Living in a Shoe – Conclusion

Act Three

Wednesday morning at the Agency

Lee and Amanda were in Billy’s office making a report and assessing their progress.

Lee was pacing again. “Billy, this guy Kagemusha is smoke! Everyone’s heard he’s somewhere-everyone has heard some rumor-but nobody knows anything concrete!”

“Even the Russians are going all out looking for him,” Amanda added.

“But nobody knows anything for sure.” Billy shook his head. “However.” The section chief continued, “Dr. Smyth thinks this could lead to something big-which is why I’m keeping you two on this.”

“Yes sir,” Amanda quickly answered, cutting off her partner’s protest. “We’ve exhausted all our usual sources.” She looked at Lee with a question in her eyes and they had a brief silent conversation.

Lee gave her a rueful look, and nodded his assent. “I guess now we get creative.” He turned to Billy. “Is Tanaka still the Japanese chief here in DC?”

Billy brightened. “Yes he is-that’s a good idea, Scarecrow-check with our allies-Japan, MI6, Mossad-anyone else you can think of.”

Lee nodded. “Will do. Somebody’s got to have something concrete on this guy. Might as well pool our resources, because we’re getting nowhere on our own.”

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Upstairs, Lee and Amanda were planning strategy and making appointments for meeting with their allies. They had formulated a plan of action, and had made a few contacts, when Lee’s phone rang.

“Stetson here.”

It was Dotty. “Pink! They’re pink! Pink! What will I do with a pink bathroom?!?”

“Dotty, what are you talking about?” Lee was taken aback at the forcefulness of her tirade.

“I got busy with Pete who is installing the stained glass windows. He took a break and I went in to see how the plumbers were doing and the fixtures Augie delivered are pink! Who has pink bathroom fixtures?!?”

“Pink,” Lee said in a weak voice. “How far have the plumbers gotten with the installation?”

“The tub is in-it is really wide and nice cast-iron-it’s in great condition-but it’s pink!”

Lee ran his hand through his hair. “Are they the right size? Will they all fit?”

“Oh yes, they’re perfect except they’re all pink!”

“Pink,” he sighed. “Maybe they’re really dusty rose?” he asked hopefully.

“No Lee-they’re pink. Very pink. Not hot pink, but definitely pink-1950′s pink. The toilet tank has a stamp of May 1959-so I guess that’s when it was manufactured.”

“May 1959-pink.” Lee looked at Amanda helplessly.

She came over and took the phone from her hapless husband-who was definitely over his head now. “Hello mother-am I to understand the fixtures Augie delivered last night are … pink?” It sounded so ludicrous.

“Yes Amanda,” Dotty said in a heated tone. “Pink. What am I going to do with a pink bathroom?”

Amanda thought fast. “The floor is floral-multi-colored-it should go nicely with pink fixtures…”

“Yes, the colors do match. But a pink toilet? Amanda, that’s just … abnormal!”

“Maybe you could get a colored tank set-with matching rugs and towels-maybe deep burgundy or forest green-or even dark plum.”

“Oh!” Dotty was brought up short. “I didn’t think of that! Hmmmm…forest green would look good with the floral floor. It might tone down all that pink-ness.”

“And you have to go with those fixtures-otherwise it’s another two week delay.”

“I know that, Amanda.”

“If it’s really bad, maybe we could replace them after a few months,” she offered.

“Oh Amanda, that’s a lot of trouble and expense.”

“Yes mother, but we want you to be happy with your new apartment.”

“I am happy.” Dotty took a breath. “I guess it was something of a shock-that’s all. Pink bathroom fixtures-who would have thought they would have been that color.”

“I know, mother. It seems a bit strange to me, too.”

“I’ve heard of green, blue, tan, even black-but pink?”

Amanda shrugged good-naturedly. “Just goes to show you really haven’t seen it all.”

“No-that’s for sure.” Dotty took another breath. “Oh darling, I guess I’ll just go back and think about what color rugs and towels I need for my new,” she took a deep breath and let it out, “pink bathroom.”

“That’s the spirit, mother. Be positive. Besides, you’ll have something to tell your friends at cards. I bet none of them have a pink bathroom.”

“That’s for sure, Amanda. Oh well. At least the guy Augie sent to put in the stained glass windows is doing great. He says he’ll be done this afternoon and he wants to be paid then.”

“Oh-maybe I should let you talk to Lee about that, mother.” She turned to her husband. “Here Lee, mother wants to talk to you about the guy installing the stained glass windows?” She gave him a questioning look.

“Oh yeah-the stained glass windows.” He nodded. “I’ll explain later.” He took the phone and spoke to his mother-in-law, “Hi Dotty-so the guy is there?”

“Yes, Lee. Pete arrived first thing and got right to work. I was working with him and got caught up in the windows so I didn’t notice the pink bathroom fixtures until the bathtub was already in…”

“So how are the windows going?” Lee went for the diversion.

“It’s great! He’s fast and very good. He says he’ll be done this afternoon and he wants to be paid then.”

“Did he say how much it would be?”

“He said $350-I guess because the top is curved and he had to work around the existing window…”

“OK. $350 it is. I’ll stop by the bank and be by the house some time after lunch. Will that be OK?”

“I hope so. Oh Lee-the windows are going to be so beautiful! Thank you for them-they’ll just make the living room!”

Lee smiled at Dotty’s enthusiasm. At least something was going right today. “I’m glad you’re happy, Dotty. We’ll see you later, after lunch. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye, Lee, and thank you again!” Dotty hung up.

