Just Business

By Ermintrude

Prologue

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon on Maplewood Drive. As dusk approached, the neighborhood looked peaceful in the soft twilight.

Inside 4247 things were different. The sound of a baby’s cry echoed lustily down the stairs from the nursery.

“Phillip, Jamie-could one of you check on your sister, please?” Amanda yelled as she pulled sodden clothes out of the broken washer.

Lee came in with a wrench in his hand. “OK-Let’s see what’s clogging this hose.” He meant to get it off by hook or by crook.

“Lee, maybe we need to call a repairman…”

“Nonsense! I can pull this hose off and see what’s clogging it. No big deal.” He applied the wrench to the hose coupling.

Upstairs Phillip and Jamie scuffled in the doorway to the nursery.

“Hey doofus, get out of my way!”

“No way wormbrain-I got here first!”

Meanwhile Emily wailed away.

Act One

The back door opened and Dotty stepped into the family room, and paused to assess the chaos. Voices carried from the laundry room.

“Sweetheart-watch out you don’t-”

“Ow! A-man-da! Get out of my way…”

“Lee, I’m just trying to empty the washer-I’ll be out of your way soon enough-can’t you wait until I’m done?”

Dotty peeked into the laundry room-and quickly ducked out again. ‘Too many people in there. Let them deal with it.’ She listened to the sound of her granddaughter crying. ‘She’s just bored and looking for attention.’ Dotty chuckled and made her way upstairs. She stopped at the sight of Phillip and Jamie wrestling in the doorway to the nursery.

“You two get back to your room! Can’t you hear your sister? What’s the matter with you two?” She grabbed each boy by the collar and propelled them in the direction of their room. “Finish your homework, boys! Tomorrow is a school day.”

Dotty then went into the nursery and picked Emily up. She checked-sure enough her diaper needed changing. She efficiently changed the now quiet baby and carried her downstairs. She surveyed the remains of dinner. She placed Emily in her basket and started clearing the table.

Amanda emerged from the laundry room and observed her mother. “Mother-you don’t have to do that!”

“Darling, someone needs to help tame the chaos.”

“Stupid rotten hose! I’ve got you now!” Lee’s voice drifted in from the laundry room.

“I see Lee is trying his hand at fixing the washer.” Dotty commented dryly.

Amanda rolled her eyes, but said nothing.

The two women quickly cleaned up the kitchen and got the rest of the downstairs in order. In the years Dotty had lived with Amanda and her boys, they had developed an efficient rapport in cleaning up.

Lee finally emerged from the laundry room with a dripping hose in one hand, and a tiny stocking in the other. “Here.” He handed the sock to his wife. “This was in the hose. Once I make sure there are no more in there, I can put it back together, and you’re good to go again.”

“Oh, thanks Lee. How Emily’s sock ended up in the drain hose is a mystery.”

“Maybe we should just get a new washer and dryer-heavy-duty extra-large capacity. How one small person can make the laundry in this house double is beyond me.” He shook his head at the concept.

Amanda kissed her husband and shrugged. “That’s what it’s like with a baby. Even with disposable diapers, she still makes a lot of extra laundry.”

Lee collapsed on the couch after leaving the hose on the island in the kitchen. “I’m bushed-and it isn’t even 8 o’clock yet.”

Amanda sat next to Lee and brushed the hair from his forehead. “That’s another thing with a new baby-nobody gets a lot of sleep.”

“Except the baby.” Dotty brought the basket with a now-sleeping Emily to the end of the couch.

Lee shook his head. “She won’t sleep in her room-but she’ll sleep in the middle of everything.”

“She’s like her daddy-she wants to be in the middle of the action.” Amanda smiled and kissed her handsome husband.

The boys bounded downstairs to join the rest of the family.

Jamie was holding a notebook. “Lee? You’ve been all over. Have you ever been to Berlin?”

“Yes I have-many times.” He confirmed.

“Great. Have you ever seen the Ishtar Gate in the-” he hesitated before he pronounced the unfamiliar name, “Pergamomsmuseum?”

Lee shook his head. “That’s one place I’ve never been, Jamie. Sorry.”

“I’ve seen it Jamie, what do you want to know about it?” Amanda added.

You saw it?” Jamie sounded incredulous.

“And not Lee?” Dotty was intrigued.

Lee and Amanda exchanged a glance.

“Yeah.” She admitted. “I was working a case without Lee that time.”

Lee made a face. “Interpol was running that one.”

“You worked with Interpol? Cool, mom.” Phillip exclaimed.

“What were you doing with Interpol?” Jamie asked.

