Summary:Another VSS (which, by the way, are not
in any particular order).
Disclaimer:The main characters belong to Shoot the Moon and Warner Bros. Productions. The story is a product of my rather overactive imagination.
As Amanda's plane headed towards New York, she reflected on the events of the past few weeks, especially the day that Lee locked the door to the Q-Bureau to keep Billy and Francine at bay, said, "Not this time," and kissed her.
Amanda smiled at the memory. She had never dreamed that things would progress to this point, but they had. She hated having to leave for a courier assignment right at this moment, but she had no choice.
Back at the Agency, Lee paced in Billy's office. "Billy, I don't like this at all," he complained. He was quickly developing a headache.
"Neither do I, but it's for Amanda's own protection, you know that. It has to look as real as possible. When it all blows over, everyone will know the truth." Billy watched Lee closely, wondering just how deep his feelings for Amanda King went.
"Let me see the letter again," Lee held out his hand. "You say this was given to you by a contact?"
"Yes, a very old and trusted contact. He's in jeopardy himself, for obvious reasons. But Olga Gerlovski doesn't seem to care about anything but revenge against you."
Lee read the letter again.
'Amanda King will die. I have waited for this moment for ten years. Stetson finally has someone that I can take away from him, as he took my beloved husband away from me. O. Gerlovski'
Enclosed in the envelope were several snapshots of Lee and Amanda, most of them indicating semi-intimate moments. A few depicted Lee holding Amanda's hand, a couple were from times when Lee took Amanda out to dinner, one was even of Lee kissing Amanda on the forehead.
"Care to explain the nature of these photographs, Scarecrow?" Billy asked.
"Not really," Lee murmurred, looking at a photograph of himself kissing Amanda's hand. They'd been out to dinner that night.
Billy smiled briefly, then continued. "Olga is going for broke. She doesn't even care that we know it's her. I've gone over the case. Do you remember it?"
"Of course. I took a bullet in the shoulder from her husband and would have taken the next one in the heart if I hadn't shot him."
"Well," Billy sighed. "Here's the plan. Amanda is out of the way for a couple of days. When she returns, her house will be under Agency protection and she'll be followed by two agents. You and Francine will start heating things up, and after a few days announce that you're going to marry. I'm going to reassign Amanda to Agent Henderson for a while until this thing blows over. Francine will move her things in with you and by all appearances will be your wife. A team will be put on your apartment and Francine will have protection. But I don't think Olga will mess with Francine, so she'll be safe enough. I read in the report that Francine gave her a run for her money while you were battling with Gerlovski. She also has more experience in this sort of thing than Amanda. This way Amanda and her family will be out of harm's way. Any questions?"
"What do I tell Amanda?" Lee asked with a pained expression.
"Lee, is there an understanding between you and Amanda?" Billy could not understand Lee's reluctance to go through with the plan.
Lee sighed and looked away from Billy. "Yeah, kind of..."
"Things have been progressing..." Lee shrugged his shoulders helplessly.
"I knew they would," Billy said. "I just didn't realize...I'm sorry, Lee. But this is the way it has to be."
Two days later...
Amanda felt like she was comong down with a cold. She had a headache, a sore throat, and had been feeling generally weak since she'd been in New York. Still, she got ready and went in to work, thinking she'd come home if she got any worse.
She walked into the Agency's closet/elevator, where Lee and Francine were. Francine took a step closer to Lee and put her hand on his shoulder.
"Hi," Lee said quietly. He seemed different.
Francine said, "Ah, Amanda, you're back. How was the trip?"
Amanda's vision blurred and there were two Lees and two Francines in front of her. "Fine thanks," she said.
Lee noticed that Amanda's voice sounded funny, and she swayed, grabbing the railing. He reached out to steady her, and the elevator door opened.
"Amanda, are you feeling okay? You look a little pale," Lee said in a worried voice.
"I was feeling like I had a cold, but I'm getting much worse now," Amanda said, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Sounds like the flu," Francine said dismissively. "You should go back home to bed."
As the three headed for Billy's office, Amanda noticed that Francine had taken hold f Lee's hand, and he held it. She was almost too sick to care. Almost...But her head felt like it was going to explode.
They entered Billy's office and Amanda sat down. "Sir, as soon as we're done here, I need to go home. I think I've caught the flu."
"That'll be fine, Amanda. How did the courier job go?"
