw the older man shake his head once. "I know what you're thinking, Frank. He's ok. So far. But this is why we need to backstep." Olga handed him a folder containing three pictures and an address.

"These are the agents and Mr Ventlovich. The agents are a married couple, Lee and Amanda Stetson." Olga pointed them out as Frank looked through the pictures. "The other picture is Mr Ventlovich. The address is the warehouse where he and Mrs Stetson were killed."

Frank looked at the picture of the beautiful middle aged woman. Her short hair curled around her head to frame a smiling face. He couldn't tell the exact color of her hair from the black and white shot, but could guess that it was probably a light brown. The smile lit up her face and she looked like she'd been a happy woman. He next looked at the picture of her husband. He, too, was smiling in the picture and Frank could tell it wasn't just a smile for the camera. As with the woman's picture, he couldn't tell hair or eye color, but his hair looked to also be light brown and his eyes were dark. These two must have been really happy together, Frank thought.

Olga continued speaking as Frank studied the remaining picture. "We need you to go back and let us know what has happened so we can make sure that Mr Ventlovich is not killed. You may end up going with the agents on this one."

Frank placed the pictures back in the folder and closed it. "What agency are they with? CIA, FBI, NSA?"

Ramsey shot him a look of disgust. "That's a need to know, Parker, and you don't need to know."

"Then how am I supposed to find them and help keep this Ventlovich guy safe?" Frank asked as he leaned back in his chair and pulled a hand through his hair.

"We'll tell you on the other side of the time line." Talmadge answered. "Are you ready to go back?"

As Frank nodded, the whole team stood up. Ramsey was mumbling about how he knew the Ruskies couldn't be trusted and Ballard rolled up to him saying, "Frank, I've made a few modifications to the Sphere I think you should know about." Frank let out a little laugh. It's good to know some things don't change, he thought as he headed out to suit up.

As Frank made his way to the Sphere, helmet under one arm, he watched the bustle of activity happening around him. Ballard was fussing at the control panel like a mother hen, appropriate, since the Sphere WAS Ballard's baby. Ramsey was glaring at Frank as he crossed the floor to the stairs leading to the Sphere. Frank lifted a hand to waggle his fingers at Ramsey. The scowl on the NSA man's face deepened as he strode away to the control room. I just love screwing with that guy, he thought. He turned back toward the Sphere and saw Olga standing at the bottom of the stairs waiting for him. What if I lost her and couldn't get her back? What if I didn't know about Project Backstep?

While he had been getting ready for his trip back in time, Frank's thoughts kept going to Lee Stetson. To watch your wife be shot in front of you... Granted, they knew the dangers; they were both Agents... Partners at that... but it still must have been tough to watch the love of your life die in your arms.

Invariably, these thoughts lead back to Olga. He knew they weren't married, not even dating for that matter, but Frank kept thinking, What if I had to watch her die and know it was forever? That's when Frank decided he had his own private objective, to make sure Amanda King lived on this trip back in time. He didn't think he'd be able to live with himself if he let her die again.

Remembering this, Frank strode up to Olga, snaked his hand behind her head and kissed her hard. She struggled under the pressure of his kiss for less than half a second and then let herself surrender to the moment. The kiss went on for more than a minute. When they finally broke apart, Olga just stared at Frank. "Mr Parker... wha..." she stammered.

"Just call it a kiss for luck." He smiled as he trailed his hand lightly across her cheek and then walked up the stairs to the Sphere.

Frank settled in behind the needle, making sure his helmet was on tight. After as many backsteps as he had done, he could perform the pre-launch in his sleep. It made it easy for his mind to wander... to Lee and Amanda Stetson, and to Olga. Why is this backstep getting to me so much? Frank thought when he heard Olga's voice begin the countdown. A vision of Olga swam before his eyes with that thought, and as the countdown reached zero, he brushed the vision away.

Seven Days Earlier

"Lee!" Amanada squealed as her husband came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. He started to nibble on her neck. Amanda set the knife she'd been holding on the counter next to the vegitable she had been cutting for dinner and half heartedly tried to pull away from his embrace.

"Ummhmmm.... Don't you like it, Mrs Stetson?" He pulled her closer and nuzzled his lips in the crook of her neck. Amanda finally gave up her resistance and sank back into his arms.