“Yes, Amanda. I’d be interested in hearing that myself. And exactly when was this?” Dotty sounded as if she was not going to be put off.

Lee and Amanda had a silent conversation.

Lee shrugged. “It wasn’t a matter of national security-just smuggling.”

“Lee, you didn’t want me to do it in the first place!”

“That’s only because you’re a magnet for trouble. And you were supposedly working with me.”

“Well you left me alone, and I wasn’t doing anything else. They asked me to help and Billy authorized it.”

“Mom-if it was Interpol and not a matter of national security-can you tell us about it?” Jamie asked shyly.

Lee and Amanda looked surprised-then they nodded. “Why not?” Lee encouraged. “Might as well-the case is closed.”

Amanda nodded. “OK-I’ll tell you guys-but you can’t tell anyone else. OK?”

“Yeah mom.” “Sure.” “Of course darling.” Phillip, Jamie, and Dotty all agreed quickly. They settled in to listen and Amanda began her tale.

“It was August 1985-we were in West Berlin…”

+++++++++++++++

“Lee, hurry up! They’re only serving breakfast for a few more minutes.” Amanda called through the bathroom door of their hotel room.

Lee opened the door, wearing a bathrobe and toweling his hair dry. He was still unshaven. “Amanda, I don’t want breakfast-we have coffee here in the room, that’s enough.”

“You know breakfast is the most important meal of the day-and I’m hungry!”

“Well, I’m not! So quit bugging me about it!” Lee turned and shut himself back in the bathroom.

“Fine-I’m going downstairs to get some breakfast. I’ll just charge it to the room, OK?”

She waited for a reply-and when all she heard was the sound of the water running-she shook her head and left the room for the hotel restaurant downstairs.

‘He’s just not very considerate when it comes to food. I’ve gotta eat-and he should too.’ She punched the button for the elevator a bit too hard. ‘He dragged me with him all the way to Berlin-so far it’s been a nice trip-we picked up the packages in Paris and Bern and we’ve only got one package to go-but he is so rude sometimes! Still! We’ve been working together almost two years now and he still can be so rude… All I want is a decent breakfast-nothing fancy-but would he think of that? Oh no! “I don’t eat breakfast Amanda-I just have coffee-why isn’t that enough for you?” I swear-that man would sooner take a bullet than eat a proper breakfast!’

Amanda arrived in the restaurant-it was crowded and the maitre’d ushered her to the last vacant table. The waiter brought coffee and took her order.

She sat drinking her coffee and thinking about her partner. ‘He still tries to make me stay in the car. Well, this time it’s “stay in the room, Amanda.” I was fine when we got the package in Paris. OK-so I dropped the envelope during the trade in Bern-but I picked it up, and nobody saw the money inside so it was all worked out. Lee just blew up at me! And now he won’t let me help with this package in Berlin. He said to go do tourist stuff-how can I do tourist stuff by myself? We’re supposed to be married-it will look weird if he’s off doing his business and I’m left behind doing tourist stuff by myself.’

“Entschuldigen sie mir bitte, wird dieser Platz eingenommen?”

“Huh-what did you say?” Amanda was taken aback at the interruption of her thoughts.

“Ah-English.”

“Oh, American, actually.”

“Forgive me, I was asking if this seat was taken.” At Amanda’s blank look, he continued. “I was hoping to get breakfast and all the other tables are filled. Would it be an inconvenience to you if we shared a table?” He spoke in clipped precise English with a slight German accent. The man was tall and handsome with wavy brown hair and a small moustache. He was dressed in a suit and carried a leather buckle-down briefcase.

“No, I’m alone-well I’m not here alone. My husband is upstairs but he never eats breakfast so I’m down here alone eating breakfast by myself…” Her ramble ran down. “You’re welcome to share the table with me,” she said quietly but sincerely.

“Danke schon gnadige Frau.” He bowed and took Amanda’s hand and kissed it. “I am Ernst Kleinfelter.”

She smiled at his courtesy. “Thank you-I’m Amanda Westermann.”

“Frau Westermann, I am pleased to meet you.” Herr Kleinfelter sat across from Amanda and the waiter came and took his order. Shortly thereafter, the waiter returned with a pot of hot chocolate. “So Frau Westermann, are you seeing the sights here in Berlin?”

