Summary: What if there was only one man in a red hat on that train? Would that moment on the platform be all Scarecrow and Mrs. King ever shared? Of course not!
Rating: G (?)
Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Warner Bros and Shoot the Moon. Some dialogue is taken from the episode 'Vigilante Mothers' written by Rudolph Borchert.
Author's Note: Ceeg, thank you for your input! Any and all feedback will be duly considered.
Early October 1983
Seeing the men jump that strange waiter, Amanda King quickly pulled back into the train car. What on earth had she gotten herself into this time? Taking a deep breath, she turned and ran into the conductor.
"I need your ticket, please," he said, giving her the once over and obviously finding her lacking.
His gaze reminded her that she was wearing just a nightgown under her coat. "Oh my gosh! I don't have a ticket. You see I'm just delivering this package for a friend. Well, he's not exactly a friend. More like an acquaintance. Though to be perfectly honest with you, I don't really think he's someone I want to be acquainted with. Not that he's unsavory or anything like that. He's just, well, he seems..."
"Ma'am, if you don't have a ticket..." He could tell she was flustered and took pity on her.
"No, I don't have a ticket. But I do have some cash. I could pay you and get off at the next stop if that's all right. You see, I didn't plan on being on this train. I was just..."
"Fine, fine," the conductor said. "Why don't you find a seat?"
Amanda nodded her head and looked over the compartment. Seeing a man in a red hat, she decided the best thing to do would be to give him the package and forget any of this ever happened. She proceeded down the aisle and stopped by the man. "Umm, is this seat taken?"
Startled, he looked up at her and then pointedly looked at several empty rows. Amanda sighed and sat down anyway. Unsure how to handle this, she bit her lip and began whispering in a tone that would have made a spy in bad B movie wince. "Listen, I don't normally do this kind of thing. He just seemed so desperate. Mother says I have always had a soft spot for wounded creatures and this man definitely fit the bill. His clothes were dirty and torn and his hair was disheveled and his eyes had this really urgent look in them."
Guthrie finally caught on to what she was saying. "Did he give you anything?"
Amanda glanced around and continued in that same whisper. "Yeah, he told me to give this package to the man in the red hat." She tried to discretely hand it over. She ended up looking ridiculous. "I'm not sure what this is all about. I don't even think I want to know. But you should probably know that the other man was attacked just as I got on the train."
Realizing the dangerous position that they were both in, Guthrie told her to move to another seat and get off the train as soon as possible. With that, he left his seat and headed for another car.
Amanda was stunned. First the waiter on the platform and now this man.
Both of them had ordered her around without so much as a thank you. Of
course, the waiter had said please. She hadn't been able to resist the
pleading is his eyes. She would never be able to forget that look. Not
knowing what to think of the morning, she got off at the next stop and
hailed a cab to take her home. Arriving at home, she belatedly realized
that her station wagon was parked at the train depot.
Four days later, she was loading the dryer when her mother yelled for her to come to the den. Fearing the worst, she knocked her laundry basket over in her haste to get to her mother.
"Amanda, you are not going to believe this. Mrs. Welch is a spy! She's been using the show as a cover. Look, they arrested her this morning."
Amanda heard the words coming from her mother's mouth but she was completely mesmerized by the picture on the TV screen. One of the agents in the background looked remarkably like the waiter from the other morning. She had almost convinced herself that her mind was playing tricks on her when she noticed he was speaking to the man from the train. "What on earth?"
The doorbell rang. "Amanda, dear, you get that. I'm going to double check my recipes. To think, there are messages encoded in them!"
Amanda made her way to the door in a daze. She opened it to find the boy from the local flower shop holding a bouquet of wildflowers. "These are for you, Mrs. King."
"Thank you. They're beautiful!" Amanda closed the door and read the
card. Then she reread the card. "From a very grateful waiter." How did
he find out where she lived?
Lee Stetson made his way through the bullpen to the conference room. Monday morning staff meetings were always hard but today it nearly impossible. Wendi had been in town for only one night and they had made the most of it. He was paying for it today and thinking he was getting a little old for that kind of thing. His personal life was shallow and lonely. There had to be something more out there somewhere. Opening the door with a sigh, he went to his usual place and sat down next to Francine Desmond.
"Which one was it this weekend, Scarecrow?" Francine couldn't resist getting in a dig.
Lee couldn't resist putting her in her place. "Who said it was only one?"