“Stained glass windows?” Amanda questioned.

“Yeah-last night-early this morning-when Augie delivered the bathroom fixtures he also brought stained glass windows-and Dotty got some to go around her big living room window-she gave me that look you always use on me…”

“That look?” Amanda questioned.

“Yeah-we’d better get going-we meet with Tanaka at 11-then lunch-and now I also have to go to the bank to get more cash to pay the guy who’s installing the stained glass windows.”

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At the Japanese embassy, Lee and Amanda were ushered in to the office of their cultural attaché, Mr. Tanaka. The man bowed politely in greeting and Lee bowed back. Amanda only dipped her head-she didn’t want to risk losing her balance.

“Good morning, Mr. Stetson, Mrs. Stetson. It is always a pleasure to greet my American … colleagues.” Tanaka spoke quietly but with authority.

“We are grateful you were able to work us into your busy schedule, Tanaka-san,” Lee replied.

“Yes-everyone seems to be very busy this week-rushing around here and there,” Amanda added with a smile.

“Ah yes. We have all noted the great increase in activity. Even for a world capitol, this week has been unusually unsettled. Would you care for some tea?” Tanaka shifted subjects abruptly.

Lee and Amanda traded a glance. “Yes, please,” Amanda answered with a warm smile.

They traded small talk until the tea arrived, and they had drunk a cup appreciatively.

“This is really excellent tea, Mr. Tanaka.” Amanda complimented the attaché.

He bowed slightly. “I’m pleased my humble offerings have met with your approval.”

Lee delicately cleared his throat. “Tanaka-san, we’re here to possibly trade information.”

“And what information are you offering?” The attaché politely inquired.

“Well, more like what we want to find out-we’re hoping you might share with us what you know about Kagemusha, and we’ll tell you what we’ve found out.”

“Pool our resources, so to speak, sir,” Amanda added.

Tanaka nodded slowly. “Everyone is looking for information about Kagemusha. The shadow warrior.”

“Don’t we know it-have you found anything out?” Lee asked cautiously.

Tanaka countered, “Perhaps we could begin with what you know.”

Lee and Amanda exchanged a glance. Amanda began, “We know he’s coming into DC, but we have nothing definite…”

“Have you been able to discover who has hired him?” Tanaka asked.

Amanda continued, “We know he wasn’t hired by the Russians, Bulgarians, Romanians, French, Saudis or Liberians.”

Tanaka nodded. “I can add the Chinese, Phillippinos, Indians and Vietnamese.”

Amanda made notes.

Lee nodded. “That helps-we have him arriving any day now, he could already be here in the city.”

Tanaka added, “He will come in by car-he’s supposedly already in your country.”

“We heard he’s flying into DC,” Lee countered.

“I presume your people have been watching the airports…”

“And the train and bus stations as well. Just in case,” Amanda added.

Tanaka nodded. “Sadly, I have nothing concerning what mission he may be engaged in.”

“Nor have we. It’s a dead end.” Lee allowed a hint of frustration to enter his voice.

“So it would seem,” Tanaka sadly agreed.

“Sir, we were planning on asking some of our other allies if they know anything, and with your permission, we’d like to include the valuable information you’ve provided us.” Amanda requested formally.

Tanaka nodded his assent. “I would agree to that-as long as you would be so kind as to share any new information you might discover in your further enquiries.”

“Of course, Tanaka-san. We’re all allies here, and in this case, we can accomplish more by working together in a spirit of open cooperation and information sharing.” Lee smiled.

“I agree that cooperation is most beneficial when all parties are open and trusting. Who were you going to call upon next?” The attaché asked mildly.

Amanda spoke up, “We have appointments at the British, Canadian and Israeli embassies this afternoon. And are awaiting word from the West Germans and Mexicans.”

“I see you are being thorough in your search for information. Are you aware you were observed by the Russians coming into our embassy?”

Lee chuckled. “Oh yeah. It’s been a regular parade through the streets of DC these past few days. At least the restaurants we have visited are doing a good business.”

Tanaka chuckled in return. “Yes, we all have noticed the vast amount of company so many of us are enjoying this week. I have seldom encountered so many of my … counterparts at one time.”

“We should just rent a hotel and make it a convention. It would save on the mileage.” Lee added ruefully.

“But that would go against our very nature, to be so open and blatant in our dealings with each other. Your visit here today is unprecedented, Scarecrow.”

“We weren’t getting anywhere with our usual contacts-so we just decided to do things a bit differently this time, “Amanda added.

Tanaka regarded Amanda with a measured look. “I have heard Scarecrow’s partner excels at finding … interesting alternative solutions to the problems you face.”

Amanda blushed at the compliment. “I just thought we needed to try something new.”

“And who knows, it may yield new results.” Tanaka bowed toward her. “I wish great luck to both of you in your enquiries. And I hope to hear from you about what you have … or have not discovered.”

“We’ll be sure to let you know, sir. Thank you so much for your time.” Amanda smiled.

“Yes, thank you so much Tanaka-san. We will keep you informed.” Lee shook the man’s hand as they left his office.

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After lunch and a quick trip to the bank, Lee and Amanda pulled up at the house. There were several vehicles parked in the street and in the driveway. Workers were bustling around the new garage. They walked up the driveway-taking in all the activity.

“Lee, I’m going into the house. I’ll talk to Aristede-and then read the paper-and maybe make a couple more calls. You do what you need to here. Remember, we have to be at the Israeli embassy at 2:30.” Amanda headed for the back door.

