My True Love Gave to Me
Thanks to Cheryl for once again being a fabulous beta. She always makes my writing tolerable. Thanks to Lynda, Sue, Cheryl and Jennifer for giving me encouragement in chat when “The This Story Sucketh Syndrome” hit more than once.
All the usual disclaimers about who owns these characters (not me).
Part of this story was used for a challenge and I was asked if I intended to create an entire story. So I did. Plus, nothing says Merry Christmas and Happy New Year like your own personal stalker.
Twelve Days before Christmas
Pulling her coat up around her neck against the nip in the Washington DC air, Amanda King walked briskly to the Georgetown entrance of the Agency. Her workday would consist mostly of doing paperwork for Lee, but Christmas was twelve days away and she had been busy with making candy and decorating her house getting ready for the holiday. The change of pace of working with Lee would give her a break plus the income to attack the boys’ wish lists.
While she was pretty sure Phillip no longer believed in Santa, she thought he was hedging his bets and not ruining it for his little brother. She smiled when she thought of her boys. They loved Christmas so much. Decorating the house was so much more fun when they helped. It helped them deal with the fact that Joe wouldn’t make it home again for the holidays this year. When he had informed her that he needed to be in Estoccia and he wouldn’t make it home, he made sure that the gifts he sent would make it on time. When he hadn’t made it home last year, his gifts arrived the day before Christmas shuttled through the American Embassy. Mother and I will give them a great Christmas.
Phillip and Jamie’s Christmas break started earlier this year so her mother arranged for the three of them to take the train to Maine for a few days to help her sister Lillian decorate her house then return before Lillian comes down to spend the holiday with them. She would have a few peaceful days to wrap presents and cook and work, if needed.
As she arrived at the Agency door she pulled out her wallet to check the password again. She always seemed to forget it when she was in a rush. She nodded to herself and walked through the door.
“Good morning, Mrs. Marston.” Amanda chirped cheerfully. “Isn’t it a lovely day?”
“Good morning, Mrs. King.” Mrs. Marston replied moving her hand to her drawer.
Amanda looked over to the drawer and bit her lip and knew that it not only held her visitor’s badge but also a 9 mm pistol. She leaned forward and whispered, “The word of the day is snowflake.”
The Agency gatekeeper smiled and pulled out her visitor’s badge. “Have a nice day, Mrs. King.”
Pinning on the badge, Amanda looked up. “Thank you, Mrs. Marston. You too.”
Amanda walked to the closet and pulled the door open when Fred Fielder came running down the stairs behind Mrs. Marston. “Hold the elevator, please.”
Fred smiled at her as they pulled the coats together. “Good morning, Amanda.”
“Good Morning, Fred. How is your niece?” Amada inquired. “Did she decide about the Winter Formal?”
Fred beamed down at her. “She did. She’s going with a group of friends and letting her ex-boyfriend eat his heart out. Your advice was perfect.”
“I’m so glad. I’m sure he will miss her when he sees her having fun.”
“What was even better was I got to be the cool uncle for a change.” Fred looked around The elevator. “Usually it is my big mouthed brother who owns a comic book shop.”
She patted his hand. “Enjoy it while it lasts. Teenage girls are notoriously fickle. I know I was one once.”
The elevator doors opened and Fred allowed Amanda to exit first. As the doors opened in the Bullpen, they went their separate ways. Fred to the back of the room to his desk and Amanda to the little cubicle she had been assigned to for work.
When she reached her desk, she noticed a small pen and ink drawing sitting in the middle. She picked it up and studied the stylized rendering of a partridge in a pear tree. The artist took great care to create marvelously vivid detail. Written across the top were the words My True Love. Curious as to who would give her such a drawing, she looked around for some kind of card or indication of the giver. When nothing caught her eye she glanced around hoping someone could shed some light on her mystery.
Francine strode into the bullpen reading an open folder. “Morning, Amanda,” she said absently as she took a seat at her desk next to Amanda’s and began inputting data from the folder.
