Hari Karam stared down at the limp body of Amanda King. He was going to enjoy frightening her...oh, yes, he was looking forward to torturing the partner of the Scarecrow.
He cast his mind back to five years ago: He was in Cairo, preparing to sell dozens of stolen American women as slaves. Unfortunately, his lackeys had nabbed the daughter of a prominent American Senator. Because of those bumbling idiots, Hari had met and tangled with the Scarecrow, who had thoroughly foiled his operation and cost him millions, as well as sent him to prison for quite some time. He was released after three years on technicalities.
He reached for Amanda. "Time to wake up," he said in a
Earlier that day...
"Amanda," Lee said in exasperation, "Where did you put the Harrisburg file?"
"It's right here," Amanda said with equal annoyance. "What is it with you, anyway. It's like you look for reasons to bite my head off these days."
"No, I do NOT look for reasons to bite you head off! I asked you a simple question!" Lee's voice raised again.
"Whatever," Amanda sighed. She knew that Lee had a lot on his mind and had been working some tough cases lately, but he didn't have to take everything out on her!
"What do you mean, 'whatever'? You are far too sensitive these days, Amanda," Lee scowled at her.
"You are just in a crummy mood, aren't you?" Amanda let her own voice raise a little.
"My mood was fine," Lee griped, "Until you started pestering me!"
"Pestering you? Lee, I think you need to go outside and get some fresh air." Amanda said, trying to hold her own temper in check.
"I...am...fine," Lee enunciated, "Maybe YOU need some fresh air. In fact, I'm making it an order!"
"Fine," Amanda said quietly, "I think you're right." She walked out the door of their office and closed it quietly, her moves deliberate.
She went outside and stood for a moment, trying to compose herself.
Upstairs, Lee ran a hand through his hair. Why am I so antagonistic with Amanda lately? He asked himself. He knew full well that he had picked that fight with her, and she had every reason to be upset. He sat down, thinking.
Francine opened the door. "I see, or rather I hear, that all is well now. I came up earlier and heard you two fighting again. You know, Lee, if I didn't know any better, I'd say that you two were lovers!"
Lee just looked at Francine. The idea of he and Amanda being lovers...
He thought about it for a brief second. They did argue a lot lately - could it be because of chemistry taking over? Sexual tension? With Amanda? His mind was flying, he was analyzing the data as it came in. A realization began to dawn on Lee Stetson at that moment.
"Lee," Francine cut into his thoughts, "I SAID, you and Amanda fight like lovers."
Lee stood up. "Well, Francine, we're not," he said as he moved past her. Yet, he thought to himself. He raced downstairs, determined to catch her and apologize.
Amanda decided to take a walk around the block. She walked quickly, wanting to clear away the nervous energy fighting with Lee had created. She heard the screeching tires at the same moment she heard Lee call her name.
Confused, she turned back toward the Agency to see if Lee had really followed her, but as she spun around, a black van pulled up alongside her. Two men jumped out, grabbed her and threw her into the van. They got in themselves, and the van flew off down the street.
"Amanda!" Lee screamed, and raced toward the van. It was going too fast. There was no license plate, and he couldn't tell what make the van was. "Dammit!" He yelled, racing back inside the building.
Amanda felt groggy and she ached all over. Trying to move, she could feel that her hands and feet were bound tightly. She opened her eyes.
"That's a good girl," a man said in a creepy voice. Slowly, as Amanda's eyes adjusted to the dank darkness, she could see the outline of a man. He raised the sleeve of her right arm and she felt a needle prick.
"What was that?" she asked warily.
"Just a little something to keep you cooperative," the man said. Amanda tried to arrange herself into a sitting position. Rough arms grabbed her and shifted her up against a wall. She was face to face with him. He looked like...a scarecrow!
Amanda gasped. "Who are you?"
"I am the Scarecrow," the man answered, and shook Amanda's shoulders. "You will do exactly as I dictate, or you will face the consequences." Then his mood shifted drastically, and he got to his feet. He flashed on a lightbulb hanging by itself, illuminating the room.
Amanda squinted from the intense light, and when she reopened them, she could see that the man was wearing a mask over his head. He looked exactly like the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz.