“Thanks, Amanda. Hopefully I won’t be long here.”

Amanda went upstairs to check on the painter. Aristede was sitting in the middle of the room, looking at paint chips, and comparing them to the finished walls.

“Hello, Aristede. I see you’re mostly finished in here,” Amanda tried to sound upbeat and hopeful.

“Mrs. Stetson, maybe you might want to reconsider this peach color.” He waved at the painted walls. “It’s not a cool color, but it still might be a bit too stimulating for an infant as it grows. I’m concerned about any long-term behavioral issues you might encounter.”

“Aristede.” Amanda sighed and took a cleansing breath. “It isn’t what I chose, but I’ll admit I do like the color. Lee likes the color. Mother and the boys like the color. I’m sure the baby will like it, too.” She patted her tummy. “Please-just finish painting the room. Everyone will be happier when it’s done and you can start on mother’s apartment.”

Aristede sighed heavily and set down the paint chips. “It’s on your head, Mrs. Stetson. But I don’t want you coming back in ten or twenty years and blaming me for your child’s psychological problems.”

“I promise I won’t do that,” Amanda pledged.

“‘Cause I’ll be a famous social psychologist by then with a thriving practice and ripe pickings for a malpractice lawsuit.”

“You won’t have to worry about us on that account,” Amanda tried to sound reassuring and not scoff. She privately thought it would be a miracle if the man ever managed to finish his schooling.

“Maybe you could sign a waiver?” He asked hopefully. “That way it will be all legal and everything.”

Amanda shook her head. “Aristede, please. Just finish painting the room. There’s no need for a waiver-I promise we won’t sue you for malpractice. Now, I’m going back down to see how Lee is coming along.” Suddenly the idea of staying in the house with this man was just too wearying to contemplate. She turned and went back down the stairs.

Outside, Lee noticed the stained glass windows were in place, and they looked good. Augie’s man had put panes of clear glass over them so they would not be exposed to the elements. He bounded up the stairs and saw Dotty observing a man putting the final touches on the second window.

“Oh Lee, Look! Aren’t they beautiful?” Dotty waved to the light streaming through the windows.

Two stained glass windows framed the main window, with a hole cut for the third. The colors were bright and vibrant. He admired the effect. “They look great, Dotty. You do know how to design this stuff.”

“Thank you, Lee. This is Pete-he’s the man Augie sent.”

Lee shook the man’s hand. “Lee Stetson. Dotty’s my mother-in-law. So how’s the job going?”

Pete waved at his work. “Good, I’m nearly finished here. Then one more to go and they’re all in. I double-paned the stained glass after giving it a good cleaning. This stuff is in great shape for being almost 100 years old. They just don’t make it like this anymore. Sorry it took so long, but I had to do up a custom frame to fit the curve and unusual size of the big window.” Pete was caulking away as he talked. “You’ll want to stain or paint the molding-but the windows themselves are secure and well-protected from the elements. They should last another 100 years if you treat them right.”

“Augie said you’re fast and good. I had no idea just how good you are. I’m impressed.”

Pete shrugged. “It’s a nice change from straight repair work. So you got the payment?”

“$350, that’s right?”

“Yep, $350.” Lee counted out the money. Pete pulled a receipt book out of his pocket and made Lee out a receipt for the work.

“Thanks. I’ll just finish up here and leave you to enjoy the new windows.” Pete and Lee shook hands again, and the man turned back to finish the job.

Lee guided Dotty toward the bathroom. “Now let’s see those new fixtures.” The plumbers were currently on break. Lee saw the bathtub was fully installed and was indeed pink. It was a good generous size, but that made the pink-ness of it all the more apparent. The sink was mostly installed, and the toilet lay on its side in the corner awaiting installation. The floral linoleum did indeed look much more colorful alongside the pink fixtures. He looked around the room and took a deep breath. “Well-it certainly is … colorful.”

“Colorful,” Dotty repeated dryly. “That’s a good adjective to use. If I knew the fixtures would be pink I would have chosen a different floor…” Lee looked panicked. Dotty continued, “But I’ll make do.” Lee nodded in relief. “Once all this is done, I’ll go shopping to see what I can get for rugs and towels. I think forest green would help tone down the pink-ness of the room. What do you think, Lee?”

“Yeah-that sounds good.” Lee agreed readily. Right now whatever Dotty wanted was fine-as long as he didn’t have to find any more bathroom fixtures. But he’d get Augie for this one for sure.

A truck horn beeped. Lee and Doty went outside to see Augie’s truck pull noisily up and park across the driveway. Augie jumped out-he was alone this time. “Hey Dotty!” Augie waved cheerily, “How’s the window installation going?” He looked up at the windows. “Gee, the windows look great. Is my guy the master carpenter or what?”

“Augie, I’d like to have a word with you.” Lee said in a flat calm tone, belying his anger as the snitch’s deception in pawning a pink bathroom off on Dotty.

“Hey Lee, my man! I just stopped by to see the work and maybe get paid for those wonderful already installed stained glass windows.” Augie held out his hand.

“Let’s talk over here, Augie,” Lee drew Augie to stand beside his truck out of sight of Dotty. He looked around to make sure nobody else was watching and he grabbed the snitch cum antique dealer by his coveralls and lifted him off the ground. “What the hell are you doing selling Dotty a pink bathroom? I think that’s something that you might have mentioned to us before we bought and installed them,” he growled, and shook the snitch to emphasize his point.

