Summary:A Lee & Amanda adventure told mostly through flashback.
Time Frame: Alternate Reality (does not fit with series) around the early third season where Lee and Amanda have not admitted their feelings but are close. Fits after 'An Affair to Remember' where Amanda might be given the chance to go on a small assignment alone.
Disclaimer:These characters and all references having to do with 'Scarecrow & Mrs. King' are the property of Shoot the Moon Productions and Warner Bros. The intent with my story is just entertainment, not money in any way shape or form.
Author's Notes:Thanks very much to my beta readers: Shelly and Snups!!!
Amanda sat in the white iron chair enjoying the friendly afternoon breeze. She felt independent and a little daring. Still, the chair next to her felt particularly empty. This was a casual meeting, routine. She simply had to gather some basic information. The only catch was that she would be doing it alone, without Lee.
Amanda did not notice the silver sports car circling the block. She did not even see it park across the street from the café.
Amanda cleared her throat and lifted her water glass. The droplets of condensing water rushed down the glass and onto the manila file lying in front of her. She put the drink down quickly, muttering to herself as she tried to dry the water spots with her linen napkin.
"Oh my gosh…" Amanda's notepad, precariously perched on Amanda's knee slid to the tiled ground. She reached down to grab it and almost bumped heads with the gentleman already bent to retrieve it for her. "OH! Excuse me!"
The attractive man smiled with the notebook extended, "No problem at all Miss..?"
"King. Amanda King." Amanda recognized him instantly from the photos the Agency gave her to study, but she did not quite expect the full voltage smile. It was contagious and as she reached out to take the notebook from his hand, she couldn't help but stare for a moment just returning the smile.
"Miss. King?" His eyebrows rose, "Well, but then you must be my lunch date!" He stood up straight, "Justin Bowers, at your service."
"Well, yes, yes I am, but its Mrs. And yes, nice to meet you." She stood up to shake his hand and was subjected to an unabashed review head to toe. She quickly took her seat again, and gestured for him to take the seat across from her.
He ignored her gesture and took the seat next to her, snapping the folded napkin open and dropping it to his lap. "Married?"
"Uh, no, divorced, but Mr. Bowers" Amanda frowned trying to gain control of the situation.
"Ah, that is unfortunate, but these things do happen."
"Yes, well, Mr. Bowers, I- "
"Yes Amanda? May I call you Amanda?"
"Yes, of course, but Mr. Bowers- as I told your secretary on the phone I work for International Federal Film and-- "
"Well I simply cannot call you Amanda if you keep calling me 'Mr. Bowers,' please call me Justin." He deftly signaled for a waiter.
"Ok, Justin then. We are doing a documentary on D.C. politics and the road to office for people like you and we were hoping that you would be willing to answer some questions-" Amanda took up her pen and crossed her legs.
"Yes, yes, Amanda, but not here," He grinned, "I only discuss politics over dinner. What if I picked you up at around-"
"Mr. Bow- Justin, please, STOP." Flustered, Amanda spread out her hands in front of her. In the sudden silence she met Justin's bright blue eyes. For a split second it felt as if she were being drawn into them. They were not appealing, they were consuming. A dark flicker of anger sparked across them.
"Yes, sir, what can I do for you?" The summoned waiter was suddenly at their elbows. The distraction broke the spell.
Justin ordered for himself and turned to Amanda, "May I order for you?"
Amanda shook her head, "No, thank you," Then to the waiter, "Can I please have your soup of the day?"
The waiter turned and they were alone again. Justin sat silently watching Amanda.
Amanda took a deep breath and ignored the scrutiny, "Mr. Bowers, I understand your family is very involved in your career, how do you think…"
The Interview… (Six Weeks Later)
The whirling hum of the tape recorder was amplified in the silent briefing room. Amanda was caught by the small sound, seemingly hypnotized by the spinning tape pins. Her eyes were fixed on the recording machine, yet unfocused. Deep, dark circles had taken shape under her big, brown eyes. Her lips were half parted, a barest hint of a smile curving the corners of her mouth.
Amanda stopped in mid-sentence by the thought she was replaying in her mind. The wide bruise on the left side of her face was turning purple. A small slit on her lip was visible, but she only noticed it when she made an unexpected movement that stretched the skin too tight. Otherwise she seemed oddly at peace.
The man sitting across the table sighed. He took a quick, furtive glance towards the large mirror that took up nearly the entire wall beside them, lifting his eyebrows as if in question. Suddenly abashed, the man saw that Amanda had noticed his movement and was now staring straight into the mirror, not at her reflection, but at what, or who, might be sitting behind it. The man's eyebrows rose even higher and he moved his head to catch her eye. "Mrs. King?"
She seemed to hesitate, then shifted her eyes from the mirror and met the man's eyes squarely.
"I'm sorry, can you repeat the question?"