“Good morning, Francine.” Amanda returned. She looked over at the tetchy blonde and held up the drawing. “Francine, are we doing a secret santa?
Francine looked up from her folder and arched a brow. “God, I hope not. Ephraim Beamon always seems to draw my name..”
“Did you see who put this on my desk?”
Francine peaked over the divider at the picture and frowned. “It’s rather clichéd, but what else would I expect.” Francine arched an eyebrow. “Do you have an admirer, Amanda? Who is it?”
Amanda returned her look. “If I knew who it was, I wouldn’t have asked you if you saw who put it on my desk. Now would I?”
“Well, you don’t have to get snippy about it.” Francine retorted. “I’m sure someone just wanted to give you a little early Christmas cheer.”
Staring at the picture, Amanda turned it over and over in her hands. “Well, it is pretty. I guess I will just have to wait for my Secret Santa to reveal himself.
She propped the picture on her desk against the cubicle where she could study it further. Maybe Lee knew something about it. She pondered for a moment if maybe he placed it on her desk, but quickly dismissed the idea. Actually, she wasn’t so sure he liked her all that much. He hated Christmas and had avoided any mention or celebration of it. Last year, he’d been drunk and shot before he would sing a Christmas carol with her. She sighed and looked over the room again. She pushed the idea away and started her day.
Several hours later, Lee stopped by her desk with a list in his hand. She looked up and smiled. “Good morning, Lee. How are you?”
“Fine. Do you have time to go to personnel for me?” Lee asked leaning down.
“Sure. I’m just finishing up your last expense report now. But, why do you need me to go? Can’t you run down yourself? Do I need clearance?”
Lee shook his head. “No, you don’t need any special clearance. You’re already authorized.”
Amanda narrowed her eyes at his evasion. “Why do you need me to go?”
She noticed that he was trying for his innocent face. “Well, if you can’t go…”
“I didn’t say that.” She replied quickly. “I just have to wonder why? Last time a trip to Personnel was necessary…” She trailed off as she remembered. “What was her name? Molly, Mary, Maggie…”
Amanda noticed a slight flush on Lee’s cheeks. “It was Molly and I don’t want to talk about it. Will you go?”
She smiled. “Of course, what do you need?”
“Billy needs the updated list of agents who are due to have a new security clearance. Do you have time to go?”
“I do.” She looked up at him. She handed him his expense report. “Just sign here.” She pointed to the spot. “Give it to Mr. Melrose to sign and I’ll get on the list.”
Lee flashed his killer smile. “Thanks, Amanda.”
Amanda placed the rest of the papers in her desk and looked up at Lee as he perused his expense report. “Lee,” she said picking up the picture to show him, “do you know anything about this?”
Lee held the picture carelessly in his hand and looked it over. “What is it?”
“A drawing of a partridge in a pear tree.”
“I can see that.” He replied dryly. “Where did it come from?”
“That’s what I want to know. It was on my desk when I came in.”
“I don’t know. Maybe whoever gave it to you is a secret admirer.”
“Don’t be silly. Who would keep it a secret?”
Lee shrugged. “I don’t know. Can you work on getting the list? She nodded and stood up. “I’m on my way.”
As she made her way to down the hall, she stopped to chat to several people. Parker wanted to tell her that her classes for medical training had been going well and she was almost certified as a medic. She wished Williams a good morning and good luck as he was heading out for his sharpshooting recertification.
Amanda walked into Personnel and waited at the counter. Tapping her fingers lightly, she looked at the sour faced woman behind the desk who was filing papers. “Excuse me,” Amanda politely said, “could you help me, please?”
The woman looked up from her work. “In a moment, Mrs. King.”
A crash came from the file room behind the desk. A man of about 40 entered. His shirt was slightly rumpled which matched his overall appearance. He rushed forward to the counter. “Mrs. King…Amanda…how nice to see you here. Can I help you with something?”
The sour faced woman looked up from her work. “I was about to help her, Greg. Why don’t you go back to your work?”
The look Greg gave her could have burned paint off a wall. “No, thank you, Winnie. I’ll take care of her.”