“Hey Lee-ease off-they’re in mint condition-classic stuff-I have clients who’d kill for choice stuff like that-you can’t buy that kind of quality anymore…” Augie was sweating and sounding desperate.

“Pink? That’s not standard, Augie.”

Augie tried a diversion. “How does Dotty like it? I bet she was thrilled…”

“She was very … surprised … when she saw the color Augie. It took Amanda to calm her down.” He continued to shake the snitch menacingly.

“Heh heh! You’re lucky to have her, my man. She’s one in a million!”

“Augie, if I wasn’t so desperate…” Lee shook the snitch once again for emphasis.

“You got the fixtures in time-and you’re still on schedule-isn’t that what counts here?” Augie’s voice was a bit squeaky.

Lee growled and shook the snitch once more for effect, then set the man back on the ground and released him.

“We’re good then. That’s great!” Augie said with false cheer, holding his hand out for payment.

“Augie!” Lee pulled back his fist.

Augie held up his hands and backpedaled in an attempt to fend Lee off. “OK OK! So I forgot to fill you in on that detail. Didn’t I deliver on time? Wasn’t I there when you needed me the most? Who else could have scored you a full bathroom set-all matching-in less than 18 hours? And if it wasn’t for me, your charming mother-in-law wouldn’t have those exquisite stained glass windows-look at those vibrant colors!” He gestured at the apartment.

“Why the hell are you here, Augie?” Lee demanded.

Just then Amanda rounded the truck to see Lee and Augie standing there looking tense.

“Augie, I thought that was you!” She put her hand on Lee’s arm and he backed away from the snitch. “Augie, we are grateful for the plumbing fixtures, but pink? Really-you should have said something-luckily they don’t clash with the floor that’s already installed,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone. She fixed Augie with a sharp stare. Under Amanda’s gaze, Augie wilted.

“Gimme a break, Mrs. S. You got what you needed when you needed it-I was just trying to be helpful…” he whined.

“Yes-and we’re grateful for that-but why do I think you tried to pull a fast one on my mother?”

Augie squirmed under her reproachful gaze. “Hey-I’m a businessman…” He trailed off weakly.

“Augie, it’s my mother.” Amanda put her hands on her rounded belly, fixed Augie with a sad disappointed stare, and shook her head slowly.

“Maybe I can make it up to her…” he offered weakly.

“I don’t know Augie. She was pretty upset when she saw that pink bathtub,” Amanda said doubtfully.

“But she really likes the windows…” He tried to point out the positive side of the situation.

“Augie, I’m really disappointed in you.” Amanda said with finality.

“How can I make it up to you, Mrs. S?” He was beaten, and he knew it.

“It’s not me, Augie. It’s mother you have to apologize to and make happy.”

“Uh yeah. Sure,” He said in a defeated tone.

Just then Dotty poked her head around the side of the truck. “Here you all are!”

“Yes mother-we were just discussing with Augie your reaction to the pink bathroom fixtures.”

She nodded. “Yes, pink. Well it was a bit of a shock-all that … pink!”

“Yeah Dotty,” Augie tried to regain some ground, “Look, I’m sorry I didn’t warn you.”

Warn me?!? You might have said something when Lee and Amanda were buying them in the first place.”

“Uh, I guess it slipped my mind.” That sounded lame even to Augie himself.

“It slipped your mind?” Dotty gave him a stern look.

“So, how are the windows?” Augie asked brightly in an attempt to change the subject.

“Nice try,” Dotty said dryly.

“Yeah. Look-I’m sorry. But they were here on time-I delivered as promised…”

“Yes, at 4:15 in the morning. Are those two thugs with you?” Dotty looked around. “I was glad Lee was out there with me. Where did you dig up those two ruffians anyhow?”

“They help me out from time to time…”

“With what? Kidnapping and extortion?”

“Hey! I’m an information broker…” Augie stopped and Dotty looked at him skeptically.

“I see you’re a … professional … acquaintance of my daughter and son-in-law.” Lee and Amanda nodded. “Let me guess … information broker … is that anything like a snitch?”

“That’s such a degrading term, Dotty-I just happen to be plugged in here and there and I gather information-”

Dotty held up her hand. “Don’t bother to explain. I don’t want to know. How does the antique business fit in with all of that?”

“I gotta have some legitimate business as a cover… Speaking of antiques-I have a few things here…” He opened the back of the truck and revealed several pieces of furniture and some rolled up rugs. “Maybe you’ll find something here that will look nice…”

Dotty opened one of the rugs up. “Oh look at this beautiful oriental carpet!” she unrolled it further, “It looks like its 10X12-that would be perfect for the living room-and with the beautiful windows…”

“Oh yeah Dotty it would look great there,” Augie was feeling more secure. “So you like the rug?” He smiled at her.

“It’s beautiful, and it just might make up for your oversight about the pink bathroom fixtures,” Dotty fixed Augie with a sharp look.

“Oh hey, yeah!” Augie looked imploringly at Lee and Amanda who just stared back impassively. He turned back to Dotty, sweating a bit, “That rug’s 100% wool-great condition-a fine investment…”

“You’d better unroll it and examine it carefully, mother. No telling what surprises it might hold.” Amanda spoke flatly.

Dotty jumped back. “There’s not a body in there?!?”

“Hey!” Augie sounded aggrieved. “I don’t do that stuff. I’m just an information broker…”

Dotty gave him a withering glance, and started to unroll another rug. She examined it closely and brushed off some dirt. “Didn’t you vacuum this before you rolled it up?”

