Amanda slowly returned to consciousness, trying to focus her brown eyes on the stark white walls that surrounded her. Her mind was a jumble of thoughts and vague memories as she tried to sort reality from dreams, and determine where she was, and how she had gotten there. Suddenly her mind crystallized on one name: Birol! She remembered Birol's press conference, remaining in the van while Lee and the others stormed the building, and the terrorist's sudden appearance at the CSN van. He had held a gun to her head and ordered her to drive to a remote area, where he forced Amanda into the back of the van, injected her with something that made her feel dizzy and lose consciousness. Now she was lying on a metal cot, in a small room with stark white walls.
Lee? Where are you? What does he want from me? What will he do to me? These were the thoughts that forced themselves into Amanda's consciousness. She tried to sit upright, but was hit by a wave of nausea and dizziness. Probably because of the stuff he shot into me Amanda thought. From her prone position on the cot, she tried to study the room that was her cell. No windows, a barely discernible door with no handle, and a ceiling that seemed to be ten feet high -- what kind of place was this? Where am I? Is it day or night? How long have I been here? Amanda tried to use her intuition and other deductive faculties to get answers to these questions, but she could not see, hear or sense anything that gave her a clue as to any answers.
Amanda began to feel drowsy, the starkness of her surroundings coupled with the drugs still in her system combining to produce this effect. She was just beginning to lose consciousness when the door to the room flew open.
"Amanda -- sit up!" commanded Birol. Her eyes flew open and she sprang up from the hard cot.
"What do you want? I'm with CSN -- why have you brought me here?" Amanda demanded of her captor.
"CSN -- a clever cover. You don't seriously expect me to believe that little story of yours, do you? I know you work for the Agency -- and I know you work with Scarecrow."
"Just call CSN -- call the station. They can verify my credentials and my identity. I don't know what agency you're talking about, and I don't know any scarecrows other than the one in the Wizard of Oz." Amanda was speaking rapidly and with commanding force in an effort to convince Birol of her identity.
Her protests were met with a smart slap across her face. "Liar! Do you think me a fool? I already know that American women look down upon me and my kind -- do not think for a minute that I would not hurt you in order to achieve my goal."
Amanda's right hand cradled her cheek to soothe the stinging that resulted from Birol's blow. Suddenly, a terrible memory came flooding back to her -- the day that Lee had slapped her across the face as part of his cover to convince her that he was really a burn-out case. The memory of that event pulled at her heart, causing a pain that cut through her like a knife. Lee - where are you? Will you find me? Please help me.... Amanda's prayers were cut short by Birol's demand "Tell me how to find Stetson, and where the Agency is, and you will be freed. Defy me and you will suffer....and die."
"I can't tell you what I don't know," Amanda pleaded. "I'm just a reporter for CSN -- why won't you call the station?"
Birol pulled something from behind his back. "Just a reporter, eh? Then explain these." He proceeded to show her a number of photographs showing her with Lee at various places throughout Washington; some of these had the appearance of business, but one in particular showed them at an outdoor café, sharing drinks and holding hands. The sight of that photo brought tears to Amanda's eyes, and she turned away so that Birol would not detect her reaction. But not quickly enough for the sharp-eyed terrorist.
"Do you still insist on this ridiculous cover story? Do you now want to tell me the truth? You and Stetson are most certainly lovers -- it is obvious from this picture and yoour reaction to it."
"The picture was doctored -- it's obviously a fake" Amanda lied, remembering well the day they shared which ended at that romantic café.
A stinging slap across her face brought Amanda back to her reality -- "Do not lie to me Amanda! I TOOK THAT PICTURE MYSELF -- I have been following Stetson for months!" She realized then that Birol would believe nothing that she said, and that he would try anything he could to break her in order to get to Lee. Luckily, he said nothing about her mother or the boys -- obviously he had not done enough investigation to learn of her family or he would have involved them, too.
A wave of futility washed over Amanda -- it's no use, she thought -- there's no way for me to convince him to let me go. Birol turned his back to Amanda and walked to the far corner of the room. She saw him mixing what appeared to be chemicals in a laboratory beaker. He's after Lee, Amanda thought, and he's going to try to break me to get to him. She despaired of all the years that she had asked for agent training, and been denied. If I was trained, I would know all the ways to fight what he's going to do, and to not give anything away. If only Lee hadn't fought her every time she requested more in-depth training. Picking my way out of handcuffs behind my back, and running the obstacle course at Station One are not going to help me in this one....
Amanda sat up with a start - she saw Lee standing there, right in front of her. "Don't worry, Amanda -- I'll be with you. Don't give up - I'm coming to get you. Remember how much I love you...." As Amanda reached out to touch him, the apparition was gone. Suddenly, thoughts of Lee flooded Amanda's mind - his smile, the tenderness he had only recently begun to show her, his protectiveness of her and her family, his vulnerability derived from his lonely and unhappy childhood, his patriotism and love of country, his newly realized love for her, and her newly spoken but long-known love for him. These thoughts helped Amanda steel herself for the coming attack. I must protect Lee, as I would protect Philip or Jamie, Amanda resolved. I will not give in to Birol's torture; I would rather die than see anything happen to Lee, she thought as Birol grabbed her arm and jammed a hypodermic needle into it. It's nothing less than he would do for me, was her last thought as she drifted into unconsciousness.
Lee paced anxiously around Billy's office, while the older man tried to calm him. "Stop pacing, Scarecrow -- you're not doing her any good in this state." Lee looked sharply at his superior. "Don't tell me what to do, Billy -- not now, not here. Birol's got Amanda and we don't even know what he wants with her. He's a killer; a sadistic, terrorist killer with no conscience and no feelings -- and he's got Amanda!"
Dr. Smyth suddenly appeared from around a corner outside Billy's office. "How did he pick her out, Stetson? She was supposed to be on background as CSN News -- deep cover. You two were to have no contact with each other - where did you screw up?"
Smyth ducked to get out of the way as Lee lunged at him. "I didn't screw up!" Lee shouted angrily. "I don't know how Birol found her; he probably had us under some sort of surveillance. I DO know that out in the field, we have had absolutely no contact -- physical or verbal -- in the past two weeks! Maybe it was a lucky guess."
"A lucky guess that places the King woman and our source at great risk and, more importantly, jeopardizes a critical intelligence and anti-terrorism operation," Dr. Smyth replied in his clipped speech. "Melrose, I imagine you'll just have to abandon the ATAC team, and its projects, and sacrifice the woman and our source."
Lee's face turned white and he faced Dr. Smyth with clenched fists. "Sacrifice Amanda! For God's sake, she's just a civilian, with two small boys, a mother and a mortgage! Don't you have anything running in those veins of yours except ice water?" It took all of Billy Melrose's strength to hold Lee back and keep him from striking the head of the Agency. Lee's face turned red, his eyes bulged, and his neck veins were enlarged.
"She knew the risk, Stetson. She took this on, voluntarily. She's an adult. And anyway, why so much concern for the housewife? Isn't your first loyalty to your source -- to Nightcrawler -- after all, she's been at a very high risk on our behalf for quite some time."
"I know where my loyalty lies, Dr. Smyth. I'm a professional, remember? I do this for a living. I owe a duty to Nightcrawler, certainly -- but I also owe a duty to Amanda, my paartner. And I'll pay off all of my obligations in my own blood, if that's necessary." Lee stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind him for emphasis.
"He's pretty tightly wound right now, Melrose," opined Dr. Smyth. There's more going on for him than the loss of an operation. He's got some emotional involvement here that we don't know about. And with that, it could be dangerous for him to remain on the case."
"I remember when he didn't have any emotions at all," recalled Billy, staring at Lee who was slumped in a corner in the bullpen staring at a file. "It could be more dangerous to try to restrict him. He obviously feels responsible, and he will do anything to try to rescue them, even if it means giving up his own life." Billy approached the obstinate and opinionated Dr. Smyth with an idea. "Let me run this on my own with Stetson and a few hand picked agents. Very low key. You see the effect that you have on him -- the more that you are involved, the greater the chances for an explosion that will mean sure disaster."
Smyth chewed on his ever-present cigarette holder and considered Billy's suggestion. "I don't want to see Nightcrawler or this operation sacrificed, Melrose. I'd rather lose the King woman and Scarecrow, if that's necessary, in order to get to Birol and to protect Nightcrawler. If this Agency gets the reputation that it doesn't do everything to protect its sources, it will have none left. So you can see how important this is."
"Of course I understand how important this is," Billy replied. "But you'll agree I know these people better than you do, and I can probably get them to do what they're supposed to better than you. Please give me at least a few days to try, before you abandon everything."
"All right, Melrose - I'll give you seventy-two hours to do it your way. But if this isn't resolved by then, I take over and call the shots."
"Agreed. Now will you please leave so that I can deal with Stetson." Billy concluded as he ushered Dr. Smyth out the door. "Scarecrow, please come in here."
Lee walked quietly into Billy's office. One glimpse at the younger man's face told his superior that Lee was hanging on by a thread; something Billy had never seen in the ten years that he had known Lee. He quietly closed the door and the blinds on the office windows, and motioned for Lee to sit on the couch. "Lee, I know you're upset, but you must be honest with me -- is there more between you and Amanda than just colleagues or partners?"
"No" was Lee's muffled reply, as his face studied the pattern in the nondescript government carpet.
"I don't believe you, Lee. And I must know the truth if we are to handle this thing successfully and professionally."