"You know I do, but Dorothy could be home from her friend's house any minute and Mother and the boys and THEIR families will be here for dinner in a couple of hours. I still have to finish cutting these vegitables for dinner."

Lee nibbled on her ear and smiled when Amanda let out a low moan. "That's why we need to take advantage of the time we have now, before the house fills with people." Lee laid butterfly kisses down his wife's neck and on to her shoulder. Amanda felt shivers of pleasure with each touch.

"Trying to get an early start on our anniversary, Mr Stetson?" Amanda pulled his arms more tightly around her waist and pushed back against him.

"Do you blame me?" he turned her around to face him. "After all, I am married to the most beautiful woman in the world."

Amanda blushed at the compliment. Even after 14 years of marriage, he could still make her blush when he flattered her like that. Lee bent down to kiss her, but before their lips could touch, the portable phone on the counter behind them began to ring. Amanda pulled out of his embrace and smiled as she reached for the phone. "Caught by the bell... again." she quipped before she put the phone to her ear and said hello.

Lee started to pull her back into his arms when he noticed the serious look on her face. He looked at her questioningly, but he couldn't tell much from her end of the conversation. She put up a finger, letting him know that she would tell him what the problem was in a minute, while she continued to say "Yes, sir" and "Certainly, sir". She finally said, "We'll be right there, sir." and hung up the phone.

"Amanda, what's going on?" Lee asked as she laid the phone back on the counter.

"Mr Melrose needs to see us right now, no exceptions." Amanda sighed as she turned back to the counter to pick up the forgotten vegitables. "I better call Mother and let her know dinner is off and see if she can keep an eye on Dorothy for us."

Amanda knocked on the glass window of Billy Melrose's office and waited for her boss to motion her and Lee in. Lee chucked. He had always thought it was funny that, even after all these years of being a full agent, she always knocked before entering Billy's office, no matter the circumstances. But Amanda pointed out that she had been raised to treat her boss with respect, and barging into his office without knocking, no matter what the other agents did, was disrespectful.

Lee closed the door behind. He paused for a moment, noticing a stranger leaning against the wall behind Billy's desk. He took advantage of the short walk to the seat next to Amanda to size up the other man. He was younger than he and Amanda, probably in his early to mid thirties. He looked tough, very rough-and-tumble... definitely not a pencil-pusher. The man's dark eyes kept flitting around the room, missing nothing, and it ruined the image of nonchalance he was attempting to project. This was a man that was ready for anything, Lee thought. He also couldn't help but shake the impression that the man was a maverick. He couldn't pinpoint exactly why he thought so -- call it a field agent's sixth sense -- but one thing he did know... he didn't like the way the man's eyes kept wandering back to Amanda.

"Scarecrow, Amanda," Billy began as Lee settled himself in the vacant chair, "This is Frank Parker. He's NSA, and he'll be working with you on the Ventlovich case."

Lee bristled visibly. "Now, Billy..."

"Can it, Scarecrow. This isn't up for debate. You and Amanda will be working with Mr Parker."

Frank interrupted him. "Not Mrs Stetson."

Amanda turned to stare at Parker, shocked at the shortness and hardness in the comment made by this man she had never met. Lee started to get out of his chair and head for the younger man, anger flashing in his eyes. Billy waved at him to sit down and turned to the man that hadn't moved from his position against the wall. "Amanda is a very good, very seasoned field agent, Mr Parker. Unless you can give me a good reason to take her off this assignment, she's going to remain. Keep in mind that I am ultimately in charge of this mission, whether you're from my department or not."

Frank let out a sigh of frustration. He knew that Billy Melrose probably wouldn't take Amanda Stetson off the assignment just on his say so, but he knew he'd had to try the easiest route first. He had hoped that they would have listened to him better than his own team usually did. But he realized that he shouldn't be surprised by their lack of trust. They had no knowledge of the Backstep project and the foreknowledge it gave him. And he couldn't tell them about it either; none of them had high enough security clearance to know about the project. Damn it, he thought, frustrated, you'd still think they'd take my advice to heart, he thought, frustrated. He spared a glance in Amanda's direction. Well, there's no way around it, I'll just have to keep a close eye on her and make sure nothing happens to her. He turned his gaze back to Billy. "I have my reasons, sir, but I can't tell them to you." He could tell by the look on Billy's face that he wasn't happy with that answer. Frank went on before anyone could interrupt him. "I'll work with both Mr and Mrs Stetson." He looked directly at Amanda, ignoring the angry glare that her husband was giving him. "It's nothing personal against you, Mrs Stetson. I'm sure that you're a great field agent. But I have my reasons, and I can't tell them to you. I'm sorry." Amanda just nodded her head, but he could see the hurt remaining in her eyes.

