Summary: Masquerade ala Hollywood! Scarecrow doesn't want to
take Mrs. King to the ball...but she gets invited by someone else. A mix-
up with the guest list puts Amanda in serious jeopardy.
Disclaimer: The characters herein belong to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon. The story belongs to my imagination.
Time Frame: Somewhere around the beginning of the third season.
Billy Melrose's Office, Monday Morning
"Lee, there's a masquerade ball Saturday night. It's being thrown by Senator and Mrs. Greer, who as you know have been receiving anonymous threats." Billy handed Lee a case file.
"Yeah, we've gotten nowhere fast with this one, huh?" Lee skimmed through the contents of the folder. "Why exactly are they throwing a party in these circumstances?"
Billy grimaced. "You know Greer, Scarecrow. His stand on criminal punishment has made a lot of people unhappy. If he's re-elected, he'll have time to convince a lot of other people of his views. But he also stands tough on other issues, like not backing down in situations like these."
"So where do I fit into this whole...masquerade thing, Billy? Surveillance?" Lee asked with a mock scowl.
"No, we'll have a full team - waiters, valets, security, various other servants, plus a full squad outside - totally behind the scenes. What I need is a few good listeners milling around among the guests. Among others, I want you and Amanda..."
Lee held up his hand. "Come on, Billy! I'm beginning to feel like Amanda is glued to my hip or something. You send her everywhere with me. I want to take a date, maybe..."
"No, way!" Billy stopped him. "What's wrong with you? I thought you were getting along with Amanda just fine. She's got great instincts, and people talk to her."
"We do get along, Billy. I just...I need to do some things on my own. She's not my partner, you know. And if I can't take a date, then I'll take Francine, how's that?" Lee bargained.
"Sounds good to me," Francine quipped, walking into Billy's office. "Where, exactly, are you taking me?"
"To the Senator's Hollywood Masquerade," Billy frowned at Lee. "Now, you have to dress up as Hollywood actors - something recognizable, like on of the famous characters they played so people can tell who you're supposed to be. Apparently they're going to be making a big deal as people enter. You have to call in advance and tell tem who you plan to come as - they don't want any duplicates."
Francine was delighted. "I'm going to go as Marilyn Monroe - I have the perfect dress..."
Billy gave Lee a look that said, are you sure you're taking the right person? Lee just smiled and rolled his eyes. Billy didn't understand. Having Amanda around just...just what? Funny, for the moment he couldn't remember just why he was so reluctant to take her.
Amanda's house, Monday Morning
"Amanda, that is exquisite!" Gushed Dottie. "It's perfect, just like in the movie. You're going to be beautiful, darling!"
"Thank you, Mother. I hope it'll be okay...The hem is giving me a problem..." Amanda said with a pin in her teeth.
"I can't believe that nice Mr. Thomas invited you to go to a masquerade - so romantic!"
"Mother, he came for a tour of the school and I was elected to show him around. He's very interested in education. Anyhow, I think he probably couldn't find a date and what with the event so close, he decided I'd work," Amanda reasoned philosophically.
Dottie frowned. "You take all the fun out of it! I prefer to think he was swept off his feet at the sight of you!"
"Oh, so do I, Mother. I'm sure that's exactly what happened."
"You're being smart again, Amanda," reproved her mother.
"I'll have to worry about this darn hem later. I have to get to work." Amanda threw the dress aside. "At least I had started working on this dress a long time ago - if I had to start something at this late date, there'd be no way!"
"That's right, what were you making it for? That must be four or five years ago!" Dottie calculated.
Amanda said quietly, "It was for a party I was going to go to with Joe...we ended up talking about a divorce that night instead."
Senator Greer's House, Tuesday Afternoon
Fred Greer's secretary, Gina, was going over the guest list. Councilman Peter Thomas and guest Amanda King. Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Wait a minute, she thought...who signed Mrs. King up as Audrey Hepburn? she wondered. Must have been one of the maids.
Vexed, she was pondering about how to bring up the subject to Mrs. Greer. If she was in a good mood, she would say, of course, my guests must have first choice. If she were in a bad mood, however, she would order Gina to call Mrs. King and explain that at the last minute she would have to change her costume.