Behind the Mirror…
Lee was seated in the third row behind the two- way mirror in the debriefing room. He was determined to watch the interview with extreme calm, lest his peers notice anything strange about his behavior. He had cheated slightly, he acknowledged to himself, by choosing the seat closest to the door and farthest from the muted overhead lights. He was watching Amanda, listening intently, but betraying no reaction. Lee also had dark circles under his eyes, but he too looked oddly at peace.
Billy was standing against the wall, still fuming at the interviewer's arrogant behavior- looking in the mirror. Billy instantly barked his disapproval into the interviewers hidden earpiece. Billy knew that Amanda could not see any of the agents watching her through the glass, but it was a mistake to inhibit a subject by reminding them that they had a live audience. He glanced briefly at Lee and was shaken to see that Amanda seemed to look right through the mirror and lock eyes with the one man in the room she knew besides himself- Lee.
Lee did not notice Billy's warning glance. He was answering the interview questions privately in his own mind along with Amanda, and now he remembered how this whole thing started…
Eight Days Earlier…
It was a terribly humid summer in D.C, but it was decidedly cooler in Arlington where houses with trees and yards seemed better equipped to dissipate the heat than monuments made of marble and cement. At least that is what Lee told himself as he stretched out on Amanda's couch, arms crossed under his head, waiting for Amanda to come home from shopping. That was a guess as to where she was, but he was pretty confident with his guesses when it came to Amanda. Of course, he would never be so bold as to simply hang out here at her house if there were a chance her family was around.
It was summer vacation for Philip & Jamie. Joe had taken them on their first vacation together, camping somewhere or other across the country. When Amanda had told Lee about Joe's plans for the boys, he immediately thought how he would have made the trip more fun.
"I would have taken them river rafting or something exciting like that." He thought, although he kept his opinions to himself. "Why do I care?" Lee wondered, but quickly brushed that thought away.
Knowing Amanda would not need her help managing the boys, Dotty was in Mexico, taking the opportunity to go on a vacation of her own. . Coincidentally, Lee overheard that conversation. He had been outside the kitchen window listening as Amanda said, "It'll be good for me to have some time to myself."
Lee smiled to himself again. Amanda had not convinced anyone that she would not be lonely. She lived to be with people. Lee decided to make it his mission to keep her mind off her empty nest. It was time for a little role reversal. She had been a family substitute for him on several occasions, and he truly did not want her to feel the kind of loneliness that she had so often rescued him from.
Just then he heard her car pull up. A characteristically overburdened Amanda swept into the house. With arms full of groceries and a stack of video- cassettes, Amanda hurried into the kitchen. Dropping the groceries on the counter, she reached out just in time to save an onion that had come loose from the bag and was in the process of rolling off of the counter. Without looking, she threw the bag of videos onto the couch and froze when the couch complained!
She turned and peeked over the couch suspiciously. Lee looked back at her with a twinkle in his eye and a smug smile as he held up the bag of videos. He waited, daring her to reprimand him like he knew she would.
"Lee!" She looked down at him with an exasperated expression, hands on her hips, eyes meeting his. And for that second, there was one of those infinite pauses where everything stops but that little magical twinkle of chemistry between two people. It ended as most infinite pauses do, with slight discomfort at having been caught in the moment.
Seeking to fill the silence, they spoke simultaneously.
"What are you doi-" Amanda came around the couch as Lee sat up on it.
"I didn't mean to startle yo-"
They both stopped, and started again.
"Oh yes you DID mean to – how else do you expect-"
"I needed to tell you and I wanted to catch you before-"
They both stopped again and Lee shook his head and reached for Amanda's hands to pull her down to sit beside him.
"I wanted to catch you before you made dinner. I am going to have to postpone our dinner tonight. There is a kidnapping assignment Billy asked me to consult on, and I just haven't been able to get out of it. "
Amanda, who had been covering his hands with hers, quickly removed them from Lee's grasp. Amanda tried to mask the look of hurt that flashed across her face. She wasn't quick enough. Lee had seen it. He reached out and took her hands again.
"I really didn't want to miss this, honestly. I have to leave in a few hours… I'm sorry." Not knowing how to make her understand, he hoped the look in his eyes conveyed his sincerity. It was just so hard sometimes; so easy to miss-communicate.
"I know, it's really ok, I understand." Amanda said as she extracted her hands and patted his gently. She nodded into his eyes as she rose to her feet.
"I have to put away the groceries."
Lee stared at his empty hands with a resigned sigh. "Amanda-"
"Is it in town?" She asked, retreating to the kitchen to unpack the perishables.
Lee understood that she had forced them back to neutral turf- safe ground. He did not persist. "No. Canada of all places…" he began telling her all about the kidnapping- what he knew so far, Billy's theories, and the beginnings of his own. While he was speaking, he watched her nimbly make her way around the kitchen.