“Uh…” Augie looked lost.

“Augie,” Lee asked, “you get anything more about that matter we discussed yesterday?”

“Oh that … um…” Augie, Lee and Amanda stepped away from the truck so they could speak privately. “Your guy is a real piece of work…” he stopped and looked expectant.

“Augie,” Lee growled. “How much have I already paid you for the fixtures and the windows?”

“You haven’t paid for the windows yet, Lee.”

“And I’m not sure I should after your deception that upset Dotty so much…” Lee drew his fist back.

“Heh heh. Good joke, Lee my man.”

Lee and Amanda weren’t smiling.

Augie was sweating again. “Look-what do you say I throw in a rug of Dotty’s choice-and anything else in there that she likes…”

“It’s a start, Augie.” Amanda nodded gravely. “So what’s new with Kagemusha?”

“Oh jeez! I gotta give you guys a freebie, too?!?” He looked at their stone faces, and he wilted. “Don’t tell anyone-I don’t want it to get around that I’m doing freebies…”

Lee waved his fist. “Just tell us, Augie, and nobody will get hurt here.”

“Hey, that’s harsh Lee. All because of a little bathroom?”

“A pink bathroom, Augie. Mother was very upset.”

The snitch sighed and relented. “OK, OK. First, this Kagemusha is the hottest ticket in town. Everyone is looking for information about him-anything! I’ve been so busy meeting with … heh heh. Well anyhow … all I know is that he’s probably in DC now-and he’s supposed to do his job and get out before the weekend.”

“How did he get here?” Lee asked.

“I’ve heard a lot-train, plane, car, even by bus. I don’t know, really.”

“What’s he planning to do here?” Amanda asked.

“All I’ve heard is that it’s something big. No specifics-just something big in DC.”

Lee shook his head. “That’s not a lot, Augie.”

“I can’t manufacture information on the guy-I just pass along what I’ve got, y’know?”

“All right, keep digging.” Lee jabbed his finger into the snitch’s chest. “Let us know first if you get anything else-comprende?”

“I don’t know-if I’m expected to give you guys my best stuff first-for free…”

“Augie!” Lee growled and made to grab him again.

“Jeez-one little omission of information and you’ll make me pay for the rest of my life?”

“Augie,” Amanda used her ‘mom’ voice. “You upset my mother-Lee’s mother-in-law. That’s personal. Before it was just business.”

“You used to be so nice, too, Mrs. S. She’s getting to be worse than you are.”

“Just be glad we’re in my neighborhood-otherwise you’d see just how nasty I can get,” Lee threatened.

“Fine. It’s getting so a guy can’t make an honest living these days, “Augie grumbled.

“Since when were you ever honest, Augie? By the way, none of this antique stuff better be hot…” Lee warned.

“Hey! My antique business is totally legit-mostly. I’m not a fence-none of my merchandise is hot… that I know of. I deal with legitimate wholesalers. Who they deal with-not my problem.”

“If it becomes our problem, rest assured it will become your problem as well,” Lee promised.

They walked back to the truck.

Dotty held up the corners of two oriental rugs. “Amanda, what do you think, this one or this one?”

“Both are beautiful, mother. Where do you plan to put it?”

“In the living room. I think I’ll take this one-the red background will compliment the window-and it’s the largest. And it’s in good condition-even if it needs vacuuming really badly.”

“I’ll just get it off the truck for you, Dotty.” Augie jumped to roll it back up and carried it to the garage. When he returned he asked, “Any of this furniture strike your fancy?” Augie was back in his element, showing off his merchandise.

Dotty chose a credenza to go under the window. Augie and Lee unloaded it and they returned to the truck.

“Are you satisfied now, Dotty?” The snitch asked. Lee prodded him, and he jumped. “I’m really sorry I forgot to tell you guys the bathroom fixtures were pink. I mean-us antique dealers see so much fascinating and unique merchandise that we don’t always realize that it might look … different to regular people.”

Dotty waited patiently while Augie apologized. “Thank you for the apology, Augie. I think the rug and credenza will help take the sting out of the pink bathroom.”

Augie brightened visibly. “Then we’re square-OK?” He stuck out his hand to Lee, who shook it.

“Square, Augie.” Lee confirmed.

The snitch grinned, and took off in the noisy truck.

Amanda turned to Lee. “Did you pay for the windows?”

Lee grinned. “No, I didn’t. But he did say we’re square.”

“Good bargaining, Lee,” Dotty said dryly.

End Act Three

Act Four

Early Wednesday Evening

In Billy’s office, Lee and Amanda were making their latest report. Lee was pacing again.

Amanda consulted her notes. “We visited several embassies today, sir. Everyone was very nice. It’s really interesting to meet our counterparts from the various intelligence agencies all over the world.”

Billy’s office door opened and Dr. Smyth walked in. “Well Scarecrow-how are you and your partner the housewife doing with your game of hide-and-seek? I expect you have uncovered Kagemusha’s hiding place by now.”

Lee moved to stand behind Amanda who was seated in a chair in front of Billy’s desk. He put his hands on her shoulders in a protective manner.

Billy rose and spoke to defuse the situation, “I was just getting their report-why don’t you have a seat and listen with me?”

“I’ll stand.” Smyth leaned against the closed door, and met Lee’s angry gaze. He waved his hand in an encouraging manner. “Go ahead, continue with your report.”

Lee’s hands tightened on Amanda’s shoulders-she placed one hand over his and he relaxed a bit.