“No-well, not yet. We arrived late last night and we went right to bed.” Amanda blushed at the argument they had gotten into about the hotel accommodations-or lack of them. All that was available was one room with one queen-sized bed. Nothing else. Finally, she had put on her nightgown and gotten into bed. She had been so worn out that she had just fallen asleep and never noticed when Lee got into bed next to her. But she certainly had noticed Lee’s arm over her waist when she woke up in the morning. She managed to get out of bed and escape into the bathroom without waking her partner. Or maybe it was just easier for him to pretend he was still sleeping…

Herr Kleinfelter nodded. “I see. Well, what were you planning on seeing then?”

“I have a guidebook here.” She produced the book. “But I hadn’t decided yet.”

“What does your husband want to see?”

“Oh, he won’t be coming with me-he has business-he’ll be busy most of the day-so I guess I’m on my own.” Amanda tried to sound upbeat about the whole thing.

“Ah sehr schade! Berlin is such an exciting city! Possibly the most exciting city in Europe. It is a shame you must explore it alone.”

“Amanda!” Lee strode up to the table.

“Lee-sweetheart.” Amanda rose and pecked Lee on the cheek to play their cover. She turned and indicated her breakfast companion. “This is Herr Kleinfelter-the restaurant was crowded so he asked if he could share a table.”

Herr Kleinfelter stood. “Herr Westermann-I have been having a conversation with your charming wife-she is most gracious to let me share her table this morning.”

“Ah yeah-pleased to meet you Herr Kleinfelter.” Lee shook hands with the man as he sized him up. “Amanda-could I have a word with you for a minute?”

“Sure sweetheart.”

Lee drew her off out of earshot of Herr Kleinfelter. “I’ve gotta leave now if I’m going to make my contact.” He spoke in a quiet voice in her ear.

“I still think I should come with you and watch your back,” she whispered back.

Lee minimally shook his head. “Amanda-it’s better for both of us if you just stay here and see the sights. I’ll be back after lunch. We can talk more then.” He drew her close and gave her a soft kiss on the lips. He said in a normal voice, “Have a nice day, darling. I’ll miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too, sweetheart!” Amanda replied as she fussed with Lee’s tie and smoothed his shirt.

He smiled at her and left. She returned to the table.

“Your husband is a lucky man, Frau Westermann.”

“Thank you Herr Kleinfelter.”

He continued. “You are a very patient and understanding wife. Most women would be upset to be brought to Europe and then left to fend for themselves while their husband worked.”

She toyed with her food briefly before answering. “Well, for him it’s a working vacation-and we do have our evenings together…” She hoped her excuse didn’t sound as lame to him as it did to her.

They ate in silence for a few minutes.

“Frau Westermann-please do not think me forward-but I am here on business also. And I am free most of the day. I am awaiting a client’s return and he will not be available until this evening. Would you allow me to accompany you on your sightseeing?” He looked sweet and sincere.

“That’s very sweet-but surely you have something else you could be doing.”

“Actually I am at liberty all day-I should explain. I represent a technical firm-Deutche Techniche Herstellung-we make precision machine components for sophisticated electronic devices. It is a very specialized market. I am here to meet with a possible buyer-but he will not be available until the evening. I have the entire day to myself. So you see-I am just as much at loose ends as you are.”

“Oh-well if it isn’t an imposition…” She thought a moment. “I guess it would be nice to have some company while I’m sightseeing.”

As Amanda and Ernst Kleinfelter talked and finished their meal, a man a few tables down spoke quietly into a concealed microphone on his lapel behind the cover of a newspaper. “Target is sitting with an unknown-she’s a guest at the hotel-married it would seem-but the husband is away for the day on business.”

He heard the reply in a concealed earpiece. “Keep the subject under surveillance-do not contact-follow him discreetly. Any information we can get on the woman we will relay to you.”

“Acknowledged. Lindermann out.” He turned the page of his newspaper and quietly kept a close eye on the pair.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

“Wow, mom. You were under surveillance?” Phillip sounded excited.

“It wasn’t me-it was Ernst Kleinfelter.”

“Let mom tell her story, doofus!”

“Jamie, don’t call your brother names.” Amanda chided. “Now where was I? Oh yeah. We had just finished breakfast…”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

“Well Frau Westermann, what would you like to see? A museum or historical architecture or perhaps some shopping?”

“Maybe a museum first-then some shopping. I haven’t had much chance to do any shopping and I promised mother and the boys I’d bring back presents.”

“Ah, such a nice family you have. How long have you been married, Frau Westermann?”

“Lee and I have only been married for two years-my first husband, Joe-well we divorced a few years ago. The boys are his, but Lee’s a great stepfather.” Amanda finished brightly. ‘Hopefully I can coordinate with Lee before Herr Kleinfelter asks him,’ she thought wryly.