Billy Melrose heard all the progress reports and gave out assignments to everyone except Lee. "All right, people. Don't sit here all day. The bad guys won't turn themselves in. Scarecrow, my office."
Lee followed his supervisor. When they were in Billy's office, he asked, "What's up?"
"You look like you need about a week's worth of sleep. New girlfriend?"
Lee sighed, "No, old one. But that's not why you called me in here."
Billy sat down behind his desk. "No, it's not. We've got a problem and I need to send you undercover."
"Okay, where? Europe? South America?" Lee enjoyed traveling even if it did come with more than a few hazards.
Billy snickered, "The suburbs." Lee's face fell.
"Amanda, dear, did you hear about our new neighbor? He's really very good-looking, strong profile, good posture." Dotty never gave up trying to find her daughter a husband. It was so difficult raising two boys alone and a grandmother was no substitute for a father. Dotty would be more than happy to leave Amanda and the boys in the hands of a good man and this new neighbor had possibility.
Amanda poked her head out from the refrigerator. "Mother, please. I am perfectly capable of finding my own dates."
"I just think the neighborly think to do is make him something and take it over, that's all. Most single men really appreciate something homemade like cookies or a nice cake. OH! We have some brownies leftover from the school bake sell. You could brush your hair and take them over right now."
"I'll get to it later. Right now I'm going to finish my grocery list. Do we have any dill pickles? I can't find them but I'm sure I bought some last week." Amanda went back to the refrigerator and hoped her mother would let it rest. She should have known better.
Dotty firmly shut the refrigerator door. "Amanda, you have got to go see this man before Mary Catherine. She'll..."
"I give up. I'm not going because I'm interested in this man, whoever
he is. If he wants what Mary Catherine is offering, that's his business.
I am doing this because he's new to the neighborhood and I want to make
him feel welcome. I would visit anyone who just moved in. So don't start
matchmaking, Mother!" She went upstairs to change her shirt. Not that she
was worried about making a good impression but she did think the ketchup
stain from the boy's food fight at lunch sent the wrong message under any
Lee had just finished reporting in to Billy over the phone when the doorbell rang again. A little apprehensive since Mary something or other had been just a little too friendly, he took his time answering the door.
Amanda was just about to leave when the door opened. "Oh, hello! My name is...." Her eyes met his and she was lost in the memory of a crowded train station and a man asking for help. The realization that he was the spy from the news came quickly. "What in the world are you doing here? Are the Russians invading the suburbs?"
Lee had by now recognized her as well and quickly pulled her into the house. "Quiet! You'll blow my cover!" Then he realized she had no way of knowing he was undercover. "Uh, what was that remark about the Russians?"
"I'm not stupid. I saw you on the news when Mrs. Walsh, er, Mrs. Welch was arrested. By the way, thank you for the flowers. I'm sorry, I don't know your name. Mine is Amanda King. Do you people always drag civilians into your missions? How do you know you haven't grabbed an enemy spy?"
Lee stared at her while she spoke. Was she ever going to take a breath? "Look, why don't you go home and forget you ever saw me?"
Amanda was speechless for a full ten seconds. "I did that. Two years ago. I went home and forgot the whole thing. But now here you are in my neighborhood and I think you should answer a few questions. There's not going to be any shooting sprees or anything, is there? Because if there is, I'm going to find a way to keep my boys inside. And you still haven't told me your name."
Lee ran his hand through his hair and decided to give up the fight. "Lee Sampson and, no, I'm not planning on any shooting sprees. I'm simply here to get some information."
Seeing his frustration caused something in Amanda to tease him. "Well, Joyce Freedman's streusel recipe is not her own. She got it from Betty Crocker. Mitch Lancaster lost his job last week because he was constantly late for work. I think he's spending too much time with Lauren Bayliss, if you know what I mean. And Mary Catherine Rolston..."
Lee threw up his hands. "Not that kind of information!"
"That's the only kind of information you'll find around here."
Lee had had enough by this time. "No, as a matter of fact it isn't. You ever hear of Mothers for a Safe Environment?"
"Well, yes, I'm a member."
"That figures. There's been some trouble. We think someone in the group may be involved with the recent theft at the Federal Ordinance Laboratory in Ashford, Oregon." Why was he letting her get to him like this? And why hadn't he thrown her out by now? He knew the answer. He needed to be accepted by this group and, in order to do that, he was going to need her cooperation.