"What does it matter," Lee responded. "Dr. Smyth has already signed Amanda's death warrant. He doesn't care. She's 'expendable.' 'Just a housewife.' How did I ever let her get involved with all this? Why did I get her involved? I'm responsible for all this - somehow I must have made a mistake that gave her away. Because of me, my Amanda is going to die...." Lee's voice was beginning to rise as his agitation and anger grew. "And with Dr. Smyth running the show she's... my Amanda's as good as dead." Lee's eyes were moist and his voice flat when he uttered that last sentence.
Billy noted without comment Lee's use of 'my Amanda' as he stated "Lee - listen to me. Firstly, Dr. Smyth is not running the show - at least not for seventy-two hours. I cconvinced him to let me run the operation and try to get them out safely. He has given me seventy-two hours to try to do it, and I need your help. I need you with me, and I need you at one hundred percent, not wallowing in self-pity, remorse, or recrimination. But before I get started, for the safety of all concerned, especially that of Amanda and our source, I need a truthful answer to my first question -- is there more between you and Amanda tthan work?"
Lee raised his face from his hands and studied his superior and friend intently, searching for something in the older man's eyes. His face softened, and he began. "Billy, you know Amanda and I have been working together for over three years now. During that time, I've gotten to know her like I have known no other woman; indeed, like no other person. She is unlike any woman that I have ever known." His eyes began to fill with tears, and Billy reached out and put his hand on Lee's shoulder for support.
"I love her, Billy. I have for a very long time, but I couldn't face it, or say it because I was afraid that I wasn't worthy of her, and that she didn't feel the same way about me. So I constantly tried to push her away. But she would never let me push her away. Whenever I hurt her with my angry words, she always forgave me. When I did the most despicable thing - when I hit her on the face to push her away in order to maintain my cover as a burn out, she still forgave me, even before she knew it was just a cover." The words came rushing out of Lee faster and with more emotion. "I kept excusing all this by convincing myself that she just enjoyed the excitement of working in this business, and she had to put up with me in order to stay with the Agency. But it became harder for me to avoid the truth - that she had feelings for me, although she never said anything, and that I was in love with her."
"All of our feelings remained hidden and unspoken until several months ago, when we were on the run over the Stemwinder incident, remember? When I thought I had to go underground for a while, alone, I told her I loved her. My heart was so full I thought it would burst when she told me that she loved me, too, and insisted on going with me! Since then, despite all that we went through in Stemwinder, I have felt like a new man -- Amanda loves me and I love her! Those feelings have made such a tremendous difference in my life, Billy - I can't lose her now!"
Billy moved from the chair to the couch to be closer to his friend and provide the support he so obviously needed. "Why didn't you tell me sooner, Scarecrow? Why did you both work so hard to hide your feelings?"
"Billy, I don't need to remind you about this Agency's policies about relationships between agents. We were afraid that if anyone knew about our feelings, it would jeopardize our working together. Plus, we were concerned that if we were too public about our relationship, Amanda's family might be in danger. Even they don't know about our relationship." At the mention of Amanda's family, Lee shot up straight. "Dotty - what am I going to tell her?"
Billy tried to calm his friend, Lee. "Remember, Amanda's mother and the boys are camping in the Rockies with the Junior Trailblazers. They'll be away for two weeks, and they will be so far from civilization, there's little likelihood that they would hear any news. That is, if this even becomes public. Right now there's no reason to make it public, unless Birol does or it drags on for very long. So relax and don't worry about her family - let's think about Amanda."
Lee's shoulders relaxed as he absorbed Billy's reassurances. With everything else he had to worry about, he was happy not to add Amanda's mother and sons to his list. The older man's voice interrupted Lee's reverie. "I understand your concern about the Agency's policies, Lee, but why didn't you tell me? I always thought we were more than just colleagues; that we were friends."
The agent ran his fingers through his long brown hair. "Yes, Billy we're friends, but neither of us wanted to put you in a compromised position here."
Billy shook his head. "Lee, don't you give me any credit? Don't you think I know you by now? Don't you realize that I saw your feelings for Amanda grow over the years? That's one reason I kept putting the two of you together on cases - my instincts told me that she was the best thing that ever happened to you."
Lee looked at his superior with eyes filled with warmth and gratitude. "That's always been my problem, Billy. I had such a hard time trusting anyone but myself. Amanda has really changed all that. I trust her implicitly, and I'm gradually learning to trust others."
Billy stood and walked to his desk. "Now that I know all the facts, let's start working on a plan."
Amanda was awakened by Birol's sharp cry "bitch!" accompanied by another slap across her face. "Why will you not tell me what I need to know? I gave you enough drugs to make you confess your darkest sins! Why do you not respond, woman!"
Amanda wearily shook her head in an attempt to return to full consciousness. She had a vague recollection of an injection, followed by Birol tormenting her with questions about Lee, and pictures of unknown women. 'Nightcrawler, Nightcrawler' he kept repeating, obviously trying to learn the identity of the mole within his organization. She remembered that every time he asked anything about Lee, she forced herself to see Lee's face before her, and to think of his voice repeating over and over: I love you, Amanda; I love you, Amanda. Was it possible that her concentration on her beloved helped Amanda overcome the effects of the drug?
Birol was shouting again. "I will break you; I will get stronger, more powerful drugs; I will use force; but be assured that I will get what I want from you!" Amanda turned her head to face the stark white wall. She was weary and all she wanted was to sleep, to escape from this torture.
The terrorist was unrelenting in his tirade, shouting "Tell me where to find Stetson. Tell me now, and I will let you go. Where is the Agency? Where does Stetson live? Who is Nightcrawler?" He punctuated each demand with a slap across her face. When Birol finally tired of Amanda's silence, he backed away. He pulled a large black object from his pants' pocket, and opened it to reveal a shiny silver blade, about six inches in length. "Do you see this, Amanda? Do you know how much pain I can inflict with this? Do you know how much damage I can do to your pretty body with this? Do you think Stetson will still want you when I finish with you?"
His threats hung over Amanda like a guillotine. I don't know how much more of this I can stand, she thought. I don't know if I have the strength to hang on. Suddenly, everything was black, and Amanda was lost in a room with black walls, and a black ceiling. There were three doors in front of her and she heard a voice in the background. "Choose, Amanda, choose. Open the right door and you are free. Make the wrong choice, and either you or Stetson die." Amanda heard her own voice crying Lee, Lee - where are you? Are you coming for me? Can you help me? Can I hold out long enough not to betray you? She approached the middle door, and as she reached out her hand to touch it, the door swung open revealing a grotesque skeleton wearing Lee's leather jacket. Amanda screamed, and her world became totally black.
Lee and Billy were huddled over a computer in a darkened workroom. Francine waited outside, ready to redirect anyone who tried to enter the room, especially Dr. Smyth. "We've run down all of Birol's known associates, and all of his known hiding places" Billy observed. "Apparently, he's doing this solo, because of his fear of our source. We've had agents raid every one of his houses in the D.C. area, and there are no signs of them at any of them, nor is there any evidence that either Amanda or Nightcrawler was ever there."
Lee pounded his fist on the table in frustration and rage. "Damnit, Billy, I can't do this sitting at a desk, looking at a screen. I need to be out there looking for her! It's what she'd expect of me, and certainly what she would do for me if the situation were reversed."
"LEE -- be reasonable! You can't track her down 'out there' if you don't have the first clue where to look. You'd just be wasting valuable time on a wild goose chase. The best chance we have to find them is by intelligence and outsmarting Birol. So keep pounding away at that computer until we get some ANSWERS!" Both Lee and Billy were feeling the ill effects of the strain of twenty-four straight hours of work with no sleep, little food, and no leads. Suddenly, a message appeared on the screen. "Apparently Scarecrow still does not take me seriously. Apparently he is willing to sacrifice his lover for his own skin. I shall prove to you all, finally, that I am smarter, stronger and my cause will be triumphant. Go to the alley behind the stores in the 300 block of South Capitol Street, and you will see that I speak the truth." The message was signed "A.B."
Lee jumped up and grabbed his jacket. "Let's go" he demanded of Billy.
The older man held Lee's arm. "Wait. Before we go running off, we need to make a plan in case this is an ambush, designed to capture you. We also need to try to track down the source of that computer message to see if it will lead us to Birol."
"Billy, I don't care if it is an ambush, or if he gets me, as long as it takes me to Amanda," Lee protested. "At least I'll be with her and know that she's safe."
Billy took a deep breath before he responded. "Think about it carefully, Lee. If he had you, do you think he'd just let Amanda just go? Do you think he is that honorable? No -- he'd just use her to get to you. Could you watch her suffer as he tortured her in front of your eyes? And once he had what he wanted, do you think he would spare either of you? His feelings toward you are a blood rage, a vendetta because you've thwarted all of his terrorist efforts here in the U.S. He's acting from wounded pride, vanity and ego, coupled with his revolutionary, fundamentalist zeal. That is a very deadly combination."
Billy's calm, rational words breached the emotional wall Lee had erected in his mind. "I know you're right. I know I'm not thinking straight. But I just have this horrible feeling - call it a sixth sense - that Amanda is hurt and wondering if I''ll ever come to save her. It's almost like I can feel her pain, and it's tearing me up inside. I keep trying to think about her, to concentrate on her and tell her to hang on and I'm coming to get her. But I can't help feeling that it's just useless, and I need to get out there and do something!
