Steve and Cassie sat in their living room. “What time do we take off tomorrow?” Cassie asked.
“I figured as quickly as possible.” Steve smiled “Just as soon as the kids are ready.”
“Well if that’s the case.” Cassie laughed “We should be out of here by noon.”
“I hope it’s sooner than that. I have to stop by the lab before we go. Rudy called he wants me to stop in.”
“What ever for?” Cassie sounded disgusted. “Oscar gives you a week off to celebrate your birthday, and now Rudy demands you come in. For what I say?”
“Just take it easy Cass I’ll find out in the morning. He told me to come in around 8:00” Steve soothed. “I plan to leave as soon as we’re finished.”
“Oh great and that leaves me to get the kids ready by myself!” Cassie shouted.
“I’ll do what I can before I leave. I have an idea I’ll help you pack tonight. That way all we have to do is get ourselves ready.” Steve suggested.
“That might be alright.” Cassie agreed.
“Then it’s settled. I’ll get to Rudy’s as quickly as possible that way I’ll be back here.”
“Sounds good. I’ll try to have all of us ready by the time you get back. But you better be quick.” Cassie teased
“Hey go easy on me. I’m the Birthday boy remember?” Steve smiled.
“It’s not your birthday yet.” Cassie hissed but Steve detected a hint of a smile.
“I’ll be home as soon as I can and don’t worry Rudy said it shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes. Tops. I’ll be back here by 8:30 at the latest, we can plan to leave by 10:00”
“Well I suppose that sounds ok.” Cassie kissed him lightly on the cheek.
That night Steve helped Cassie get all the clothes together. Steven proved to be a huge help.
“There” Steve proclaimed. “The bags are all packed and loaded in the car. Like I said. I won’t be to late tomorrow.”
“Where are you going daddy?” The inquisitive Steven wondered.
“I have to go see Doc Rudy for just a bit. No big deal.” Steve assured his young son.
“Is he going to give you a shot?” Steven wondered.
“I don’t think so.” Steve laughed as he smiled at the seven year old. “He probably just wants to talk to daddy.”
“I wish when I went to the doctor all he wanted to do was talk. Steven sighed.
Steve and Cassie burst out laughing.
The next morning Steve was at Rudy’s office ten minutes before the Dr. arrived. “Steve.” Rudy greeted “I didn’t expect you quite so soon.”
“Yea, I know. We want to get going so…”
“I understand. Come on in.” Rudy directed
So what is this all about Doc?”
“I’ve been working on this for sometime now. I have a little adjustment I want to make to your eye.”
“What will it do?” Steve wondered. “Give me X ray vision. I am headed for California and if that’s the case, the beach is the first place I stop.” Steve laughed.
“I won’t tell Cassie that one.” Rudy smiled.
“Tell Cassie what?” Oscar asked as he joined them. “I saw your car in the lot. I wondered what Rudy wanted too.”
“Hi Oscar.” Rudy turned to him. Then back to Steve. “No. Nothing quite like that. Give me a little time though.” Rudy smiled at them “No it will just give you a farther range.”
“Do you need to replace the eye?” Steve wondered
“No I can make the improvements to the one you already have. But if you want the X ray vision…”
“Yea I get the point. Well let’s get it done I want to head to Ojai.” Steve sounded just a bit impatient.
“It will take 10 minutes tops. Then you’re off.” Rudy assured. “Say I just might join you later in the week.”
“We’d love to have you. You too Oscar You know I think this is the first time in years I’ll actually be in Ojai for my Birthday.” Steve smiled as he sat back and allowed Rudy to work on his eye.
"Consider it a Birthday present." Oscar smiled.
“That’s right. It’s just around corner.” Rudy commented. “What is it 35?”
“No. 37.” Steve corrected.
“Tsk, tsk only three years away from forty.” Rudy teased
“Don’t remind me.” Steve sighed.
When Rudy finished Steve headed home to help Cassie finish getting ready.
“So how is it going?” Steve asked when he came through the front door.
“Better than I thought. We are all ready to go.”
“Well that’s good. I phoned the airport before I left Rudy’s office. Everything is clear on both ends. We can leave anytime.”