Amanda gave a brief account of her job in New York. Billy cleared his throat. Things were not going according to plan. If Amanda went home sick, she might not come in the next day. He'd have to speed things up, although it made him feel terrible to spring it on her.
After he dismissed Lee and Francine, who both left reluctantly (but for different reasons), Billy cleared his throat.
"Amanda, before you leave, I think you should know a couple of things."
"What is it, sir?" Amanda asked. It was so hot in here!
"Well for one thing, I'm going to reassign you to a different partner for a while, indefinitely."
"Why, sir? Have I done something to make Lee not want to work with me anymore?" Amanda noticed that she was now chilled.
"No, this is my decision, not Lee's. But there is something else you should know, Amanda," Billy went on, hating what he had to say next.
"Lee and Francine used to date, and they've gotten back together. Things are pretty serious, and I wouldn't be surprised if we hear about a wedding soon."
Amanda thought she must be experiencing dementia. "Excuse me?"
"Well it's been going on for a few months, actually," Billy plowed on, distressed by the look in Amanda's eyes. "I guess you just hadn't noticed."
"I guess not," Amanda said as the room started spinning. "May I be excused now?"
This was too much! Amanda thought. She left Billy's office and saw Lee holding Francine's hand, laughing with some of the other agents. Francine straightened Lee's tie and kissed him.
Amanda suddenly felt ill, but she wasn't sure if it was the flu or the sight of Lee with Francine. She ran for the nearest bathroom and emptied the contents of her stomach. Francine came in, seemingly genuinely concerned. "Amanda?"
Amanda came out of the stall and Francine gasped. "You're white as a sheet!"
"I'll be fine. You're right, it's the flu. I need to go home now." Amanda could not look Francine in the eye.
"Let me have someone drive you, then."
"No!" Amanda walked past her. "I'm fine. Please tell Billy I don't think I'll be in tomorrow."
Lee watched with growing concern as Amanda left the building without even glancing his way. He knew how upset she must be, and being sick on top of it must have compounded everything.
Three days later, Amanda still had not come in to work. She missed the announcement of Lee and Francine's wedding, which was to be the very next day. Francine called and left a message inviting her to the wedding. Amanda erased it.
Joe had come to take the boys so they wouldn't get sick and so Amanda could get some rest. Dotty was beside herself trying to get Amanda to go to the doctor's.
"Mother, I'm fine. It's the flu. I'm not getting any worse. I just have to get over this."
Amanda slept and was listless when awake. She couldn't keep anything down, and stopped trying to eat after a while.
Meanwhile, Lee and Francine were married, a very public affair. Lee was miserable. even at the small reception he could not keep his mind off Amanda, and desperately wanted to see her, but Billy had given strict orders that he stay away from her.
Olga Gerlovski chuckled to herself. This was wonderful. This whole plot carefully orchestrated by the Scarecrow and his little friends to throw her off the track of hurting Amanda King. A false wedding! Who would have thought? And yet she had already fulfilled her promise.
Oh, they would have expected her to capture the King woman and torture her. No, that was her husband's technique, not hers. Her way was much cleaner, sneakier. Olga's daughter worked for the airline Amanda King flew on on her little courier trip to New York. Her food had contained a special strain of the Scandanavian Flu, which carried a lovely consumption-like virus.
Everyone would think Mrs. King had the flu until it was too late. Of course, it took a while, but they weren't wise to her yet!
Lee drove around Arlington, trying to spot Dotty. He wanted so badly to go by Amanda's house, but didn't want to jeopardize the whole operation.
He drove by the market again, and finally spotted her going inside. He parked quickly and ran inside, looking for her.
He found her in the bread ailse, talking to a friend. He backed off and listened.
"Dotty, how's Amanda? Is she getting any better?"
"I'm about to force her to go to the doctor, Annie. She refuses to go. She is bone-thin, as if she wasn't before. She won't eat - she can't eat. It won't stay down. She goees from freezing to burning up. She stayed in the bathtub for two hours last night - she couldn't get out, and she refused to let me help her. She's drinking a lot of water - tons of water. She won't let me stay in thhe room for long, she's afraid I'll catch it. The boys are with Joe. I 've never seen anything like this. I did call the doctor a couple of days ago and he said it would run it's course. Lots of people have the flu, he said. But I don't know. Amanda is usually so healthy. She doesn't even look like herself."