Billy stood beside Lee and put his arm around the younger man's shoulders. "Lee, when two people are as much in love as you are, I've sometimes heard that there's a special sort of ESP that connects them. I've heard that sometimes they can read each other's minds and know what the other is thinking, even when they are thousands of miles apart. That may be happening between the both of you, so you should keep up those positive thoughts. They may be helping to keep her alive."
Lee nodded. "A year ago if you had told me that, I would have thought that you were crazy. But now, everything has changed. I can't accept it on a logical, scientific basis, but in my heart I know that you're right."
Billy strode to the door. "Francine - I want you to get on this computer now and try to trace how this message got here, and where it came from. Lee and I are going to South Capitol Street."
Francine peered at the screen and a look of shock came across her face. She looked at Lee and Billy with fear and concern. "Are you going out there alone? Don't you think that's too dangerous? I can go as backup - stay in the background until we see if there's trouble."
"No, Francine," said Billy firmly. "I need your expertise here with the computer. No one in this Agency can get more from a computer than you. Lee and I are taking the elite squad with us - I've had them on standby from the beginning of this crisis. They will be our backup."
Disappointment flooded the blonde woman's face. "All right, I'll stay here and get what I can from the computer. She looked at Lee, and tried to reassure him. "Don't worry, Lee, she's strong. You both have been in tight positions before, and always come out in good shape. Good luck - she'll be fine."
This statement of emotion and concern from the woman who was ordinarily a wise-cracking ice princess warmed Lee's heart. "Thanks Francine - for everything, but mostly for caring and being a friend."
As they exited the room, Lee asked Billy curiously "Does Francine know, too? Just how bad were we at playing our 'cover'?"
Billy replied, "Lee, it's really hard to fool people when they're really your friends." With that the two men exited the floor to rendezvous with the elite squad.
Billy and Lee left the conference room, followed by the Agency's five member 'elite squad,' a specially recruited and trained squadron, specifically organized to handle dangerous, technical missions. They had laid out the plans for meeting and apprehending Birol, and protecting Lee and Billy. Now the two agents were headed in a circuitous route toward South Capitol Street, while the elite squad drove directly there in order to set up operations. As the car approached the Capitol, winding its way through streets clogged with rush hour commuters on their way out of the city, Lee felt his heart racing. What am I going to find? Will he bring Amanda and try to make a trade? Has he planned some trick like he did at the warehouse interview to grab Billy and me? Is Amanda alive? Has he hurt her? In order to calm his nerves, Lee checked his handgun, and proceeded to check the assault weapons that he had brought along. Oh Amanda -hold on, I'm coming to get you. Please remember that I love you.... He closed his eyes and tried to picture Amanda as he had last seen her, dressed in her casual jeans with her blue sweater, her lush brown hair piled on top of her head, and around her neck, the simple diamond heart on a platinum chain. Lee's facial expression softened as these warm and precious memories filled his mind; his eyes suddenly hardened when he contemplated what Birol might have done to hurt his beloved. As God is my witness, if you have hurt her in any way, I'll come after you and make you beg me to kill you, or die trying.
Billy glanced over at his friend, saw his face and accurately assessed the thoughts behind Lee's expression. "Lee, stop torturing yourself over what may have happened. If we are to be successful, you must be functioning at top capacity. If you can't do that, then you'll have to stay behind."
Melrose's sharp words cut through Lee's reverie. "Yes, Billy, I know what I have to do," he sighed, rolling his eyes. "Believe me, this is too important for me to let anything, even emotions, get the better of me. Okay? Are you comfortable with that? I just wish we were there already - the longer this ride is taking, the harder it is to avoid thinking about Amanda."
The car made a right turn down South Capitol Street, where the late day traffic was lighter. Lee pointed to the 300 block, and Billy stopped the car about a block away. The elite squad radioed a signal to the agents that they were in place and ready, and Lee and Billy approached the alley with caution.
"Scarecrow, Melrose" the leader of the elite squad radioed to them, "the alley appears to be deserted. There's no sign of any life here, and we have just finished checking all the stores and warehouses on the block."
Lee looked at Billy. "Is he just leading us around by the nose?"
Billy responded "No - that's really not his style. He always makes a point. Let's look around back there and see what we find."
They cautiously approached the alley littered with empty liquor bottles, trash and used syringes, and began to peer into doorways. Lee walked toward the trash dumpsters parked at the far end of the alley, when he noticed what appeared to be random graffiti on one of them. Although it appeared casual, the word 'traitor' was written on the dumpster, and alongside that was painted 'A.B.' "Billy! Come over here - this may be something!" Lee cried out as he ran to the dumpster.
When Billy noted that the top of the dumpster was considerably higher than either man, he radioed to the elite squad commander "Get one of your men on the roof to do a visual into this dumpster. See if there's anything suspicious inside, and if it appears to be booby-trapped." After several minutes, the commander radioed that there was a large, green trash bag on top of the dumpster, and it appeared to be full. Upon hearing that news, Lee climbed to the top of the dumpster. His heart stopped when it appeared that the bag might contain a body. He carefully lifted it, and handed the heavy burden to Billy and an elite squad member waiting below.
The men laid the bag on the ground, and the commander inspected it to make sure there were no explosives or other devices that could harm them. When the bag appeared to be clean, Billy pulled out his pocketknife to open it. Lee felt his knees buckle, as he anticipated what horrors the bag might contain. He said a short prayer. Please, Lord, let this not be Amanda. Please don't let anything happen to her. Not for me, Lord but for her - she doesn't deserve this. He closed his eyes as Billy's knife bit into the heavy green plastic. "Oh, my God," Billy moaned.
Lee's eyes opened wide with horror and his heart felt like it would explode. "NOOOOO" he shouted as he dropped to his knees. Inside the bag was the body of a woman. Upon close examination, she had been brutally and savagely beaten and tortured, and her face was bruised and battered almost beyond recognition. As Lee studied her, he realized that the body was not Amanda but Nightcrawler, Mara Petrak, his source inside Birol's organization. As the men examined the body more closely, Lee noticed a shiny object clutched in the dead woman's hand. He reached over and tenderly picked up Amanda's precious heart pendant, covered with dried blood.
As Lee cradled the pendant in his hand, Billy bent over the body to retrieve a piece of paper. "Lee - he also left us a message." The men unfolded the paper to reveal the following:
SCARECROW -- YOU SEE NOW THAT I MEAN WHAT I SAY. I FOUND NIGHTCRAWLER WITHOUT YOU - AFTER ALL, WOMEN ARE SO MUCH MORE VULNERABLE THAN MEN -- THEY GIVE IN TO TORTURE MUCH MORE EASILY. NOW ALL I WANT IS YOU. WHAT YOU SEE IN FRONT OF YOU WILL ALSO HAPPEN TO AMANDA IF YOU DO NOT FOLLOW MY INSTRUCTIONS. SHE IS A TYPICAL SOFT AMERICAN WOMAN - NOT AS TOUGH AS MARA - SO DO NOT COUNT ON HER TO LAST AS LONG. GO TO THE TELEPHONE BOOTH AT THE CORNER OF 16TH AND K STREETS AT 7:00 FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS. ***STUDY THE AUTOPSY CAREFULLY SO YOU WILL FULLY UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS TRAITOR SUFFERED.***
Lee looked frantically at his superior. "Billy, he's gonna kill Amanda! I've got to find her!"
Billy tried to calm his young agent. "Lee, let's think this through. We've got to get back to the Agency and see if Francine has tracked down the origin of the computer message. Then we'll plan how to handle the 7:00 meet."
Lee dropped to his knees and gently stroked the dead woman's hair. "I'm sorry I couldn't protect you, Mara. But I swear that I will find Birol and punish him for what he did to you."
Billy leaned over and gently pulled at Lee's elbow. "We'll get him, Lee. Let's go. Don't stay BÃ0 any longer." As the two agents moved toward their car, the elite squad began to work with the newly arrived ambulance crew to take Nightcrawler's body to the morgue.
Amanda - why aren't you dressed? Don't you remember? We're going out for a very special dinner tonight. I have something important to tell you. We don't want to be late on such a special day. Amanda saw Lee standing before her, handsomely attired in a stylish, double breasted black tuxedo. I'm sorry, Lee, but I've been so sleepy. I've been having terrible dreams.... Suddenly, Lee's face dissolved and was replaced by Addy Birol, smiling and holding his shiny knife.
"Wake up, Amanda. I'm pleased to tell you that my plan is working. I have discovered Nightcrawler, and I wanted you to be the first to know who she is - or rather, who she was." Birol placed three photographs in front of Amanda, who shrank back in horror at what she saw. The photos depicted a beaten, bloodied, tortured and obviously dead Mara Petrak, much as she had appeared to Lee and Billy when they opened the green bag. Amanda recognized Mara's face as one of Addy's followers. Lee had shown her photos of all of Birol's known accomplices, but had never identified who was his source of information. Tears of sorrow and fear began to run down her face. "Are you frightened, Amanda? You should be. This is exactly what I will do to you if you do not tell me what I want to know."
Amanda looked at Birol, his evil dark eyes glistening with hatred. She was unable to say anything. It was as though her entire body was beginning to shut down, and would not function. Her silence infuriated Birol. He pulled off his belt and began to whip Amanda all across her body, shouting "You western, American bitch! I'm tired of your obstinate, arrogant ways. You are the prisoner and I am in charge, here. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?" With that last statement, Birol crashed the belt across Amanda's chest, causing her whole body to react with violent shaking. Birol pulled up the knife and held it before Amanda's brown eyes. "Do you know how men from my country get their women to obey them? Do you want to find out? If you don't want a lesson, then you will tell me what I want, NOW!"