"Mr. Sampson, that's ridiculous. For the most part, they are women like me. We take care of the kids and run errands and hold PTA bake sells. Oh! I forgot. These are for you." She held out the brownies and he took them with a smile.
"Thanks. Please, call me Lee." With that they seemed to reach a truce. "You know, having some who knew all the ins and outs of the group would be a big help." He met her eyes and saw the flash of excitement. They smiled at each other.
Amanda had a feeling she was getting in over her head. She was on the verge of saying no when he smiled. She returned the smile and hoped he didn't see how much her legs were shaking. She wasn't blind. She knew from that very first moment two years ago that he was handsome. But until that smile, she had been so wrapped up in the events that she had been immune to his charms. "It would make things easier for you." Did she just agree to help him with his case? Why did she do that?
Lee could tell she was reluctant. When their eyes met again, he began to feel that way himself. His chest tightened and he realized he needed to take a breath. Why had he been holding it? She was lovely, but not his type. Yet her eyes seemed to see beyond his appearance. Maybe having her help wasn't a good idea.
Breaking the silence, Amanda asked, "So what do you have in mind? I guess you could come to the next meeting. It's this afternoon at 4 o'clock. We could go together, you know, since I'm going to be on this mission with you." The idea of working with this man was definitely growing on her. It wasn't just because the whole spy thing was so thrilling either.
Her last statement brought him up short. "Wait just a minute. You are not on any mission. Your role in all this is to introduce me to people. You are not an agent. You do your part and then you stay out of it, got that?"
He had hurt her feelings. He could see it in her statement but it was
for her own good. She nodded. "I got it."
Amanda stood at the podium in the community center's meeting room and updated the group on their latest activities. "Our petition drive resulted in 200 signatures and 41 letters. There will be an editorial in the Sunday edition of..."
She was interrupted by Mrs. Courtney. "We need positive action now!"
Jean Kearsley tried to respond but Amanda called the meeting back to order. "May I have your attention please! We have a guest speaker. Many of you know Dr. Leonard Fletcher as a neighbor. He is here today to speak about his job with the Bethesda Ordinance Laboratory."
There were a few boos as Dr. Fletcher stood up to speak but he handled himself well. His presentation was concise and knowledgeable. After the meeting was over, Lee looked for Amanda and found her speaking with one of the women who had spoken earlier.
She smiled at him. "Lee, this is Jean Kearsley. She founded Mothers for a Safe Environment. Jean, this is Lee Sampson."
They shook hands. "It's a pleasure." Lee turned to Amanda. "I'd really like to meet Dr. Fletcher."
Amanda nodded. "Sure. I'll talk to you later, Jean."
They found Dr. Fletcher talking heatedly with Mrs. Courtney. "Dr. Fletcher, this is Lee Sampson."
Leonard extended his hand, seeing something in Lee's eyes that put him at ease. "Nice to meet you."
"Yes, I enjoyed your speech."
Leonard laughed a little. "Don't tell me I managed to convert one of this group," he said with a wry glance at Mrs. Courtney.
Lee shook his head. "No, but you made a few good points. I'm still very concerned about chemical storage procedures. Is there any way you could arrange a tour of the lab to put my mind at ease?"
Leonard looked thoughtful for a moment. "I could speak to my superior, Dr. Mallory. I'm sure something could be worked out for the two of you and maybe a couple of others. How does tomorrow afternoon sound?"
"Great." Lee and Leonard shook hands again.
Lee and Amanda returned to his rented house. Amanda was shaking her head. "I know I'm new to all this but it just doesn't make sense. Our group is devoted to helping the environment, not destroying it."
"The perfect cover. No one suspects housewives of consorting with arms brokers." Lee glanced at her, a mischievous glint in his eyes. "Speaking of covers, I think mine is fairly good, don't you?"
Lee cleared his throat and continued. "It could be better, though. With your cooperation."
"Sure. What do you want me to do?"
Lee cleared his throat again. "Well, since I am supposed to be mingling with the neighbors, I thought it would look natural if I accepted a dinner invitation."
Amanda laughed. "Let me guess. Mary Catherine Rolston. Lee, she is the neighborhood piranha! She goes after every single man she meets. If all you want is a night or two she's the one."
"I'll remember that," Lee said with a grin. "Actually another woman called this morning and asked me over. Your mother."