He folded his hands on the counter. “Now, what can I do for you?”
Amanda heard a muttered “Brown-noser” as Winnie stormed out of the room.
Amanda handed over the authorization. “Mr. Melrose needs an updated list of field agents who are due for security renewal.”
“I can take care of that right away. Would you like to come and sit down at my desk and have a cup of tea?” Greg asked pulling slightly on her hand.
“Won’t this take some time?”
“Maybe an hour or so.” Greg admitted.
She moved her hand away from his. “Well then, I better come back for it then. I still have some paperwork to complete for Mr. Stetson.”
“You don’t have to come back. I’ll bring it to you.”
“Really, that is not necessary…” Amanda began.
“Please.” Greg interrupted. “I insist.”
She nodded and smiled. “All right. Thank you, Mr. Robison.”
“Greg.” He corrected her.
“Thank you.” She repeated.
As she opened the door she overheard the caustic voice of Winnie tell him. “Really, Greg. You’re such an idi…” The door shut out the rest of the comment.
‘That poor man.’ She thought as she walked away. ‘He seems very nice. He probably only needs a friend to talk to.’
Forty-seven minutes later -
Amanda finished Lee’s last expense report for Mr. Melrose to sign when Lee came up to her desk. “Amanda, there’s this new restaurant down the street and I want to check it out before I take anyone there, so do you want to go with me?
Amanda shook her head. “Really with such an invitation, how could I refuse?
Lee looked down and shrugged his shoulder managing to look both sheepish and adorable at the same time, she thought. “You know what I meant.”
“When do you want to leave?” She looked at her watch.
“Sounds good. I’m starving. I just need to pull a couple of files for Mr. Melrose before we go.”
She was standing at the file cabinet and pulling the last of the transcript files when Greg came rushing in. “Here’s the list, Amanda. I made sure to get all the names.”
“Thank you, Greg. I appreciate you getting these for me. You were a big help.” She looked at him and noticed that his eye had caught the partridge in a pear tree drawing.
“That’s lovely.” He said.
“Yes, it is.” She agreed. “It was on my desk this morning. I can’t imagine who gave it to me. No one seems to know.”
Greg seemed about to say something when Lee approached. “Are you ready, Amanda? Let’s go.” Amanda watched as Lee looked at Greg then dismissed him.
“Lee, Greg just delivered the names for me.”
Oh, thanks.” He said to Greg. “Amanda, will you run those into Billy. I need to get a file off my desk for Fred.”
“Sure.” She turned to Greg. “Thank you again for your help. I hope Winnie didn’t give you any trouble for helping me so quickly.”
“Nothing I couldn’t handle.” Greg assured her.
“That’s good.’ She patted his hand. “If you’ll excuse me I need to get these into Mr. Melrose.”
She began to walk away when she heard him say. “Wait. Would you have lunch with me?”
“I’m sorry. I’m having lunch with Mr. Stetson.”
Greg broke eye contact with her and mumbled, “that’s okay,” as a flush came over his face.
“Maybe some other time.” Amanda offered.
“Anytime, Amanda.” He walked away with his head down.
Watching him go, Amanda felt sorry that she had to turn him down.
When she returned from Mr. Melrose’s office, Lee was sitting on the corner of her desk. “That,” he said pointing at the door, “is an odd person.”
“He’s really very nice.” She admonished. “Just lonely. I think he lives with his mother and her parrot or something like that.”
“And that’s not odd.”
“I live with my mother.” Amanda pointed out dryly.
“Ummm, yes,” he said, “but she doesn’t have a parrot.”
Amanda couldn’t help but to laugh. “You’re right. C’mon let’s go.”
Eleven days before Christmas –
Amanda came down the stairs fastening her last earring as the boys ran around the kitchen island gathering their books and yelling their goodbyes. She managed to stop them for a quick kiss before the door slammed behind them. Lee had kept her late last night to help work on the list of employees needing a new security check.
