Christmas Surprises

By Lynn

Prologue

Early December, 1989

Four men entered a dimly lit basement.

“Our plans can now move forward.  There is a gathering set for December twenty-second.”

“And you know what is expected of you?”

“Si, General, we have been working in the White House as a part of the catering staff for several months now.  No one is suspicious of us.  We are free to come and go during any event.  We have been able to move about the guests without difficulty as long as we maintain the pretense of serving the guests.  We have simply been waiting for the right moment to arise.  Since the Secret Service will not be expecting anything to happen inside the State Dining Room we should not have any problems.  Do you think the Americans will catch on?”

Laughing, he said, “Not until it is too late!  No, they will be too wrapped up in their holiday parties, festivities and spirit.  But we will show them they cannot dictate to the world.”

The General continued. “Gentlemen, I don’t have to tell you that you will be making a great sacrifice but one that is needed in order for our great leader General Noriega to remain in power.”

The members of the Panamanian Defense Force gathered around a small table and reviewed the final plans for their mission.

Act 1

Early December – Billy’s Office

Lee and Amanda came out of the Agency elevator and nearly collided with Francine and Beaman.

“Whoa, there, sorry about that Francine,” Lee said.  “We received a call from Billy to come to his office immediately.”

“That’s where we’re headed too.  Do you have any idea what this is about?”  Francine seemed annoyed about the summons.

“No, we haven’t a clue.  I hope there’s no major flap going on.  That always seems to happen around the holidays.”  Amanda hoped that this holiday season would be one without incident.

The foursome arrived at Billy’s office and were ushered inside.

“Thank you all for coming so quickly.”  Billy appeared to be distracted by something.

“What’s up, Billy?  Why did you call us all down here?”  Lee knew something was wrong by simply reading Billy’s body language.

Hesitantly, Billy answered, “I…I’m not sure.  I received a rather cryptic call from Dr. Smyth asking me to call all of you in here for a meeting.”  Billy’s brief explanation was greeted with moans of displeasure.  Lee could tell by the look on Billy’s face that this was not going to be good news. Before he could voice his concerns, the man himself entered the room.

“Greetings, kiddies! It seems our little gathering here needs some holiday cheer.  Wouldn’t you agree?”

“What exactly do you mean, sir?”  Amanda asked.

“I mean you all look like Grumpy Gus.  Perhaps I can help turn those frowns upside down.”

Lee’s anger, which had been simmering now threatened to boil over.  He hated Dr. Smyth’s penchant for the use of rhymes.  The longer he went on, the worse the situation usually was.

“Come on, Dr. Smyth, can you please tell us why we are here?”  Lee wanted to get this over with before he had to listen to any more whimsical nonsense from the Agency’s director.

“Patience, my boy, patience.  I’ve come to spread a little Christmas cheer.”

Five sets of eyes all rolled at the same time.

“I just got off the phone with the White House and you all have been invited to a little Christmas soiree.”

“Oh, great.” Lee muttered under his breath.

“The President is hosting a Christmas gala on Friday evening, December 22 and he has invited only members of the ‘Alphabet Agencies’ – you know, like the CIA, FBI, NSA, DIA, DEA , SDBIR, and of course, us.  He wants to thank everyone for their hard work.  Each agency is allowed to send fifteen people.  I, of course, will have a party of nine so that leaves six other spots representing our Agency.”  He gestured toward the group seated before him.  “Oh, and Melrose, feel free to bring the little misses.”  He tossed an embossed invitation on Billy’s desk, turned on his heel, leaving with a flourish. It took several moments for the stunned occupants of the room to react.

Amanda was the first to speak.  “Oh my gosh!”

Late Saturday afternoon, December 16 – the Stetson-King House

“Phillip, for the last time, I said no.  We are not going out this weekend to look for a car for you.  There’s just too much to do this weekend.  Besides, we still haven’t gotten the insurance money from the fire last month and that money will be needed in order to rebuild the garage and perhaps get you another car.”

“Perhaps?  But Mom…”

This time in a voice more stern, she said, “Phillip, we have spent the past two weekends scouring every car dealership in the tri-state area and we haven’t come up with anything reasonable that we could afford.”

“I know but look at this ad from Liberty Larry’s.  It says that you can find the car of your dreams and you don’t need any money down.”