Amanda's eyes grew huge. "Oh, Lee, I'm sorry. She thinks you're handsome and she's playing matchmaker. She just can't accept the fact that I don't need a man." Lee's grin was getting bigger and Amanda's cheeks were turning bright pink. "That didn't come out very well. What I meant to say is that I know this is just business and I haven't been encouraging Mother."
"I realize that. It is just business. I'd hate to get your mother's hopes up anyway." Her blush encouraged him to push his luck. "She, uh, she thinks I'm handsome?"
"She's never met you."
Lee wrinkled his brow. "What does that mean? You think if she met me she wouldn't like me?"
"I just think once she realized what an impossible man you are, all ideas of matchmaking would fly right out the window." Amanda was enjoying this teasing. It was the first time she felt like she had the upper hand since they had met.
Lee was more than a little insulted. "I happen to be an excellent catch. Not that you need to know that. Just business, right?" He forced his mind back on the case at hand.
Amanda couldn't resist getting in the last word. "Right. I'll give Mother your regrets."
Lee shook his head as it finally dawned on him that she was teasing him. "Okay, I've got a lot to do before our little tour tomorrow."
"You know, if you told me what to look for, I could help you better." She wasn't ready to leave and knew it was because Lee really was an excellent catch.
Lee sighed. He admitted to himself that he was enjoying her company. So far, she had been very helpful. He instinctively knew he could trust her. "A canister of C12 was stolen in Oregon. It is one half of CX12 nerve gas. The stuff will kill you in less than ten seconds. It's so lethal that is broken into two components and stored on opposite coasts."
Amanda furrowed her brow. "Well, don't we have the antidote? I mean, if we made the stuff, we should..."
"That's the problem. We didn't make CX12 and we have no idea what the neutralizing agent might be."
Amanda thought this through for a moment. "So, where's the other component?" She knew she wasn't going to like the answer to that question.
"Bethesda Ordinance Lab."
Amanda sat down on the couch. "Where Leonard Fletcher works. Lee, you don't seriously think he's involved? I mean, I've known him for years. He's a very nice, normal man with a family."
Lee picked a folder up off of the coffee table. He seemed to be debating with himself for a few seconds and then shrugged. It was against regulations to involve civilians and to give them access to classified information. Then again, he was never one to play strictly by the rules. He handed the file to her. "Yeah, he's a nice, normal guy who happens to have a gambling problem. He's in debt up to his eyebrows and needs money. Exactly the type of guy susceptible to anyone who offers to bail him out."
Amanda read through the pages chronicling Leonard's financial situation. "I guess you never really know your neighbors, huh?"
She looked so disenchanted that Lee sat down beside her and put his arm around her shoulders. "I guess not. In my line of work, I tend to suspect most everyone I meet. I forgot that normal people are more trusting. Why don't you skip the tour tomorrow? In fact, maybe it would be best if you just stayed away from me. I can finish this on my own and you can get on with PTA meetings and bake sells." He tried to smile at her but she jumped up, nearly sending him off the couch and onto the floor.
"Oh, no. You can't send me away now. This is my neighborhood and these people are my friends. I intend to find out for sure if Dr. Fletcher is involved. So, what's our next move?"
Lee had a feeling that Amanda King would go off on her own if he didn't
include her. It went against his better judgment but he told her about
his plans anyway. Maybe she would catch something at the lab that he missed.
And maybe pigs would fly.
Dr. Mallory was trying her best to tolerate Mrs. Courtney. "We take every precaution against accidental exposure. Each worker changes lab clothes several times a day. The laundry is sent to a local cleaner for special treatment."
Lee had heard enough. He glanced at his 'partner' to find her absorbing every detail. She was really throwing herself into this. He just shook his head. Why had he ever agreed to include her? The clock on the wall reminded him that he needed to check in at the Agency.
"Amanda, I need to get going. I'll call you later, okay?"
Nodding her head seriously, she replied, "I'll keep my eyes open and take a few notes. Will you be at the meeting later?"
"Yeah, I'll be there." Shaking his head again, he left the building
and drove off.
In Billy Melrose's office, Lee and Francine were reporting in to their section chief. Francine had been assigned Dr. Ann Mallory. "I've been watching her for two days and she is as clean as they come. All she does is work and sleep. Oh, she did put ketchup on her tongue sandwich at lunch. Now that's what I call suspicious."
Billy frowned. "She was a long shot. Her record is exceptional. Lee, what about Dr. Fletcher?"