Something strange had happened when she had gotten home. After she had reached her bedroom and snapped on the light, the phone rang. Thinking it was Lee with more instructions for the morning she sat on the edge of her bed to answer it. A husky voice came over the phone. “Good Night, My True Love. I’m glad you got home safely. Think about me tonight.”
Stunned Amanda could only babble. “I think you have the wrong number.” After she hung up the phone she went back downstairs to make sure that all the doors and windows were locked and secured. The phone call had left her unsteady and feeling vulnerable.
When dawn finally arrived, it found Amanda fitfully dozing. She hadn’t slept well all night as the voice turned over and over in her head.
She gratefully took the cup of coffee her mother offered her. “Thank you.” She said silently saluting her mother. “I needed this.”
Her mother looked over her glasses at her. “You were late last night.”
“Yes, we were trying to finish an edit of a film on angel fish.” Amanda lied. “We didn’t finish so I need to go in a little early this morning.”
“Oh, Amanda,” she heard as she turned to get her coat. She turned back slowly that tone of voice always boded ill for her.
She held out a smallish package wrapped in gold paper with a white bow. “This was delivered for you this morning.”
“For me? I’m not expecting anything.”
“That’s what the delivery man said.”
Amanda took the package and looked it over. She placed it on the counter. “I wonder who it’s from.” She untied the ribbon and slowly pulled open the ends of the wrapping paper. Inside the package was a Swarovski box. For reasons she couldn’t name, its distinctive swan trademark sent chills down her spine. Visions of gas canisters and snakes filled her head. “You know, Mother, I think this has to be a mistake. I’m not going to open someone else’s present. Who delivered it?”
Her mother looked perplexed. “I don’t think it was a mistake, Amanda. The receipt has your name on it.”
Her blood ran cold for a moment before she could speak. “I’ll just take a look at it. Where is it?”
“It’s right here.” Her mother handed over the yellow copy of a delivery receipt.
She needed to get control of her panic. She took a deep breath and let a bit of the agent she had been studying come through. “I’m going to take this with me to the office, call them and see who sent it. I’m sure it wasn’t supposed to be sent to me.” She kissed her cheek. “Thanks for the coffee. I’m going to be late for work.” Her mind worked furiously as she started to walk out for a way to get her mother out of the room. “Oh, I promised that book you just finished to one of the secretaries at work.”
“Love’s Fatal Captive? That’s a good one. It’s by my bed. I’ll just run and grab it for you.”
“Thanks.” Moving quickly she pulled two, gallon size, plastic bags out of the drawer and placed the wrapping paper in one and the box in another. She managed to tuck them into her bag before her mother came back down waving her book.
“Make sure I get this back, Darling. I’m going to read it again.”
“Of course. I’ll see you tonight.” Amanda put her coat on and left.
While she was driving she tried to put her feelings and thoughts into words. She couldn’t say why the box had sent a shiver through her. She doubted there was a snake in the box. Unconsciously, her hand moved off the wheel and pushed her purse father across the seat. Something just seemed off about it. She knew she was being foolish and that Lee would probably laugh at her for her caution. Maybe the box was from Joe. His presents usually arrived over the course of several days. No, there was no card with the package. Joe would have sent it marked and in a box through the Embassy.
She parked in front of the Agency and got her badge murmuring a quick hello and the password to Mrs. Marston. She turned at the elevator, “Mrs. Marston, is Mr. Stetson in yet?”
“Yes, he came in about 20 minutes ago.”
The door opened as the elevator arrived. “Thanks.”
The elevator seemed particularly slow taking what felt like ages to arrive. Luckily as she entered the bullpen she saw Lee talking to Mr. Melrose. “Good Morning, Sir. Good Morning, Lee. Can I talk to you for a moment?”
“Sure. Alone?” Lee asked as he looked at her closely. “Amanda, what’s wrong?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t know exactly how to explain what happened.”
Billy took her by the elbow. “Come into my office and tell us.”
As she sat on the couch with Lee next to her, she began to relax and let her fears out. He was a solid warm presence and made her feel secure. She explained about the picture being left on her desk, the phone call and then the box arriving this morning.