He husband, however, wasn't as passive. He stood up and took a step toward Frank. "If you're reasons have anything to do with the fact that Amanda's a woman, let me tell you..."

Frank snorted. "Come off it, Stetson. I'm not that much of a chauvinist. I've worked with some great women in dangerous situations, trusted them with my life. You may even get to meet one of them, if we survive this assigment."

Lee pounced on the final phrase like a tiger. "What do you mean, 'if'? This is supposed to be a cake job. Hell, I don't even know why you're on it. Amanda and I have done so many jobs like this over the years we could do it in our sleep. What AREN'T you telling us, Mr Parker? What information do you have that makes you want to keep my wife off this assigment? Or is it something about her that's having you ask to have her taken off?"

Frank sighed. He could tell already that working with Lee Stetson wasn't going to be the easiest thing he'd ever done. "Look, Stetson. It's nothing against her. I've never met her before, so I don't know if she's the best agent out there or the worst. Everything in her dossier says she's more than competant. Let's just say I have some information that leads me to believe that it might be better if Mrs Stetson sits this one out."

Lee wasn't about to be deterred, especially where the love of his life was concerned. "Then tell us what it is. Then we can all decide if it warrants having Amanda off the assignment."

Amanda muttered under her breath, "Nice to know I have a say in this." Lee turned to apologize but she waved him off.

Frank let a little chuckle escape his lips and then shook his head. If he didn't have a direct order from Talmadge to work with these people, he would have definately found a better solution to keeping Mrs Stetson off the case by now. But Talmadge threatened to have Donovan do the backsteps from now on, unless he reigned in his "maverick ways", as Talmadge put it. And he could tell that Billy Melrose was about as stubborn as Talmadge. He wouldn't be a push over, either. But, this little act of rebellion was within the rules, and he was having a bit of fun with it. Stetson was starting to rub him the wrong way. "I can't. Classified." He saw Lee open his mouth to speak again and cut him off before he could say any more. "You're clearance isn't high enough. Look," he said, crossing to the edge of Billy's desk and resting his weight on it "I don't have a choice. I'm bound by the same rules of secrecy that you are. That's just the way it is. But, the things I do know," he leaned toward Lee and Amanda, "I WILL use what I know for all our benefits."

Lee still wasn't happy, but he understood security. In his business, security was key. He glanced at his wife, and then at Billy. He could tell that they both shared his misgivings. He blew out a frustrated breath. He didn't like it, but he didn't have much of a choice. I'll be damned, he thought as he sat back down next to his wife, if I'll let him out of my sight, though.

"Now the we have that settled, let's get down to details." Billy said as he stood up from his desk and walked over to the computer screen in the back wall. Lee stood up and perched on Billy's desk behind Amanda while she turned in her seat to face her boss. Frank moved back to the position he'd been in when the Stetsons got there, resting against the wall. He watched the Agency people, schooling his emotions to hide his thoughts. He wondered how much they already knew, and how much he would have to update them on... how much he COULD update them on. He hoped it wouldn't be too much, because he was anxious to get this mission over with.

Billy didn't make him wait long. "Here's what we have so far." He tapped a few keys and a picture of Yuri Ventlovich came on the screen. "Two days ago, we were contacted by Mr Ventlovich. He is part of a Russian terrorist organization that is trying to get one of their own released from our prision. They have been making demands of the US for some time now, and, as with all terrorist groups, we have refused to negotiate with them. We've tried getting a man on the inside, but they change their base of operations regularly, and their communications are all coded and secure. We've had no luck breaking them at this point. Ventlovich said the organization is planning something that will rock the US to it's very foundation. He won't give us any more information than that, because he wants to use it as a bargaining chip for his safe harbor in the US. We've been trying to find out what they're planning by other means, but with no effect. We'll have to wait until we get Ventlovich safely here." Billy noticed the pre-occupied look on Frank's face. "Do you have any information that might be helpful, Parker?"