"He paid off some gambling debts this morning. With no legitimate source for where the money came from."
Billy began pacing the small space behind his desk. "Okay, we know from the Oregon investigation that someone from the outside gained access through a female researcher. Once he had the C12, he killed her. Now we're sure that he's going to make a move on the crystals and that he needs an accomplice. Francine, you spent the morning on the computer. Who are our most likely suspects?"
"I found quite a few actually. Lee, here are the photos. See if you recognize anyone."
Lee flipped through them, stopping at one in particular. "Robert Castille. He usually wines and dines women to get inside information. The Oregon job fits his MO but what's the connection to Fletcher?"
Francine thought for a moment. "We don't know for sure that Dr. Fletcher is involved. Plus, that group you've become a member of has mostly female members. Castille is certainly suave enough to sweep a housewife off her feet."
Lee thought of Amanda and frowned. "But what could he possibly use a housewife for? I mean, Amanda has helped some but she couldn't come up with the information Castille needs. I find it hard to believe any of those women could."
When Lee mentioned Amanda's name, Billy stopped pacing. "Amanda? Who's she?"
Lee ran his fingers through his hair. "Long story. Remember when Francine was spilling her guts to Mrs. Welch?"
"I was drugged!" That case was always a sore spot for the female agent. Afterwards, she had sworn off kitchens for good.
"I handed a package off, like that time in Munich. Well, Amanda is the woman I grabbed."
Billy started to get an idea. At the end of this case, Scarecrow might just have a much-needed partner. "And let me guess. She's a member of this group, Mothers for a Safe Environment?"
"Yes. She recognized me and asked so many questions I let her in on my cover. Actually, she's been a big help introducing me to people." Lee really hated admitting that and Billy could tell. "I'll have her see if she knows any of these men."
"All right, Lee. Go back to Amanda and find our connection. And, Lee, I'd really like to meet this woman. Soon."
Lee cast an incredulous look at his boss on the way out the door.
Amanda knew she was late. It was getting harder and harder to find a parking place now that the MSE was gaining so many new members. She knew this was a good thing but she would have liked a better parking place. She was almost inside when she noticed a strange man poking around Lee's car. She stopped and stared as he got up and brushed himself off.
He smiled at her. "I was thinking of buying one of these. It's a good family car."
Amanda had a bad feeling about all of this but turned to go in anyway. She stopped at the door and looked back to the man. He was getting into his own car and driving away.
Inside the meeting hall was filled with angry shouts. Amanda approached Jean and asked, "It isn't going very well, huh?"
Jean shook her head. "No, the picketing was pointless. The company went about business as usual."
Amanda felt someone take her elbow and turned to find Lee. He pulled her outside as the group began clapping and chanting, "NO MORE POISON."
As soon as they were on the sidewalk, Amanda asked, "Where are we going?"
"I've got some photos in the car. I want you to look at them, all right? But I don't want to do it here. I don't want anything to look suspicious." They got in the car and drove through a remote wooded area. "Amanda, take a look at these photos. Now those men are known couriers and weapons brokers. If you've seen any of them before it could be a lead."
Amanda carefully examined each shot. Lee knew she was getting a kick out of this and couldn't resist grinning.
"No...no...oh, wait a minute."
Lee stopped grinning. "What?"
Amanda showed him a picture. "I just saw this man."
"You did?" It was Robert Castille. This was just the break they needed.
Amanda continued excitedly. "Just before I came in the meeting. He was hanging around this car."
Lee realized what that meant. Castille was on to him. "Amanda, get ready to get out and get out fast." Lee pulled off to the side of the road and they both quickly got out. Holding hands, they ran from the car just before it exploded. Lee threw Amanda to the ground and protectively covered her. When their eyes met again, he didn't see the excitement in hers that had been there a few minutes ago. He only saw fear.
After giving her what he hoped was a reassuring hug, he stood up and
helped her to her feet. "Oh my gosh," was all she could say.
After hitching a ride back to town in a pickup truck, Lee phoned Billy. Then he walked over to Amanda, who had just finished thanking the man driving the truck.
"Billy's sending a car for us."
"Lee, who's Billy?"
"He's my section chief. He's alerting the rest of the teams about Castille."
"Lee, who's Castille?"
"The man in the picture. The one you said planted the bomb."
Lee tried to regain his train of thought. "Listen, I'm gonna have to help Billy coordinate the teams. I could really use your help."
