Desmond collapsed onto the sofa in the office of the Agency’s recently
appointed Director for Domestic Affairs. The
news she had just received was a pretty fair indication that this Monday was
going to more than make up for the positively delightful weekend she’d had.
you can’t ask me to do this!” She
surged off the sofa and leaned across Billy Melrose’s desk, meeting his
intense gaze. “I don’t like
children, Billy. Find someone
. . .” Billy drew out her name in warning.
are you even doing this to me?” Francine continued.
“Lee’s the field section chief.
This sounds more like a job for his department than for Internal Affairs.
Why are you sidestepping him on this?”
calm down!” Billy stood and, never losing eye contact, reached for a package
of Tums on his desk and popped three into his mouth.
Francine glared at him, but settled into one of the chairs facing his
better.” Billy smiled tightly and took his seat.
“This does have the potential to concern you beloved people in Internal
Affairs. The Castle in the Air
daycare center looks after the children of seven of our agents, Francine.”
Billy’s voice was measured and intense.
“They also care for the kids of five CIA employees, three Secret
Service agents, and two congressional aides.
If security there has been breached, the possibility for US concerns to
be jeopardized is enormous.”
understand that, Billy. I was on
the team that refurbished their security systems a couple of years ago.
But I’m not a good choice to go undercover there.
You need someone like Amanda to do it.
Come on, Billy, even Lee would do a better job than I can.
I -- don’t – like -- kids.” She
punctuated her final words by pounding her fist lightly on his desk.
I know how you feel, Francine,” Billy sighed.
“But Lee or Amanda or, frankly, any other agent more well suited to
this assignment, would be recognized.”
by whom? Just who do we think has
infiltrated the place?”
by their son, Francine. Lee’s son
is one of the children who attends Castle in the Air.
I’d like this settled before any of the parents involved are even aware
of the problem, especially Lee.”
in general aren’t bad enough?” Francine hissed.
“You’re sending me in with that demon-child of theirs?”
a nice kid, Francine,” Billy offered soothingly.
no! I had dinner at their house one
night and all that kid did was scream. He
didn’t even stop for a breath. And
they just sat there, eating dinner, like it was perfectly normal.
It was eerie, Billy. Eerie,
I tell you.” Francine drew a deep
breath following her outburst. “I
haven’t been back there since.”
really? He’s always pretty well
behaved when they come visit us.” Billy
stared at her quizzically. “You
just have to get in touch with your ‘inner child,’ Francine.”
He smiled at her frustrated, but resigned, expression.
give me a break, Billy. I’ll do
it, but you’re going to owe me a big, big favor, my friend.”
following Wednesday, Lee Stetson shivered slightly as his pager vibrated against
his waist. Recognizing the number
that it displayed, he motioned his administrative assistant out the door and
pushed his daily stack of paperwork to the side of his desk. He reached for the telephone and responded to the page with a
small amount of trepidation.
in the Air Daycare,” a pleasant, but rather harried female voice answered on
the second ring.
is Lee Steadman,” Lee began, “I received a page.
Is there a problem?”
Mr. Steadman, thank goodness!” The voice at the other end of the line exuded
relief. “I tried to contact Mrs.
Steadman. I left her a message, but
she hasn’t responded yet, and, well . . .”
wife is in a very important conference right now,” Lee interrupted her as he
glanced at the clock on the wall. He
smiled to himself as he pictured Amanda drilling raw recruits in the Agency’s
new ‘Creative Weaponry’ class. “What
can I do for you? Is anything
. . .” the woman sighed heavily, drawing out the word.
“Not wrong, exactly. Teddy’s
not hurt,” she added quickly. Lee
relaxed slightly in his chair at her hurried assurance. “It’s just that Teddy is proving to be a bit more of a
discipline challenge today than usual, Mr. Steadman.
Generally when this happens, Mrs. Steadman will come down and have a few
words with him.”
well,” Lee paused, drawing out his words thoughtfully.
He couldn’t remember if Amanda had ever mentioned those visits. “I
guess I could come down and talk to him. He
certainly can be a handful sometimes.”
handful, yes, sir,” she replied diplomatically.