By the time Lee forced himself to leave they were again on easy, but safe terms, sipping from cool glasses of punch Amanda had mixed together while they were talking. Taking his leave he gave her a shy kiss on the cheek., When she lowered her head in sweet reaction, he kissed her forehead affectionately. He turned quickly and ran out the back door, leaving her blushing and preparing her dinner for one. Lee had delayed his leaving as long as possible and would now barely make his plane.
From behind the mirror Lee listened to a censored version of that evening- not even a mention of himself. Lee's understanding that this secrecy was a necessity did not prevent his annoyance with it.
"I had the window open because it was so hot, and I must- I might have left the back door unlocked as well." Amanda was now getting to the hard part. She had been told to let the Interviewer lead the debriefing, to answer direct questions, and not get off track. So she waited expectantly for the next question.
"What is the next thing you remember?" The interviewer was studying his notes while she spoke. He knew that it was best for both parties to be cold and detached when asking a subject to dredge up a traumatic experience.
Amanda's forehead creased in concentration, the scene was racing into her mind and she was struggling to grab hold of only the facts, trying to leave out the choking fear. Without realizing it, she had closed her eyes both to slow the images and to try to maintain control over them.
After Lee had left that evening, Amanda spent most of the night cleaning the boys' room- which were off limits when they were there. She was trying not to miss them, her mother and… Lee. She had fallen asleep on the couch watching Casablanca. As the credits rolled across the screen, Amanda had pulled herself up to her bedroom, turning off lights as she went.
"I was already asleep when I heard a noise from downstairs. I didn't- didn't know what it was…" She did not say that she had thought it might have been Lee. She had been startled, but not alarmed.
"I rolled out of bed and opened my bedroom door. The lights were so bright, I had to blink several times in order for my eyes to adjust. That's when I knew that something was wrong. I had not left all the lights on. I walked to the railing and looked over. Near the bottom of the stairs three men were standing there, waiting for me." Amanda took a deep breath and looked into the one-way window again. She gathered her strength to continue from the support that lay just on the other side of the glass.
"I didn't recognize Mr. Bowers at first, I didn't expect him of course, and the other two men, I didn't know." She paused and wondered how to express to the interviewer- to the whirling tape - how she had met his eyes and had recoiled at their emptiness. There was something there, in his smile that had scared her beyond thought.
"I turned on my heels and ran back to my bedroom, but someone was already there. That man must have come through the window. He caught me." Actually she had run straight into his arms in the darkness of her bedroom. She did not disclose that her mind had instantly screamed for Lee as the large man shoved her back into the light of the hallway.
"What happened next Mrs. King?" The interviewer sensed that she was about to retreat again into the memory and wanted to prompt her to remain in the present.
"The phone started ringing." Amanda had not meant to say that, it was a detail she had forgotten. "I remember wondering who would be calling – it was very, very late. No one else seemed to hear it," She shook her head, "Bowers just laughed and sort of beckoned me to come downstairs, saying that we didn't have all night. That I would be happier- it would be easier on me… to cooperate. There was a man behind me you see," She looked beseechingly first to the mirror and then to the man across the table, "Either way I went I couldn't get out. I was so tired…" She swallowed the guilt and lowered her eyes. "I asked him what he wanted, but he just said he already had it- uh- what he wanted."
She clasped her hands in front of her on the table. "I asked a lot of questions."
At that comment, Lee and Billy made eye contact and a quick smile passed between them. They knew, all to well, how many questions Mrs. King must have showered on her assailant.
"But he just kept smiling as he had the man behind me take me to the living room. He told me that I had to write a letter to explain things."
At this point the interviewer brought his briefcase to the table, fiddled with the lock, and reached inside. He pulled out a piece of paper enclosed in plastic. He put it in front of Amanda, "Is this the letter you wrote?"
Amanda looked at the letter for the first time since she had written it. She remembered how the gold ink pen had felt very heavy, and the paper very coarse. Looking closely, she noticed some of the ink had been smeared and she wondered briefly if those who had read it and studied it could tell that the smudges had been caused by her own tears… she wondered if there were ways to test things like that. She pushed the letter back towards the man, "Yes."
"So it is not a forgery."
"Not in the strictest sense, no." She took a calming breath and said, "He told me what to write essentially, to be sure that I would not be able to use any codes. Of course I don't know any codes, so" She looked up and shrugged sadly, a proud half smile forming, "He didn't look for the right kind of code."
Lee indulged himself in a small conspiratorial smile at her pride. She had done her best. He had not admitted to her how long it had taken for him to find the message she left for his eyes only.