“As I was saying, sir,” Amanda nodded to Dr. Smyth, and then directed her report to Billy. “We visited several embassies and met with our counterparts today. We did get a lot of ‘negative’ information-so we know a lot about who has not hired Kagemusha.”

“Any likely prospects as to may have hired him?” Billy asked.

Amanda shook her head. “Not really, no sir. I mean. It’s always possible that maybe Argentina or Sri Lanka has hired him-but all the major players are as clueless as we are.”

“Clueless is not something I like my agents to admit to,” Dr. Smyth interjected sardonically.

“Well what would you call it?” Lee was steamed at the implied criticism of his partner. “Nobody knows anything-and that includes us. I suppose we could go to the KGB, Stasi, North Korea, and maybe Iran as well. They would certainly want to be helpful and tell us what they know!”

Dr. Smyth smiled mirthlessly. “Very funny, Scarecrow. But I’m not laughing. I’m not sure I entirely approve of this ‘information sharing’ exercise.”

“I approved it, so if you’re going to come down on anyone…” Billy tried to deflect Dr. Smyth’s wrath onto himself.

“Nobody is scheduled for a reprimand or suspension … yet.” Dr. Smyth locked eyes with Billy, Lee and Amanda in turn. “But I was hoping for better from you two.”

‘Sir!” Amanda spoke up. “We can’t create information-all we can do is find out what’s out there. And so far, nobody really knows anything for sure. It’s all rumor and speculation. And that’s what we’re reporting.”

Lee added his input as he paced again. “That’s all there ever is about this guy. I’m beginning to wonder if Kagemusha is real. The shadow warrior-that’s what Kagemusha means. Maybe he really is a phantom.” Lee ran his hand through his hair.

“Is that your professional opinion, Scarecrow?” Dr. Smyth sneered his contempt. “Are you implying the world’s intelligence community has been had?”

Lee stopped and looked the director in the eye. “It wouldn’t be the first time. Look at how everyone is running around chasing their tails here. A lot of manpower has been diverted to chase down rumors about this guy. Maybe we should be looking at what isn’t getting done-rather than chasing smoke.”

Dr. Smyth looked taken aback, and everyone paused to see what his reaction would be. Had Lee gone too far?

Billy decided to break the impasse. “That’s an interesting theory, Scarecrow. Very interesting.” He waited a beat. “What are your plans for tomorrow?”

Lee and Amanda had a silent conversation.

Amanda consulted her notes. “We have more appointments tomorrow morning, Interpol and then Canada-maybe the Mounties have something,” she added hopefully.

“They always get their man, King.” Dr. Smyth replied.

“Yes sir. Well, we also have calls out to South Korea, Kuwait, Brazil, Mexico and Australia.”

Silence descended once again. Dr. Smyth stared at his empty hand-seemingly hoping for a cigarette. He shook his head and addressed Billy, “Well Melrose-do you have any more ideas?”

Billy shook his head. “We’ve exhausted all the other options and sources here. Contacting our foreign counterparts was a last-ditch effort.”

“Not that it’s earned us any concrete information,” Smyth sighed in resignation.

“Oh but sir-really it has!” Amanda explained patiently. “In a sort of negative way.” She smiled and ducked her head.

“Would you mind translating that into English?” Dr. Smyth asked of Billy and Lee.

Amanda ignored his rudeness. “It’s just that even if we don’t know anything positive-like whether Kagemusha really is in DC, or how he got here, or what his mission is-we do know nobody seems to have hired him and nobody knows anything about anyone else who may have hired him-not any government, or terrorist organization, or organized crime group, or even an individual. So even if we don’t know anything positive-we are able to rule out almost everyone else. That’s gotta count for something.”

Dr. Smyth addressed Amanda, “That’s all well and good, but I have to make a call and report to my boss.” Dr. Smyth paused for effect, “On what you’ve found out. I do not want to have to tell him ‘Good news! We don’t know anything and nobody else does either.’ Maybe you’d like to make that call to the president and tell him he was crying wolf when he requested a full investigation into Kagemusha.” He pointed at Amanda.

She straightened and met Smyth’s gaze calmly. “Sir-all you can report is what we’ve found out. Just stick to the facts-you aren’t responsible for what those facts are.”

“Or aren’t,” Lee added.

Silence descended on the room again.

“Very well.” Smyth pointed at Lee and Amanda. “I want you two to continue with this-keep those appointments tomorrow-keep working your sources. Report back to Melrose.” He turned and opened the office door. “I have a phone call to make,” he said as he swept out of the room. The door closed behind him

Billy, Lee and Amanda all let out their breath.

Billy waved at the door. “Go home, you two. Get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow. Hopefully you’ll come up with something we can actually use.”

“Don’t count on it, Billy. I’m really beginning to wonder if Kagemusha does exist.” Lee looked thoughtful. “It would be one hell of a practical joke if someone is pulling our leg with this.”

“Somehow, I don’t think anyone is laughing.” Billy replied darkly.

QQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ

Thursday Noon

After a morning of running from embassy to embassy, Amanda and Lee returned home for lunch. Amanda went upstairs to check on Aristede’s progress in painting the baby’s room. He was packing up his equipment.

She looked around the room. “Oh it looks beautiful! You’ve finished, Aristede!”

The painter grumbled, “The painting is done-but the psychological damage is just beginning.”

Amanda sighed, “I promised you-we won’t hold you liable for any problems in the future. I think you’re worrying too much, Aristede. Be positive!” She tried to sound encouraging.