“Where is the box now?” Billy asked reaching for his phone.
“I put both the wrapping paper and the box in bags and brought them in. They’re in my purse.” She reached in and taking each bag by the top pulled them out.
Billy stabbed at numbers on his phone. “I’m sending down a package to be x-rayed. I want it given priority status.”
Amanda was shaken. “Sir, priority status…?”
Lee cut in. “Whoever is giving you these things had access to your address and phone number as well as your Agency desk.”
Nodding, Billy added. “So, it would have to be someone within the Agency. Scarecrow, take this down to x-ray and take this to the lab and have it checked for fingerprints.”
Amanda nodded and pulled the receipt out of her purse. “This is the delivery receipt.”
Billy took the receipt. “We’ll look into this.” He nodded to Lee. “Go.”
As Lee walked out of the office carrying the two bags, he wondered why he was so disconcerted. This was probably nothing. Amanda had a secret admirer, that’s all. Somebody was too shy to talk to her and with her personality, they might not ever speak. A strange jolt went through him when he considered somebody in love with Amanda. He missed a step. That was ridiculous. Why should he care if someone loved her? She was his partner, sorta. He continued down to the lab.
As he opened the door, Williams came running after him. “Lee, hold up. I want to get Amanda something for Christmas. She has been really helpful to me lately. Do you think she would like a new scarf or something?”
Lee looked askance at him. “I think she has enough scarves right now, Mark. I’m not really sure what she needs. Let me think about it.”
“Right. Well, maybe I’ll ask Parker. She’s been talking to her about stuff.” Williams said shrugging. “Thanks anyway.”
Lee watched as Williams walked away and wondered seriously who could be going after her. A second jolt went through him when he realized that he was more concerned for her safety than he thought. He tightened his hand on the bags and walked into the lab.
Back in Billy’s office, Amanda felt overwhelmingly silly. “Sir, maybe I’ve overblown this. It’s not necessary for all this…”
Billy held up a hand. “Amanda, if you think there was something wrong with this, then I trust your instincts. Go get started on your day. I’ll let you know when anything comes back.”
Amanda rose grateful for his trust. “Thank you, Sir.”
She walked into the bullpen with a slight hesitation to her steps. What had she done or said to someone that had started this? Did someone misinterpret her words or actions?
She sat down and attempted to concentrate on the transcription of files she had in front of her. While getting lost in the conversation between two gun runners planning on arming some rebels, she tried to lose herself in the transcription but couldn’t shake the feeling of dread. She jumped when a hand landed on her shoulder. Lee’s concerned eyes looked down at her. “Are you okay?” He sat on the corner of her desk. “What’s wrong? I didn’t like the look on your face just now.”
She couldn’t keep it in. She told him what had been going through her mind. He took her hand. “Nothing you’ve done would have encouraged this type of behavior. If this is an obsession, Amanda, it is not your fault.” He let her hand go, but stayed near her. “The box was just a box. It held this note. There weren’t any prints on either the note or on the box.” He handed her a note written on good quality paper in a flowing hand. She read it.
FOR MY TRUE LOVE.
IT WON’T BE LONG UNTIL WE ARE TOGETHER FOR ETERNITY. THESE SMALL BAUBLES ARE A TESTAMENT TO OUR LOVE AND COMMITMENT TO EACH OTHER.
She handed it back. “I don’t know anything about it.”
Lee cleared his throat. “Are you dating anyone I don’t know about?”
Amanda looked up at him.
He looked sheepish and a little embarrassed. “I’m sorry to have to pry like this but I need to know in order to look in the right direction. Have you recently broken up with anyone?”
She shook her head. “No, I haven’t been dating much. Between the boys and work, I’ve been fairly busy. What was in the box?”
“This.” He held out the box and she removed two crystal turtle doves.
“They’re beautiful.” She whispered. “But, I still don’t understand. Why me?”
“I don’t know. I know that I have a bad feeling about this so I’m going to stay close by for a while.”