“Well no time like the present.” Cassie smiled. “Are Oscar and Rudy joining us?”
“Yea. They said they would be out later on in the week.” Steve told her.
“Well that’s good.” Cassie agreed. “By the way what did Rudy want?”
Steve scanned the room to make sure that the kids were out of earshot. “Rudy wanted to make some adjustments to my eye.
“What kind of adjustments?” Cassie demanded. “You mean it couldn’t have waited till we got back?”
“You know Rudy. He said he’s been trying to perfect it for months and now that he has…”
“I suppose I understand. “Well I’m ready to go.”
“Yea me too.” They walked out to the car and got in. “Everybody ready?” Steve asked.
“We’ve been ready for over an hour.” Cassie teased.
“Ok. Ok. Let’s get this show on the road.” Steve pulled out of the drive and they headed for the airport.
“Jim!” Helen called isn’t it about time to go to the airport and pick up Steve, Cassie and the kids.
Jim looked at his watch. “Steve said he’d have them call when he was ready to land.”
“Oh yea that’s right. Oh I can hardly wait a full week with Steve, Cassie and the kids. I can hardly believe it.”
The phone rang and Jim answered it. “Yes. Great we’re on our way.” He turned toward Helen “That was the base commander. Steve just radioed. They will be landing in ten minutes.
“Well we better get going. It will take us 10 minutes to get to the airport.” Helen reminded.
“I agree.” The two dashed out to the car and raced all the way to the airport. They arrived just as Steve s plane landed.
“How was the flight?” Jim asked as they walked through the airport.
“A little bumpy in places.” Steve admitted then turned to Helen. “What did you make me for dinner?”
“Steve!” Cassie chided. “That’s not very nice even if you are the Birthday boy.”
“That’s all right Cassie.” Helen laughed. “I plan to spoil him the whole time.”
“Oh really? I don’t know if that’s such a good idea or not.” Cassie laughed.
“Well I do. I hardly ever get to see Steve. Especially on his birthday.” Helen then turned to her son. “I fixed all of your favorites of course.”
“Wonderful!” Steve smiled at the prospect of being pampered and spoiled by his mother for a few days.
“Except, of course for your most favorite. That one we are saving for your birthday in a couple of days. And your mother is baking a cake.” Jim added.
Sounds great. I can hardly wait!” Steve put his arm around his mother. “What kind of cake.”
“Your favorite triple layer chocolate.” Helen watched as her three grandsons raced ahead of them
“Yum! I can hardly wait. By the way, Rudy and Oscar thought they might join us at the end of the week.” Steve informed her.
“That will be great. Oscar and Rudy are family, they are welcome anytime.” Helen smiled.
“The car is parked right over here son.” Jim called as they crossed the parking lot.
Jim opened the trunk and then tossed the suitcases inside.
That night Steve stuffed himself on his favorite foods his mother had prepared for him.
They had just tucked the kids into bed, (they were still on eastern time) and had settled into living room when the doorbell rang.
“Now who could that be?” Jim asked as he stood to answer the door. “You said Rudy and Oscar were…’
“They would call first, and besides, they said later in the week.” Steve reminded. “I’ll come with you.”
“No you just sit tight. I’m sure it’s nothing.” Jim headed for the front door. The doorbell had rung two more times.
Steve turned to Cassie “Who ever it is sounds desperate “
“I’ll say.” Cassie agreed.
Jim answered the door. There was a strange woman standing on the porch.
“Yes, May I help you?” Jim asked the elderly woman standing on his porch.
“Is Helen Austin here?” The woman asked.
“Her name is Helen Elgin.” Jim corrected.
“Well I must see her. May I come in?”
“Jim allowed the woman to enter. He led her to the living room where everyone was seated.
“Helen this woman needs to speak with you.” Jim told her.
“Yes. What is it?” Helen wondered.
“Do you have a son? Born Feb. 5 1942?” The woman asked.
“As a matter of fact I do.” Helen turned to her son and smiled.
“I had a son born on the same day.” The woman went on.
“Isn’t that nice.” Helen interrupted.
“You wouldn’t know where you son is would you.” The woman continued.
