Amanda brushed a stray tendril of hair back from her face and peered over the stacks of newspapers piled up on her desk to answer Christopher Garrety’s cheeky greeting.
“If you call menial labor keeping busy,” she replied.
“It can’t be that bad.”
“Would you want to change places with me?”
“It’s only been two weeks,” Chris reminded her.
“Two weeks and four days,” Amanda corrected, “of sorting, stacking and clipping, and if I have to endure one more paper cut, I think I’ll scream.”
“Don’t despair. Your sentence is almost up and it’s not as if you haven’t been making an important contribution to the agency. Maintaining a criminal catalog of photographs, statistics and articles has proven to be a vital new tool in fighting crime.”
“Even so, I’ll be glad when I can relinquish my scissors for a train ticket west.”
“Why there?” Chris asked in surprise, as he perched on the edge of her desk.
“Because that’s where the action is,” she replied, as if the answer were obvious. “You must have heard about Billy the Kid.”
Chris slowly stood up, unsettled by the mention of that particular name. “Oh, I’ve heard about him.”
“I’ve been reading nothing else since news of his escape from those deputies in Lincoln hit the papers. Look, here’s one direct from New Mexico.” She paused to rummage through her stack and handed it to Chris.
“Wouldn’t it be thrilling to track down a desperado like that?” she mused, while Chris half-heartedly browsed the headlines.
“I’ll let you know,” he uttered, dropping the newspaper on her desk.
Chris hesitated a moment, but Amanda’s unwavering stare forced him to confess.
“I didn’t want to mention it now, but I just got my next assignment upstairs. They’re sending me to New Mexico on the early morning train to join the search for Billy the Kid.”
“Why are they sending you?”
“And why not me? I’m quite a clever fellow, if I do say so myself.”
“I only meant there must be plenty of men already in New Mexico to track him down without sending you so far away.”
“Ah,” Chris said sympathetically. “So that’s it.”
“What’s it?” Amanda replied defensively.
“Sentiment making that mask of independence you wear slip a little.”
Amanda crossed her arms.
“You don’t have to deny it. I find it rather endearing to know you’ll miss me.”
“Miss you! Why you conceited—”
“Ah, ah, ah,” Chris scolded. “There’s no use putting on an act. Besides, you might wind up saying something you don’t really mean.”
“I know you want to go with me,” he continued sympathetically. “But they’ll be lots of other cases we can work on when you’re ready. And in the meantime, can’t you just be a little happy knowing that I’ll miss you too?”
Amanda’s demeanor softened with the affection in his voice.
“Will you Chris?”
Unconvinced, Amanda slumped back in her chair. “You’re just saying that.”
“Perhaps,” Chris admitted. “But then, can’t you let me enjoy myself a little before I deliver the good news.”
He started to grin and his expression was infectious.
“Good news? What…,” Amanda replied, struggling to contain herself. “Christopher Garrety, if you’ve been keeping something from me I’ll—”
“You’ll smother me with kisses,” he interrupted, “when I tell you I managed to spring you from this paper prison and wangle an assignment for you too.”
“No. You didn’t. You couldn’t.”
“I shouldn’t really take the credit for it. It was Mrs. Webster’s idea, but I gave you a glowing endorsement.”
“Mrs. Webster? I didn’t know she was back.”
“Just,” Chris confirmed. “She sent me down here to fetch you and say she and Mr. Pinkerton are waiting in his office to brief you on your first assignment.”
Amanda jumped up and gave him a peck on the cheek.
“Why, Miss Brown, you forget yourself,” he teased, touching the cheek she had kissed.
“Will you c’mon,” she insisted, ignoring his bait and pulling him along behind her. “I can’t keep them waiting!”
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