Airport, three days after kidnap…
Lee had tried to call Amanda twice during his trip. The first night, when he finally made it back to his hotel room he had dialed the long international number to Arlington without thinking. He was exhausted from hours spent with a violently distraught family and a negotiator at the end of his rope. In his mind he just wanted to check in with Amanda, let her know he was thinking of her. The phone did not answer and when Lee glanced at his watch, he hung up quickly, not realizing the extreme hour.
The second call he had tried to fit in right before the ransom drop was scheduled. This time he was almost relieved she did not answer, he had enough time for a quick hello, nothing more, and he did not want to worry about having to break the line off in time.
When he reached Customs, Lee tried one more time. He knew there would be a long wait in the airport and he had missed her the last three days. He was hoping that they would be able to pick up where they had left off. And this time, with such an extended time without her family, maybe they could gain some ground- at least come to an understanding of what was happening between them.
When she didn't answer, the answering machine picked up. Lee looked at the receiver accusingly, as if it were the machine's fault Amanda would not answer. Lee hung up the receiver but did not let go of it for a minute, staring into nothing.
He started coming up with possibilities of where she was. Two hours later, his theories had ranged from Amanda stuck in the supermarket check out line without her purse, to Amanda having an affair with Dr. Smythe. She still hadn't answered the phone and Lee started to get anxious… he wondered fleetingly if he knew how to reach Dr. Smythe?. He laughed at himself and ran his fingers through his hair just as he heard his flight information announced over the loud speaker. With one last look at the phone, Lee threw his bag over his shoulder and headed for the plane, knowing his first stop, after the required Agency report, would be in Arlington.
The letter was the next thing Lee remembered from those odd terrible days. Billy had been listening to Lee's statement and at the end of it, had paused. It was the pause that had alerted Lee that something was wrong. Lee waited.
"Have you heard from Amanda?" Billy asked, sifting through some mail on his desk. He picked up an envelope.
Lee looked at him, "No, why?"
Billy watched Lee carefully as he tried to keep his tone neutral, tapping the envelope on his desk absently.
"She's left the Agency. She's been reported to be on holiday- staying with Justin Bowers."
"What?!" He half rose from his chair and looked away. His face was screwed up in complete confusion. With effort, Lee sat back down and looked back to his friend.
"Billy, what do you mean 'reported to be'?"
"Well, we haven't heard from her besides this…" he tapped the envelope, "just for security purposes, we checked up on her of course."
Billy had looked as if he might say something else, then thought better of it. He simply laid the envelope in front of Lee and walked out. Lee looked at the envelope with Billy's name written on it with Amanda's hand, then looked nervously around the offices. It was late and the bull pen was pretty much deserted. He opened the envelope and unfolded the cream colored paper.
The Letter, as he would come to refer to it, was from Amanda. In effect it was a resignation from IFF… and a goodbye to Lee. It was curt and businesslike to the point of indifference. Lee dropped the letter as if it had burst into flames. Everything seemed to be spinning and for a moment, he thought he might be sick. Lee sat still, staring at the letter until the world began to steady. He did not remember how he got home that night.
He had tried to think, tried to accept the printed word as simple fact. The facts DID seem simple, though they did NOT add up to The Letter.
After a full night of not being able to make any sense of The Letter and no further news about Amanda, Lee's confusion had started turning into desperation. He knew, with the same confidence that he KNEW his own name that Amanda would not throw him out of her life with such complete disregard of their friendship. The Letter, of course, had pointed to their relationship as the motivation for cutting off all contact, but Lee did not hear Amanda's voice in the letter. The silence, the complete absence of Amanda was deafening.
Without Billy's knowledge Lee started his own investigation. He had the letter examined to confirm that it was Amanda's handwriting and for any sort of trace evidence. He had ordered a background check on Justin Bowers, on his finances, family, and political connections. Finally, he forced himself to go to where he believed had been the scene of the crime.
Lee parked on the familiar Maplewood Drive, but did not get out of the car. Amanda's car was in the driveway. There were no lights on in the house that he could see. Lee felt uncomfortable; the house seemed abandoned in the evening twilight. He made his way to the back door with more than his usual stealth, and peered through the window. There was no sign of life, no sign of Amanda. He tested the doorknob only to find that it was unlocked.
He walked into the house, greeted with the slight smell of stale air. He glanced at the answering machine and saw its little red light blinking violently. Lee pushed the proper button to retrieve the messages and sat down on the couch, listening carefully with his head in his hands. There were several messages from Dotty, apologizing again for leaving her daughter alone, but followed by a litany of the wonderful, exotic discoveries she'd made. A gold pen cap lying just under the coffee table caught Lee's eye and he picked it up, turning it around in his hands as he concentrated. Philip's voice was next, saying that he missed her but they were having fun, ten seconds later Jaime's voice interrupted, complaining he would fill up all the space at which point the machine had cut them off. Another message: from Jaime, still arguing with Philip, and finally Joe, saying quickly that they were fine and he loved her. At these last words, Lee grimaced and hurled the pen cap across the room, hitting the wall with an unsatisfying clunk. The answering machine was still reciting its contents. A blank message followed by another. Finally, the shrill voice of a dentist office receptionist calling to confirm an appointment for the day before rambled through the room. There was a sharp click- the tape had run out of space. Lee stood up and extracted the tape from the machine, putting it in his jacket pocket.