“As a matter of fact…” Helen pointed to Steve.
“This is wonderful!” The woman cried. “You see when our sons were in the hospital they we switched.” She walked over to Steve. “You’re actually my son…”
“Would you mind repeating that?” Cassie gasped.
“You can’t be serious.” Steve exclaimed. “Mrs. Uh Mrs. Uh?
“Barron. Mrs. Beulah Barron.” The woman responded. “And I’m very serious.” She finished.
“Look Mrs. Barron…” Steve began.
“Please call me Beulah.” She smiled.
“Ok then Beulah. Why come forward now? I mean I’m 35 years old. Why not come forward when I was a baby?”
“I only found out myself that the boy I raised for 35 years wasn’t my son. You see Lance discovered he was ill about 6 months ago. They ran all sorts of tests. The tests proved there was no way I could be his mother.”
“Where is your husband?” Jim sounded sympathetic.
“He passed on four years ago.” Beulah replied.
“I’m very sorry to hear that.” Jim responded. “But what is this you are saying about Steve?”
“Steve?” She turned toward him “Is that your name?”
Steve nodded. Cassie moved closer to him and put her arms around him.
“Who might this be? Your wife?” Beulah seemed to be asking to many questions for Steve’s liking
Cassie started to answer but Steve gave her a gentle nudge that said ‘I don’t trust this woman, don’t say anything to her.’ Cassie continued to sit quietly.
“Is she your wife Steve?” Beulah pushed for an answer.
“She might be.” Steve snapped.
“Oh I see, you don’t believe me well I suppose, if I were in your shoes I would feel the same way. You have a family to think about. Yes?”
“That’s still up for debate.” Steve snarled. “Look why don’t you start from the beginning. Tell us what makes you think I’m your son.”
“As I stated a few moments ago. I went over 34 years believing that Lance was my son. Six months ago we discovered he was ill. They did all sorts of blood tests and everything. They tested me too. To see if I would be able to help they told me there was no way Lace could be my son.” Beulah explained.
“You still haven’t answered my question!” Steve thundered. “What makes you think I’m your son?” Steve demanded.
“You were both born on the same day, at the same hospital. There were four babies born that day. You, my son Lance and the other two were girls.” Beulah continued.
“What makes you certain that this so called switch occurred in the hospital. And if what mom tell me is correct you were in the hospital several days after we were born. Maybe there was another boy born either the day before or the day after…’ Steve tried to reason.
“No I don’t think so. I’m sorry to spring this on you so close to your birthday, but I am your mother.”
“Well I want a little more proof than that.” Steve muttered.
Cassie had remained quiet ever since her initial shock. She wanted to jump up and scream for the woman to leave, but what if she was right?
“Look Mrs. Barron.” Cassie was finally able to speak
“You are Steve’s wife, are you not?” Beulah pressed.
“Well as Steve said. I might be.” Cassie turned to Steve.
“I think you better go for now.” Steve stood to show Beulah the door. “Don’t call us, we’ll call you. Leave your number and I’ll give you a call.”
“Look I’m not going to take you away from your family. You’re way to old for that, I would just like to see you every once in a while. Maybe get to know any grandchildren I might have.”
At this Cassie excused herself and darted upstairs to check on her children.
“Do I have grandchildren?” Beulah smiled.
“We’ll discuss it at another time.” Steve held the door for her. He hated being rude, but he didn’t believe this woman for one second, and his eyes his family was in great danger.
After Beulah left Steve looked at the clock. “It’s to later to call Oscar.” He muttered.
“It’s only ten.” Jim noted.
“It’s one in the morning in DC.” Steve reminded.
“Oh yea, that’s right.” Jim stated
“Steve what are we going to do.” Cassie entered the living room once again after assuring herself that her children were snug in their beds.
“I don’t know Cass. Are the kids ok?” Steve wondered.
“Yea they’re sleeping.” Cassie told him.
That’s good. I was just telling dad, it’s too late to call Oscar…”
“Poo!” Cassie cried. “This is an emergency Colonel!”