"Who are you?" she asked again. "What do you want with me?"
He ignored her questions. "Do I remind you of anyone you know?"
"No," Amanda said.
"I think I do. I think I remind you of your precious partner, the Scarecrow." He moved in closer. "Take a good long look. What do you think?" His voice had a strange, maniacal quality. At times he almost sang his words.
"I have friends who will be looking for me," Amanda said as she flinched away from the disgusting mask.
He cupped Amanda's face in his grimy hands. "I'm counting on it," he sang. "I'm counting on it!"
Amanda watched as he left the room. She looked around at the room. It was small, evidently it was a basement of sorts. It was almost empty, except for one corner. Amanda strained her eyes to see what was in that corner. Finally she could make it out - there was a first aid box, a large knife, a box of crackers, and what looked like a pile of dirty old clothes.
Amanda tried to stay awake, but she started to feel dizzy and sick. The injection...in five minutes she had passed out.
Lee raced upstairs, throwing the door to Billy's office wide open. Francine and Billy looked up in surprise.
"They've got Amanda!" Lee shouted. "They just pulled up and took her!" He collapsed into a chair, then immediately got up again. "We have to find her, Billy!"
"Slow down, Scarecrow," Billy said, the alarm apparent in his face. "Who took Amanda?"
"I don't know!" Lee said as he paced.
"Sit down, Lee," Francine directed. Lee sat on the edge of a chair, ready to spring up again.
"Tell us exactly what happened," Billy told him.
"We...I...well, we - " Lee floundered.
"They had a fight," Francine supplied.
"She went outside - I told her to get some fresh...some fresh air. I told her to go outside..." Lee put his head in his hands.
"Lee, focus!" Billy yelled.
"Okay. I went out to talk to her, and this black van came around the corner, and two guys jumped out and grabbed her. They threw her into the van...they must have hurt her..." Lee ran his hand through his hair despairingly.
"This is not your fault," Francine told Lee.
"But it is, Francine," Lee said in frustration. "She told ME to go outside and get some air, and I told HER to go outside, and she did...she did."
"Alright," Billy replied. "Francine, run a check on all of Lee's cases. Try to find out who's in the market for revenge against Lee and in a position to deliver."
Amanda was having a horrendous nightmare and what's more, she had a headache. She tried to rub her temples but her hands wouldn't move. Waking up a little, she remembered that this was no dream. Suddenly she was kicked hard in the stomach. She cried out in pain, and a hand grabbed her hair, pulling her upright.
"Hello, there!" The hideous scarecrow was back. He held something up to Amanda's face. She found it hard to focus her eyes. She felt like she was slipping in and out of reality.
"Do you recognize this man?" The scarecrow asked.
He held a picture of Lee in front of her. She regarded it mutely, too afraid to say anything at all.
"You know who this is." He stated. Amanda started to succumb to sleep again. A hard slap in the face woke her back up. The photo of Lee was still there. Silently she pleaded with Lee. Please, help me, Lee!
"I've been watching the two of you for two years now," the man said conversationally. "I've never seen the Scarecrow so protective of anyone. He will come for you, I know he will. And he will watch you die. And then he will die himself."
With that, the scarecrow got up and started dancing around the room. Amanda noticed then that he had donned the shabby clothes she had seen in the corner. He sang:
"I could wile away the hours, conversing with the flowers, consulting with the rain..."
He was insane! He held out his arms to her. "Dance with me, Dorothy."
She looked up in alarm.
"So you too know about Dorothy, do you?" He continued to dance around, his arms hanging limply and flinging by his sides.
"I know everything there is to know about the Scarecrow," he said matter-of-factly.
He stopped dancing and went to the corner. He opened the box of crackers and brought one over to her, opening her mouth and forcing her to eat it. "How's that?" He asked solicitously. "I'll bring you some water later. If you get dehydrated, the injections will kill you."
Amanda blacked out, falling into merciful darkness. In
her nightmares, she could not tell the difference between Lee and the hideous
Lee went outside to look for clues. The inactivity was killing him. Billy had Francine checking every possibility, but Lee needed to do something.
He walked down the street to where Amanda had been taken. He saw the tire marks in the street. Something in the gutter caught his eye. He walked over and picked up a card out of the gutter.