“Mrs. Stetson, you’re a lay person. You live with rose-colored glasses on like the rest of the lay population. It’s up to us professional social psychologists to protect you civilians from the insidious dangers that lie around every corner. Without our constant vigilance the entire population of this country would be in analysis.”

Amanda was surprised-did she sound like that to her mother when she described her job at the Agency? She focused on the painter, “Look, Aristede…”

“Save it. Mrs. Stetson. I can’t take it anymore. You’re on your own with the rest of the painting. I have ethics-I’ve compromised my high principles too much already. Please-just forget I was ever here. I’ll mail you the bill.” He shook his head, and left.

Amanda stood speechless in the center of the nursery. Then she looked around. “Well at least the room is ready for the baby.” She smiled and patted her tummy. “It won’t be long now, and life will certainly change when you finally get here.”

QQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ

Lee and Dotty were touring the apartment. Dotty had a notebook and was making notes about what still needed to be done.

Lee looked at the mostly-finished space. “The carpenters are all done. The plumbers will finish up today. All the electricity was finished last week. The kitchen is done. All we need is the carpet to be laid and get the place painted.”

“The carpeting will be here next week-sometime,” Dotty offered.

“Nothing more definite than that?”

“I think the man was just guessing,” Dotty replied dryly.

Lee shrugged. “The carpet can go in anytime. Hopefully the painting can start tomorrow.”

“Or this afternoon-he was finishing up in the house when you got here.”

“Great-let’s go talk to him.”

Lee and Dotty returned to the house. Amanda was sitting at the kitchen table eating a sandwich. Two more sandwiches were on plates next to her.

“Where’s the painter?” Lee looked around eagerly.

“He’s gone,” Amanda answered.

“Gone?” He was puzzled.

“Gone.” She nodded.

“But he’ll be back tomorrow to start painting the apartment,” Lee added hopefully.

“No.”

“No?”

“No. He has ethics and he has compromised his high principles too much already. He said we should forget he was ever here, and he’ll mail the bill. He’s gone and he won’t be back” Amanda spoke tiredly.

“But how will the apartment get painted, Lee?” Dotty asked.

“I guess it’s up to us, mother,” Amanda answered.

“Oh no-you’re not doing any painting, Amanda.” Lee warned. “Dotty and I can do it-and the boys will help, too.”

“Not this weekend, Stetson. They’re with Joe this weekend.”

“OK, so we’ll do it ourselves.”

“Amanda, we can certainly manage to paint an apartment in two days.” Dotty patted her daughter’s arm.

Lee got an idea. “And maybe we can get some help from a few friends.”

QQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ

Thursday Late Afternoon

Lee and Amanda were back in Billy’s office.

Amanda started. “We spent all day going from embassy to embassy…”

Lee finished. “And we got nothing Billy. It’s the same with everyone-rehashing the same half-baked rumors, chasing each other and our own tails, and there’s nothing concrete to back anything up.”

“What have you planned for tomorrow?” Billy asked resignedly.

Lee and Amanda had another silent conversation.

Lee answered tiredly, “More of the same, I guess.”

“Keep at it. Smyth wants to make sure there’s nothing you have missed.”

“Yes sir.” Amanda replied, and they left for home.

QQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ

Late Friday Afternoon

Lee and Amanda were making their final report to Billy on Kagemusha.

“Rumor now has it that Kagemusha was here and has gone. No word on what his mission was. Nothing,” Amanda said apologetically.

Lee continued. “Everyone else is packing it in, the circus is over.”

Billy shook his head. “A whole week spent chasing your tails-and we’ve got nothing to show for it.”

“I wouldn’t say that, sir. The contacts we made at the embassies may turn out helpful in the future.”

Billy smiled at Amanda. “You always manage to find the silver lining.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Do you two have any special weekend plans?” Billy asked.

Lee and Amanda exchanged a look-and smiled.

Lee took the lead, “As a matter of fact Billy, I was wondering-what are your weekend plans?” He asked with his most persuasive smile.

QQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ

Tag One

Friday after work-Nedlinger’s

Lee escorted Amanda into the bar, his hand in the small of her back. At a large table in the back was a group of people, talking quietly and looking a bit defeated.

After ordering at the bar, Lee and Amanda walked up to them. Amanda had gotten a tall glass of iced tea. Lee had a beer.

“Hey everyone, how’s it going!” Lee asked as he and Amanda pulled up a couple of chairs and sat with the group.

Tanaka looked up. Sitting next to him was an MI-6 agent, and next to him were two members of the Mossad.

The Interpol chief for DC walked up to the group with two pitchers of beer. “OK everyone, let’s drown our sorrows…” He poured beer into the glasses that were held out.

The MI-6 agent raised his glass to Lee and Amanda. “We’re crying in our beer.”

A glum silence descended over the table.

One of the Mossad agents spoke up. “If it’s any consolation, I have good intelligence that there’s a similar get-together at the Soviet embassy tonight.”

Everyone chuckled quietly.

Tanaka raised his glass. “To Kagemusha! He stayed ahead of us all!”

“Kagemusha!” They all drank.

QQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ

Tag Two

Saturday Afternoon

Amanda opened the back door and called outside. “Hey everyone! Pizza’s here. Come and get it while it’s hot!”

Lee was the first in the door, and Amanda handed him a tray of drinks. “Here, make sure everyone gets something. There’s lots more in the fridge.”