“I’m not sure Liberty Larry’s is the most…reputable dealer in the area.”

“Why do you say that, Mom?”

“Well, let me ask you a question.  Why do you think there’s a junk yard right next door to Liberty Larry’s car lot?”

“Maybe that’s just a coincidence.  Look here, they have a 1984, black….”

“Enough!  We are not going to spend another weekend looking at cars.  There is simply too much to do before Christmas. Maybe after Christmas, there will be some better sales going on and we can look then, okay?”

“Yeah, okay.” He nodded disappointedly.

“Sweetheart, I know losing your car in the fire was devastating and we will do everything in our power to help you find another one.  But this weekend, well, there’s simply too much to do.  Mother and Lee are picking up Aunt Lillian from the airport as we speak.  Plus we still have twelve dozen cookies to bake for your high school bake sale.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot about that.”

“Now, why don’t you call your brother down here?”  When he stood, she gave him a hug and tousled his hair.  “Supper’s almost ready and your Grandmother and Lee should be back soon with Aunt Lillian.”

SMK SMK SMK SMK

Sunday afternoon

“Wow, Leatherneck, this is perfect.  How’d you come across such a beauty?” Lee asked as he put the newly refurbished cherry red 1980 Mustang through its paces.  He’d just executed a perfect Bootlegger’s turn and he was simply having a ball.  He had enlisted the help of the Agency’s top procurement officer to help him locate a car for Phillip.  He was testing the car’s handling on a closed track used by the Agency to train drivers for high speed chases and the like.  He was pleased with the car’s acceleration and stopping capabilities.  The Mustang roared to life when given the gas and stopped straight on a dime without veering to the left or right.

Lee and Amanda had agreed to purchase another car for Phillip for Christmas if they could find one that met their price range and would be something Phillip could use for several years to come.  After all, he would be heading off to college in the near future.

Several times since the fire, Lee would accompany Leatherneck to yet another car dealership or private lot to look at the cars he thought might be what they were looking for.  The seven previous cars they looked at were hardly worth the effort and certainly didn’t live up to their descriptions.

A pretty little fixer-upper‘ the dealer said but there was no engine.

Only needs new tires and gas and she’ll be good to go,’ but the new tires would    also have included new wheels.

Lee drove the car through the series of traffic cones and performed a couple of tight turns in order to get a feel of now the car handled.

“Well, I tell ya, Lee, it’s not hard at all. You just gotta know where to look!”

Leatherneck told Lee how he had cashed in a number of favors, finally discovering this beauty.  Both men laughed as Lee executed a reverse Bootlegger’s.  They spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the car’s engine and undercarriage and discussing the price with the seller.  Between the two of them, they were able to get the car for $200 less than originally offered.

Running his hand over the car’s exterior, Lee exclaimed. “Phillip is going to love this.  He’s been driving us nuts ever since his car was destroyed in the fire.  I just hope we can keep it a secret until Christmas.”

“Hey, secrets are our business, right?”

SMK SMK SMK SMK

Sunday afternoon

Amanda was enjoying a quiet afternoon at home.  The boys were with Joe, Lee was out on some ‘secret car locating’ mission, and Dotty had gone out shopping with her sister Lillian.  So Amanda found herself alone and she decided to take a brief nap.  Just as she settled down on the sofa, the phone rang.

“That figures,” she mumbled to herself.  “Hello, Stetson-King residence.”

“Hello.  May I speak to Mrs. Amanda Stetson, please?”

“Speaking.”

“This is Nora Wilson, personal assistant to Barbara Bush.  Would you hold for a moment while I connect you with the First Lady?”

Flustered, Amanda answered. “Certainly.”  There was a flourish of clicks and buzzing on the line and then a voice.

“Mrs. Stetson?  This is Barbara Bush.  I’m sorry to bother you at home.”

‘Oh my gosh!  It really is her,’ Amanda thought.   She’d met the First Lady a couple of times through several charity events including a Thanksgiving Food Drive just last month.  Also, there had been a few times that Agency business had brought them together.  “Yes, Mrs. Bush, good afternoon.  How are you?”

“I’m fine and you?  I hope you and your family are doing well.”

“Yes, ma’am, we’re all fine.”

“That’s good to hear.  It won’t be long before another little one joins your family, right?”