“That’s certainly an apt way to describe Teddy.
important thing to remember, Frances,” Elsa Nance told Francine as they toured
the daycare center, “is that every child here is a potential national security
risk. Their parents are all
government employees; many of them are federal agents.
We even have a few ‘James Bond’ types.”
Francine replied ingenuously.
Elsa continued, “the parents almost all use pseudonyms and we only know the
first names of the children – or in many cases only a nickname.
We have a state of the art security system . . .”
that a fact?” Francine appeared genuinely intrigued.
She began to think that it might be interesting to actually meet the
people using this system she had helped to design.
Other agents had handled training the staff; her involvement had been
strictly behind the scenes. Unfortunately,
this time she was definitely going to have to meet the children here as well,
and that would be far less fascinating.
. . . And here’s where you’ll be working today, Frances,” Elsa said
cheerfully as she directed her to a bright red door.
“The older toddlers are in here . . .”
cacophony that assaulted the two women as the door opened prevented any further
speech. In the near corner of the
large playroom, two small girls struggled over possession of a doll – rather
loudly. At the short, round table
in the center several children attempted to play a variety of wooden and tin
musical instruments. Francine found
their output only slightly less unnerving than that of the red-headed boy to one
side who gleefully stacked three wooden blocks on top of one another and then
dashed them apart with a fourth – repeatedly.
She looked up to the window on the other side of the table to see two
children crying inconsolably.
Francine drew the word out in singsong fashion, “they’re all so sweet.”
She struggled to ensure that her facial expression matched her words.
“Why are all the other aides gathered in that corner?” she added,
pointing to the far side of the room.
rapidly pasted on smile gave Francine a chill.
“That’s just a small discipline problem we have from time to time.”
Elsa waved the situation off and turned to settle the squabble over the
doll. “It’s nothing for you to
worry about just yet,” she tossed over her shoulder.
winced and continued to stare at the line of three women who were squatting
down, facing the corner, evidently pleading with someone between them and the
wall. Intrigued, she approached the
small group. Huddled against the
wall was a tow headed three year-old boy, fiercely clutching a box to his chest.
Periodically he would kick a large cardboard brick toward the line of
women that faced him. The bricks
formed a rough circle separating the two parties.
Francine watched, leaning slightly over the back of one child care worker, the
boy thrust one hand into the box and emerged with a small animal shaped cracker.
He held the cracker in the air and shouted to his adult audience.
“Mine!” With that he
stuffed his treat into his mouth. Upon
closer inspection, Francine noticed the remains of many such crackers spread
across the boy’s face and on the toys and carpet around him.
of the three women reached to take the box from the toddler’s grasp.
He clutched it still more tightly and pursed his lips together.
After inhaling deeply he spewed bits and pieces of moistened crackers at
the adults. “Mine! Mine!” he
shouted around the sticky crumbs falling from his lips.
Teddy . . .” one of the women began.
this is just great!” Francine interjected, wiping a glob of brownish paste
from her cheek. She stared at the
boy before her more closely and decided he definitely had Lee Stetson’s nose.
With a silent vow to insure that Billy Melrose pay dearly for this
assignment, she shook her hand warningly at Teddy.
“Now you see here, young man!” she sputtered.
stared at the new arrival quizzically for a moment and then laughed.
He turned to the right and kicked another of the cardboard bricks between
the line of aides; it impacted with Francine’s left shoe.
narrowed her eyes at Lee’s progeny and quickly kicked the brick back to him.
Teddy giggled and hurled one of his crackers through the air.
The small bear-shaped cracker caught in Francine’s feathered hair,
although its weight was so slight she failed to notice.
She squinted further and loomed over the boy.
trio of child care workers abandoned Francine for the relative safety of a group
of children finger-painting at the other end of the room.
Teddy backed into the corner two short paces and gripped his box of
crackers fiercely with one hand. With
the other he rapidly tossed three more light brown bear-shaped crackers at
Francine. Two lodged in her hair
and the third struck her in the eye. She
swatted absently at her golden locks, but only managed to settle the crackers
more firmly. Teddy kicked another
large building brick. It connected
solidly with Francine’s stomach.
you little . . .” she gasped.
red-haired boy who had been demolishing block towers spotted one of the ursine
crackers on the floor and tossed it in the general direction of Teddy’s
Teddy and Francine shouted in unison, surprised at the interloper.
redhead giggled and scrambled toward them, looking for more crackers.