All Amanda could see was Lee, standing there, holding his arms out to comfort and protect her. Lee, where are you? Why haven't you come to help me this time when I need you so very much? Amanda's inner torment and Birol's physical torture were beginning to have an effect on her grasp of reality. She kept seeing Birol's face interchangeable with Lee's, followed by the faces of Jamie and Philip flashing across her mind. She was suddenly aware of cold and pain as Birol traced a line from her chin down her neck to her throat with his knife. Without warning, he flicked his wrist and the knife cut the top two buttons from her cotton shirt. He pushed open the shirt and began tracing designs over her bare chest with his knife.
"I understand you American women are very free and open about sex, not like the women from my part of the world. Some of you even like pain and torture. Are you one of them, Amanda?" He grabbed her roughly between her legs. "Is Stetson a good lover? Maybe I should try and give you a point of comparison? Would you like that?"
By now, her terror was complete. She realized that all that stood between Lee and this crazed killer was her ability to hold on and not reveal his secrets. Her mind started reeling. Suddenly she felt that this pain and madness were not happening to her, Amanda King, Arlington housewife and mother of two boys. She was standing aside, almost like an observer, watching this happen to a stranger while Amanda was safe and protected in the darkness of her mind. Her last conscious thought was that she must be going mad.
Lee and Billy returned to the Agency to find an excited Francine waving around a single sheet of paper. "Lee, Billy! Birol's made his first mistake! We traced the computer message. When we first checked it, the transmission was encoded. But his mistake was in using an old code that we deciphered years ago. He must have thought that it was so old that we wouldn't have records on it any longer. But you know the boys in Crypto - they never throw anything away!">
Billy questioned Francine while a dejected Lee slumped in a nearby chair. "What did you find out from the transmission? We need to move quickly." He lowered his voice to tell her "We found Nightcrawler in the alley. She's dead, and from the look of it, she was pretty badly beaten and tortured before she died. There was a note with her that told Lee that he would do the same to Amanda if he didn't follow his instructions. We also found Amanda's diamond pendant, clutched in the dead girl's hand, covered with blood."
Francine's normally cool face looked shocked and saddened. "What do you think, Billy? Do you think we'll be able to save her? And if we don't, will we be able to save Lee?" she said as she glanced over at her friend.
"I don't know, Francine" Billy admitted. "But I do know we have to try. Now tell me everything you know, so we can be ready. Birol has demanded that Lee pick up instructions at a drop on the corner of 16th and K at 7:00 and we don't have much time."
"Right. We found that the transmission was made from a computer that is located in the Cleveland Park area of D.C. That's not far from 16th and K, is it? We were able to pinpoint a three block area that contains mostly private homes and a few embassies. We checked out the owners of the private homes, and found two that don't have any connection or other references in the area -- therefore, we think they may be fronts. We dispatched agents to discretely check out both houses, without entering or otherwise arousing suspicion. We've centered on a large estate at 3000 Ordway Street, Northwest. That's the place we need to cover."
At Francine's last words, Lee's head shot up. "Francine, do you think you've found his hideout? How certain are you? Let's go - now!"
Billy again had to calm Lee and hold him back. "Lee, stop. We have to orchestrate this carefully, so that we get Birol and save Amanda. Remember, Birol is dangerous; we have no assurances that he's even in the D.C. area."
Francine interrupted her superior "Billy, we've already accessed the blueprints of the house on the computer, and determined where it's vulnerable and how we should get in. The teams are on their way over there to start setting up."
Billy checked his watch. "It's almost 7:00 - Lee, we need to get you to 16th and K. Francine, we'll pick up the information from Birol and then be in radio contact with you to coordinate with the assault team. Let's go."
Lee stood up slowly. To his friends, he appeared to have given up all hope of finding Amanda alive, and to have given up on his own life. He walked without purpose and without spirit, following Billy out the door and down the hall. Billy thought How am I going to deal with Lee? He's a walking zombie - how can I trust him in a delicate mission. Can I put the fate of all these people in his hands?
"Lee - look at me. She's okay - she's alive. He hasn't played his final card, yet. He wouldn't have sent us Mara and set up this arrangement if he had killed Amanda. But if you don't snap out of this, we won't get him, and we'll lose her!" At Lee's blank stare, Billy shouted "Dammit, Lee - listen to me! If you can't function at full capacity, we'll lose her! Do you hear me?"
Billy's loud, sharp words had the desired effect on Lee. He shook his head and said softly "I'm okay, Billy - really. Believe me, I know how important this is - probably more than anyone else. I'll be one hundred percent when it counts."
The firm and fierce look in Lee's eyes convinced Billy of the sincerity of his friend's vow. The two men walked down the corridor to begin what would likely be the most important and dangerous mission of their lives.
The sun was shining, and children were playing on the quiet suburban street. Amanda looked out her bedroom window on the idyllic scene below. Strange how I can see everything, but I don't hear any noise or sound coming from the street. The world was beautiful and at peace, and she was safe in her own room in her own house.
Birol entered the room where he held Amanda captive and studied her. The slender woman's clothes were torn and dirty, her body bruised and covered with dried blood, yet her eyes were open and her face bore an expression of peace that was a total contrast to her conditions. His first thought was that she was dead; he approached her and felt her skin, which was still warm; he observed the shallow rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. A look of relief flooded the terrorist's face; she must not die until I will it and that is not until I have Stetson and make him watch her die. Then I will kill him and my mission will be complete.
Birol slapped Amanda to gain her attention. But this time, the woman showed no response, and had no reaction to the pain he inflicted. "Wake up - stop playing games with me, bitch!" He grew angrier as she did not respond to his repeated blows to her face and arms. Is this some game? Some new technique the Agency teaches its people to avoid giving in to torture?
He studied his captive carefully as an idea grew in his mind. He opened the remaining buttons on her blouse, cut off her bra, and lay on top of her, fondling her breasts. This should bring her back to reality. They say the fear of rape will cause a woman's adrenaline to flow, and she should begin to fight me. Still there was no response from the woman who stared at him with open, calm eyes. Overcome with rage and anger, Birol jumped up, grabbed his belt and began to beat her across her bare chest, gradually moving down her body with a whip-like motion. Her body still didn't respond to the pain he was inflicting, nor did her facial expression change. Angry and frustrated, Birol left the room to make plans for his final confrontation with Stetson and the Agency. He had a telephone call to make....
Amanda was at the circus. The lions were parading around the center ring, as the lion tamer cracked his whip to make them obey. All around the circus tent, families with children cheered and applauded the various acts. But still she could not hear sounds. She knew they were cheering by the movement of their hands and mouths. Why was there no sound? And why were the female acrobats performing without their shirts, naked from the waist up?
Lee and Billy were standing next to a public telephone booth at the corner of the busy Washington intersection of 16th and K Streets. All around them, people were rushing to get home, or to begin an evening's festivities at the area's many night spots. Lee watched happy young couples pass him by and thought How can the world go on as though nothing is happening, when my world is about to collapse? How can people continue their ordinary lives, while mine is over? He fought to overcome the sadness that sought to engulf him and interfere with his judgment, skill and training. Stop it, Lee - you're not going to do her any good in this condition. And even if you don't care what happens to you, you care about Billy and the others here - you can't do anything to jeopardize their welfare.
The sharp ring of the telephone brought Lee out of his reverie. "Answer it, Lee" said Billy.
Lee picked up the receiver. "Yes -- Stetson here."
"Scarecrow - you know who this is. Do not try to trace this call. It has been set through several remotes so as to be untraceable - of course, you must have anticipated thhat I would do this."
"Birol - what do you want? Is Amanda all right? Let's end this - now - just the two of us."
"Amanda is alive - whether she is 'all right,' as you say, is a matter of opinion. But you are in no position to be making demands of me, Stetson. I make the demands, set the rules, and you must play by them if you wish to see her alive. I take it that you found Nightcrawler? And you know from her autopsy the full extent of what I did to her. You know that I must mean business if I could do that to someone I loved. Imagine what I can do to someone you love...." Birol let his voice trail off and remained silent for a moment to let his words have their desired effect on Lee.
The young agent's body trembled, his face reddened, and he shouted "Birol - tell me what you want, but leave Amanda alone. She has done nothing to you! It's me you want - why don't you be a man and face me directly, instead of hiding behind a woman!"
"I will see you very shortly, Scarecrow" Birol promised. "And I will deal with you; that has always been my wish. But your Amanda has been such an effective tool in this game. I have really enjoyed her company...." The latter was so filled with sexual innuendo that Lee could barely contain himself. "Now listen carefully, Stetson. You are to go - alone - to the B.A. Imports Warehouse on Georgia Avenue. Alone, you understand? You are to be unarmed and to arrive at midnight. When you get there, and I am confident you have followed my instructions precisely, I will send a message over the same computer I used before to tell your people where to find Amanda. She will be released to them."
"How do I know that you will release her if I show up?" Lee questioned. You haven't shown me too much to make me believe in your word."
"You are in no position to question or demand!" Birol shouted in fury. "You will do what I say, without question, or there is no hope that you or anyone else in this world will ever see Amanda King alive again."
Billy prompted Lee. "Ask him for some proof that Amanda is still alive."
When Lee asked Birol to put Amanda on the phone as proof that she was indeed all right, Birol exploded. "She is asleep! She will not speak to you! I said that you will not demand anything. Follow my instructions or Mrs. King will pay the ultimate price!" With that, the phone line went dead.