“I see, and your new husband is off working today. I think we shall go to Museum Island first-then I know a quaint street with many interesting shops.”

“Do you live in Germany, Herr Kleinfelter?”

“Sadly, I have no real home. I travel so much-there is an apartment in Bern I use from time to time-but mostly I travel-hunting down clients and selling our precision machinery.”

“It sounds complicated.”

“As I said, it is a highly specialized market-and I have many competitors-so I must be diligent and offer my clients the best machinery for their needs at the best price.”

“It sounds like you make a lot of sales.”

He nodded briefly. “I am successful more often than not-and on occasion when I meet up with a rival-well this is a business not for the timid or hesitant. I have a reputation for being somewhat ruthless in dealing with rivals. Some have been known to drop out of the business altogether after tangling with me.”

“I’ve always heard sales could be pretty cutthroat.”

He smiled a tight little smile. “You have no idea, Frau Westermann.”

They finished their breakfast and Herr Kleinfelter insisted on paying for Amanda’s breakfast. Eventually she allowed him, and they left in a taxi for Museum Island.

They saw the famous Ishtar Gate, and looked at more sculpture and paintings for a few hours. Then they took another taxi to a quaint shopping district well off the tourist routes. Herr Kleinfelter had endless patience and seemed to be enjoying helping Amanda choose gifts for Dotty and the boys. She even got Lee a new wallet-she had noticed his was worn. ‘Probably something he’d never replace himself-so I’ll help him out. And it helps our cover, too.’ She rationalized.

They took the parcels and returned to the hotel in a taxi. Amanda turned to her new friend at the elevator. “Thank you so much for showing me around-those shops were really wonderful-and not a word about them in the guidebook.”

“It was entirely my pleasure. Please-if your husband does not return in time-would you do me the honor of having dinner with me? My appointment is later and I will have time for a leisurely dinner.”

She smiled at him. “Thank you so much, but Lee will be back.”

“In case he is not-my room is 416-feel free to call if your plans change.”

“Thank you, but I don’t think so. I really had a nice day.”

He kissed her hand and Amanda went up to their room.

Once in the room, Amanda stowed the gifts in her luggage and placed the new wallet on the bedstand on Lee’s side of the bed. ‘I hope he likes it-he surely does need a new wallet.’

She sat reading a book and waited for her partner’s return. While waiting for Lee Amanda’s thoughts strayed to her new friend, Herr Ernst Kleinfelter. He seemed nice-he was handsome with impeccable manners. He was a perfect gentleman, always courteous and considerate of her and her ‘married’ status. She had a good time, but she had the feeling something was off.

‘I understand sharing the table at breakfast-that’s a European custom when things are crowded. And he was so nice to show me around Museum Island. And the shopping. And he invited me to dinner if Lee doesn’t return in time. So why do I think he’s not all he seems?’

She sat and thought deeply about it for a while. ‘He reminds me of someone-not in looks-but more in his manner and actions. Now who could it be?’

She thought some more. ‘Not somebody I know through the PTA, or a relative, or a friend, or someone at the Agency-Agency! That’s it! He reminds me of Alan Squires-The Artful Dodger. Oh my gosh! I wonder if he’s trying to set me up for something? I’ll have to be careful and just not see him anymore. I’d better mention this to Lee.’ She sighed. ‘He’ll be upset, but I didn’t do or say anything, so nothing bad happened.’

In the lobby, the man who had been tailing Ernst Kleinfelter and Amanda sat in the lobby and read another paper. He spoke quietly to the man sitting next to him. “She went up to her room-I got the number-602. Kleinfelter is in 416-he told her that.”

“Good work-you think he’ll try to use her as the mule?”

“Probably-he hasn’t made any other contacts today, and he only arrived in Berlin last night. His MO is to befriend a tourist and get her to make the drop for him-that way he’s never connected directly to the transaction.”

“We need to nail this guy, Gunther. He’s the top dealer in shady nuclear technology-and in the years we have been aware of him we haven’t yet managed to get anything solid to be able to land him in jail. We know he sells to Pakistan and Iran and-God help us-even North Korea.”

“We’ll get the Inspector to contact the woman. Maybe he can get her to cooperate and help us out.”

“I’ll go up and contact him-you stay here and keep an eye out for Kleinfelter. I want to know who he’s meeting-where and when.”

“Will do.”

Once Amanda had figured out who Herr Kleinfelter reminded her of, she had felt a lot better, and she settled back into reading her book.

Shortly thereafter, the door to the room opened, and Lee came in. “You’re here! Good.”

It wasn’t much of a greeting, but she took it for what it was worth. “Yes, I’m here. How did your exchange go?”