She was spared further agony when Janet Greer waltzed into the office. "Gina, dear, is anyone coming as Vivian Leigh?"
"No, ma'am," Gina replied hopefully. "Good! I've changed my mind. I'm going shopping."
With a sigh of relief, Gina placed a small check by the name of Amanda King. "Good for you, Audrey!" she smiled.
IFF, Friday Afternoon
"Hey Amanda," Lee called.
"Oh, hi!" Amanda smiled at Lee.
"It's been such a busy week, I've hardly had time to say hello to you."
"I know, I've been pretty busy, too," Amanda replied.
"What's all this?" Lee asked, indicating the packages she was juggling. "Can I give you a hand out to your car?"
"Yeah, thanks," she smiled. "I went shopping earlier and I didn't want to leave these things in the car, because of the heat and all."
"What is it, food?" Lee inquired.
Amanda laughed, "No - just last minute touches for a party I'm going to tomorrow night."
Lee's smile faded. "What party?"
"It's a masquerade. At Senator Greer's house."
"Did Billy tell you about it?" Lee asked between clenched teeth.
"No," Amanda gave him a funny look. "I was invited. I'm not working."
"Oh," Lee said, taken aback. "By whom?"
"Councilman Thomas." Amanda told him. "Why?"
"Oh, just wondering. Francine and I will be working, you know, under cover stuff," he said, looking guilty.
Amanda wondered what the guilty look was all about, but didn't have time to pursue it. "Well, let's get these out to my car, if you don't mind."
Lee picked up Marilyn Monroe at 7:30 Saturday evening. "Wow, Francine, you look great!" Lee complimented her. She was wearing the exact same style of dress Marilyn Monroe made popular. A white mask completed the look.
"You're looking pretty great, yourself, ahhhhh...who are you?"
"Francine!" Lee feigned hurt feelings. "Can't you recognize John Wayne when you see him?" He ran his hand over his unshaven face.
"Oh, of course! John Wayne."
Senator Greer's House, 7:45
Lee and Francine were among the first arrivers. As they walked into the ballroom, they were announced, and the few who had arrived earlier applauded politely.
"See Lee? I told you - to make a grand entrance, you must arrive late - after almost everyone else is in place." Francine chided.
"Look Marilyn, we are here to protect the Greers. Not to make an entrance," Lee reminded her.
"Well, I plan to mingle and have fun tonight. And keep an eye out," she added.
Senator Greer and his wife came over to Lee and Francine. "Thanks for being here, really," the Senator said. "But have fun, you two. Dance. Mingle with Hollywood's biggest stars."
Francine lavished attention on Mrs. Greer. "You make a dazzling Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara!"
"Thank you, darling! And your dress is divine, Marilyn, if I may say so," Mrs. Greer gushed back.
"As long as I stay away from drafts!" Francine posed.
As the Greers moved on to greet other guests, Lee heard Mrs. Greer remark to her husband, "Unbearable woman."
Lee suppressed a snicker. Francine was off hob-nobbing with the likes of Jimmy Stewart, Joan Crawford and Cary Grant.
Lee took the chance to survey the ballroom. Everything seemed to be okay so far. He overheard the announcer's voice drawing attention to the arrival of Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Bing Crosby and Ginger Rogers.
Lee made his way back over to Francine. They both accepted champagne from a waiter who whispered to Lee, "The secondary guest list is missing. It had the names of who guests were coming as. The master list has both, but the secondary has been taken. No one seems to know why. Mr. Greer's secretary is adamant that she didn't misplace it."
Lee nodded, and the waiter disappeared. "Strange," he muttered to Francine.
Francine agreed. "Hey, didn't you say Amanda was going to be here tonight? Who's she coming as? June Lockheart?" Francine giggled at her own joke.
"That's not funny, Francine," Lee snipped at her. He was already feeling guilty for not asking Amanda to come with him. Hearing Francine's smart remarks was too much.
"Well, aren't we defensive?" Francine retorted.
"Let's dance," Lee said, hoping to shut Francine up by dancing with her.
They danced for a few minutes, and when the band stopped playing, the announcer's voice came through again.
"Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn." Loud applause filled the ballroom.