“Yea I suppose you’re right Steve sighed as he lifted the receiver to call Oscar. “Look I don’t want the kids alone, I want you and mom to move them all into our room. I’d feel better if we were all together.”
“You don’t trust her do you?” Cassie frowned
“Not for a second. I don’t know what her game is, but I’m sure Oscar and Rudy can help us get to the bottom of it.”
Cassie left with Helen to move the three boys into her and Steve’s room while her husband phoned the Calvary
“Steve?” A sleepy Oscar answered the phone on the other end of the country. “What is it what’s wrong?”
Steve proceeded to tell him the events of their strange evening. “Oscar I don’t trust it at all.”
“I’ll be out there first thing in the morning.” Oscar promised. “I’ll bring Rudy with me. Steve, don’t let her around Cassie and the kids. For all we know she could be an enemy agent.”
“Yea those were my thoughts. Thanks Oscar. I feel safer already. I had Cassie and mom move the kids into our room to sleep I just feel better if we are all together.
“I don’t blame you. We’ll catch the first flight out in the morning. Don’t worry we’ll find a ride to your house.”
“Ok I’ll see you in the morning.” Steve hung up. He did feel safer.
“What are you going to do Steve?” Helen put her hand on his trembling shoulder.
“I don’t know mom. Did you and Cassie get the kids moved?
“Yes. They’re all together in your room.” Helen told him. “Are you sure you’ll be all right. Steve I hate to admit it but I’m scared.”
“Don’t be mom. We’ll be fine. Listen, I’m going to go join Cassie and the kids.” Steve headed up stairs.
Cassie was sitting on the edge of one of the beds when Steve entered. “Steve what are we going to do?” She sounded terrified.
“Oscar said to keep her away from you and the kids. He and Rudy will be on the first flight out of DC.”
“Well that’s a relief.” Cassie stood and moved closer to him. “This was a good idea, but where are you going to sleep I don’t think there is enough room for you in the bed with us?”
“I couldn’t sleep if I tried.” He moved an overstuffed chair in front of the door then sat in it. He kept his eyes trained on the window. “You try and get some sleep.” He told her.
“I’ll try. “What else did Oscar say? You mentioned that he didn’t want her around the kids or myself.”
“He suspects she could be an enemy agent.” Steve whispered as to not wake the kids
“That’s what I was thinking. Steve if that’s the case, she may not be the only one we have to watch out for.”
Steve nodded. “Yea I know. He glanced down at his sleeping innocent children “You know I love you Cass, but it’s at times like these I wish we didn’t have any kids.”
“Don’t say that. Steve They will be fine. Steven and Michael love that training course Oscar started for children of agents.”
Steve laughed. “Yea I know. He calls it the COA. Look why don’t you try and get some sleep. I’ll stand guard.”
“I’ll try, but I don’t think it will do much good.” She snuggled down next to Charlie and was soon snoring like the rest of the kids.
He had only sat for a few minutes when a faint rap came to the door. “Steve?” Jim called.
Steve stood and opened the door. “Here I thought you might need this.” He handed him a shotgun and several rounds of ammunition. “I never keep it loaded. In fact it’s never been fired.”
“Thanks dad.” Steve laid the gun across his lap. “I hope I won’t need it.”
“Well just in case. I have one in my room too. Want me to stay in here?”
“No dad. You go get some sleep. I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure? Steve why don’t I call the police.”
“That won’t be necessary.” Steve smiled. “I think I can handle just about anything.”
“I realize that.” Jim reminded. “But you need your sleep too.”
“Oscar and Rudy will be here first thing in the morning. Maybe I’ll catch a little shut eye then.”
“Well if you insist.” Jim started out of the room.
“I do. I’ll see you in the morning.”
In DC Oscar woke a sleepy Rudy. “What is it Oscar?” Rudy spoke into the phone.
“I just heard from Steve. We need to get out to Ojai. There’s trouble.”
“What is it?” Rudy wondered.
Oscar related what Steve had told him and his own fears on the topic.
“I’ll meet you at my office in ten minutes.” Rudy almost yelled.
After leaving the Elgin ranch ‘Beulah’ drove around for several moments before she came to a small house she and her partners had rented in the down town area.