Lee sighed and ran his hand through his hair. “It didn’t exactly go down as I had planned.”

“Are you all right?” She scanned him for telltale bullet holes or bruises.

“Yeah-but I’ve got to get over to East Berlin-this has turned out to be bigger than we thought it would be. I’ll be over there a couple of days-hopefully no longer.”

“Why do I think I get to stay behind. Again.” She tried not to sound too petulant.

“A-man-da! We’re talking about East Berlin-Communist Germany-it’s too dangerous. Besides, you’re my cover. As far as you know, I’m off on business. Just spend another couple of days sightseeing. How was Herr Wavy Hair anyhow?”

“That’s Herr Kleinfelter-and he was a perfect gentleman. We went to Museum Island and then he took me to a street of delightful shops and I was able to get gifts for mother and the boys. Here.” She reached over and handed him the wallet she had purchased for him. “I got you a new wallet-yours is practically worn out.”

“What?” Lee pulled out his wallet and looked at it-it was pretty shabby. He shook his head. It was just like Amanda to notice those things. He took the new wallet-it was the same style and color as his old one, but this one was nicer and looked like it might hold up better. “Thanks-I guess I need a new wallet at that.” He smiled sheepishly at her.

“Yeah, and besides-buying you a gift helped me keep up our cover.”

Lee smiled at her rationalization. “I appreciate your ‘wifely devotion,’ dear.” He bent down and kissed her hand, holding her gaze and lingering a bit longer than he had intended.

Amanda was lost in his hazel eyes-then she started. “Oh, and we’ve been married for two years, after my divorce from Joe.”

“Did I steal you away from him?” Lee asked with an amused smirk.

“Lee, be serious. I just wanted you to know what I told him in case we run into him again.”

“OK, OK.” He stepped away. “I’ll leave early tomorrow-and hopefully be back before dinner the day after.”

“And I just spend the next two days sightseeing.” Amanda sounded disgruntled.

“Yes.” Lee was firm. “It looks more natural that way.”

“I still think I should be there to watch your back.”

“And I think it’s too dangerous. If you’re here and something happens to me, I can get word to you and you can contact Billy. Or you can be the distraught wife if you have to go to the embassy.”

“I think it stinks, but I’ll do it. I’m a professional.”

Lee shook his head. “You’re still an amateur, Amanda. A civilian auxiliary.” At her angry look, he continued. “But you’re my partner and this time this is the best scenario. Trust me. Please?”

He gave her that look that made her give in every time. But she didn’t have to make it easy for him. “Trust me, he says.” She shook her head. Then she took a deep breath. “Lee, there’s something I think you need to know about Herr Kleinfelter-”

She was interrupted by a sharp knock at the door.

Lee shot Amanda a sharp look. “Are you expecting anyone? Your German boyfriend, perhaps?”

“Lee-he is not my boyfriend and I didn’t tell him our room number. He doesn’t even know what floor we’re on.”

Lee drew his weapon and stood behind the door-he motioned for Amanda to open it. She opened the door and saw Inspector Volkenauer from the Tegernsee counterfeiting case. “Inspector Volkenauer-what are you doing here?”

“Frau King-what are you doing here?”

“Inspector Volkenauer?” Lee emerged from behind the door holstering his weapon.

End Act One

Act Two

After the re-introductions, Lee and Amanda sat with Inspector Volkenauer in their hotel room.

The Inspector recovered quickly. “This makes our problem at once easier and also more complicated.”

Lee was wary. “I thought you were with the German police in Munich.”

He nodded. “I am attached to Interpol-I go where the job dictates. Because of the delicate nature of Frau King’s crime last year-counterfeiting-I was called in.”

Lee nodded. “I see. So what are you working on now, Inspector?”

“We have been tracking an international arms broker for several years now. Ernst Kleinfelter sells electronic components, which can be used in refining uranium or manufacturing nuclear devices. Not fissionable materials you understand-but the equipment to refine uranium and so forth. Technically it is illegal to sell these machines to anyone not authorized to deal in fissionable materials, but we all know there are several countries who are actively trying to build bombs and they will go to any lengths to obtain this specialized equipment.”

“Oh.” Amanda sounded a bit dismayed. “I guess that’s what he meant by a specialized market that he sells to.” She looked taken aback. “He seemed so nice-but he also reminded me of-” She shot a glance at Lee. “Someone I met before.” She finished lamely.

Lee stared at her and shook his head. He realized she had censored herself, and determined to find out what she really meant later. “How do you do it, Amanda? I leave you alone for a minute and you get involved in illicit nuclear arms trading?”