Feeling his instincts prickle Lee walked cat- like throughout the house. Room to room…the house that had held such warmth and energy was an empty shell- disconcert and lonely. When he got to Amanda's bedroom he sat down heavily on the unmade bed, absently touching the pillow, as if Amanda still lay there.
Lee stayed through the night at the house, going through every room in hope for a clue, some proof of his conviction that Amanda did not leave him willingly.
He was disoriented when he awoke at dawn in Amanda's bed. He moved the pillow as he sat up and felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. There was a deep blue speck on the white sheet. Lee picked up the pillow and moved it aside carefully. The speck was the tiniest edge of a large splotch slowly leaking out of an uncapped gold ink pen.
The pen had given him new life; the night sleeping in Amanda's bed made him feel like she wasn't far from him- he was ready to find her.
Billy was not difficult to convince, the whole situation had not smelled right from the beginning. But he did not have enough personal knowledge of Amanda's social life outside of the Agency to draw any conclusions. He did not ask Lee how HE was so aware of the idiosyncrasies of Amanda's personal dating habits. They ran the pen through the lab boys first- verifying the ink was the same used for The Letter.
Working together they went over the facts again. Lee was sure that Amanda would also have put something in the letter for him to find. Billy pointed out that Amanda had resigned her position from IFF, not from the Agency. He had originally presumed she was trying her hand at being discreet.
Encouraged, they resorted to reading The Letter aloud, deciding to concentrate on the part directed at Lee, knowing Amanda would have assumed Lee would read it most carefully. Suddenly, there it was… "Don't bother trying to get a hold of us, I don't even know his phone number." Lee clapped his hands, a small but wonderful message from his Amanda!
"Billy! Remember a few years back- the Dodger? He used Amanda to get information about the Agency? She didn't have his phone number and I told her 'only married guys and weirdos don't give out their phone numbers.'"
"Well, it became kind of a running gag with us and uh—look that's her clue."
Billy shrugged at him, "So it's a note, but I don't get its significance."
"Well, it might not have any direct significance, but then again," Lee picked up the file they had on Bowers, skimming the facts quickly. A mischievous smile spread across his face, "He's not married, so just maybe…"
The interviewer pulled a large manila envelope out of his brief case, emptied the contents on the barren brown table and indicated for Amanda to look through the pictures. He watched her face carefully. They were surveillance photos taken of her with Justin Bowers, vacationing on his private yacht.
Amanda picked up the photos, almost as if they caused her pain. It was surreal. They did look perfectly normal, though one of her hands was always out of view and she was not smiling in any of the snapshots. She did not point these things out, but waited patiently for the next question.
"Mrs. King, can you tell me about your experiences on the yacht?"
Amanda sat up straight and nodded, "Justin kept me in one of the cabins on the yacht. There were books, and clothes, a personal bathroom with toiletries. Each day a deck hand would bring me my meals. Every night there would be something in the food or drink to make me sleep. The rule was that if Justin himself came that meant we were to go outside. He would pick out an outfit from the closet and give me five minutes to change. That was the only time I was allowed outside the cabin. I never knew what time of day he would come. But I knew that I would not be let out of the cabin unless accompanied by Justin himself. The other men did not speak to me at all."
She was still holding one of the photos. It was one of her leaning over the railing of the boat, staring at the coastline, away from the camera. One of her arms was twisted oddly and it looked like she was wearing a large bracelet. Just the top of Justin's head was visible as he sat reading a newspaper behind her.
"The worst part was the loneliness." To suddenly vanish off the face of the earth was unnerving. She knew that if Lee did not search her house, he would not find the pen. No one would be looking for her for weeks: until her mother and children came home to find their mother missing. Lee would find out the truth eventually. She hoped he would understand that the letter had been dictated… he might find her- but would she be alive? Would she still be herself? The few days of isolation and fear had tested her will, and she was not sure how much longer she would be able to recuperate without the experience changing her forever. But she did not put these thoughts into words.
She pointed to the picture, "They had a pair of handcuffs attached one of the deck chairs. Every time I came out onto the deck they would handcuff my wrist to the chair. It seems very silly now. I think they just wanted to remind me I was not free. The chair wasn't THAT heavy, but I would not have been able to swim with it attached to me. I might have tried…anything… If I had been left alone for a moment…"
The interviewer did not ask her to complete her thought. Such confinement was bound to bring out the desperate side of a person.
