Summary: A story about Amanda's kitchen fire that she mentioned in "Spiderweb"
Time Frame: November 1982, before Amanda meets Lee
Disclaimer:These characters are not mine and I do not intend to harm them. They belong to Warner Bros. and I promise to return them intact and no more worse for wear when I finish with them; the story, however, belongs to me…
Author's Notes:While watching "Spiderweb", I was curious at Amanda's mention of a kitchen fire in 1982. I decided to write about the fire, but we can't have Amanda without Lee can we? So I gave Lee a little mission… If you want, you can call it an alternate reality. (Thanks to Mish for being my beta reader and my editor!)
Lee Stetson strode into the firehouse with the walk of someone confident in their position. In reality, he felt stupid wearing red suspenders and heavy boots. He'd never gone undercover in a fire station before. But, as often with his work as an undercover operative, he found himself in some pretty strange situations.
There had been a recent outbreak of fires in the Arlington area. The last one had been at the house of a senator. Although the house was in ashes, the fireproof safe seemed intact. It was later found that confidential documents were missing. The firemen of Firehouse 5 were the main suspects. The missing papers held sensitive information about congressmen that, if fallen into the wrong hands, could be used against them.
As Lee walked into the break room, an enormous redheaded man greeted him. "Name's Bruno," the burly man told Lee. Lee looked the man up and down. He was about 6'7", and about 300 pounds with a red moustache and beard. He shook Bruno's hand carefully, hoping to come back with all digits intact. Bruno's handshake was surprisingly gentle. "Lee Steadman. I'm new here. This is my first night."
"Well, I hope you like long nights, Steadman. These 24-hour shifts are killers when you first start out, but after a few months you get used to them. Want some coffee?" Bruno held a mug in his hand and gestured to the coffeepot on the counter. "You'll need it before the night is through."
Amanda King had just shooed her children off to bed. Phillip and Jamie complained, wanting to watch the end of their favorite science fiction movie, but it was a school night. With her mother out of town, Amanda was now in charge of the house, and had a lot of catching up to do. Her mother usually took care of paying the bills, but she'd been gone for two weeks and they were piling up. It had been a hard year. With the divorce final, it seemed that life would never return to normal. Sure, Joe had never been home when they were married, but Amanda had hopes that he would come to his senses and return to his family. The papers in her file upstairs said that would never happen. Now left to fend for herself, all that she had was a very small checking account and her beloved money jar. If she didn't get a job soon, she would have to delve into that jar, which contained most of her savings.
Closing the checkbook, Amanda decided to take a break. A cup of cocoa always helped calm her frayed nerves. She went into the kitchen and put on a kettle of water. While she waited for it to boil, she brought some folded clothes upstairs.
As Amanda walked back downstairs, a strange smell hit her. Realizing it was smoke, she ran into the kitchen. The stove was on fire, and it was quickly moving up to the cupboards. Amanda stood frozen for a moment, watching the blaze. As the curtains burst into flames, she sprang into action, running upstairs, and screaming for her sons.
"Phillip!! Jamie!! Fire! We've got to get out of the house!" Amanda ran into the boys' room and flipped on the light. They sat up, rubbing their eyes. "Come on, guys, I need you to get outside. The house is on fire!" The boys looked at each other, and seeing the look of panic on their mother's face, snapped into action. Jamie ran to the closet and started grabbing toys.
"No time for that, Jamie. Let's go!" Amanda yelled, grabbing her sons' hands. She flew down the stairs, the boys stumbling down after her. As they passed the kitchen, both stopped and looked. "Wow, Mom you weren't kidding!" Phillip said, walking towards the kitchen to get a better look.
"Oh no you don't, Phillip. Come on!" She grabbed him again and herded the kids out the door. "Run next door and tell Mrs. Cummings to call the fire department."
Jamie looked back, fear in his eyes. "What about you, Mom?"
"I'm going to try to put the fire out!" Amanda yelled, slamming the door closed. She ran into the kitchen. The fire had spread and now engulfed the stove, sink and several cabinets. She ran to the pantry for the fire extinguisher. Holding the nozzle ten feet away from the blaze, she pulled the pin and squeezed the trigger. Nothing. Amanda stopped, held the canister upright and read the directions. Only then did she notice that the extinguisher had expired a year ago.
Lee was startled from his game of solitaire by a bell ringing. "That's us!" Bruno yelled, running for the garage. Lee followed behind, donningteri jacket. He got into the passenger side of the fire truck. Bruno put the truck in gear and started off as they were given the address by dispatch. Lee wasn't familiar with the area. Bruno picked up the radio "Dispatch, Station 5 en route. ETA is five minutes." Lee held on as the truck picked up speed, lights flashing and sirens blaring.