“Now wait a minute! How was I to know he was an illicit nuclear arms trader-all he did was ask to share a table at breakfast. There wasn’t any other table available. It would have been rude to refuse!”

“Oh Amanda-don’t you get it? He probably waited around all morning for the perfect contact to work his deal, and he saw you and picked you out of the crowd by instinct.”

“Yeah? Well you did the same thing two years ago buster-and that seemed to have worked out pretty good for you, Buster!”

“Some days, I wonder Amanda. I really wonder.”

Inspector Volkenauer tried to diplomatically intervene. “Excuse me, but I am wondering-you are here for a case Herr Stetson?”

Lee and Amanda were surprised by the Inspector’s interruption. They exchanged a look and Lee replied. “Yeah-I am.”

“And Frau King is assisting you-again?”

Lee and Amanda had a silent conversation. Lee replied. “Yeah-she’s my cover-but I’ve gotta go away for a couple of days. I need her here in Berlin-West Berlin.” He corrected at Amanda’s look. “And she’s supposed to spend the next two days sightseeing.”

The Inspector nodded slowly. “So I presume you would not mind if she assisted us with Ernst Kleinfelter while she’s sightseeing.”

Lee looked wary. “I don’t know it’s not up to me.” At Amanda’s eager look, he quickly added. “Or Amanda’s either. I’ve gotta contact our boss and run it by him. If you give me a number, I can contact you when we have word.”

“Very well.” The Inspector seemed satisfied.

“But I wouldn’t count on it, Inspector.” Lee didn’t want the man to jump to any conclusions.

“I will contact my superiors as well. It is now 2:30PM-6:30 am in DC, no?” The Inspector checked his watch.

“Yeah, I have to wait an hour or so-then I’ll call Billy.” Lee temporized.

“Very well.” The Inspector stood. “I await your reply after you have contacted your superior Herr Stetson. Good luck with your business. If Interpol can help-please don’t hesitate to contact us.”

Lee shook the man’s hand. “Thanks.”

Inspector Volkenauer kissed Amanda’s hand, and left.

Lee looked at his partner. “How do you do it, Amanda?”

“Lee…” She really didn’t want to have this argument again.

“OK, OK.” He threw up his hands and checked his watch. “It’s 6:30am in DC. We’ll wait an hour and then call Billy-and he can decide.”

Amanda nodded in agreement. “That’s fair.”

“Good. I’m gonna take a shower.” Lee turned to go into the bathroom.

“Are we having dinner together tonight?”

He turned back and stepped toward her with a teasing grin on his face. “Of course, darling. I’m your husband, remember?” He took her hand and kissed it as he held her gaze. Suddenly the rest of the world faded away and it was just the two of them-alone in a hotel room with only one bed. They were lost in the moment-then they both broke eye contact-realizing things had gotten a bit uncomfortable for both of them.

“You’d better take that shower.” “We’ll dress for dinner.” They spoke simultaneously.

“Sure.” “OK.”

Lee escaped into the bathroom to take his shower and Amanda picked up her book and resumed reading.

A little over an hour later, Lee called Billy from the phone in their room while Amanda sat on the bed and listened.

“Hey, Billy.”

“Scarecrow-is everything OK? Report!” Billy knew an early call meant things weren’t going exactly as planned.

“Yeah-we’re OK-but there’s a snag.” At Amanda’s sharp look, he amended. “Two snags, actually.”

“Does this have anything to do with the top priority request I have from Interpol sitting on my desk for the loan of one of my agents?”

“Damn Billy, they work fast…” Lee trailed off.

“Yes. Now please tell me why Interpol wants the loan of Agent Amanda King for an operation concerning an international nuclear arms dealer.”

Agent Amanda King?” Lee was incredulous. At Amanda’s pleased surprised look, he continued with a small crease in his forehead as he pinched the bridge of his nose. “It seems Amanda was contacted by this guy-Ernst Kleinfelter-as a possible mule for his latest arms deal.”

“I see. Didn’t something similar happen almost two years ago with you, Stetson?” Billy chided.

“Billy! That was different, and you know it!”

After a brief smile, Billy continued. “What is your status, Scarecrow?”

“I have to go next door for a couple of days-it seems I have a couple more packages to pick up than we had originally planned on.”

“I see-will Amanda accompany you?” Privately Billy hoped not. He didn’t think Amanda was ready to operate behind the Iron Curtain.

“No-she’ll be staying here seeing the sights.” Lee answered in a wary tone. He suddenly had the sick feeling Billy was going to agree to Interpol’s request.