He toddled toward the corner, alternately eating and throwing crackers,
sometimes at Teddy, sometimes at Francine.
By the time he reached Teddy’s side, several other children had become
aware of the activity at one end of the room.
Before long, paper cups, blocks, stuffed animals, and rubber balls joined
the crackers flying through the air.
three young aides huddled against the wall, aghast.
Elsa Nance turned from settling the argument over the doll and quickly
made her way out the door and toward her office. She had learned very quickly that a well-placed phone call
was the only way to calm down ‘Teddy the Terror,’ as the staff had dubbed
believe me, Mr. Steadman,” Elsa Nance implored as she and Lee made their way
down the hall, “we’re usually able to head these things off a bit sooner.
But we have a couple of new people on staff, and, well . . . they’re
just not used to Teddy’s . . . exuberance.”
Lee queried wryly. He reached for
the doorknob that Ms. Nance indicated and pulled the bright red door open.
the sam hill?” he exclaimed, viewing the chaos in the brightly colored
could see Teddy in one corner, grasping a box of his favorite crackers to his
chest. Another identical box sat on
the floor near his son’s feet – ‘Teddy’s special crackers,’ Amanda
called them, the brand she always took into the daycare center for him to share
with his playmates. Today, however,
Teddy had taken ‘sharing’ to a new height.
The small graham crackers were flying through the air, periodically
striking walls, pint-sized furniture, small children, and one extremely frazzled
blonde woman. Lee did a double take
as his eyes fell upon the blonde; the woman looked remarkably like Francine.
She was hunched behind an upturned table, hurling crackers back at Teddy
and his carrot-topped sidekick.
Steadman, really, it’s not usually like this,” Elsa continued.
Nance,” Lee replied as he turned to regard the teacher, “I live with Teddy;
I know how he can be.” His eyes
drifted toward his son again and he smiled with paternal pride.
“But he sure does have lots of potential. He’s got a great arm, doesn’t he?”
nodded absently and attempted to quiet some of the children closest to her.
rounded the table-cum-shield and stared openly at the blonde woman.
“Francine?” he whispered incredulously.
even talk to me!” she replied with an equally intense whisper. She slouched against the overturned table and ran one hand
over her graham cracker splattered coiffure.
She pulled her hand away in disgust.
“You’ll pay for this, Lee, you and Billy both. We’ll just see what happens the next time your security
review comes up!” She shook her
hand free of the moist cracker paste and turned to peek over the edge of the
table at her adversary.
now knelt calmly on the floor, endeavoring to open the second box of ‘Teddy
Grahams’ – his special crackers. His
tower-building accomplice continued to return fire against the rest of the class
with the broken and discarded pieces of cracker that littered the floor.
shook his head in confusion, both at Francine’s uncharacteristic presence and
her vehemence. He stepped lightly
through the toys, chairs, and crumbs scattered across the floor, vainly trying
to dodge the bits of cracker crumbs, wet and dry, that came his way.
He soon sat on the floor next to Teddy and brushed bits of graham cracker
from his lapels and shoulders.
some help?” he asked the boy.
stuck,” Teddy lisped in reply.
reached to take the box from him.
do it. Me do it!” Teddy chanted
yourself.” Lee shrugged and began to idly stack the cardboard bricks into a
wall four layers high. He glanced
sidelong at his son struggling with the glued down boxtop.
a frustrated sigh, Teddy ceased fighting the box and laid it carefully on the
floor. He looked solemnly at his
father and counted, “One . . .Two . . .Three!”
He jumped on the box, crushing the cardboard and busting open the plastic
bag inside. Bear-shaped graham
crackers shot from around Teddy’s feet.
chuckled at Teddy’s solution and peered over the top of his impromptu
fortification. He could just see
Francine’s forehead descending below the edge of the table.
Scooping up a handful of Teddy’s graham crackers that had landed on the
top of the wall, Lee pursed his lips in thought and shrugged once more.
Taking practiced aim, he flung a cracker right into the center of
raised her head above the table’s edge and glared.