Billy stared at Lee's face which was drained of all color. "Billy, I've lost her. I'm sure of it. He won't release her, even if he gets me. I just want to die." Lee collapsed into the older man's arms.
"Lee, we have five hours to find the house and get Birol and Amanda. Remember, he has no idea we know where he is. We have the element of surprise on our side. You can't give up now."
Suddenly Lee focused on something Birol said. "Billy, have you seen the results of Mara's autopsy? What did Birol mean 'the full extent of what I did to her?" He dreaded the answer.
Billy swallowed hard, not knowing how he would tell his friend about all of Nightcrawler's injuries. "Lee, let's not worry about that now" he evaded. "We have to concentrate on finding Amanda and getting her out of there before midnight." Billy's tone set off alarms of concern in Lee's mind.
"Billy, please - you have to tell me what he meant. I can't function if I don't know all the facts. Just like you needed the truth from me, remember? Now I need the full truth from you."
Billy took a deep breath, and said quietly. "The autopsy results showed that she was sexually attacked - severely - apparently prior to her death. Her genital area showed extensive trauma." Lee paled and clenched his jaw, closing his eyes as he waited to hear the rest.
"Lee, we have no proof that he did anything to Amanda. It's all part of his game, to throw you off balance so you won't be able to successfully pursue him."
Anger overtook the anguish that had previously marked Lee's attitude toward the rescue. "Billy, as God is my witness, I'm going to get him. I'm going to save Amanda and kill Birol. If I get to torture him before he dies, so much the better!" Lee questioned his superior eagerly "So what's your plan? How are we going to pull off this sneak attack?"
Billy was concerned about Lee's anger, but felt it was more productive and safer than the depression that had preceded it. "Francine is on her way here now. We'll meet at the mobile command post in fifteen minutes. It's going to be all right, Lee. I just know it."
Amanda was at a funeral. There were lots of long black cars, and many people in black clothing, mourning the deceased. The sun was shining, and except for the grave markers, the cemetery was like a beautiful park. She strained to see whose funeral it was. In the front of all the mourners were two young boys who appeared to be about ten and twelve years old, and looked very much like Philip and Jamie. Next to them was a tall blonde woman in her fifties, who looked remarkably like Amanda's mother, Dotty West. The minister was handing an American flag to the woman and telling her that her daughter had given her life for her country. There was a tall young man off to the side with tears streaming down his cheeks. Lee? Why was he at a funeral? Why were Mother, Philip and Jamie there? This must be my funeral...that's why I feel so peaceful.
"Amanda!" Birol barked. "The day you had hoped for is here. Your lover is coming to join you. It is so much nicer to die with the one you love than to die alone, wouldn't you agree?" Birol's statements were rewarded by the same response he had become accustomed to from his captive - silence and a blank stare. If Stetson doesn't come tonight, he thought, I will lose the fun of killing her because she will die of her own will, by starvation since she hasn't had anything to eat or drink since I brought her here. Birol despaired of losing his ultimate victory - having both Amanda and Lee die by his hand.
One hour later Billy, Lee and Francine were driving down a quiet, residential street in the heart of Cleveland Park. The street was lined with old trees whose limbs had grown across the street and joined to form a canopy above the car. The houses were old and large, with expansive lawns. This is such a beautiful neighborhood Lee thought. It's hard to believe that Birol's atrocities could occur in this setting. The sun was just beginning to set as the car pulled up outside a brick Georgian colonial, set back from the street, and surrounded by a tall iron fence.
"This is it - and it's a perfect place" noted Billy. "Quiet and unassuming, with no nosy neighbors and set away from the street." It could be the home of a diplomat or an embassy, rather than a chamber of horrors, thought Lee.
Billy radioed to the commander of the elite squad, who responded that the agents were in place and ready to move at his direction. After the men were injected with neutralizer to protect them from zap gas, the three agents exited the car and walked slowly to the gate. As expected, it was electrified, and Francine opened a black briefcase that she had taken with her from the car and removed two wires. She attached the loose end of each wire to the post, connected the other ends to a monitor, and pressed the red button. She checked the monitoring device that was directly above the control panel.
"The fence is neutralized, and we now have a tracking device installed" said Francine. She turned to the two men. "It's time to go. Good luck and please be careful." She looked at Lee with uncharacteristic care and concern. "I'll be praying for you - and for Amanda."
"Thanks, Francine - you don't know how much your support has meant to me" said Lee. "I couldn't have gotten this far without the support and friendship of you and Billy" he said, his voice choking with emotion.
"Let's go, Scarecrow" Billy interrupted gruffly, not knowing how to handle this uncharacteristic display of emotion. "I've just given the word to the commander that we're going in, and they'll be tracking us here. Francine, make sure that the medical unit is standing by on the next block, and that Doc Kelfer and his team are ready to move in so we can take care of Amanda."
Lee and Billy crept warily through the bushes and trees that lead from the street to the house. Night had fallen, and both men were dressed in black to prevent detection. Lee flashed a small beam of light across the grass. "Look, Billy" he said, surprised. "There's no laser alarm or other type of protection. This isn't normal. In all his other hideouts, he had alarms and other equipment for protection against attack. Why nothing here except an electric fence? Is it possible we have the wrong house?"
Billy was also puzzled. "Lee, our best intelligence is that he is here. Maybe he chose this place at the last minute and didn't have enough time to fortify it. And maybe he underestimates our ability to find him, so he has let his guard down. We've still got to keep going, and hope that we're not about to raid a respectable family at home for the evening!" The two men continued their slow movement toward the rear of the house.
Somewhere in the recesses of her mind, Amanda heard a voice. It was the first sound she had heard in a very long time. It was a man's voice and it kept growing in strength. Amanda, hold on. I'm coming to get you. It won't be long now - just hang on for me. I love you.... Whose voice could that be? Could it be Lee? Was he really coming, or was it just one of the many illusions and apparitions that filled Amanda's head? Or was it Birol????
"Billy - look over here!" Lee was examining the rear door to the house. He pointed to a set of ominous-looking wires that surrounded the door. "This is certainly alarmed, and perhaps rigged to explode. It looks as though Birol has taken some precautions against invasion after all, and it's likely this is the right place!" Lee's spirits soared. I'm close, Amanda - I'm coming to get you. Hang on, darling just a little bit longer. Just hang on....
Lee began to crawl around in the bushes surrounding the house. All of the ground-floor windows appeared to have the same wiring as the door. Suddenly Lee spied a small window that appeared to lead into a basement. The window was half-hidden by leaves and debris. Lee anxiously pushed the debris out of the way and whispered. "Billy, come over here. I found a window that leads to a basement, and it's not wired!" Melrose crept over to join his friend, who was already at work cutting the glass from the frame. The superior radioed quietly to the commander of the elite squad that the two men were about to enter the house through a rear basement window.
Billy and Lee began to walk slowly through the dimly lit basement. Each man had his weapon drawn; Billy also carried a canister of zap gas, in the event that they met with more than one adversary. Lee's flashlight illuminated their path, and he moved the light around the room in order to better assess the layout and to plan their attack.
"Billy, look" Lee exclaimed as he shone the light around the room. "Over there to the right - it looks like there has been reinforcing done to the walls. It could be a holding cell!"
The two men walked slowly to the doorway and peered into the hall. Lee gasped when he saw an unarmed Birol take out a set of keys and unlock a steel door. "Birol - freeze!" commanded Lee. The terrorist wheeled around to face the two intruders and reached for his gun.
Lee raised his automatic weapon to fire.
Billy yelled "No!" and proceeded to spray Birol with the zap gas. "Lee, we can't kill him" Billy explained. "What if we can't find Amanda - we need him alive to help us locate her!"
"Thanks, Billy -- I almost let myself go" Lee said gratefully as he rushed into the unlocked room, while Billy busied himself putting handcuffs on Birol and radioing to the elite squad.
Lee face went white and his knees buckled at what he saw. The room was stark white, with no windows and, on the floor, piles of rotting and rotten food covered with insects. The room was bare of all furniture save for a metal cot resting against one wall. On that cot was Amanda, her clothes torn and bloody, her face beaten and bruised, and her hair disheveled. The most frightening aspect of all was her face: her eyes were open and staring straight ahead, with an almost-peaceful look. At first Lee thought she was dead. His heart almost stopped. Am I too late? kept running through his mind like a mantra. He gathered her up in his arms and began to cry as he rocked her. "My darling. My beautiful darling. What did he do to you? I'm sorry I got here too late. I love you so much...." Suddenly, he realized that her body was still warm and that she was breathing. His tears of sorrow turned into tears of joy. "Billy - come here - she's alive!!!"
Lee's joy was short-lived as he realized that Amanda was not responding to him. She must be in shock, he thought. "Get the medics in here, now! She needs help!"
He had barely uttered the last words when Dr. Kelfer and the medical team rushed in. They pushed Lee aside and began to examine Amanda. "This woman is in extremely critical condition" shouted the doctor. "Get the chopper down here now. We need to get her to the Agency hospital ASAP."
As the medical team loaded Amanda's lifeless body onto a stretcher and prepared to take it to the waiting helicopter, Lee was barely aware of the elite squad putting chains on Birol and taking him outside. As they were about to leave, an animal-like sound erupted from Lee's throat as he lunged at Birol. "You animal! What have you done to her?" Billy grabbed Lee to keep the younger man from killing Birol with his bare hands. Lee's shouts followed Birol down the corridor. "I'm not through with you yet. You're going to be brutalized like she was until you beg me to kill you to end your misery!!! You'll never have another day of peace for the rest of your miserable existence!!"