Billy let out a breath. “I concur-keep her there-it will be safer for her and she can be backup if you need it.”

“Yeah-that’s what I thought, too.”

“Is she willing to work with Interpol?”

“Ah-why don’t you talk to her about it?” He handed the phone to Amanda. “Here-remember the line’s not clean.”

She nodded to Lee and took the phone. “Hello sir.”

“Hello Amanda. I trust everything’s going well over there.”

“Oh yes. We got the first two packages.” At Lee’s look, she temporized. “With a little glitch-but in the end everything went OK.”

Billy chuckled silently-he would look forward to their report of the ‘little glitch.’ “That’s good. Now, are you willing to help Interpol with apprehending Kleinfelter?”

“Yes sir, but only if it’s all right with you. Lee said you’d make that decision.” She shot Lee a look and he shot her one right back. Suddenly Lee began to realize he had been royally set up-by Volkenauer, Amanda, and possibly also Billy.

Billy shook his head as he pictured Lee’s reaction to her statement. Obviously, Interpol wanted her badly-Volkenauer had pulled quite a few strings to get this top priority request on his desk this early. They must think Amanda was their best and possibly only chance of nailing this guy. And allowing the loan would put Interpol in the Agency’s debt. And being owed a favor was always better than owing favors. “I see, Amanda. Well ordinarily I would hesitate, but you’ve worked with Inspector Volkenauer before on the counterfeiting case in Tegernsee.”

“Yes sir.”

“And that turned out well. So as you’re willing to cooperate-I think allowing this inter-agency loan of your services would be in everyone’s best interests.”

“Thank you sir. I appreciate the opportunity to do something useful here. I feel a bit uncomfortable just sightseeing all day.”

“You’re Lee’s cover and backup-and even though you feel you aren’t doing anything important, you really are.”

“I understand, but I’d feel better if I was actually doing something-so I guess I’ll be working with Inspector Volkenauer while Lee goes-next door.”

“Yes, and I know you’ll do the Agency proud, Amanda.”

“I’ll do my best, sir.”

“You always do-and I appreciate that. Now give me back to Scarecrow.”

“Yes sir. Thank you, sir.” She handed the phone back to her partner. “Here Lee, he wants to talk to you.”

“Billy, are you sure-”

Billy cut him off. “Scarecrow-you said you’d let me decide and I’ve decided. She works with Interpol for the next two days.”

“Yeah, fine.” Lee sounded disgruntled as he ran his hand through his hair.

“Do you need anything else from me for your trip?”

“No Billy, I’ve got it under control.”

“OK then-I’ve got a unit to run over here so if there’s nothing more…”

“No Billy-see you.”

“Melrose out.”

Lee hung up the phone and turned to face his partner. “Well ‘partner’-it seems you’re officially on loan to Interpol for the next two days.”

“Thank you, Lee. I know it will be fine. Really.”

He shook his head. “I’ll call Inspector Volkenauer, then I’ll take a quick nap before we need to dress for dinner. He’ll probably want to brief you-so you can do that while I’m napping, OK?”

“Yeah-that sounds good.”

“Frau King, come in please.” Inspector Volkenauer ushered her into the suite Interpol had rented to conduct surveillance on Ernst Kleinfelter.

“Thank you, Inspector.”

Two other men stood as Amanda entered-she recognized one as a man she had noticed at breakfast-and the other had been around in the shops while she searched for her gifts. “Hello.” Amanda greeted the two other Interpol agents.

“Frau King, allow me to introduce agents Gunther Lindermann and Max Gebel.”

“How do you do?” Amanda replied politely. “You were both following us earlier today.”

“You see, gentlemen? She is a trained agent-she spotted both of you.” The Inspector seemed proud of Amanda’s expertise.

Amanda wisely didn’t correct the Inspector’s assumption. “How can I help you gentlemen?”

They all sat around a table and passed Amanda a dossier with pictures.

The Inspector spoke. “Ernst Kleinfelter is here to meet with a Pakistani who is secretly representing his government-shopping for illicit nuclear electronics. Pakistan has been trying to get the bomb for decades. We do not know how close they are-but we certainly do not want them to get this equipment.”

Lindermann spoke next. “He uses a mule for the transfer of the funds and paperwork. Usually he befriends a tourist and has her pass the material-that way he is never directly implicated. And if something goes wrong-the tourist is arrested and Kleinfelter gets away before we can connect him to the transaction.”

Amanda nodded. “So you want me to spend the next couple of days ‘sightseeing’ with him.”