“Yes, in three more months.” She gently rubbed her rounded belly.

“Well, I don’t want to keep you long so I guess I’ll get right to the point.  I need your help, Mrs. Stetson.”

“Certainly, Mrs. Bush, how can I help you?  Oh, and please call me Amanda.”

“I understand that you and your husband will be attending the Christmas Gala on Friday evening.”

“Yes, we are deeply honored and appreciate the invitation.”

“This is George’s way of showing his appreciation to those of you who put your lives on the line each and every day for our country.  But I digress. You see several of our grandchildren are visiting with us prior to the holidays when we’ll all be heading up to Kennebunkport.  Most of them are younger and we’ve planned a variety of activities and events to hold their interest until we leave on Sunday.  The problem is our fourteen-year-old granddaughter.  We promised her she could attend the Gala this weekend and we arranged an escort for her but the poor young man has come down with the chicken pox of all things.”

“Oh my gosh!”

“So now Noelle is terribly upset.  We went shopping and she picked out her dress and she’s getting her hair and nails done.  This was to be her first ‘grown-up party’ and well, George and I have checked with a number of people here but the young men are either too old for Noelle or they have already left Washington with their families for the holidays.”

Amanda listened intently.

“I know its short notice but I was wondering if one of your boys might be willing to escort Noelle to the party on Friday evening?  I know that’s asking a lot.  I believe Jamie is about Noelle’s age.  She and I visited Arlington High School last week to thank the students for taking part in the annual canned food drive.  Isn’t that Jamie’s school?”

“Why, yes, it is.  He did mention your visit.  His class collected the most canned goods.”

“He and his classmates deserved to be congratulated.  With the canned goods that were collected, the Food Pantry will be able to provide holiday gift baskets to over three hundred families in the Washington area.  Noelle worked so hard helping with that campaign.  That’s why I’d hate to disappoint her.”

“I understand how Noelle is feeling.  A girl’s first grown-up party is a life changing event.”

“Yes, it is and I hope she’ll have pleasant memories of it although I believe she’s going to be a bit disappointed by a ‘stuffy ole Washington party.’”

Both ladies laughed.

“But there will be other things for them to do here at the White House once the excitement of the party wears off, like the bowling alley or the theatre.  I sometimes find myself wishing I could slip away during some of those parties.”

Amanda chuckled at the open honesty of the First Lady.  “Well, while I can’t speak for my son Jamie, I will certainly ask him if he would like to escort your granddaughter.   I do believe he and Noelle would enjoy each other’s company.  I’ll check with him when he gets home this afternoon.  May I give you a call back later this evening?”

“Oh, thank you Amanda.  That would be fine.  Let me give you my private number so you can by-pass all the White House staffers.  I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you soon.  Have a good afternoon.”

“Yes, I will and thank you for calling.”

Act 2

Sunday afternoon- Stetson-King house

Lee had arrived home late Sunday afternoon. He found Amanda napping on the sofa in the den.  He gently shook her shoulder until she opened her eyes.  ”Hey sleepyhead, have I got news for you.”  He began telling Amanda about the car he and Leatherneck found for Phillip.  “You should see it.  Its candy apple red and in pristine condition.  And with Leatherneck’s help, I was able to get a really great deal!” Lee was so excited he could barely contain himself.

Rubbing her eyes, she struggled to sit up.  “Are you sure this car is safe?  I mean, I’m not sure I want Phillip driving around in a hot-rod.”

“A hot-rod?  Amanda, a Ford Mustang is hardly a hot-rod.  Besides, this car has been well-cared for and…”

“Driven by a little old lady to church on Sundays, right?”  Amanda chuckled at the exasperated look on her husband’s face.

Lee gave her a dirty look.  “Look, Leatherneck and I checked it out.  I put her through her paces at the Agency track and I’m telling you, this car is a great deal particularly with the $200 we were able to shave off the price.  I told the guy I would let him know first thing in the morning.”

“Okay, okay. You’ve convinced me.”  Amanda threw up her hands in surrender.  “If Leatherneck and you have given it your stamp of approval, then who am I to stand in the way?”

“Great!  Look at it this way.  That’s one less present we have to shop for.”