Amanda knew what he was asking. She wondered what it was about him that made her agree to help him. "You want me to spy on my neighbors."
Lee could see that she didn't want to do this and he went easy on her. "Well, I just want you to let me know if you see anything strange or out of character."
"Sure." She was trying to be nonchalant but her stomach now possessed its very own butterfly garden. "Sure," she said again.
Lee pulled out a card. "I don't know where I'll be so if you see or hear anything, call this number and ask for Billy Melrose. That's my boss. He'll be able to relay your message, okay?"
"Okay," Amanda replied.
When Amanda arrived back at the community center she was surprised to find it empty. Mrs. Meadows was cleaning a chalkboard on the far side of the room. She informed Amanda that MSE was picketing outside the Bethesda Ordinance Laboratory.
Amanda quickly drove the short distance and joined the group. A laundry van was leaving and she noticed Jean climbing into it. Standing off to the side, what she failed to notice until it was too late was Lee entering the facility in the silver 'vette brought to him by the Agency. She tried to get his attention but he was obviously focused on talking to the security guard.
She knew she would never be able to get into the lab after being part of the picketers. The only thing she could think of to do was to follow the van. Getting into her car, she drove much faster than normal until spotting van in the road ahead. Not exactly sure of what she was doing, she tried to keep her distance without losing them. The whole thing was much harder than it looked in the movies.
When the van stopped at the building which housed Jean's business, Amanda hurried to the pay phone across the street and dialed the number Lee had given to her. "Mr. Melrose?"
"This is Amanda King. I've been working with Lee Sampson. I followed Jean Kearsley to..." Amanda felt what had to be a gun in her side. The man she saw earlier hung up the phone.
"Let's go inside, Mrs. King." Amanda's heart was racing. She could do
nothing except follow Castille into the dry cleaners.
Lee found Dr. Mallory and flashed his government I.D. He took note of the increased guards throughout the facility. "What is going on here?"
Dr. Mallory appeared relieved to see him. "We've had a security breach. The X12 crystals are missing. We're checking the other labs now."
Lee knew that would be pointless. "Who had access to them?"
"On this shift, just myself and Dr. Fletcher." Her eyes grew round at the implication.
"I need to talk to him now." Lee sent a guard to Fletcher's office.
When Leonard came, he seemed to know he was busted. Throwing a punch at Lee, he grabbed a beaker from the table. "This contains HCL. You better stay back!"
Lee motioned for Dr. Mallory to leave the room and drew his gun. "I don't need to be very close to use this. Give it up, Fletcher, and tell me where the crystals are."
All his bravery now gone, Leonard Fletcher hung his head. "I'm not sure.
Jean was taking it from here."
Lee called Billy to report the theft and let him know Fletcher was in custody. "Apparently Jean Kearsley was involved too. She has the crystals now."
"Lee, your friend Amanda called and said she had followed Jean. I had Francine check into it. Jean Kearsley is part owner of Tri County Laundry."
"Which services the lab here," Lee interrupted. "That's our connection, Billy."
"You should know that Mrs. King and I were cut off, Lee. Castille may be on to her."
Lee hung up the phone without another word and sped to Tri County Laundry.
Jean anxiously awaited Robert's arrival, believing that they would get their happily ever after soon. When he appeared holding Amanda at gunpoint, she was confused. "What are you doing? Everything is going according to plan. We've proven the crystals aren't secure. We can call the media and return them. We've made our point. Why do you have Amanda?"
Castille smiled and kissed her roughly. "Yes, and according to my plan, Amanda will soon die...and so will you."
Jean started crying. "Robert, what are you talking about? We love each other. We're going to be together in the open now, remember?"
"You foolish woman! All it took was a little romance, some pretty words. You fell for it all. You even wanted it. Well, I wanted those crystals and now I've got them. I have no further use for you." He tied her hands together and looked at Amanda. "I'm not sure what your part in all this is but since you are working with Scarecrow..." He led both women out of the room.
Castille tied Amanda's hands to a steamer rack and turned it on. Jean screamed as they left Amanda to die.
Amanda began screaming, too. She couldn't believe this was happening.
The only one who could help her had no idea where she was. She screamed
his name over and over again anyway.