Lee and Francine turned to look at the new arrivals. "Oh, my god - would you look at that dress?" Francine gaped.
Stunned, Lee watched as Amanda and Councilman Thomas glided down the six steps into the ballroom.
Amanda looked amazing. She was wearing the famous white and black strapless ball gown, her small waist accentuated. Her hair was up in a french twist, and a tiara set off the bangs that smoothly swept over her forehead. A black mask like the one Audrey Hepburn wore in How to Steal A Million adorned her darkly enhanced eyes. Full-length black gloves set the dress off. Lee couldn't tear his eyes away from her. Was that really Amanda? He wondered.
"Who is that?" Francine was looking closer. "Oh, my..." she couldn't finish the thought.
Amanda blushed from all the applause, and Peter took her hand and led her to the dance floor. He signaled the band, and Moon River began to play. Amanda blushed even more, because of the attention being drawn to her.
"I didn't know you were going to do that!" she exclaimed.
"I didn't tell you," he said, smiling at her expression. "I have friends...and Senator Greer is a good one."
"Well, I certainly didn't expect this," she smiled up at him.
"I wanted to surprise you. You know, ever since we met, I can't stop thinking about you."
This last phrase was said as Amanda and Peter whirled by Lee and Francine. Amanda didn't even see them.
Lee overheard Peter's remarks to Amanda and snorted.
Francine looked at him in approval, "I agree."
When the song ended, Peter and Amanda decided to get some
champagne and say hello to the Greers. As they walked past Lee and Francine,
Peter asked Amanda, "Why is John Wayne giving you a dirty look?"
"Huh? John Wayne?" she looked over her shoulder to see Lee and Francine staring at her, Francine in unbelieving dismay, and Lee in...what?
"Do you know those people?" Peter questioned.
"Not tonight," Amanda grinned back at him.
Peter was gazing at her. "I knew you were beautiful. But tonight, you looking simply elegant, dazzling."
He was looking at her so sincerely. "Thank you, Peter," she said with a small smile in her best Audrey Hepburn voice. They both laughed.
Lee shook his head. Who did that guy think he was, anyway?
Francine looked over at him. "What is up with you?"
"Nothing," Lee responded, but didn't stop looking over at Amanda and her companion, who had their heads close together and were sharing some amusing secret.
Peter whispered to Amanda, "You are the lovliest woman her tonight. And everyone would have known who you were even if they hadn't announced you."
Amanda laughed softly. "Only because of the outfit," she said modestly.
"I don't agree," Peter countered. "Hey, why don't you go dance one dance with the cowboy over there and maybe he'll stop staring at you."
Amanda glanced over to where Lee and Francine were standing. Lee looked away, but back immediately.
"That's okay," Amanda shook her head. She didn't want to speak to Lee Stetson at this moment. He'd probably lecture her about being here tonight. She knew he could have asked her to come instead of Francine. It was his choice.
"Let's dance," Peter put an arm around her waist.
The band was playing, 'You Made Me Love You'. Peter and Amanda joined the other famous couples on the dance floor and they looked perfect together.
Francine grabbed Lee's hand. She was getting really annoyed with him spying on Amanda like he was. "Let's dance, Stetson," she ordered.
Several dances later, Peter and Amanda were still dancing and having far too much fun, in Lee's opinion. He and Francine circulated, listening for any hint of foul play. All of the guests were talking about their costumes and old movies.
Lee noticed that Peter had left Amanda's side. Well, he thought bitterly, they do survive on their own.
He sauntered over to Amanda's side, and couldn't resist touching her bare shoulder lightly.
"Care to dance, little lady?" he bowed.
Amanda smiled hesitantly. "That's okay, Lee, thanks anyway."
"No, it is not 'okay', I want to dance with you," he said, taking her gloved hand into his and leading her out among the dancers. "You look stunning tonight, Miss Hepburn," Lee's words were light-hearted, but his tone was serious.
Amanda looked down. "Thanks. Look, Lee. I'm sorry - I know you're annoyed with me being here. But I hardly refuse when Peter asked me to come along."
Lee rolled his eyes at the last part of her remark. "I am not annoyed that you're here - what gives you that idea?"