"Lee! Stop it! Act like a professional - vengeance isn't appropriate now! Your first thought should be with Amanda. She needs you now more than anything else. So get going or you'll miss that chopper." Billy's rebuke again brought Scarecrow around to his senses. He ran after the stretcher, and jumped into the waiting helicopter.
Amanda had been in the treatment room for several hours. Doctors and other medical personnel rushed in and out, but no one had yet stopped to give Lee any information. He paced back and forth, running his hands through his hair, and only stopped long enough to drape his long body into a chair and think of Amanda. He couldn't forget the painful sight he had of her in that room, lying so still. His mind was filled with thousands of racing thoughts. What did he do to you? Did he torture you? Did he poison or drug you? Did he assault you - sexually? Will you be all right? Can you survive this physically? Emotionally?
Billy suddenly appeared. "Lee, any word on Amanda? How is she?"
Lee replied "I don't know, Billy. The doctors have been with her for over two hours, and no one has told me anything yet. I haven't pushed, because I don't want to take them away from helping her. But this waiting is killing me. I just can't forget what she looked like in that room and wonder what he did to her. Do you think she'll recover? And what will her family and I do if she doesn't?" He jumped to his feet again, unable to sit still for long. His mind was in turmoil.
"This is the time for prayer, Lee. The doctors are all top notch, and the best in their fields. But you know that isn't always enough. This is the time to use all of your will, and hope for a little divine intervention."
Lee closed his eyes and began a silent prayer. Please, Lord, be there for Amanda. You know how good she is. You know how many people depend on her. She's never done a mean, hurtful, or unkind thing in her entire life. Please don't make her suffer; let her recover from this - for her mother, her sons who need her so much - and for me, although I don't deserve it.
Suddenly, Dr. Kelfer appeared, accompanied by a woman Lee knew to be one of the staff psychologists. "Lee, Billy - can we go somewhere to talk?"
Lee strode over to them. "How is Amanda?" Lee questioned the doctors.
"She's resting comfortably right now. We'll discuss this more when we get to the conference room" replied Dr. Kelfer uncomfortably.
Once seated inside the small conference room, Dr. Kelfer began. "From our preliminary examination, Mrs. King's physical condition is very serious. As you could see from her appearance, she was physically beaten and bruised, on a repeated basis, during her captivity. It appears that he used a belt or strap to whip her on several occasions. Because of the unsanitary conditions in that room, some of the wounds became infected, and we are treating those with antibiotics. Her blood tests also reveal that she is suffering from malnutrition and dehydration. I don't believe she has had anything to eat or drink for at least forty-eight hours."
Lee recoiled, remembering the stacks of rancid rotten food that had attracted flies and other insects piled in the corner of the room that had been Amanda's cell. Lee swallowed hard, and forced himself to ask the next question. "Doc, like I told you in the chopper, did you check to see any signs of - other abuse. Like the kind I mentioned that was in the autopsy of my informant?"
"Do you mean sexual abuse?" Lee took a deep breath and nodded his head.
"Lee, I'll be honest with you. There is some bruising around her breasts and genital area that could be consistent with that type of abuse. It is also consistent with the physical abuse that he committed to her entire body. But I have had a chance to read the autopsy results, and Mrs. King's injuries are not in any way as severe. And I can't say conclusively what caused those injuries. So the only way that we will know for sure is when Amanda can tell us herself."
Lee's eyes flew open. "You mean she's not awake yet? What's wrong? Why isn't she awake yet?"
Dr. Kelfer said gently, "That's why I brought Margaret Tompkins with me. We need to talk extensively about Mrs. King's mental condition."
Dr. Tompkins began "When Mrs. King first came in, Dr. Kelfer asked me to observe as the medical team examined her. He was concerned that her eyes were open, yet they were fixed, her pupils were dilated, and she had no response to any stimulus. At first, we thought it was shock. But the symptoms of shock would have abated by now, especially since we have given her nutrients and fluid, taken care of her wounds, and made her warm and comfortable. At the very least, if it was shock, she would have closed her eyes and gone to sleep. But her facial expression is very much the same as it was when you first found her. And that causes us more concern than her physical condition."
Lee asked anxiously, "What do you think is causing this? Could he have given her a drug that caused this reaction?"
The doctor replied, "We considered that, so we took a blood sample and had it analyzed to see what drugs he administered. The only thing we discovered in her blood was some type of truth serum drug that, even if he gave it to her in huge doses, should not have caused this reaction. So we don't think this reaction is drug-induced."
The psychologist continued. "I've had extensive experience dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. You have probably heard of it in connection with returning Vietnam veterans, and children who have been sexually abused. Amanda's symptoms are similar to PTSD."
"What does that mean?" Lee demanded in frustration. "What's her prognosis? Will she ever come out of it?" The questions poured out of Lee faster than he could say them.
"Slow down, Mr. Stetson" Dr. Tompkins cautioned. "I didn't say that it was a certainty that she has PTSD. I just said that her symptoms are similar. What we are going to do is keep her here under observation. We need her to be surrounded by her family; by people who love and care for her. We have to talk to her and try to get through to her that she is safe and her ordeal is over. We also have a new, hypnotic drug that we can administer to help unlock the story of what happened to her in Birol's house. Once we know the extent of what he did, we will be better equipped to help her."
"Her mother and sons are on a camping trip in the Rockies. They won't be home for more than a week" Lee replied. "Anyway, they don't know anything about her work with the Agency, and I don't think they could help her if we just sprang on them that she has this 'secret life.'"
"Is there anyone else who is close to her" queried Dr. Kelfer. "I see from her file she's divorced. How about her ex-husband?"
"No" Lee replied sharply. "I'm the closest to her. I have been for more than three years. I'll stay with her."
The two doctors looked at each other quickly. Dr. Kelfer spoke up. "Lee - son. You look like you haven't slept in a week. You can barely stand on your feet or put two sentences together. I don't need another patient - you need to rest."
"She's here because of me, and I'm the person she's closest to. Doc, I wouldn't rest anyway, knowing she's here and in such bad condition. Please, I've got to stay with her," Lee pleaded determinedly. He had to do SOMETHING to help her. After all, this was all his fault. It was the least he could do. He knew she'd be there for him.
Dr. Kelfer looked at Billy who nodded his agreement. "Okay - you can stay. But I'm putting an extra cot in her room. If you need to, just doze off in it for a while."
"Agreed. But before I see her, I have to get something from her house. I'll be back in twenty minutes." With that, Lee rushed out of the room.
Billy looked at the doctors. "Frank, now that Lee's gone, tell me - is there really hope that she'll recover?" He couldn't bring himself to ask it with Lee in the room.
Dr. Kelfer thought a moment. "Billy, you know that modern medical science has achieved phenomenal results and is making new breakthroughs every day. But I think that the one force that will result in a miracle here is the young man who just walked out the door. It is so obvious that he loves Mrs. King - and the power of love is as important to her recovery as any modern medical technique."
Lee slipped into Amanda's home through his customary rear door. Once inside, he looked around as though seeing it for the first time. The house seemed so quiet; so extraordinary for Amanda's usually rambunctious family. All around the kitchen and family room, he saw Amanda's special touches: the print curtains on the windows in her cozy kitchen, the comfortable sofa and chairs in the family room, and the warm books and pictures that lined the bookshelf on the wall. He walked directly to the bookcase and found what he wanted - an eight by ten color photographic portrait of Dotty, Philip and Jamie that they had given to Amanda several months earlier. She's going to need all of our love and support now, guys, Lee thought, and this is the best way for you all to help. He looked around again and could almost feel Amanda's presence in the room and see her beautiful face. Will she ever return to this house again? Will her life ever be the same? Will any of our lives be the same? Lee said another silent prayer for her full recovery, and slipped out of the house.
Twenty minutes later, he returned to the hospital. When Lee walked into Amanda's hospital room, he again had to catch his breath as he looked at his beloved.
Amanda was lying on her back in the stark white hospital room, with numerous intravenous tubes flowing into both arms. Her face bore the same strange, peaceful expression it had when he first found her, but her eyes were now closed and she appeared to be sleeping. A small cot had been placed along one wall of the room, and a green vinyl chair was beside the bed. Out of the corner of his eye, Lee noticed Dr. Tompkins standing in the corner of the room, watching her sleeping patient.
"How is she doing, Doc?" Lee asked. "Has there been any change?"
"We were able to manually close her eyes, so it appears now that she's sleeping," Dr. Tompkins replied negatively. "But we don't know if she's really asleep, or in the same state as when you first found her. I'm glad you're here. For the next few hours - if you are physically able - I want you to sit with her and to talk to her in a loving, reassuring way. Stroke her arm, her hair - touch her. Do whatever you can to get through to her and try to bring her back to us."
"Right, Doc. I'll do that, and I'm not at all tired. But what if that doesn't work? What's the next step?" he asked anxiously.
"Mr. Stetson - let's deal with that later. Right now, concentrate on reaching Mrs. King." With that statement, Dr. Tompkins exited the room, closing the door behind her.
