Chapter 1

Marilyn Tipton had always been a stunner. Her husband smiled as he tucked the newspaper under his arm and leaned against the door jam. Sam Tipton enjoyed watching his wife zoom around the brightly lit, colonial-style kitchen. Even with rollers in her hair and fat, fuzzy frog slippers scurrying around beneath her ragged housecoat, he loved studying her every detail. She was a tall, long legged, well-built stunner with flowing auburn hair. And he loved her. Madly!

He grimaced as he very quietly laid the paper on the counter. The headline loudly proclaimed that Ronald Reagan was backing George Bush for President. The Eighties was not going to be a stellar decade Sam Tipton decided. He turned his thoughts to more pleasant matters.

He sneaked up and flicked his arm around his wife's middle. His aim was unerring. A hand flashed inside the robe and her reaction was immediate.

"Well, Mr. Tipton, we're feeling a little frisky this morning aren't we?" She spun around and drew him close.

"What's amatter, cowboy? Didn't get enough last night?" Her voice was a husky, overly-theatrical growl.

"Ain't no such thing as e-nuff, ma'am," Sam Tipton replied in a deep, equally theatrical drawl. As he smothered her lips with his own, she responded by worming even closer.

Without warning, a flying object hurled itself against Sam. It attached itself permanently by tightly wrapping its tentacles around his leg.

"Oh, daddy," a tiny voice squealed, "You and mom are so silly!"

Scooping the straw-haired bundle off the floor, Tipton wrapped his arms around both his women. Everyone in the tight little huddle giggled. Each for their own reasons.

"Well, Mr. Tipton, are you ready for breakfast?" As she returned to the duties of mother and wife, Marilyn Tipton's smile took on an impish quality that drove Sam crazy.

Three-year-old Melissa Tipton, however, burrowed even deeper, widening the opening to Sam's heart which her mother had started. Tipton's reaction was immediate.

"Mommy, mommy, daddy's biting me again!" The squealing went on unending as Sam Tipton turned her end for end, finding every bit of exposed skin with his teeth.

"Sam, stop that!" Marilyn laughed "We can't send her to day-school covered with hickeys!"

Reluctantly, Sam Tipton deposited his precious bundle on the floor. She scurried around the natural oak table and up onto her chair. As she did, a red ball of fur skittered across the polished tile floor to become a Pomeranian puppy when it slowed down to leap up into her lap.

"Melissa, what did I tell you about letting Foxy at the table?" Mom's voice was supposed to be stern but her tone lacked conviction.

As Marilyn Tipton turned, her daughter sneaked the puppy a piece of toast then put a warning finger to her lips. It was a secret between puppy and mistress. Neither would tell. Her back to them, Melissa's mother smiled. Mothers always know.

Sam Tipton swung his leg over the back of the chair opposite his daughter and dropped down at the table. He stuffed his tie into his light blue, pin-striped shirt, second button down and muttered quietly, "I don't know what idiot invented these damn things or why!"

Working at the stove, Marilyn Tipton didn't bother to answer. Sam knew what she was thinking. She had told him she wouldn't say a word until he stopped bitching each time he put on a tie. Then she'd begin worrying. Then they'd both know it was time to change jobs and escape the east coast before the Washington, DC. suburbs ground them down any further.

"Tough one today, honey?" she asked.

Sam replied, "Yeah, I have to go up on The Hill and try to explain techno-thievery to some politicians who probably don't give a damn. I'm doing it as a favor to the Bureau. Man, I hate that intelligence stuff. I'm no damn spook. I'm an engineer!"

Marilyn Tipton again didn't respond. Sam hated his job and she knew it. Everyone knew it. He loved having the latest in computers and machine shops at his finger tips but he hated all the political trash surrounding the work.

Mostly he hated not being back home in Arizona. Being forced to flee DC each night for the Virginia suburbs was not his idea of living.

"Oh, hey, I almost forgot. How do these look?" As Marilyn spoke, she held up a pair of freshly shined cowboy boots. The brown leather had a deep, lustrous glow.

"They look great, Babe! Thanks." Sam Tipton approved. "Keep them out and I'll wear them this weekend. All right!"

He stood and straightened his tie in the hall mirror. He tried to brush his brown hair out of his eyes, but it returned the second he dropped his hand. Sam Tipton had never been described as tidy. Or well kept. In fact, the face in the mirror looked out of place perched above the shirt and tie. Green-brown eyes were buried in a bone and muscle sculpture. There was no extraneous tissue and his leather-brown skin had seen too much wind and sun. Wrinkles at the corners of his eyes doubled as crows feet and laugh lines. They came from too much squinting and a life time of laughing. He stood an even six feet, but his body language added at least two more inches. He frowned at his reflection. Even to him it was the face of a westerner and sadly out of place. He gave up on the tie.

* * *

Marilyn Tipton padded down the driveway, housecoat, frog feet and all. She stretched to kiss her husband through the open window of his sparkling new 1985 Blazer, knowing full well half of their picket-fence neighborhood was watching. She gloried in their jealousy.

"Think you'll make it home for supper tonight?" She knew when he went into town, she stood at least a fifty-fifty chance of eating alone with Melissa.

"I doubt it. The way Daniel Guy sounded when he set this meeting up, it may run over to tomorrow morning. I'll call later and let you know, if I'm staying in town." Another part of the job he hated.

Sam Tipton kissed his wife hard on the mouth and shifted mental gears to do battle with beltway traffic.