Though it was soggy, he could read it. It was the address to the recently abandoned Emerald Water Distillation Plant. On the back was written, 'King'. He was meant to find this. It was a trap. He ran back into the building. He knew he'd need backup. No use in charging off to rescue Amanda alone and get himself caught too, with nobody knowing where he'd gone.
Within the hour, Lee, Francine, and two other armed agents parked a quarter mile down the road from the plant.
Back at the office, Billy stared at the note that had just been delivered.
Check the gutter. There you will find a clue. Come alone or the woman will die immediately.
Billy stared at the note as he tried to get ahold of Lee. No use, he had left the car already. He looked with a puzzled expression at the signature. To Scarecrow, from Scarecrow.
Francine and the others apprehended the three goons who had assisted Karam with no problem. They obviously had not been expecting company, and had been sitting around drinking vodka when they were surprised by the 'attack'.
Lee went in search of Amanda, or Karam, whomever he found first. He searched the entire bottom floor, all the offices and other rooms, most of which were locked from the inside. The silence and dusty misuse of most of the doors told him he wouldn't find anyone here.
Then he found the door marked "Underground Storage". Fresh
footprints on the dusty linoleum told him he had reached his destination.
Slowly he turned the knob. It opened...
Amanda could not wake up. She didn't know where she was. She felt like she was going to die, when she could feel anything at all. Vaguely she remembered someone telling her they would give her a drink of water, but she couldn't remember who told her that - was it Lee? Scarecrow stuck in her mind. Scarecrow...
Blacking out again, Amanda did not feel the jab of the needle as it delivered yet another injection that would wreak havoc on her mind and nervous system.
Lee snuck down the dusty stairs to the musty room below. He could hear humming, a strange, almost childish humming. He reached the bottom step, gun drawn. He almost gasped at the sight his eyes took in. A figure was leaning over Amanda's lifeless body, and as he pulled a needle out of Amanda's arm, Lee ordered, "Turn around, real slow."
Hari Karam, adorned in his scarecrow regalia, turned slowly and faced his nemesis. Lee's eyes widened at the sight of this insane man in the mask and clothes of a scarecrow.
Karam was too over the edge to even realize what was going on. He said, "Welcome," and started dancing around, scarecrow style. "We're on our way to see the wizard, Dorothy and I. Do you want to join us?"
He grinned wildly. Then, seeming to suddenly recognize Lee for the first time, he charged at him. Lee squeezed off a round and the man sagged limp to the floor as if he was indeed, stuffed with straw.
Lee ran over to Amanda and quickly loosened her wrists and ankles. They were bloody from being tied so tightly for so long. Then he gathered her to his chest. He was shocked at the sight of her. Her face was deathly white, her lips dry and cracked. She was bruised and battered all over.
"Amanda," Lee choked on her name, "Please, baby, wake up," Lee pleaded.
Slowly a frown appeared on Amanda's face, and she struggled to open her eyes. When she finally did, her face froze in terror, her eyes widened and she screamed. She fought against Lee, beating him on the chest weakly but he wouldn't release her.
"Amanda, it's me, sweetheart!" He tried to calm her. "Look at me, it's Lee!"
Breathing hard, Amanda could not fight anymore. The look
of horror still in her eyes, she fainted in Lee's arms.
Lee sat beside Amanda's bed, unwilling to leave her side. Billy and Francine had left as soon as the doctors said she was out of danger. Lee could not forget how she had looked at him, her partner, with such fear and terror.
THe fight they had had had surely done nothing to help the situation, either, Lee reflected grimly. At least he didn't have to worry about explaining anything to Amanda's family. The boys were on a father/son wilderness trek with Joe for five days, and Dotty was in Europe with a friend.
Amanda had not yet regained consciousness. The injections had dehydrated her and created problems with her nervous system, and the doctors had done all they could to cleanse her system. Now it was up to Amanda to recover.
They did not know about her mental status. Although she had been under Karam's control for a relatively brief period of time, he had been thorough. Among his possessions they had found a diary of what he had done to Amanda, in horrible detail. In addition he had written out scenes and songs from the Wizard of Oz. He was truly disturbed, and Lee was worried about what he had done to Amanda.