Lee settled the photo of Dotty and the boys on the side table next to Amanda's bed. He then quickly glanced behind him at the closed door, making sure that they were, indeed, alone. He sat on the side of her bed and began talking. "Amanda, it's Lee. Can you hear me? I'm here with you and you're safe. It's all over." He took her small hand in his and held it tightly, while stroking her arm. "I love you, Amanda. You're the center of my world. We've shared so much together, and there's so much more for us to share in the future. I love you. I've never loved anyone as I do you, Amanda. You're my life."
Lee looked at Amanda's unchanged facial expression and
continued, pointing to the picture on the side table. "Amanda, look at
this. It's your mother and Philip and Jamie. They love and need you so
much, too. Think of how much fun you've had raising the boys. Think about
how wonderful they are, how bright and how loving. And think of how great
it will be when we can raise them together. They need you so much, Amanda
- you've got to come back for them!"
The young agent began to reminisce. "Remember the fun
we had in Europe? The black tie parties in Germany? The beauty of the Alps
that we enjoyed - in between fighting the bad guys? Do you remember our
time in London after we caught the Mongoose? We had that beautiful tea
at the Ritz - your second choice, since I couldn't arrange for tea at Buckingham
Palace?" He actually chuckled a little in remembrance. "And after our tea,
we walked around London, holding hands and ogling all the tourist attractions.
I was in love with you then, only I didn't have the courage enough to admit
it to myself. But I think you've known for a long time how I feel about
you...." Lee's words trailed off as his heart was overcome with emotion.
Why did I wait so long to tell her how I felt? Why didn't I tell her then
I loved her? Why didn't I do more for her? Why didn't I do more to make
her happy? He stopped himself short. Beating myself up won't do anything
to help her now Lee thought, remembering the advice of the doctors and
The tension and fatigue of the last several days were
beginning to take their toll on Lee. He felt drowsy, and as though he could
no longer keep his eyes open, or move his mouth to speak. He stretched
his long body out on the bed next to Amanda and wrapped his arms around
her, taking care not to disturb the various tubes that were flowing into
her body. He mumbled "I love you" and softly kissed her cheek before drifting
off to sleep.
The young agent began to reminisce. "Remember the fun we had in Europe? The black tie parties in Germany? The beauty of the Alps that we enjoyed - in between fighting the bad guys? Do you remember our time in London after we caught the Mongoose? We had that beautiful tea at the Ritz - your second choice, since I couldn't arrange for tea at Buckingham Palace?" He actually chuckled a little in remembrance. "And after our tea, we walked around London, holding hands and ogling all the tourist attractions. I was in love with you then, only I didn't have the courage enough to admit it to myself. But I think you've known for a long time how I feel about you...." Lee's words trailed off as his heart was overcome with emotion. Why did I wait so long to tell her how I felt? Why didn't I tell her then I loved her? Why didn't I do more for her? Why didn't I do more to make her happy? He stopped himself short. Beating myself up won't do anything to help her now Lee thought, remembering the advice of the doctors and Billy.
The tension and fatigue of the last several days were beginning to take their toll on Lee. He felt drowsy, and as though he could no longer keep his eyes open, or move his mouth to speak. He stretched his long body out on the bed next to Amanda and wrapped his arms around her, taking care not to disturb the various tubes that were flowing into her body. He mumbled "I love you" and softly kissed her cheek before drifting off to sleep.
Lee awakened suddenly; it took several seconds to orient himself and realize where he was. The sun was shining brightly through the window of the hospital room, and he was in Amanda's bed. But he was alone. Where was she? He jumped up with a start, ran into the hallway, and almost collided with Dr. Kelfer. "Where's Amanda? What's happened? Is she all right?"
The doctor put his hands on Lee's shoulders and said "Hold on, son. She's fine. We decided to use that new hypnotic drug on her, since she didn't respond to you."
"Why did you use the drug? Why didn't you give me more time to work with her?" Lee demanded.
The doctor responded "Lee, the longer Mrs. King is in that state, the less likely it is that she will fully recover. We must work as quickly as possible to bring her back. You must understand."
Lee looked fearfully at the older man. "Doc, is the drug dangerous? Could it cause harm to her?"
"No, we know of no known side effects, or of any damage the drug has done. Although it is still technically experimental, the drug has been very useful in treating people in conditions similar to Mrs. King's. Since she cannot be hypnotized in her present condition, the drug causes a chemical reaction in her brain which is similar to hypnosis, and allows us to question her about what occurred while she was in captivity."
"What happens when you learn what she went through? How will that help you treat her?" Lee asked.
The doctor replied "When we know what she went through, we can force her to look at and deal with those horrors. Right now, it appears as though she has dissociated; like many victims of terrifying situations, she has removed herself from her body so that she blocks the horrible things that are happening to her from her mind. We see this dissociation quite frequently in children who are sexually abused. They dissociate to remove themselves from the pain that their bodies experience, and often form multiple personalities to deal with the pain. In that way, they protect themselves from the ordeal."
"Multiple personalities! Is that what you think will happen to Amanda?" Lee protested in shock.
"No, Lee - I was just trying to explain by analogy. Multiple personalities are formed over very long periods of trauma - not over a brief period of days, as was Mrs. King's confinement. But she may have begun to dissociate, in order to remove herself from the painful situation. And the quicker we can get through to her, the better our chances to bring her to full recovery. Do you understand?"
Lee nodded his head. "Do you need me to do anything?"
The doctor responded "No, son. Just get some rest and be ready to work with her again once we learn what happened." With that, Dr. Kelfer turned around and walked toward the treatment room where Dr. Tompkins was working.
Lee returned to Amanda's room dejectedly. The blinds were open wide, allowing the beauty of the day to shine in. The nurses' aides were just completing a change of linens on the empty bed. A small bouquet of fresh flowers had been placed on the bedside table, next to the picture of Dotty and the boys. Lee looked at the card. It read simply "Amanda - please return to us as soon as you can. We need you. Billy." Lee's heart turned over at his friend's thoughtfulness and concern. He also noticed a small teddy bear that had been placed at the center of Amanda's bed. Tied to the bear's right arm was a small gift card that said "Hurry back - F." Lee realized immediately that "F" wwas Francine and again was touched by the warmth and generosity of his friend. He stretched out on the bed, wrapped the soft bear in his arms, and was immediately asleep.
"Lee - wake up." Lee turned his head to see Dr. Kelfer gently shaking his shoulder. How long have I been sleeping? he wondered hazily, looking around and realizing that he was no longer in Amanda's bed; he was now stretched out on the little cot. He blushed slightly as he realized how out of it he must have been not to feel anything. Amanda had been returned to her bed, looking very much as she had before. There was no change in her facial expression, and the tubes and wires still connected her to life-giving medicine and nutrients.
"Doc - how is she? Was your session successful? Did you get through? Did you find out what happened to her?" Lee's questions tumbled out in rapid succession.
"Slow down, son" the doctor said, comfortingly. "We have quite a bit to tell you, and we'd like to share it with both you and Mr. Melrose, if you don't mind."
Thinking of how much Billy's support had meant to him during the days of his ordeal, Lee readily agreed to have Billy join them.
Several minutes later, the doctors, Billy and Lee gathered around a small conference table at the end of the hallway.
Dr. Kelfer began: "First, let me say that our use of the hypnotic drug was very successful. We were able to get through to Mrs. King and get her to tell us what happened during her captivity. This is a very good sign. It shows that she has not regressed or dissociated so far as to lose hope of bringing her back."
"Doc, that's great!" Lee exclaimed happily. "Can you tell us what she said? What can we do now to help her?"
"Dr. Tompkins did most of the examination, so I'll let her tell you what we learned." He turned to the psychologist, and said "Margaret - please tell Lee and Billy what we learned and the techniques we used to get the information."
Margaret looked directly at Lee with her soft brown eyes. "Mr. Stetson, let me preface my comments with the warning that this will not be easy for you to hear. It was hard for us to listen, and we're detached medical professionals, with no emotional attachment to her. But you must listen carefully, and not let anger or emotion get in the way. After this session, much of the success of Mrs. King's emotional recovery will rest in your hands, so you must understand how important the next few minutes will be."
Lee responded quickly with a reassuring "I understand, doctor. Please go on."
Margaret began: "We administered the drug, and within five minutes, we were able to get a response from Mrs. King. The response was very much like what you'd get if you were in a hypnotic trance, slow and somewhat stilted. But she was responsive. She told us that Birol drugged her in the back of the van, and when she awoke, she was in a room that sounds like the one in which you found her. Birol wanted her to tell him three things: how to find Lee, where the Agency was located, and which member of his organization was Nightcrawler, your source."
"At first he tried threats and some mild physical force," the doctor continued. When she refused to answer, and insisted that she was from CSN, he administered some type of a truth serum. When that failed to get him the information he wanted, he stepped up the level of violence, alternating between beating Mrs. King at times with his fists, and other times with his belt. He repeatedly hit her across the face. He also threatened her with a knife."
The doctor paused before she began the next revelation. "The last thing Mrs. King remembers is that he took the knife, and cut open her shirt and bra. He fondled her breasts and laid on top of her as though he was going to rape her. After that, she remembers nothing. It's as if her mind went blank following that incident."
Upon hearing that last comment, all color drained from Lee's face. He clenched his fists tightly in order to control his emotions. "Doc, is it possible that he did rape her and she has blocked that from her memory?" he forced himself to ask.
Anxious to reassure the young man, Dr. Tompkins replied quickly "No, Lee - the physical examination that we did revealed conclusively that Mrs. King was neither raped, nor physically assaulted other than what we have previously described. He probably wanted to use the threat of rape in order to break down her resistance."