"At what point did you realize why you had been abducted?"
"Um- At first I assumed it had to do with the Agency, I mean, that's how I first met Justin. I was just supposed to talk to him as IFF, to get some filler for the Agency's file on him… he was planning on running for office, and it wasn't supposed to be dangerous. He was charming, but I thought that was you know, just because of politics. I ran into him randomly several times in the following weeks, but I didn't realize he had been following me…"
She cleared her throat self- consciously, "On the yacht, you have to understand, he made no attempts at…. I mean- during the time of day when he would let me out of the cabin he would talk a lot, and play music, sometimes he would even read to me. It was all very informal, except for the handcuffs and I got used to those; it was almost as if he believed that we really were a couple on holiday together. There would always be candles at dinner…"
She really didn't know how to explain it, "He started asking me a lot of questions about Lee, and I thought maybe that's why he had taken me, to set a trap for L- Mr. Stetson. But he still hadn't mentioned the Agency so I started to think I was wrong." She took a glance at the mirror and started again.
"When he started talking about how we would work out custody of my sons with my ex-husband, I realized that he was quite plainly mad. I realized then that he had no plan for releasing me. He wasn't waiting for a ransom or anything else. He was simply living. And he simply made it so that I would live with him.
"The madness did terrible, odd things to his eyes. I couldn't make sense of him and sometimes- I wasn't sure anymore sometimes and…"
She lowered her head again, speaking almost in a whisper. "He was the only one to talk to you see, it was terrible… and he would be so pleased when I talked with him… I just-" She broke off.
"It was hard to keep hoping I would be rescued."
The man nodded absently, but with understanding, making a note.
"Mrs. King, at any point did you witness any violence during your stay?"
"I really didn't go out of my cabin unless he wanted me out of the cabin. There was one guy who, um- dragged me to my knees on the floor once when I didn't want to come out of the cabin. That was the first morning and Justin was right behind him and hit the guy. He made the man apologize to me and I never saw him again." She shrugged.
"It was kind of like everyone was on their best behavior when I was outside. When I was in my cabin things on the boat seemed a lot louder."
The interviewer took out three snapshots from his briefcase and set them before her, "Mrs. King, have you ever seen these men before?"
Amanda looked carefully and pointed to a thin blond man in his early twenties. "This is the guy who hurt me that first morning."
The man nodded in acknowledgement and gestured for her to take a closer look at the other two. Amanda pursed her lips and shook her head, "No, I don't know the others."
The man leaned closer to the small microphone on the tape recorder and noted "Mrs. King has identified the deceased John Bendi, #318GX."
He gave Amanda a small nod of encouragement and asked, "At what point, Mrs. King, did he turn violent toward you?"
Her hand automatically went to cover the bruise on her cheek. "He didn't really hit me until… until Mr. Stetson came on board, but he was always kind of losing control… He would have his hand on my shoulder and when I would pull away he would just clamp onto my muscle until I cried out. I have a lot of bruises from where he would just hold on to me too hard- as if he didn't know his own strength."
"Please describe the events following Mr. Stetson's boarding of the yacht." For some reason, the interviewer noted, the question had inspired a quickly smothered frown that tore at the cut in her lip.
She nodded solemnly to him, but fixed her eyes on her hands and began reliving the circumstances that led to her rescue.
On the Yacht, Seven Days after the kidnap…
Justin entered the cabin, seeming much more excited than normal. He reached far back into the closet, bringing out a gown covered in plastic.
"This is a special night, Amanda dear. When you are ready, knock on your door and one of the men will escort you up to dinner."
"Why is tonight special?"
There was a knot in her stomach. She did not want tonight to be special if 'special' was good for Justin.
He smiled, as if sharing a secret. He put a finger to his lips saying, "It's a surprise!"
Amanda began going through the motions to get ready, her hands shaking so much that she could not work the clasp on her necklace. Finally, she just sat on her bed, frozen, staring at the mirror. Looking at what she was turning into. Something was missing from behind her own eyes; they looked odd to her. Unconsciously she had lifted her hand to her face, as if to verify that it really was her in the reflection.
The gown was crimson and accentuated the new gauntness of her face, the circles under her eyes, and the unnatural paleness of her skin. She wondered if Lee would even recognize her, if he found her. She wondered what would happen to her children. She would never let Justin near them. So what would she do to keep that from happening? She just stared at the ghost image of herself. She had to find a way out. She had to find the strength, the life that must still be sleeping in her somewhere.
The cabin door flew open and banged against the wall as Justin burst into the room. Amanda almost did not recognize him… he face was red and contorted in anger. He grabbed her arm and yanked her to her feet. She was too startled to react. He looked down at her and his smile returned suddenly, but his eyes still flickered with rage.
"You are NOT to embarrass me tonight Amanda, do you hear?"