Lee could not stop thinking about how worried he had been about Amanda. He had been so scared, so concerned, so...afraid of losing her. He couldn't lose Amanda. The more he thought about it, the more he knew that under the surface, an unbreakable bond was growing between them.
He studied her face. She looked so peaceful now. When had he come to care for her so much? Why had he been so annoyed with her lately? He was always picking fights with her for no reason. He thought back to Francine's words: "You two fight like lovers."
But although Amanda was not his lover, she was so much more than that. She was his partner, his best friend, his salvation.
A moment later, Amanda stirred. "No," she whispered, her voice full of dread. "No more. Please...Leave me alone. No, Lee..."
Lee took Amanda's hand in his own. "Amanda, I'm right here," he said as he stroked her hand gently.
Amanda's eyes flew open. She pulled her hand away from his and shrank to the other side of the bed. "Leave me alone," she said in a small but threatening voice.
Lee had been afraid of this. "Amanda, honey, you're safe now. This is me, Lee. You're not in danger any more."
She regarded him suspiciously. "You are the one who took me. You're the Scarecrow," she nearly spat the words at him, pulling the blankets around herself protectively.
"No," Lee said firmly. "I am not the man who took you. I'm Lee."
"There's no difference," Amanda said, but a note of uncertainty had crept into her voice.
"Yes, there is. There's a big difference," he said as he noticed her hands loosen on the blaket. She was slipping under again. "I would never hurt you, Amanda. You're too special to me."
Amanda's eyelids fluttered, and she was asleep again. After about an hour, Lee drifted off to sleep himself, after taking her hand in his again.
He woke up a few hours later. It must be early morning, he thought. It's still dark. He looked at Amanda, who was curled up into a ball. She had withdrawn her hand and turned her back toward him. He walked around to the other side of the bed.
She was awake, and softly crying. "Hey," Lee tentatively touched her houlder. "Amanda, are you okay?"
Amanda did not respond. She was awake, but clearly her mind was not in the present. She stared out the window into the darkness, tears falling onto her pillow.
Lee rubbed her shoulder, trying to awaken her. After a few minutes, she stopped crying and blinked. "Lee?" she whispered softly.
"Yeah, baby. I'm right here," Lee smiled gently.
Baby? Amanda's mind was suddenly more alert. Lee was calling her baby? Haziness set back in, then, and she tried to sit up. "Oh!" She grabbed her stomach in pain.
"Easy," Lee soothed as he helped her sit up. "Are you in much pain?"
"Much pain would be the way I'd describe it," Amanda said wryly.
"Do you remember anything that happened?" Lee asked, sitting on the edge of her bed facing her. There was so much concern in his face. He had never looked at her like that before. Baby...
Amanda looked into Lee's eyes, searching for...she didn't quite know. She had a vague memory of Lee rocking her in his arms, calling her baby...
"We had a fight," she mused. "A really awful, awful fight. And...you...I went outside..."
"I know. I'm sorry. If I'd gone outside this never would have happened," Lee said, not meeting her eyes.
"Don't think like that. I remember...a um...a scarecrow?" Amanda said, questioning herself.
Lee told her about Hari Karam, then, and as he talked, memories of her captivity came flooding back to Amanda.
"He had a picture of you. He kept giving me drugs," she looked down at her needle-marked arm. "Oh, my gosh!" she exclaimed.
"I know," Lee said, "I know what he did. He kept a journal of what he did to you," Lee's voice shook and he gathered her into his arms and held her.
For Lee, after all he had been through and nearly losing her, it was the most natural thing in the world to hold her now.
For Amanda, it was an alternate universe. She had never been the recipeint of such affection from Lee before. She expected him to be concerned, but this was...well it was wonderful, but she was bemused.
"Try to get some sleep," Lee gently lowered Amanda to the pillow again. His face was so close to hers. I could just kiss her, right now. He almost moved toward her, but the confused look in her eyes stopped him. Later, Stetson, he told himself. Now is not the time.
Amanda was released from the hospital the next morning. Lee had gone home to shower and change right before the doctor came in.