She stepped out of the car. Two men stood on the porch waiting for her. She removed her wig and let her red hair fall across her shoulders.
“Calina” One of the men called. “How did it go?”
“It is a little slow Adrik. “ She stated her voice had a strong Russian accent.
“What do you mean slow?” Adrik wondered.
“He doesn’t believe me.” Calina sighed.
“What are we going to do?” Adrik snorted.
“Don’t worry Adrik ” She spoke softly to him. “I already know Cassie is his wife and they have three children. I’m sure we can use them if we have to.”
“Very good.” The second man laughed…
“I tell you Rudy. I don’t like it not one bit.” Oscar said when they were driving to the airport.
“What time did you tell Steve we would be there?” Rudy said as Russ pulled up to the curb.
“I told him we would be on the first flight out.” Oscar turned to Russ. “Stay by the office. Russ I may need you.”
“Sure Oscar. Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you.”
“I would Russ, but I have a feeling you will be of more help here I want you to look into all of Steve's cases. Go back three…no make that eight months. Let me know what you find out”
"I'll get right on it." Russ assured.
Oscar jumped out of the car. He and Rudy grabbed their bags and they headed through the doors of Dulles.
“Maybe you should call and tell him we are on our way.” Rudy suggested.
“It’s to early out there. We should get there about the time everyone wakes up.” Oscar noted.
“If I know Steve. He hasn’t slept all night.” Rudy muttered.
“Yea I suppose you’re right. I don’t want to wake up the whole house though.”
“I never thought of that.” Rudy admitted.
It was six in the morning when they reached the ticket counter. Oscar requested two one way tickets to Ojai.”
“No problem but the flight leaves in less then ten minutes though I don’t know if you’ll make it or not. I can put you on the next flight it leaves at ten.” The ticket agent offered.
“No we need to be on this flight.” Oscar identified himself. “Tell the pilot to wait!”
“I will have a good flight.” The ticket agent smiled.
Oscar and Rudy raced through the airport the pilot was waiting for them. “Is everything all right gentlemen?”
“It is now.” Oscar breathed a sigh of relief as he sat next to Rudy. “Let’s just hope we get there on time.”
“We will we’re on our way, just calm down.” Rudy tried to calm him down.
“I won’t calm down till we are in Ojai.” Oscar wouldn’t let himself relax. He grabbed a flight attendant “What time do we arrive in Ojai?”
“It will be about six thirty west coast time. “ She informed him.
“That’s good.” Oscar finally allowed himself to relax just a bit.
“Steve? Steve?” Cassie called from the bed. “Have you been there all night? And where on earth did you get that gun?”
“Yea what time is it?” Steve yawned.
“It’s about five in the morning.” Cassie sighed. “You didn’t answer my question. Where did you get the gun?”
“It’s dad’s. He loaned it to me.” Steve set it down and walked over to his wife. “How did you sleep?”
“Not very well. I had nightmares all night.” Cassie rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “Look I’ll watch the kids for the next couple of hours. Why don’t you go in the kids room and get some sleep.”
“I don’t know Cass.” Steve walked back over to the chair. Again there was a faint rap at the door. “It’s me again Steve.”
Steve opened the door and let Jim enter. “Look I’ve had a good night’s sleep. I’ll watch out for the kids.”
“I hate to leave…”
“Steve! Go get some sleep that’s an order!” Cassie shouted.
“Ok, Ok. I’m out numbered.” Steve smiled. He slipped out the door and walked across the hall to the kid’s room. He collapsed onto one of the twin beds and was soon snoring.
He had been asleep for what he felt only a few moments, but when he looked at the clock it read 7:00. Steve jumped out of bed and raced across the hall to his and Cassie’s room. No one was there. Then he heard voices coming from down stairs. Cassie and the kids sat at the table.
“How are you feeling?” Cassie asked when he joined them.
“I don’t know. Are you and the kids all right?”
Cassie nodded. “Yea we’re fine. Oscar called just a few moments ago. He and Rudy are checking into the hotel. They’ll be here in just a bit.”
“That’s a relief.” Steve pulled her close to him. “Look I’ve been doing some thinking. I want you and the kids to go back to DC. Stay with your mom in Arlington.”