He shook her slightly, "You have come so far, tonight will be the final test."
He took her hand and put it through his arm, so that he could guide her. She glared at the back of his head as she was dragged behind him and felt a spark of anger flicker in herself. She would NOT become this man's puppet. She would use this opportunity, if she could- even if this was to be her last stand.
Up the stairs and through the corridors she watched as Justin prepared himself, donning his mask of sincerity and calm. All the while she was concentrating on not breaking her neck as they dashed along, and where she could kick him that would wipe the smile off his face. He led her to the table. Amanda was surprised that the familiar handcuffs were not linked to her chair. She looked off the balcony, onto the blinking lights of the shore, not wanting to remind him of the handcuffs, and wondering if perhaps that was the 'surprise'.
She was just beginning to slow her breathing when she noticed the small yacht anchored not far away, and the man that had just boarded Justin's yacht. She stopped breathing.
"Oh God", she thought, "did I really just say that? No, I just thought it."
She tried to compose herself.
She didn't know under what pretense Lee was here. She did not know if he had a plan to rescue her. She was afraid that even her breath would betray her. Betray whatever Lee had in mind.
She gripped the railing for dear life and could not tear her eyes away from the beautiful man walking closer and closer. At that moment he had looked up casually and met her eye. He stumbled slightly and immediately looked away. Amanda turned from the railing, not sure what to do. She couldn't seem to control her heartbeat, and her knees were weak. He had come for her, he had to have come for her.
Justin was waiting for Lee as he mounted the stairs to the balcony. Offering a bottle of wine to Justin, Lee shook his hand. Amanda's eyes widened, she felt rooted to the spot. She was looking anywhere but at Lee for fear of giving something away. Justin motioned for Lee to follow him to where Amanda stood. Justin took her arm.
"Amanda, you know our friend Lee, of course. He called me just yesterday to offer us his congratulations! I simply could not refuse to celebrate with one of your old friends, so I have asked him to join us for dinner."
She looked up at Justin in confusion, "Congratulations?"
Justin laughed too harshly, "For our engagement of course!" His delusions only seemed to grow.
Amanda turned white and nodded to Lee, finally meeting his eyes. He looked almost as bad as she felt, and was similarly reluctant to meet her gaze.
"Of course" she said sickly.
"Of course," Lee said taking the cue.
He took her hand and kissed the back of it. She felt his hand grip hers stronger than necessary, and his lips lingered just a moment too long. Her heart skipped a beat and her hand was shaking when he let it go. Lee immediately turned to Justin, covering his and Amanda's trembling with a question about the yacht.
As Amanda watched Lee try to charm this psychotic, she felt a wave of shame that Lee had to rescue her. Shame and desperation- she did not know how she could possibly get through this evening. She felt Justin's eyes on her as he spoke to Lee. He still held her arm and she felt there would be bruises for sure the next day.
She couldn't remember sitting down at the table, only that she did not know what to do with her eyes or her hands. She had no appetite and had apparently lost the ability to speak. She knew Lee was worried. She knew that he didn't know what she had been put through, and she also knew he had to be doubting her stability. She couldn't blame him, not in the least.
The conversation turned absolutely farcical. Justin was talking about their marriage plans. Lee had politely encouraged the crazy man to speak, trying his best to divert Justin's attention away from Amanda who looked like she was fast approaching her breaking point.
There was a delay between the appetizer and the main course. Amanda, unable to maintain her mask any longer, got up, and carried her drink to the railing, looking out over the water. She hadn't stopped shaking since she had first touched Lee and was certainly unable to thinking clearly. The men continued their conversation until a deck hand signaled to Justin that he was wanted below.
Lee barely waited until Justin's head was out of view to rush to Amanda. Putting his hand over hers on the railing, Lee silently forced her to the farthest corner of the balcony, where a wall would conceal them from anyone's direct sight on the deck below or water around. Finally alone and in shadow, he simply grabbed her shoulders and shook her.
"Amanda" he whispered fiercely. "Oh, God, Amanda, are you ok?"
She felt tears spring to her eyes and blinked them away. She nodded, forgetting to answer for a moment, then whispered "Oh Lee, I knew you wouldn't give up on me. I'm so sorry about that letter. Lee, I swear I didn't mean a word of it, he MADE me…".
She was just so incredibly happy to see him, to feel him. She knew she was rambling, but it felt so good to have him near to her. She smiled at him through her tears and she knew Lee could finally see life in her eyes.
He almost grinned in relief and without thinking he pressed against her until her back met the outside wall, kissing her greedily and whispering her name, as if he'd thought she would disappear if he didn't hold on to her tight.
His kisses, his touch, the pressure of his body shot adrenaline through her own body and suddenly the fear that paralyzed her fell away. They were going to get away. It was all going to work out. This was so right, everything else seemed incidental. This was the love that lay just beneath the surface for so long.