"Oh, please, Lee - I've seen the way you've been glaring at me all night," Amanda said.
"Glaring - I was not glaring! I was just..." What can I say, he thought frantically. "I was just watching, you know, to make sure you were safe."
"I thought you were supposed to make sure the Greer's were safe, Lee, not me. What danger could I possibly be in?"
No sooner had Amanda spoken, than a man came up behind her and roughly jabbed a needle into her upper arm. "Goodnight, Mrs. Greer," he said venomously.
Amanda's eyes were wide with shock as she grasped Lee's sleeves to steady herself. Her attacker didn't get through the door; two agents grabbed him and dragged him outside.
The few people that had witnessed the incident murmurred together, wondering what was going on.
Lee held onto Amanda, thoughts racing through his mind. The man had called Amanda Mrs. Greer... "Somebody call an ambulance!" he shouted.
"Amanda, we have to get you to the hospital," Lee began as he saw Francine heading their way.
Amanda's eyes glazed over and began to close. Lee felt her small body slump, and he put his arms around her and picked her up. Oh, please...don't let Amanda die, Lee silently pleaded.
Mrs. Greer ran over to him. "I feel awful, Mr. Stetson! I was originally going to be Audrey Hepburn, but I changed my mind at the last minute...oh, my god, the guest list!"
Lee kept heading for the door. He didn't have time to sort this out right now.
Waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Lee looked down and saw Amanda's eyes trying to open.
"Hold on, Amanda," Lee begged.
"Lee," Amanda's voice was so weak, so frail... "I think
I'm going to die...I need you to know...I love..." she was losing strength.
Her head fell back again, and she stopped breathing.
Lee laid Amanda down on the grass and started CPR. "Come on, Amanda," he pleaded. She was not responding.
"Where the hell is the ambulance?" Lee asked Francine in desperation.
Francine stood there helplessly. She had never seen Lee like this. He was so upset, and she didn't know how to handle it. She wondered if he would react this way if it was her.
"Amanda!" Lee lightly slapped Amanda's face, pulled off the mask. She was deathly pale. "Oh god..." Lee looked around frantically.
Finally the ambulance pulled up and the paramedics rushed over to Amanda's lifeless body. "How long since she quit breathing?"
"Two minutes," Francine supplied.
They immediately put Amanda in the back of the ambulance. They wouldn't let Lee ride along.
Francine could see that Lee was in no condition to drive, so she took his keys and after the valet brought the car around, she got into the driver's seat.
Lee was silent on the ride to the hospital. When they arrived, they couldn't get any information. Billy met them there.
They waited wordlessly for over twenty minutes. Finally, a doctor came into the waiting room. "You people are with Mrs. King?" he asked grimly.
"Yes," they all said.
"Well, she almost didn't make it. I'm amazed that she's alive," he began as Lee visibly relaxed and almost fell back onto the couch. "But...it doesn't look good. She is in a coma. She was injected with a nasty virus. It's an influenza virus, along with a powerful cocktail of various drugs. It's designed to shut down a human body in a couple of hours."
"When will I be able to see her?" Lee asked.
"Are you her husband?" The doctor asked him, as Billy and Francine watched him.
Lee shook his head, and swallowed hard. "I'm her partner," he told the man.
Francine's eyes widened, and Billy nodded his approval.
"I'll let you know. You may want to call her family, though...in case things take a turn for the worse."
With that the doctor walked away. "I have to see her, Billy," Lee said between gritted teeth.
"Lee, calm down. You're over-reacting," Billy laid a hand on Lee's shoulder. Lee shrugged it off.
"Over-reacting?" Lee choked out the word. He sat down and put his head in his hands.
Billy and Francine decided to go home and come back in the morning. A few minutes later, Peter Thomas showed up at the hospital.
"Nice of you to drop by," Lee caustically spat at him.
Peter frowned. "John Wayne," he said simply.
"Huh?" Lee looked at him through bleary eyes.
"Nothing." Peter sat down. "I would have been here sooner, but I was detained for questioning. How is she?"
"In a coma," Lee's voice was barely audible. "It was pretty bad, they almost didn't get her breathing."
"Well, I have a feeling she'll be okay. I think she's a very strong woman."