Frank sighed as he stepped forward. "Well, I have very good information about what they're planning, but we're still going to need to make sure that Ventlovich gets here safely to tell us the rest."

He paused for a moment, and Amanda took the opportunity to ask, "So what are they planning? What can be so horrible that it would shake up America that badly."

Frank turned to look at her, meeting her eyes, hoping she'd read in them how serious he was. "They're putting bombs in the schools."

"In the schools?!!!" Amanda couldn't hide the shock in her voice. A glimmer of fear appeared in her eyes as she turned quickly to her husband. "Lee, Dorothy..." her voice cracked.

Lee squeezed her hand. "She'll be fine, Amanda. This is what we do for a living. I'm sure we'll be able to protect our own daughter." He smiled at her and was rewarded with a small smile in return. She turned back to face Frank.

"Do we know what schools? Are they all in the DC area? Is there a pattern to the schools they're targeting?" The questions were asked calmly, with no hint of the anxiety she had displayed a moment before. The mark of a real professional, Frank thought, impressed. Most of the people he knew wouldn't be able to turn so professional so quickly after finding out about a possible threat against one of their children. He knew he'd had a hard time with it during his first backstep, when he saw his son, Jimmy, lying on the pavement, killed by a terrorist such as this. So he knew how she felt, he just wished he had more information to give her. There just hadn't been that much information on the other side of the time line.

"That's about all the information I have." he relayed. "We don't think it will just the DC area, which makes the job of finding them harder. Otherwise, we could just blanket all the schools in the DC area. But there's no way we can do that with every school in the country. We don't even know when they are going in to set the bombs. For all we know, they could already be there." He sat on the edge of Billy's desk. "That's why we need Ventlovich so badly."

Amanda and Lee nodded their heads, almost imperceptibly and, to Frank's amusement, in time with each other. That must be what married life does to you eventually, he thought wryly.

"So, Billy, where do we go from here? Do we just wait for the contact with Ventlovich, or do we go on the offensive?" Lee asked his commander as Billy turned off the computer screen.

"We go on the offensive. We're supposed to hear back from Ventlovich tomorrow, to set up a time to bring him in. But if something goes wrong... we can't afford to wait. If even one school is destroyed, even one child hurt by this... let's just say it won't be pretty." Billy walked back behind his desk to sit down, looking at his two agents and the man he'd "acquired" from the NSA. "From the sound of it, the terrorists are already in the country. See if you can find their base of operations. Any paperwork you need done, send in and Francine and I will get on it. I need you out doing the leg work. I want you to start tonight. Any questions?"

Lee spoke up. "Since this is inter-Agency, who's ball is this in the field?"

"You're senior agent, Scarecrow. Your ball." Billy looked hard at Lee. "But, since Parker has more knowledge than we do on this one, you are to defer to his knowledge. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yessir." Billy could tell that Lee still wasn't happy with having to defer to the knowledge of NSA man, but Billy trusted him to cooperate.

"Ok, then," Billy stood up, with the other three following suit. "We're supposed to hear from Ventlovich around 10 tomorrow morning. I want you three here at 11. Dismissed." Billy sat back down, watching the his two best agents file out, followed by Frank Parker. He sighed, hoping that Lee and Parker wouldn't come to blows. The tension between the two was palpable and he knew that if Lee were pushed too hard by the younger man, it could cause a lot of problems. He leaned back in his chair and thanked God for two things: that his old friend Bradley Talmadge had told Parker to cooperate or else, and that Amanda Stetson was one of the most diplomatic people he knew. If anyone could keep the two of them from starting an inter-Agency war, it would be Amanda.

Frank followed Lee and Amanda in silence to an upstairs office. He made note of the subterfuge that the Agency employed to keep the outside world from knowing that the modest documentary film company, IFF, was in actuality one of the nation's best covert-operations agencies. From the tenacious Mrs Marsden standing sentry in the foyer to the closet that doubled as an elevator to the bowels of the Agency, Frank was impressed with what he saw. Maybe he should bring some of these ideas back to tell Ramsey, he thought wryly. Nate was always looking for new ways to secure the hanger.