Amanda blushed. “You don’t have too.”
He interrupted her. “I’m your partner, aren’t I? This is what we do.”
“How do we start?” She said getting herself back under control.
“First, I think we need to talk to the delivery guy. See what he has to say. Shall we?”
“Absolutely.” Amanda grabbed her purse and coat and headed out with Lee. His hand on her back was a soothing reminder that he would be with her through this. She allowed him to guide her to the elevator while her thoughts were a tumble of images. Above all, she tried to be practical and honest with herself. When she thought hard about it, she couldn’t pinpoint why these presents were troubling her. They were expensive and anyone calling her my true love was just wrong. That implied a deeply personal connection. She couldn’t think of anyone who would even remotely believe that they had that kind of connection. But, somebody did.
The next few hours were an exercise in futility. The delivery service indicated that they were paid in cash for the pick up from the store and then the store, after some arm twisting by Lee, told them that the purchase was also made in cash and that they couldn’t recall the person who made the purchase. It was Christmastime they were told stiffly.
Lee was annoyed by the lack of cooperation and information. Amanda noticed that his hands made more passes through his hair and the muscle tick in his jaw became more pronounced.
They arrived back at the Agency and Amanda found herself simply nodding to people as they greeted her or tried to talk to her. She couldn’t let whatever was happening to her change her perspective.
“Lee,” Amanda started, “Mother and the boys will be heading up to see Aunt Lillian and help her set up for Christmas. Should I send them off a little early? You don’t think that they’re in any danger do you?”
“Probably not. We don’t have any proof that you’re in danger, you know.” Lee reasoned.
“You’re right,” she replied nodding. “Something still seems off.”
“Amanda,” he said rubbing her arms. “I believe you.”
A throat clearing made them both turn around to see Greg from Personnel standing at her elbow. “I brought up a second list. I thought you might…you know…need it right away. I noticed that some names were left off the first one. I think Winnie wanted me to look bad in front of you…” He trailed off as he looked away and murmured. “With the clearance request.”
“Thank you, Greg.” Amanda smiled. “You didn’t need to bring them up. I would have come to you.”
“That’s okay. I was heading out anyway. I’m going to go get some lunch. Do you want something?” He asked blushing furiously.
Lee cut in. “I don’t think so, Gary, but thanks for asking.”
“Iiit’s Greg. Mmmr. Stetson.” He stuttered.
Amanda flashed a dirty look at Lee then smiled at Greg. “No, thank you. We ate earlier.”
Amanda and Lee watched Greg walk away. “Lee,” Amanda scolded.
“You weren’t very nice to him. He’s harmless. Poor guy couldn’t even look at us.”
“Come on. Let’s see what other rocks we can turn over.” He led her into the bullpen.
Later that evening –
Amanda sat on the couch sipping hot chocolate and looking at the tree. She loved to sit and admire the decorations and the lights. She was snuggled into a warm robe and could feel the tension leaving her. Lee was right. There was no evidence of anyone wanting to hurt her.
The phone trilled behind her. As she was getting up to answer it, her mother came sweeping in. “I’ll get it. It might be Mr. Johannsen. He was supposed to call about the Rotary dinner/dance.” She picked up the phone. “Hello? Hello?” Hanging up the phone she stared at it her long nails tapping out a rhythm against it. “That’s strange. Every time I pick up the phone this evening whoever it is hangs up.
How many call have there been?” Amanda asked a ball of ice forming in her stomach.
“Three…no four…I think.” He mother shook her head. “I just hope it isn’t one of the boys’ friends making crank calls. You never know these days, Amanda.”
Nodding her head, Amanda agreed saying. “You’re right. You never know.”
“Well, I’ll just go upstairs and finish the book I’m reading. How much longer are you going to be downstairs?”
“Oh, a little while longer. I’m enjoying the peace and quiet and my hot chocolate.”
“Well, don’t stay up to late.” As her mother began to climb the steps, she heard her shout, “If Mr. Johannsen should call…”
“I’ll let you know.” Amanda answered smiling.