Expecting to find her three-foot tall tormentor, she was shocked to see
Lee targeting her once more. She
turned in a huff and ducked, scanning the floor for ammunition.
Just before her head cleared the table, Lee tagged her twice near the
ear. She arose and quickly pelted
him with the pieces of cracker she had found on the floor around her.
In her surprise and frustration, she hurled the crumbs at him by the
ho, ho!” Lee chortled, raising his eyebrows in challenge.
Daddy!” Teddy cried, standing on top of a lone cardboard brick. The tattered cracker box hung from his right hand.
With his left he reached into the box and pulled out crackers, throwing
them alternately at Francine and the other children.
concentrated his barrage on Francine, pausing to show Teddy and his friend how
to duck behind the wall to avoid being hit.
He rose again and flung a moistened cracker that Teddy had handed him.
The cracker sailed past Francine’s position and hit the brunette who
had just walked through the bright red door.
. . .” Lee sighed with chagrin.
going on in here?” Amanda asked. She
glanced from Lee, already poised for another shot, to Francine, huddled behind
the table, to Elsa Nance, who remained on the other side of the room watching
the battle in mixed amusement and horror. Amanda
shifted the squirming bundle she held in her arms and wiped the pasty substance
from her eyelid. She wanted a clear
line of sight to glare at her crumb-splattered husband.
are you doing here?” Francine demanded.
. . .what’s that?” Lee’s queried even more bluntly. He pointed at the blanket wrapped bundle that Amanda held.
Realizing that his pointing hand still held several ‘Teddy Grahams,’
he dropped them sheepishly as Amanda stared him down.
walked across the toy and cracker strewn room to her husband.
In her wake all activity ceased. She
beckoned Francine to join them.
she said quietly, “is Kari Schmidt.” She
displayed the gurgling baby. “Her
mommy works at the Agency in research and her daddy is in the Secret Service.”
Amanda’s voice descended to a sing-song pattern as she spoke to Lee and
Francine but directed her words at the baby.
“Her daddy was just assigned to protect the President; yes, he was.
And I just came across two very nasty people handing this little darling
off in the parking lot; yes, I did.” Amanda
made faces at Kari as she spoke, causing the baby to laugh and Francine to
grimace. Amanda turned to Lee,
business-like once more. “One of
them is Nellie Markham, who’s been an aide here since just after Teddy started
coming. I’ve got them tied up in
the back parking lot with my jumper cables.
I don’t think that’s gonna hold ‘em for long though.”
take care of them,” Francine replied wearily.
“That is supposed
to be why I’m here.” She
tossed her head in an attempt to restore her sense of dignity. As she turned, Teddy peeked around the corner from the edge
of the cardboard wall and threw one more cracker, striking Francine squarely on
Amanda gasped, shaking her head in disappointment.
chuckled and winked at his son. “Amanda,
you should’ve seen him,” he stated proudly.
“It was a brilliant strategy . . .”
I’m sure it was,” she responded, giving both her husband and her son an
indulgent smile. “But it was very
bad behavior,” she continued more sternly, taking in the damage they had done.
Teddy,” Lee said, scooping the boy up in his arms, “I guess next time
we’re in the mood for a food fight, we’ll have to have it in our own
kitchen, huh? Ya know, if we dunk these graham crackers in milk, I’ll bet
they’d get even mushier. We’ll
have to stop and buy some extra milk on the way home.”
Teddy agreed forcefully.
eyes widened. Francine met her gaze
questioningly. “Never happen,”
Amanda whispered, her voice barely audible.
She shook her head slightly to emphasize her point. “No way, never happen.”
grinned at Amanda’s reaction as he held Teddy more tightly. He glanced from Amanda to Francine, and then gave the boy in
his arms a sly wink.
*Teddy Grahams are a registered trademark of the Nabisco Company.
And, I might add, they are quite yummy.
They do, however, taste much better straight from the box, rather than the floor
E-Mail the "The Teddy Chronicles" Web Page at: TeddyStetsonsMom@angelfire.com
"Teddy" stories by: Dix.
Screen Captures by: SpencertheCat
Copyright © 2001 by The Teddy Chronicles. All rights reserved.