She was gathering her few belongings together, getting ready to go home. She'd have to take a cab. She was not looking forward to being at home alone. She still had disturbing memories and nightmares. But she was an adult, she would deal with it.
She put her purse on her shoulder and turned to go. Billy and Lee walked into the room. "Where do you think you're going?" Lee asked her.
"The doctor released me, said I could go home. So I'm going home. I was going to call a cab, unless you can give me a ride?"
"Of course I'll give you a ride," Lee began, "But..."
"But," Billy interrupted, "You should not be alone. I know your family is out of town."
Amanda shrugged. "Well I certainly don't want to stay here," she said. "I don't see any alternative."
"I do," Billy said, looking at Lee. "Lee, for the next couple of days, I am giving you a new assignment: Mrs. King. You can take a bag over to her house, right?"
Lee opened his mouth to respond enthusiastically. He was stopped by Amanda.
"Wait a minute," she interrupted, alarm in her words, "You can't be serious! I don't need a baby-sitter."
Baby-sitter, she thought, he called me baby. Oh, no way can he come stay at my house, she thought. Her heart was racing and she didn't even know why.
"I disagree," Lee said with a big smile. "You've been through a traumatic experience and I say Billy's right. You need someone around. We'll stop by my apartment on the way and I'll grab a few things." He was clearly enjoying this. So was Billy.
Amanda sighed. "Fine. I'm too tired to argue."
"That's a first," Lee and Billy said in unison.
Lee dropped by his place and made Amanda come in while he packed. "I am not leaving you alone," he said, not brooking any arguments.
They spent a quiet afternoon together, watching movies. Amanda napped through most of them. She laid on the couch in striped pajama bottoms and an old T-shirt that said, 'Kiss me, I'm Irish'.
Lee smiled as he watched her sleeping peacefully. She was so beautiful. He slipped into the kitchen and called for Chinese food. When he went back into the den, Amanda was sitting up, blinking to wake up her eyes. She didn't see him, and he stood watching her from the doorway.
She stared blankly at the television for a moment, then looked over to his chair. Not seeing him there, she turned around and met his gaze. She smiled, "Hi."
"Hi," Lee said. "I ordered Chinese."
"Okay, although I'm not very hungry," Amanda admitted.
"Well, I want you to eat something," Lee directed, coming back in to sit beside her. He smoothed a stray hair off her forehead, tracing her face to tuck the hair behind her ear. She shivered.
"Cold?" Lee asked in concern. She just shook her head.
"I'm so glad you're not afraid of me. When you started screaming after you woke up in my arms, I felt so...I don't know. So terrible that you would be scared of me."
"I don't even remember that," Amanda said, embarassed.
They watched television together for a few minutes and the doorbell rang. Dinner had arrived.
Amanda ate hardly anything at all. "I'm just really ready to go to bed," she told Lee sleepily.
"Okay, I'll sleep in the den," Lee said, tired himself after his vigil by her side at the hospital. "I'll be right downstairs if you need me."
Lee didn't even want to be that far from her, for more
reasons than she knew. But he wasn't going to be the one to suggest any
He was in her bedroom. He loomed over her bed, his putrid mask inches from her face. He reached for her throat, grinning wickedly.
A terrifying scream startled Lee wide awake. Throwing back the blanket, he raced upstairs as fast as he could. He flung open Amanda's bedroom door. She was sitting upright in the middle of her bed still screaming, the covers askew all over the floor. She had her hands up at her neck, and tears were streaming down her face.
Lee scrambled over to her and put his arms around her. "Amanda, baby. Shhhhh," he tried to calm her. She awoke with a start, and began to cry, putting her shaking arms around his neck and burying her face in his bare chest.
Shuddering sobs racked her body and he just held her, his arms around her protectively. He rocked her gently.
"It's alright, baby," it was just a nightmare, that's all."
Amanda calmed down, still holding onto Lee. She didn't want to let him go. Having him here like this, holding her and calling her 'baby' was exactly what she needed, whether she understood his concerned actions or not.
After a few minutes, she finally forced herself to withdraw. "I'm sorry," she apologized.
Lee wiped away the tears from her face. "Shhh. Don't apologize."