Billy and Dotty came in next-both wearing old clothes with brand-new paint smudges. Jeannie followed and then Francine and Beaman entered arguing quietly. Leatherneck brought up the rear.

Once everyone was settled, Amanda spoke to the group. “We really appreciate all of you coming out to help with the painting. We can get it finished in one day with this group!”

“Mrs. Stetson, it was worth it, just to see that bathroom. And you say Augie Swann was the guy who got it for you?” Leatherneck was amused.

Dotty answered, “The man is something else. I swear-he could do so much better if he just concentrated on one thing and got serious.”

Francine snickered. “Augie can’t be serious about anything-except trying to make money with as little work as possible. I remember that awful mud wrestling bar…”

Billy laughed. “He tried to recruit every woman who walked into that place. Even Amanda!”

“Did he ever ask you, Francine?” Beaman asked with exaggerated innocence.

“No-he wanted to avoid any broken bones.” Francine replied smoothly.

“More like preserve the family jewels,” Leatherneck quipped.

“Whatever was expedient, dear.” Francine said without missing a beat.

“It was a bit of a shock when I saw that giant pink bathtub,” Dotty said. “But once I looked past the color, and saw the size and condition-I guess I can live with it.”

“Just close your eyes while you soak.” Jeannie added practically.

“Yes,” Dotty nodded. “And I’m lucky it matched the floor I chose.”

“That would have been another delay-replacing the new floor.” Lee shook his head. “We just want to thank you all-with your help, the apartment will be done, and Dotty can move in and get settled before the baby arrives.”

Billy smiled. “You have no idea how your life will change, Lee.”

Jeannie added, “Think of it as an adventure.”

“An eighteen-year adventure!” Francine added.

“I’ll be just fine-I have the best teacher a man could want, my lovely wife, Amanda!” Lee bent and kissed his wife. He knew the future would be challenging, but he could get through anything-as long as he and Amanda were together.

Fade

The End

12 Comments

  • By Jennifer Cannon, February 20, 2009 @ 7:27 pm

    Put everything aside to read this one and I’m sure glad that I did. This was a wonderful story on so many levels–I loved the bits with Augie–love the part where Amanda pulled the ‘ramble’ on him and I also loved the part where Lee and Amanda made Augie pay for giving Dotty a pink bathroom. The stuff with Aristede and the painting–it was just too funny. Still wondering who Kagemusha was– I think that he truly was a phantom. A very enjoyable read and one of my favorites from Season Seven. I loved it :)

    -Jennifer

  • By Anne, February 20, 2009 @ 8:28 pm

    Well rounded episode Ermintrude! You write Augie so well. I just loved the banter between Dotty and Augie. I almost feel sorry for Lee–he doesn’t stand a chance with those West women. LOL. I also love the character Aristede–laughed at the scenes with him–I could picture it all in my head. Too funny! And poor Lee and Amanda chasing a ‘phantom.’ Well, we can’t win them all.

  • By Kelly, February 20, 2009 @ 10:01 pm

    Excellent story… very creative. I have to agree with all the other comments.I was smiling ang chuckling while reading. Nicely done!

  • By Heather, February 21, 2009 @ 11:16 pm

    I’ve been so impressed at how everyone has kept Amanda in on the action, even in her very pregnant state, and this was an excellent example of that. I enjoyed seeing the “behind the scenes” action, the real work of counter-intelligence. And I loved seeing how it all meshed with their “normal” life. Great job, Ermintrude!

  • By Loretta, February 22, 2009 @ 4:05 pm

    Great story. I enjoyed it alot. I remember those old pink bathroom fixtures I had a couple of aunts who actually had them in their bathrooms

  • By Lynn, February 23, 2009 @ 11:29 am

    Another great season seven episode. Pink bathroom fixtures – LOL – I should talke I have coppertone applicances in my kitchen. Can anyway outdated? You’ll have to tell us more about the elusive Kagamusha. Great concept you came up with – all the intelligence agencies working together. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were the case? Heck, even our own government alphabet agencies can’t work together. Great episode, Ermintrude.

    Lynn

  • By Sue, February 23, 2009 @ 3:16 pm

    Wonderful episode, Ermintrude. I love the way Lee gets even with Augie for the pink bathroom. The character of Aristede was hysterical. How Lee and Amanda didn’t look for another painter, I’ll never know. I’m surprised Amanda didn’t draw her weapon.

    Keep up the good work!

    Sue

  • By Sue, February 23, 2009 @ 3:17 pm

    oops! I forgot to add how funny I found Francine’s comments about Augie, the mud wrestling bar and the family jewels. ROFLMAO!!! Typical Francine.

    Brava!

    Sue

  • By Calinour72, April 22, 2009 @ 11:18 am

    Love the part where Amanda talks to Augie like he is one of her kids and makes Augie feel guilty and Amanda and Lee make him pay for the pink bathroom. Also the back and forth between Dotty and Augie was priceless.

  • By Brittany, May 23, 2009 @ 9:33 pm

    Amazing job!! Shows what a great team Lee and Amanda are!! No one could stand up to them!! Great story!

  • By Terry Kay, August 5, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

    Okay, now we have Kagemusha and the Tigre hangin’ out there.. This could get very interesting! Hey, I grew up with a Mint green bathroom set… that could explain a lot.Can I sue the plumber for pshycological damage??

  • By berniej, August 21, 2009 @ 2:04 am

    I know who Kangamusha was….the painter who did the baby’s room!!!! an unusual smk story but very enjoyable..made me laugh several times…Augie and Lee together are usually good for that.

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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.