"Lee, Lee, please, he'll be back any second." She tried half- heartedly and ineffectually to push away from him.
His kisses had moved from her face and mouth to her neck up to her ear so that she heard him whisper, "I love you. I'm not letting go of you, not ever."
She smiled, almost giggled as his breath tickled her ear. "Lee, please, as soon as we're off this boat I'll show you how much I love you too, but what do you want me to do?"
He sighed in her hair, which of course produced a thrilling tremble from Amanda.
"Stay with me."
She opened her mouth to protest that she was serious, but he put his finger to her lips, and nodded.
"I know, I know, we're ready to get you out. I just needed to know what kind of security he had. We didn't know what shape you would be in."
His eyes apologized for the doubts, but of course she understood. She did not plan to tell him how close she truly was to losing herself in such a short amount of time.
Lee whipped away from her, and was back in his chair before she even heard Justin's steps coming back up to the balcony. Amanda felt transformed, ready to play her role until Lee found the chance to get her out. Justin smiled charmingly and went straight to Amanda.
As he approached, she felt her resolve slip slightly. His blank eyes looked dead. It took all her concentration not to throw a pleading look for help at Lee. She forced herself to smile up at Justin, even as he grabbed her arm directly on the bruised area from earlier that night.
"My dear…" He spoke through clenched teeth "I must talk to you about something. He looked over at Lee, "Excuse us please."
Amanda took a sip of water; she was SO tired. It had been an effort to relate the story, paying special attention to keep references to Lee neutral. She knew that on the other side of the mirror Lee must be reliving it along with her and she drew energy from that. She forced the distracting thoughts and memories of Lee from her mind and cleared her throat.
"That's when Justin got really upset. He had thought it would be his moment of validation. Instead he had just gotten a report from one of his men who recognized Lee as an agent. Justin realized that Lee was there to take me away. Justin rushed me to the lower deck and started screaming, and that's when- well when he just started hitting me."
There was a small part of her that did not want to mention that she was crying as Justin stood over her. She had been so close to freedom, to Lee. In Justin's empty eyes she saw the threat to all that had been expressed a few moments before.
"My mouth and nose started to bleed almost immediately, and as suddenly as he had started, he stopped. He seemed to break down when he saw me- what he had done. He knelt down beside me and hugged me and sobbed. I don't think I was thinking very clearly just then, I just let him hold me."
She was reluctant to admit it, but it had been an oddly intimate moment; for days he had been her only source of companionship.
"That's when Lee came, he had followed Justin and I of course. He kind of lifted Justin off me and I uh- I just wanted to get away so Lee, well Lee understood and he led me to the railing where one of the Agency boats was waiting. That boat brought me to another Agency boat, and that was that."
Night of Rescue….
That had not, truly been that. Amanda was safe in the Agency boat but the night was far from over for Justin and the agents that had come to capture him. Amanda had let go of Lee long enough for him to get involved in the boat chase that eventually led to the destruction of Justin's yacht, and the arrest of he and his men. Bits and pieces of the news filtered down to her in the doctor's quarters, where they went over her from head to toe making sure she had not been seriously injured. Her clue in the letter had led to this bust. Lee had simply called Justin for a dinner, assuming that Justin would be so obsessed with maintaining the fantasy, he would not assume a trap. Though they kept the details from Amanda, it was clear they had found evidence during their surveillance to confirm that Justin was far more than unbalanced.
Lee had managed to sneak past the doctors for a moment to steal a kiss, and reassure himself that she was indeed safe and sound. He had whispered that he would get a message to her before the debriefing.
As the Interviewer looked over his notes for the fifth time Amanda absently fingered the note in her hand, now worn from constant touch. It was a small handwritten message from Lee, "I love you and I'll be watching." Every time she looked down at it, she could hear his voice say the words clearly in her head.
The debriefing had been a very cathartic experience for Amanda. She felt confident that whatever nightmares might haunt her sleep, this experience would make them less intense.
When the seemingly endless barrage of questions concluded, Lee found a way to 'accidentally' brush past her as she exited the room. Everyone else filed past them, unaware. She looked over her shoulder as he blended into the crowd, but he did not look back. All the layers of insecurity and hesitation they had built up over the years since they had met, were magically gone.
Amanda stopped in to Billy's office to receive his final confirmation that she would be allowed to go home and rest. Despite the conflicting emotions, the overwhelming emotion at being back at home was relief. Lee had removed any trace of the ordeal from the house and was there, waiting for her, when the Agency escorted her home.
Lee stood with arms outstretched and Amanda walked into his embrace, leaning heavily against him. They stood together in total exhaustion. Amanda took a shuddering breath and led the way to her bedroom. They spent the night sleeping beside each other on Amanda's bed, holding each other, and breathing deeply for the first time in days.