Billy asked the next question. "Doctors - apparently Amanda was subjected to horrendous torture, threats, and drugs - how on earth was she able not to reveal what she knew? You know, she hasn't had formal agent training, and has had absolutely no training in how to deal with torture. She was never trained in the Thornton Regression to avoid revealing secrets. How did she do it; how did she survive?"
The doctors looked at each other and smiled before Dr. Tompkins responded. "As we were listening to Mrs. King's story, that was the question we tried to answer. How could this woman, with no training, fight off the relentless pursuit of this terrorist? How could she hold out and not respond, given the actual physical torture, together with his threats? Remember, at some point he showed her the photos of Mara's dead body and described in some detail what he had done to her."
At this point, Dr. Kelfer picked up the narrative. "We asked Mrs. King how she was able to avoid giving in to the torture - how could she keep silent in view of what he had done." Turning to Lee, he commented "She's an extraordinary woman, Lee. It appears that she focused on you - on how much she loved you, and how much she wanted to protect you, even if it meant her own life. Every time Birol tortured or threatened her, and even during the quiet periods in between the assaults, she focused all her concentration and energy on you. Her extraordinary love for you enabled her to, in essence, block out Birol and all he was doing to her body. She would rather die than see Birol hurt you."
Lee's body began to tremble as his mind absorbed the full impact of what he had just heard. He buried his face in his shaking hands. I can't believe it. What have I ever done to deserve her love? No one has ever has loved me like that. She loves me enough to sacrifice her own life for mine. How can I ever be worthy of her?
All three took note of Lee's reaction and no one wanted to disturb him. Billy asked "Doc -- it appears that Amanda, unknowingly, utilized some of the same techniques of concentration and distance that we train our agents to use. Am I correct?"
Dr. Kelfer agreed. "Yes, that's exactly what she did, although she wasn't aware of it. The power of her love for Lee enabled her to withstand horrific torture without revealing anything that would hurt him."
"What about her withdrawal? Why is she still not responsive?" asked Billy.
"As we said earlier, she essentially 'withdrew' from her body by dissociation. She removed herself from the physical pain, so it was as though she was watching it happen to another person. She apparently saw 'visions' or 'apparitions' as part of this process. She saw what was happening, without feeling it, and she imagined visions of peace to take her out of the tortured situation."
Dr. Tompkins added "We're all very concerned about her full emotional recovery. We don't believe she developed multiple personalities since, as we said earlier, she was not in captivity long enough to develop distinct, separate personalities. But she's still unresponsive. That is where Lee comes in. We need him to again talk to Mrs. King; to hold her; to tell her how he feels. We believe that is the only thing right now that can bring her back."
At this, Lee stood up and walked out the door, headed to Amanda's room. Billy had one final question for the doctors. "Can he do it? Can he bring her back?"
As they walked toward the doorway, Dr. Kelfer replied "If he loves her one half as much as she loves him, then he'll get her back."
Lee walked into Amanda's room, his face filled with love and concern for her. He walked over to her bed and sat down beside her, taking her hand in his. "Amanda, it's me," he said softly. "I'm here with you. I'm going to take care of you. I love you so much, darling. Please come back to me. I love you so much." Lee sat by her side for what seemed like an eternity, repeating the same words over and over, and stroking her hands, her face and her hair. Despite all this, Amanda remained unresponsive.
Finally, the strain became too much for Lee and he broke down. "Amanda," he cried, as tears flowed freely from his eyes and he threw himself across her chest. "Please come back - I need you so much. You're all I have. I can't survive without you. Please...." He choked, unable to continue. He buried his face in her chest as he gave in to his unaccustomed tears.
Something stirred in the recesses of Amanda's mind. Crying...I hear crying. Someone needs me. Who? A child? Philip? Jamie? No - it's not them. Who is it-Lee?? That can't be Lee. He doesn't cry. He doesn't need me - I need him. She struggled to push her way through the fog that seemed to surround her.
Lee suddenly felt something on the back of his head, softly stroking his hair. He immediately realized it was Amanda's hand, stroking and trying to comfort him. "Amanda! Are you awake? Can you hear me?" He looked into her soft brown eyes and saw that they were open and trying to focus on him.
She turned her head and looked at him for the first time since her rescue.
"Amanda! Can you hear me?" Lee was grinning and had both arms wrapped around her body, holding her as close as he could without dislodging any of the various tubes connected to her. He felt a slight stirring in her body as he held her.
"Lee?" Amanda said softly. "Is it really you? Am I dreaming? I've been doing a lot of that...lately."
Lee pulled back so he could see her. He held her face between his two hands and covered it with kisses. "I'm so glad you're all right. I love you so much. I missed you so much, Amanda; I need you more than life itself."
"Lee - it is you! I'm not dreaming! I'm really here with you! How did you find me?" Amanda could not get any more words out, since Lee covered her mouth with his and the two shared the first of many deep, warm kisses.
"Later, sweetheart, later. Right now just rest and feel warm and safe. We're together and no one's ever going to separate us again" Lee vowed as he said a silent prayer of thanks. His beloved had returned to him.
Several hours later, Lee and Amanda were in the same position; wrapped in each other's arms on Amanda's hospital bed. Both were sound asleep. They were awakened by the arrival of the nurses with Amanda's dinner, followed by Billy Melrose. When Amanda saw Billy, and realized she was cuddled in Lee's arms, she jumped.
"Oh, excuse me, sir. I don't know how we got in that position" she said with embarrassment spreading across her face as she squirmed to change positions. Lee held her tightly.
"It's all right, Amanda. Billy knows all about us" Lee reassured her. "I told him that we were in love."
"Yes, Amanda - Lee's told me everything. And believe me, I 'guessed' most of it myself long ago. As I told Lee, I think you're the best thing that ever happened to him. And he is obviously good for you, too."
"Yes, sir!" Amanda declared. "But will this have an effect on our working together here at the Agency? I thought that agents couldn't...." Amanda's voice trailed off as she faced her worst concerns.
"Yes, Amanda, you know the general policy. But you and Lee don't fall under the 'general rules' in my opinion. You're both extraordinary - and frankly, Lee would not function neaarly as well as he does without you. So in my opinion, it would be a waste of valuable resources not to keep you together as a team. And I'm sure that Dr. Smyth will agree with me - especially considering the results in this case. But I don't want you thinking of returning to work right away. You need some time to rest and recover."
"Starting with right now - you've got to eat dinner" Lee added. "You can't sustain yourself on intravenous fluids, and you need to get your strength back."
Billy used this to cue his exit. "Amanda - I'm delighted that you're back with us and on the road to recovery. I'm going to cut this visit short, so you can have your dinner in peace. I'll come visit you tomorrow."
"Thank you, Mr. Melrose. I..." Amanda looked at Lee "...we really appreciate everything you've done for us." With that, Billy walked over to the bed, kissed Amanda on the cheek and left.
"Well, young lady - how about eating something?" Lee asked as he again kissed Amanda's cheek.
"Lee, wait. We need to talk and it's more important than food."
Lee looked at Amanda with apprehension. "What's wrong? Are you feeling ill? Do you want me to call the doctors?"
"No, I'm all right" she said as she took his left hand and held it in both of hers. "Lee, I need to know what happened...to..." Her voice choked and she lowered her face so that Lee would not see the tears that were filling her eyes.
He put his hand under her chin, and gently lifted her face so that their eyes met. "What do you want to know? Please let me help you."
"What happened to...him...?" she asked softly.
"Do you mean Birol?" At her nod, Lee continued "When we found you, I wanted to kill him...to tear him apart for what he had done to you. Billy stopped me. He's now in jail, in maximum security custody. He can't hurt you any more."
Amanda looked down and studied her hands. "Will there be a trial?"
Lee hadn't even thought about that. "Well, yes - I suppose so."
"Will I have to testify?"
The anguish and fear in Amanda's face were plainly visible to Lee. He put his arms around her and tried to make her feel warm and secure. "Maybe. I just don't know. Just don't think about it or worry about it now. Any trial will be a long time away, and there may not be one. Just concentrate on getting better, and on being with me...forever."
That last sentence prompted Lee's memory. "Amanda - I have something very important to tell...no, to ask you. I had planned on doing this in a different setting - champagne, candlelight dinner, dressed in a tuxedo with you in that beautiful blue gown - but the one thing that I have learned from the past few days is to not put off something important, and not hold back on my true feelings."
Lee turned his body on the bed so that he was directly facing her. From his pocket, he removed a small, blue box wrapped with a white satin ribbon. "Amanda King, I love you. I have never loved anyone as I do you, and no one has ever loved me as much as you. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me and I want to share the rest of my life with you. You are the most beautiful, exciting, and loving woman in the world."
He removed the ribbon from the box, and opened it to reveal a smaller box covered in dark blue velvet. He opened the box and removed a perfect, round diamond of approximately one carat, set in platinum. He slipped the ring on her left hand, asking "Amanda, will you marry me?"
Amanda's mind flashed to the memory she had while in captivity - Lee dressed in a tuxedo, telling her hee had something 'very important' to tell her. How did I know this would happen back then? she wondered. She shuddered, and looked into his eyes letting all the love she felt for him shine through. "Lee, I love you. I always have, and I always will. Of course, I'll marry you."
Time and place were forgotten as the stark walls of the hospital faded into the background. The two lovers sealed their promise and their love with a deep, warm, longing kiss. The horrors of the past days were behind them, and they would draw strength for the future from the power of their love.