"I'll be right back," she said as she headed for the bathroom. She spalshed cold water in her face and looked into the mirror. Oh, lovely, Amanda, she thought to herself sarcastically, noting her red face and frazzled hair.
She was still shaking from the nightmare. Exiting the bathroom she saw that Lee was still in her room, sitting on the edge of her bed, with no shirt on. He glanced up, concern and worry in his face.
"Come here," he said.
She went into his arms willingly. She could smell his aftershave.
After a moment, Lee pulled back, searching Amanda's face questioningly. "Are you okay?"
He was rubbing her arms. He couldn't seem to make himself break physical contact with her.
"No. I can't stop the nightmares. When I have them I'm right back there."
"If you want, I could stay in your room," Lee cleared his throat. "I could, you know, sleep on the floor," he offered.
"Well actually, Lee, I'd um...well I mean if you could maybe..." she lanced at the bed and blushed furiously.
Lee's heart both went out to Amanda and started pounding fervently at the realization that she was asking him to sleep with her in the bed. He gathered up the blankets from off the floor while she sat studying her hands.
He laid down on top of the blankets and lifted her side. "Come here," he said huskily. She gave him a small smile of thanks and laid down, her back to him. He wrapped the blankets around her but didn't move his arm away. He scooted closer to her and fitted himself against her. He felt her body go rigid with tension.
"Does this bother you?" He asked.
Amanda's voice shakily answered, "No." She didn't say another word. Lee tightened his hold on her. Her hair smelled fabulous. He imagined what it would be like to move her hair aside and kiss her neck. Oh, boy, he thought to himself. You'd better stop thinking about it, Stetson!
For Amanda's part, she was thinking similar thoughts. Stop it, she chided herself. He's just being a good friend and partner. But the excuse seemed lame even to her. Absently, she put her hand over his and rubbed his fingers.
Lee drew in a ragged breath. Amanda stopped abruptly. 'Baby', the word danced across her mind again. She pretended to shift into a more comfortable position.
"Amanda," Lee whispered. "Are you asleep?"
"Not yet," she answered.
Amanda rolled onto her back. Lee did not move his arm. When she finished moving, his hand was resting on her stomach. Her breath quickened as she realized that her T-sSøƒ had ridden up just slightly, and that Lee's hand was resting on her bare skin.
Lee realized it too, and couldn't resist sliding his thumb back and forth. He could feel her ragged breathing, too. They were face to face in the darkness. He could tell that her eyes were closed. Not just closed, but squeezed shut.
His heart was pounding and he was sure she could hear it. He searched for words to tell her how he was feeling. He could find none.
Amanda knew Lee's face was devastatingly close to hers. She waited for him to roll onto his back, but he didn't move, and he didn't remove his hand from her stomach, either. In fact it seemed to have moved slightly upward.
She opened her eyes to see that he was indeed close. His eyes were closed and his lips were parted. His lips brushed against hers. She closed her eyes - was this a dream?
Lee pulled back. Amanda was visibly affected by his kiss, but she didn't open her eyes. He lowered his head to hers again and kissed her cheek with light kisses, each kiss getting closer to her mouth.
Suddenly Amanda's lips found his and she kissed him tenderly, bringing an arm up and around to his back. Lee moaned and kissed her more deeply, rolling so that he was almost on top of her.
"Lee," Amanda breathed.
"What is it, baby?" Lee kissed her neck, her shoulder.
"Why...all of a sudden..." Amanda sought and found his lips, her tongue lightly tracing his upper lip.
"Shhh," Lee quieted her with his kiss.
"You...Lee? Oh, my gosh," Amanda was having trouble being coherent.She had to talk to him.
She rolled onto her side. Lee groaned in protest. Gasping for breath, she choked out one word: "Why..." and couldn't finish the thought.
She couldn't think.
"Because I love you, Amanda, and I couldn't find a way to tell you. I've loved you for the longest time. I don't know what you've done to me," Lee confessed.
Amanda could find no words to express her feeling, so she kissed him again. "I love you too," she said finally. "I think we have a lot to talk about."
"Yes," Lee agreed, "We do. In the morning."
He pulled her close again and kissed her once more. Then
he wrapped his arms around the woman he loved, the only woman he could
ever love, and they fell asleep together, peacefully.