“If you would.” The Inspector resumed. “He is meeting tonight with the Pakistani-and we expect the exchange to take place two days hence. That is his pattern.”

“I can do that. Lee and I will be having dinner together tonight in the hotel’s dining room.”

“And that is good-it cements your cover as the wife of a businessman. And as your husband will be away on business the next two days-we hope he’ll contact you at breakfast again tomorrow.” Amanda nodded. The Inspector continued. “And he will offer to spend the next two days with you while your husband is away again.”

“Sounds pretty good. Do you want me to wear a wire?”

Gebel replied. “No-but you will have an electronic tracking device on your person.” He handed her a gold bracelet made up of interlaced hearts. “Please wear this for the next two days. That way, if you get out of our sight we can still track you reliably.”

She put the bracelet on her right wrist. “Sure-I appreciate that you’ll be keeping track of me.”

The Inspector nodded. “I will be here tracking you and running the operation. Herr Kleinfelter knows me so he cannot be allowed to see me. I will call your room or have one of my men contact you if I need to talk to you.”

“I’ll go back to our room and read this-then we’ll go to dinner.”

“We will keep track of you-you need not contact us after this unless something goes wrong-which it will not.” The Inspector smiled reassuringly.

“No, I know you’ll take good care of me. I just hope we can get Kleinfelter-I don’t want my boys to grow up in a world with any more nuclear weapons.”

“Nor do we. Thank you, Frau King-we appreciate your cooperation in this operation.”

“I’m happy to help, Inspector. Good evening.”

That evening Lee and Amanda were dining in the Hotel’s formal dining room. They had dressed for dinner, and they were relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.

As they were finishing their meal, Ernst Kleinfelter approached their table. “Herr Westermann, Frau Westermann-good evening.” He greeted them with a small bow.

“Good evening, Herr Kleinfelter.” Amanda replied with a smile.

“I am glad to see you are enjoying each others’ company this evening.”

“Yes,” Lee replied as he took Amanda’s hand and kissed it while he gazed into her eyes. She smiled warmly back.

Herr Kleinfelter seemed pleased at Lee’s attentions to his wife. “I will not disturb you any longer. Have a good evening.”

“You too, Herr Kleinfelter,” Amanda replied.

After their dinner, Lee and Amanda went next door to the ballroom attached to the hotel. Lee held Amanda close as they danced the night away. As the evening grew late, Lee whispered in her ear. “We need to get back to the room. I’ve gotta be up early tomorrow-and you have your own assignment as well.”

Amanda nodded. They finished the dance and when the music ended, they left the dance floor and went back up to their room.

Back in the room, they talked after they got ready for bed.

“Amanda, you just be careful-Kleinfelter is one nasty guy-he’s murdered several competitors over the years.”

She was surprised. “Lee! You read my file!”

“I looked at it. You’re my partner and I just wanted to see what you’ve gotten yourself into. Be careful.”

She was taken aback-after all his arguing Lee seemed to be taking this international operation in stride. “You be careful too, Lee. I still think I should be there watching your back, but I understand.” She paused, then continued. “Lee-I thought something was off about Herr Kleinfelter. I didn’t have time to talk to you about it-the Inspector showed up-but he reminded me of Alan Squires-The Artful Dodger.”

Lee looked surprised. “So you made the guy before Volkenauer showed up?”

“Yes. I figured he might try something, and I had already decided to avoid him. But then the Inspector showed up and asked me to help.”

Lee let out a breath. “Amanda-Billy probably didn’t explain it fully-but these inter-agency trades are like international favors-in this case Interpol is asking the Agency to do them a favor-to loan you to them for an operation. This is just like an Agency operation-please be careful. And if anything happens to you-I’ll have Volkenauer’s head on a platter.”

She smiled at Lee’s protectiveness. “There are two other men who will be following us at all times-and I’ll be wearing this-she held up her right wrist with the gold bracelet-it has a tracking device in it. Inspector Volkenauer will be monitoring the operation at all times. They will take good care of me, Lee. They want to catch Kleinfelter and I’m their best chance of doing that. I’m more worried about you all alone in East Berlin without backup.”

He smiled at her protectiveness of him, though it wasn’t necessary. “Amanda, I’ve been to East Berlin many times. Alone. I’ll be fine. It isn’t especially dangerous. Mostly I’ll be waiting for people to contact me. Pretty boring, really.”

“Yeah-well take care of yourself-you’re my partner-and I worry about you.” At Lee’s look she continued. “That’s what partners do, right?”

He shook his head ruefully. “Let’s get some sleep. We’ll both be better in the morning for it.”

End Act Two

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.