Lee pulled up outside the cleaner's and entered cautiously through a side door. He heard Amanda immediately and ran to her side. She was perilously close to being killed. His fingers felt stiff as he furiously worked the rope tying her hands. The steamer was getting too close. She was panicked and struggling. Lee finally freed her and held her to him for a moment.
Amanda tried to control her breathing. She drew several deep breaths and just allowed Lee to comfort her. "He took Jean."
"I don't know."
Lee took her hand and squeezed. "Just stay with me."
Amanda squeezed back. "Lee, Jean didn't know what he was doing." Lee nodded and they went to find Castille.
On the other side of the building was the washroom. Huge tubs of sudsy water stood in long rows. Castille and Jean were halfway down one row when Lee spotted them. "Circle around to the right and distract them."
Amanda's mouth fell open. "You're kidding."
Lee gave her hand a final squeeze. "No, just go. And keep down!"
Lee gave Amanda a few minutes to sneak around to the other side. "It's over, Castille."
Robert Castille had been expecting Scarecrow. "Not by a long shot. Did you see your friend, Mrs. King? She's a little pressed for time at the moment."
Lee raised his gun. "Let the woman go. You can't get out of this one."
"Oh, I think I can." A large pile of hangers fell at the end of the aisle. Castille whirled around at the commotion.
Lee called out, "Run, Jean!" As Jean tried to flee, Castille turned and fired at Lee, who ducked behind one of the washers. Jean fell to the ground and Lee saw his chance. He shot Castille in the shoulder, causing the man to drop his gun. Lee walked slowly to him while Jean crawled toward Amanda at the end of the row.
"Give it up, Castille."
Lee was taken by surprise when Castille dove into his stomach. His gun fell and the two men began fighting. With the bullet wound, Castille never stood a chance. Lee quickly had him on the ground and was handcuffing him.
Amanda untied Jean's hands and embraced her when she began crying. She
watched Lee haul Castille to his feet. Lee smiled at her. "Thanks, partner."
She smiled back, once again falling prey to his charms.
Amanda felt like pinching herself. It had to be a dream. An elevator in a closet seemed too cartoonish to be real. But seated in Mr. Melrose's office, she had to admit that it was one terrific secret. She had finished her deposition and was waiting for Lee to finish his. Mr. Melrose wanted to speak to both of them. She couldn't imagine what the topic of conversation was going to be.
Lee and Billy entered the room and smiled at the housewife who looked distinctly out of place. Billy took a seat at his desk. "So, Mrs. King, Lee tells me you completed your second mission with flying colors."
Amanda cast a startled glance at Lee. "Second? Oh, you mean the package. Well, sir, to be honest, until I saw the news story, I thought it was probably drugs. I was more than happy to get rid of it."
Billy's face broke into a huge smile and he snuck a look at Lee. "Yes, well, you've got good instincts. That's something that can't be taught. I was wondering if we could use you again on a case. The two of you work well together and..."
Lee jumped in. "Billy, this is a lousy idea. She's a housewife with kids. This way too dangerous! Besides, how much help could she really be?"
"Excuse me, but I think I could be a big help. I mean, like Mr. Melrose said, my first two missions went pretty well." Amanda could not believe the nerve of the man. After all she had done for him!
Lee could not believe the nerve of the woman. Didn't she understand the risk? "Amanda, it's just that..."
Amanda glared at him and returned her attention to Billy. "I would love to help in any way I can."
Lee was aghast but Billy was pleased. He thought the two of them were
perfect for each other. "Welcome aboard, Mrs. King. We'll be in touch soon.
Scarecrow, will you please show her out?"
Lee and Amanda didn't speak until they reached her station wagon. "Lee?"
Still a little put out, he grunted at her. Unwavering, she asked, "Why did Mr. Melrose call you Scarecrow? I think Robert Castille said it too."
"It's my codename. All agents have one."
"Hmmm. I wonder what mine will be."
"Amanda, you are not an agent. You will not get a codename. You'll simply be an assistant, you know, helping out with clerical work. Clerical, not field work."
"For a start, I suppose. But I really enjoyed this and I think I'm pretty good at it. You never know..."
"This isn't all fun and games. It can be a pretty dangerous line of work."
Amanda rolled her eyes at Lee. "I know that. It's just," she paused and met his eyes, "haven't you ever wondered if there was something missing in your life. Something more..."
Lee had to look away. Her words echoed his thoughts after his night with Wendi. He understood what she was saying and for a fleeting moment he wondered if something more was a housewife from Arlington.