Lee looked at him, disbelieving. "What do you know about Amanda? You just met her!"
"I may have just met her, but I intend to stick around, cowboy," Peter said, his own voice rising.
Lee shook his head. He got up and went to a payphone and called Dottie.
Then he sat back down and waited for Amanda's mother to arrive at the hospital.
Dottie arrived a half hour later, and was shown into the room. After ten minutes she emerged, with tears in her eyes. She went over to Lee and Peter.
"What happened?" she implored them.
They explained what little they knew, that Amanda had been mistaken for Senator Greer's wife.
"Do you think I could see her?" Lee and Peter echoed each other's words, and they looked at each other in annoyance.
"Well, the doctor said one of you could go in. He doesn't want too much activity around Amanda tonight."
Lee begged her with his eyes. "I do think, Mr. Stetson, that it should be you," she said, with an indefinable look in her eyes. "Sorry, Mr. Thomas, it's just that Amanda considers him a friend and she's known Mr. Stetson a long time."
Peter nodded grimly and sat down.
Lee walked through the dark room and stood at Amanda's side. Tubes were helping her breath, and she looked so small and fragile. "Hey, kiddo," he said lightly as he touched her hand.
He sat down on the chair next to the bed and watched her. "What were you trying to tell me?" he whispered. Had she really been about to tell him she loved him, thinking she would die?
The doctor came in after about five minutes and told him
to go home and get some sleep. Lee nodded, and stood up. He placed a kiss
on the back of Amanda's IV-adorned hand. "I'll be back in the morning,"
he told her.
In the middle of the night, Amanda woke with a start. She panicked. Where am I? She looked around, saw that she was in a hospital bed. She lay there for a while, trying to remember what had happened. She remembered the party, dancing with Lee...a pain in her arm, and passing out in Lee's arms...
What did I say to him? I told him something really important..."Oh, my gosh!" she said aloud.
"Well look who's awake!" A nurse said cheerfully. "I'll go get the doctor."
After the nurse left the room, Amanda laid back down against the pillow. She felt groggy and woozy. I can't believe I told Lee I love him! Or did I imagine that I said it? Or did I only say part of it? Well, I won't know unless he acts funny. He'd hate it if I told him that!
The doctor was very pleased to see Amanda awake, and called Dottie in after examining Amanda.
The next morning, Amanda was sitting up and feeling somewhat better. She felt like she had the flu, but whatever the doctor was doing was working for her. He had run several IV's through her system intended to clean her blood.
Dottie had gone home for a while to get the boys from the neighbors' house and bring them in to see Amanda.
There was a knock at the door, and Lee walked into the room with a bouquet of roses.
"I am so glad to see you awake!" Lee said, setting the vase of roses down.
"Thank you for the flowers," she smiled.
Lee took her hand in his. "You're welcome."
"What happened?" Amanda asked.
An enemy of Greer got ahold of the guest list. Greer's secretary had forgotten to change Mrs. Greer's character, so according to the list,Mrs. Greer would be dressed like Audrey Hepburn. She feels terrible, by the way. Anyway, it was as simple as that. He thought he was getting revenge."
Amanda nodded. "I'm just glad he didn't decide to shoot her," she said with a weak laugh.
"Me, too," Lee smiled at her. "Amanda...you were trying to tell me something before you passed out. Do you remember any of that?" Lee asked her nonchalantly.
"Ummm, no," Amanda said with innocence.
"It seemed pretty important to you," Lee prodded.
"It was pretty important to me at that point that I stay alive," Amanda pointed out.
"Maybe if I refresh your memory," Lee went on, noting the rising color in Amanda's cheeks.
"You said, 'Lee, I need you to know that I love..." Lee looked at her expectantly.
"I love." Amanda stated.
"Well, it could have been, I love my boys and my mother, or I love...my job, or I love...strawberries. You see, the possibilities are endless." She shrugged, as if to put an end to the matter.
"Hmmm," Lee looked at her out of the corner of his eye. "Well, those are very real possibilities," he conceded.
"Of course they are," she folded her arms across her chest.
"Yeah..." Lee said, and leaned forward. He kissed her
forehead lingeringly, and whispered, "I love strawberries, too."