The phone rang again. Amanda looked at it then took a deep breath and answered. “Hello?”
The husky voice spoke harshly over the line. “It’s about time you answered. You were making me wait. Weren’t you? No one should answer the phone but you when I call. Don’t you realize that?”
Amanda fought the quiver in her voice. “Who is this?”
“How can you ask me that question, My True Love?”
She made her voice sound reasonable. “Because I’m not sure what your name is? I have to call you something.”
“You can call me your love.” The voice purred.
“I don’t think that would be wise.” Amanda answered.
The man on the other line grew harsh. “Is it because of Stetson? He’s not good enough for you. Only I am. Now go to bed. Remember I’m watching over you and it’s late. You need your beauty sleep. Good night My True Love.”
Amanda listened to the dial tone for a moment before hanging up. Pausing for a moment to consider her options, she picked up the receiver again and dialed Lee’s number.
She heard his laughing voice pick up the phone and almost wanted to hang up. Did she really want to disturb him? “Lee?” She said timidly.
She heard him cover the mouthpiece and say something to someone. “Amanda, what’s wrong?”
“He called again, Lee.” She repeated the conversation as best she could. Lee was silent though the recitation.
“He’s watching you? Your house?” Was all he asked when she was finished.
“Okay. I’m on my way over.” Lee answered calmly. “Make sure all your doors and windows are locked. Even the upstairs ones. I’m calling Billy to tell him. Don’t go outside until I’m there. Do you understand? Even if you hear something. Until you see me. Don’t go outside.” Lee reiterated.
“I got it. I’m sorry to break up your date.”
“Don’t worry about it. She was about to leave anyway. I’ll see you in a little while.”
She checked the windows and doors like Lee had asked. Then sat down and tried to read a book but couldn’t concentrate. She kept hearing that strange voice telling her to go to bed and that he was watching. She drew her bathrobe more closely around her. Time seemed to slow down as she waited for Lee to arrive. When a knock finally came at her window she jumped, looked over and saw him standing there. A feeling of relief poured over her. She took a deep breath, calmed herself and let him in.
He walked in and secured the door again. His voiced pitched low for her family sleeping upstairs. “I’m going to stay around tonight. I talked to Billy and he doesn’t want to bring anyone in who hasn’t been cleared.”
“Cleared of what?”
He shrugged. “Being your stalker.”
She sat heavily on the arm of the couch. “Oh my gosh, that’s what this is, isn’t?” She looked up at him. “This is crazy. I can’t believe it.”
Lee took her by the shoulders. “It’s going to be okay. I’m not going to let anything happen to you. I’m going to sit outside and watch your house tonight. Then we’ll have more people to help. Now go upstairs and try to relax and get some sleep. I’ll be outside all night.”
“Okay. Thanks.” She unlocked the door. “Are you going to be okay?”
“I’m going to be fine. Don’t worry about me.” He began to walk out. “Lock this.”
“Good night.” She closed, locked the door and watched him walk to the fence and through the gate. The tension she had been feeling began to subside and she thought she might be able to get some sleep.
Ten Days Before Christmas –
The day had been uneventful. Amanda was grateful that she was able to get the boys off to school and off to work without any undue interruptions. She and Lee didn’t make any progress on determining who her admirer was but they managed to eliminate some people. Most of the agents in Field Office were clear. There hadn’t been any new presents left at her desk or strange phone calls.
She stretched her shoulders and neck as she climbed the stairs to her bedroom. She had a full evening of checking homework and laundry. Her mother was with the boys at basketball practice and she had a few minutes to change her clothes then gather her thoughts.
Singing ‘O Holy Night,’ she began unbuttoning her blouse as she approached her room and entered. She sat on her bed to remove her shoes and heard a soft ding as something hit her hip. Horror crept over her as she picked up a Sterling Silver bell with French hens molded into the handle. The tag read, ‘To My True Love.’
She closed her blouse and reached for the phone by her bed and dialed. “Lee,” she said barely keeping her voice level, “he’s been in my house.”