Amanda tossed the extinguisher aside and looked over at the sink. It was engulfed in flames. Looking for an alternate solution, she ran to the refrigerator. Throwing the door open, she found a gallon container of juice, half empty. She quickly twisted off the cap and poured the juice onto the fire. The juice was of little help. Turning back to the refrigerator, she opened the freezer door. She pulled out everything she saw and threw it at the fire. As she watched it grow, she noticed her money jar sitting dangerously close to the fire, but beyond her reach. Deciding to save the jar and not the entire kitchen, Amanda headed towards the freezer for ice cubes.
The truck came to a stop and the men assessed the situation. There were two young boys in front of the gate, being guarded by a protective older woman. Bruno ran over to them. "Where is the fire?" he asked as Lee uncoiled the fire hose.
"It's in the kitchen, and our mom's still in there!" Jamie yelled, in tears.
"I tried to go in there, but Mrs. Cumming's wouldn't let me," Phillip stated, glaring at the older woman.
Another fire truck showed up and Bruno pointed them in the direction of the kitchen, where smoke was billowing out of the windows. Lee ran up and gave Bruno the hose. "Get your oxygen, there's a woman in there!" Lee ran back to the truck to put on his gear. "This is just great," Lee muttered, grabbing an axe. "I hope my special two day briefing in firefighting is going to get me through this one." After he broke down the door, he headed towards the smoke.
"Hello!!" Lee yelled, entering the kitchen, trying to see through his dark mask. He was not quite prepared for the sight he encountered. The woman was trying to put out the fire with a can of whipped cream! Lee quickly walked up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder. Startled, Amanda turned around, whipped cream still spraying out of the can. A cloud of white was now covering Lee's mask.
"Oh! I'm sorry! I'm trying to put the fire out!" Amanda said over the flames.
"That's our job ma'am." Lee stated, wiping off his mask with a gloved hand. "I don't think whipped cream is going to work." He grabbed Amanda's arm and started guiding her towards the front door. Amanda jerked her arm free and ran back into the kitchen. As Lee followed her, he wondered how much trouble he'd get into taking her out of the house unconscious. "Lady, this is a fire, you've got to get out of here!!" Lee screamed, grabbing Amanda's arm tighter. Amanda slapped at his hand.
"You don't understand! That's my money jar! My life savings! I've got to get it!" Amanda once again slipped from Lee's grip and grabbed a towel, trying to smother the flames.
Lee grabbed Amanda's shoulders and turned her sharply around. "Lady, if you don't leave now, I'm going to carry you out!"
Amanda was looking at her beloved money jar. She kicked the pesky firefighter in the shin and got away from him. Cursing, Lee started towards Amanda. He roughly turned her around and tossed her over his shoulder. Amanda's small hands were hitting his back, but Lee could hardly feel it. He ripped away the rest of the door as he carried her out. Amanda stopped hitting him and started screaming, "I didn't lock the door! Did you have to break it down!? Do you have any idea how much that's going to cost!!?"
Lee moved down the walk and out the gate. When he got to the curb, he plopped Amanda down, forcing her to land on her bottom. Without a word, Lee ran back to the house. The boys ran to their mother, throwing themselves into her arms. "Mom!" they both screamed. She hugged and kissed them both as she watched the firefighters trying to douse the inferno.
After a sleepless night at a neighbor's house, Amanda left the boys and went to check out the damage on her house. Walking through the splintered front door, she turned towards the kitchen, tears in her eyes. Memories of good times in the kitchen hit Amanda as she surveyed the wet and burned ruins. She walked over to the counter where her precious money jar had been. She found nothing but broken glass and ashes. She knew her home insurance would take care of most of it, but she would never get her life savings back. Unable to look anymore, Amanda went into the den and sat down on the couch. She put her head in her hands and sobbed. After a good cry, Amanda wiped away her tears, trying to compose herself. That's when she noticed the coffee table. Not the coffee table itself, but what was on the table. Staring right back at her was the familiar money jar. Moving slowly, as if in a dream, Amanda reached over and picked it up. She opened it and breathed a big sigh of relief. All of the money was still there. A confused look passed over her face. "How in the world did this get all the way in the den?" She wondered aloud. Her eyes opened wide as she realized that the firefighter was the only one who knew about her beloved jar. He must have come back in and saved it from the flames. As she smiled, Amanda made a mental note to call the fire department and thank that man.
Two days after the fire at Amanda's, Lee's mission was over. A suspect was now in custody, but was not involved with the fire station. Lee learned a lot in those two days, although he had only assisted in one fire. He had never really thought of anyone else's needs and never really cared. But watching that woman and her two children sitting in the street looking so forlorn, he felt sorry for them. With Bruno's help, the womans' door had been replaced. By saving her money jar, Lee felt the sense of accomplishment of a job well done. Happily giving up his fireman's cap for good, Lee Stetson retuned to being a plain old government operative.
Amanda called the firehouse two days after the fire and was told that the fireman who had helped her had been transferred. No one knew his whereabouts. She stopped by the house and was surprised to find the door fixed. Upon calling the insurance company, she was assured that work had not yet been started on her house. Amanda couldn't imagine that someone would just come and put a door on her house with no explanation…but then again, Amanda probably couldn't imagine herself being a spy, either.