She tossed a pillow at him.  “Oh, you.”  Then a thought crossed her mind.  “If you get the car tomorrow, what are we going to do with it?  Are we going to give it Phillip now?”  Thinking out loud, she continued, “Oh, but that would spoil his Christmas.”

Lee already had things figured out.  “Leatherneck has agreed to keep it until Christmas morning.  That way, it can remain a secret until then.”

She pulled her husband toward her and placed a soft kiss on his cheek.  “You’re really getting into this Santa thing, aren’t you?”

Lee returned the kiss.  “Yeah, but you’re still my best present ever.”  They enjoyed a few quiet moments together simply enjoying the quiet of a Sunday afternoon.

Then Amanda remembered her earlier phone call.  “You’re not the only one with news, Big Fella.”  She shared her news about her surprise phone call from the First Lady.

Suddenly, both boys burst through the back door.  They had been in the park shooting hoops since it was a rather warm December afternoon.

“Hey Lee!” Phillip shouted. “Can we go check out Liberty Larry’s car lot?  He had a humongous ad in today’s paper.  We might be able to find something there.”

“Phillip, I think Liberty Larry’s is closed right now.”  Lee saw the expression on Phillip’s face fall.  Even though they had the ‘car problem’ solved, he didn’t want to disappoint this oldest step-son.  “How ’bout we go tomorrow after school?”

“All right!” Phillip shouted with glee.  Grabbing the newspaper, he pulled out Liberty Larry’s ad and ran upstairs to study it.

Jamie simply shook his head.  He just didn’t get all the excitement over a dumb car.  As he headed toward the stairs, Amanda and Lee called out to him.

“Hey, Jamie, got a minute?  We have something we need to talk with you about.”  Jamie came over and sat down next to us mother.

“Remember last week when the First Lady visited your school?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Well, today I got a phone call from the First Lady.  She is in need of some help and thought we might be able to assist her.”

“The First Lady called our house?  Wow! What kind of help?”

Together they told Jamie about the formal invitation to the Presidential Gala asking him if he would be interested in accompanying the President’s granddaughter.

“Are you kidding?” He asked incredulously.  “A party at the White House?  Man, that would be so cool.  And the President’s granddaughter is hot.”

“What?” Both parents asked at the same time.

Jamie blushed and then answered, “I…I…I mean she’s um…very nice looking.  I saw her last week when she visited our school.”

“So then you’d have no problem being her escort for this party?” Lee asked.

“No, not at all.  I think it will be really cool.”

“Now you’re sure.  I really want you to think about this before I call Mrs. Bush back.”

“Yeah, I’m sure.  Hey Lee, do you think I’ll be able to take my camera?  I’d like to get some pictures inside the White House.”

Lee looked down at the floor and scratched the back of his head while trying to come up with an answer that would satisfy Jamie without disappointing him.  “Taking pictures might be a breach of security and put the family in harm’s way.”

Jamie nodded his head thoughtfully.  “Oh well, that’s okay.  It will still be fun.”

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The Agency Briefing Room- Wednesday, December 20

Billy led the morning briefing.  There was the usual talk of uprisings and possible governmental overthrows.

“As you all know, the President sent 24,000 troops into Panama this morning.  ‘Just Cause’ is an attempt to remove Noriega from power.  We will continue to keep our eye on this in case our help is needed in any way.  I’m asking each of you to stay in close contact with your informants.  After all, these people are our eyes and ears.  If you hear anything that may be helpful, check it out and let me know.  Noriega has been a brutal dictator and caused a great deal of suffering for his people.”   Billy paused briefly and looked around the room.  With a slight nod of his head, he said, “Okay, people that’s all for today.”

SMK SMK SMK SMK

The Blue Bull – a small bar located in southeast D.C.

“This is a sad day for our country, amigos. The U.S. has sent troops to invade our beloved homeland with the sole purpose of deposing Noriega.” One of the men stated.

“Yes, but the Americans will rue this day once we put our plan into action,” said another passionate young member of the group.

“This weekend’s event will be perfect.  The President is hosting yet another of his infamous holiday parties on Friday evening.  He has brought this on himself.  This event will change history forever.  We will be victorious in bringing down the Americans.”

With glasses raised, the young men vowed to carry out their plans.

Continued

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Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King and its characters belong to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Enterprises. No infringement is intended. This is written for entertainment purposes only.