Amanda led the three of them through a door marked "Film Library" and into a small office. As Frank followed her in, he glanced around the small office. The desk next to the door had a vase of fresh flowers on one corner and a couple of framed photographs of two grown men and another of a young girl. Frank could see Amanda's features in the two men, and a melding of Lee and Amanda's features in the girl. They make a handsome family, Frank thought automatically. The desk on the other wall was much more spartan. Frank noticed neat piles of files and an open appointment book in the middle of the desk. It didn't surprise him to watch Lee walk behind the desk and close the appointment book when he noticed Frank looking at it. Amanda stepped around Frank and opened small refrigerator next to Lee's desk. "Would you like something to drink, Mr Parker?" she asked as she pulled out two bottles of iced tea. He shook his head and Amanda closed the door and handed Lee one of the bottles. After Lee sat down behi Amanda decided that she should be the one to get the conversation started. She knew, from the scene in Billy's office, that it would be her job to play peacemaker. She knew her husband's temper, but she did share Lee's opinion that Frank Parker was a maverick who would prove difficult to work with. She wasn't really relishing having him involved in this assignment, but Mr Melrose told them they needed to work together, so she might as well try to make it a pleasant experience. She knew it wasn't going to be an easy task, especially since the younger man kept looking at her through hooded eyes. Even when he was pretending to look somewhere else, she could feel his gaze flitting back to her every few seconds. She didn't know the reason for his scrutiny, but it was making her uncomfortable. Here goes nothing, she thought wryly. "Well, where do we start?" Amanda asked lightly.

"First, I..." Lee started.

"I'm going to..." Frank began.

Lee gave Frank a steely glare and Frank bowed mockingly. Amanda closed her eyes, praying that God would grant her strength. She knew that Lee didn't like getting "permission" from Parker to continue. This certainly wasn't off to a good start.

"First, I want you to tell us everything you can about what you know. Unless it's strictly classified beyond our clearance, I want to know every possible detail." Frank opened his mouth to protest, but Lee cut him off abruptly. "I'm going to be straight with you, Parker. I don't like games, and I don't like your attitude. You know a lot more than you're telling us, and not having that information could get us all killed. And, God forbid, if anything happens to any of us because of the lack of that information, I'll kill you myself."

Amanda noticed the involuntary shudder that ran through Frank's body when Lee said "killed". She wondered if that could be what his objections to her were about. Maybe he'd had a female partner that had gotten killed in a job just like this. She made a note to ask Francine to get her as much information as possible about Frank Parker of the NSA.

When Lee stopped talking, Frank gave him a moment to see if he was going to continue. When it was obvious that he was waiting for a response from Frank, the younger man spoke up. "Since we're being straight with each other, I'll tell you that I didn't choose this assignment and I didn't choose to work with the both of you. I usually work alone. My methods may be a little... unorthodox... but I get the job done, and that's what's important. There is more I could probably tell you, but then you'd ask how I found it out, and that I can't tell you. I honestly don't know any more about the terrorists' activities or about where they are. Everything else is gravy."

"Look..." Lee began, but Amanda put out a hand to stop him.

"Mr Parker, I'm sure you can understand our position. We've been agents for a very long time, and there have been times when a crucial piece of information could have wrapped up a case earlier or, in some instances, saved lives. It's not a position we like to be in. That's why it's important for us to know anything you can possibly tell us."

Frank exhaled heavily. "I do understand, Mrs Stetson."

"Please, call me Amanda."

Frank nodded. "Amanda. And you can call me Frank. I've been in the same situation myself, and I'm not trying to make this case more difficult. But the way I've come about most of my knowledge isn't something that I can explain. So I'm stuck. Let me promise you again, I will use every bit of knowledge I have to make sure that nothing goes wrong with this case. The last thing I want is for something to go wrong because I didn't act on something I knew."

Lee started to spit out another angry retort, but Amanda's hand clasped his in restraint. "We understand that, Frank. And, if it's all you can give us, then we'll make do with it."

"But I want you to tell me anything relevant, do you understand me?" Lee scowled.

Frank nodded. "I promise. Now, I do have a resource on my team that might be able to help us out a little with this. I'd have to call and see what I can arrange. Can I use your phone?"

Lee nodded. "Use the one on Amanda's desk. While you're doing that, I'm going to put the word out among my contacts to see if they've picked anything up. It's very rare that someone doesn't come up with something."

Amanda slid off the desk and headed to the door. "And while you're both busy on the phone, I'll go see Francine." I better ask Mrs Marsden to keep her ears out for sounds of a war while I'm gone, she thought as she closed the door behind her and headed down the stairs.