“No way. I’m staying with you.” Cassie commanded
“No further discussion.” Cassie was firm.
“Ok, ok. I don’t like it. Maybe we should send the kids back home. Russ can keep them at the OSI.” Steve suggested.
“No. Steve everything will be just fine. I really don’t want my children scattered to the four winds besides Oscar is here now. I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
“Yea I guess you’re right. I just wish I felt they were safer.”
“Besides Oscar said it would be a good idea if we were to stay together.”
“He said that?” Steve wondered.
“Yes he did. He said if we were to separate they, whoever ‘they’ might be, would stand a better chance of taking one of the children if we weren’t there to protect them.”
“Yea I suppose you’re right.” Steve looked around the table at his three boys. All of them resembled him more so than Cassie.
“What’s going on daddy?” Steven asked.
“Nothing for you to concern yourself with son.” Steve told him.
“Maybe you should tell the kids Steve.” Steve looked up and saw Oscar and Rudy in the doorway.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea Oscar.” Steve reminded
“I do. That way if this woman approaches them, or anyone for that matter, the kids will know she’s up to no good.”
“I guess you’re right.” Steve explained to the older boys what had happened the night before.
“Is she our gamma to?” Michael asked.
“No son she’s not. We don’t know who she is. You kids stay around here. I don’t want you wandering off. You stay in the fence. Understand?” Steve’s voice was firm.
“But dad.” Steven complained. “You promised me I could go fishing at the lake.”
“That was before all of this happened.” Steve warned. “I mean it son. You stay in the yard. I’ll take you fishing when this is all over with.”
Steven crossed his arms across his chest. “I’m old enough to fish by myself.” He grumbled.
“Steven!” Cassie scolded. “You do as your father says, and I mean it!”
“Ok mom. But it’s not fair!” Steven continued to complain.
“I know it’s not son.” Steve put his arm around the boy. “But do it for us. Ok?”
Steven nodded. “Ok dad. Can we go out and play then?”
Steve turned to Oscar who nodded his approval. “Yea son go ahead. Have fun. Just stay in the yard.”
Steven and Michael darted out the door. Cassie kept two year old Charlie close to her.
“So Oscar,” Steve began, “do you have anything for us to go on?”
“Not so far Steve.” Oscar shook his head. “We’re pretty sure it’s some foreign agency out for information of some sort.”
“Information on what?” Cassie demanded as she handed Charlie over to Helen.
“If we knew that one Cassie, we might know who they are.” Oscar sighed as he sat next to them at the kitchen table.
“So what do we do in the mean time?” Steve wondered.
“I’ve got Russ going over every project we have worked on for the past six months. Maybe we will catch a break there.”
“I certainly hope so.” Cassie stated. “When she mentioned her ‘grandchildren’ last night. I was so scared.”
“I understand Cassie. We’re working on it though.” Oscar assured.
“See that you do!” Cassie dismissed herself to once again go check on her children. She looked out in the back yard. Steven and Charlie were playing catch. “They seem fine.” She muttered as she headed into the living room to see how Charlie was getting along.
In the kitchen Oscar turned back to Steve. “This is very serious Steve.”
“No you don’t know. If she’s asking questions about the kids that means she knows you have kids.”
“I kind of figured that.” Steve smiled.
“Steve! Listen!” Oscar was firm. “If she knows you have kids and is asking questions that means she intends to use them. Do you hear me?”
“I get what your saying now Oscar. In other words don’t take my eyes off of them for an instant.”
“That’s right. I’m having a man flown out here as soon as possible to watch over the kids, so you can work with us.”
“I’m all for that.” Steve agreed. “As long as I know Cassie and the kids are safe.”
In the backyard Steven was getting restless. “You stay here.” He told his brother Michael
“Where are you going?” He demanded
“I’m going fishing.” He grabbed his pole out of the barn.
“I’m telling daddy.” Michael threatened.
“You do and you’ll have to eat your dinner through a straw.” Steven made a fist.
“I won’t tell.” Mike shook with fear.
“See that you don’t.” Steven marched off through the woods.