Dotty wound up her long-winded narrative and Annie gave told her to give Amanda her love. Lee ran out of the market and to his car.
Damn the consequences, he thought fiercely. He was going over there. He parked around the corner so the agents on duty wouldn't recognize his car. He entered the backyard of the neighbors two doors down and made his way to Amanda's house.
He went in through the back door and went up the stairs. Quietly he opened the door to Amanda's bedroom. All he saw was a small form curled up, completely under the blankets. Gently he sat down on the edge of her bed.
"Amanda," he whispered.
She didn't stir. "Amanda," he said again, a little louder.
"Amanda, you need to see a doctor. I'm going to take you to the hospital."
She still didn't respond. Lee reached over and pulled the covers back. He was shocked at the sight before him.
Amanda was curled up in the fetal position, shivering. She was, as Dotty had described, horribly thin. There were circles under her eyes, and her face looked drawn and pale. She was not conscious. Her fists were clenched as if in self-defense from some unseen predator.
"Oh, my god," Lee picked her up in his arms, draping her in a sheet. Instinctively Amanda's arm went up around Lee's neck. Not even thinking to leave a note for Dotty, Lee carried her outside. Two agents rushed over to ask what was wrong, walking with him to his car as he explained. He gently put Amanda inside and belted her in.
Once Lee had taken Amanda to Galilee General and had Dr. Mac John paged, he went to see Billy. Billy was looking grim. "I heard what you did-"
"Billy, I had to! I overheard-" Lee interrupted.
Billy held up a hand. "It's okay, Lee, I'm glad you did. Look at this."
He handed Lee another note from Olga Gerlovski.
'It is by now too late. I have fooled the great Scarecrow. Amanda King will die today, maybe tomorrow. She has been infected with one of the deadliest viruses known to man. Have a nice lonely life, Scarecrow.
Lee crumpled the sheet of paper in his hand. His face turned red, then white. "Billy, I can't lose her."
"I'm sorry, Lee. There's no way we could have known," Billy said sorrowfully. "We had a lead. There's a team on their way to check it out right now."
"Where?" Lee asked.
"No, Lee. You're not going."
"But, Billy!" Lee argued.
"No buts. I want you to wait and be with Amanda as soon as you can, if they'll let you. I don't want you out for revenge. It's a vicious cycle, Lee. You're not going into the field in this condition."
Lee knew Billy was right. Nodding his head, he left Billy's office and made his way back over to the hospital. He called Dotty from a payphone and filled her in, saying he'd stopped by out of concern and decided to take Amanda to see a doctor, and that she'd been checked in to the hospital. He didn't describe how he'd found Amanda.
"Oh, I just got in from running my errands and hadn't even been upstairs yet. I'm so glad you came by, Mr. Stetson. She refused to let me take her," Dotty had said. Before she said she would head over to the hospital right away.
As Lee entered the lobby, he heard Dr. Mac John being paged. "Dr. Mac John, emergency in room 160. Dr. Mac John, emergency in room 160."
Lee ran down the corridor despite the repeated calls of the nurse that he couldn't go down there. He knew that it was Amanda's room.
He skidded to a halt outside the door. Dr. Mac John was already there. A monitor of some kind was beeping wildly. "We're losing her," the nurse said, adjusting the IV.
Another nurse came and told Lee he'd have to leave or she would call security. In a daze, Lee walked back out to the waiting room and sat down. Dotty showed up and Lee filled her in. He could see the worry on he face, but she said, "Amanda is very strong. If anyone can beat this, she can."
Dotty was clearly curious as to why Lee was waiting around, but she didn't say anything. The look on his face told her enough.
After an hour, Dotty had gone to get them some coffee. The doctor came out to see Lee. He sat down and patted Lee on the back.
Lee looked at him with a mixture of fear and sadness in his eyes. "Please don't tell me she died."
"No, she didn't. She still might. But not yet. I had to draw fluid off her lungs. That was the emergency, she was drowning. She's lost at least 15 pounds in the last week, not good for a woman so small. We've gotten the fever down to a managable state. When she first arrived it was 105. It's 100 now. We're doing everything we can."
"I need to see her," Lee said.
Dr. Mac John thought of refusing, then thought better of it. "Okay, follow me. She's not conscious."
"Please fill Mrs. West in," Lee said as the doctor left the room.
Lee sat down by Amanda's bedside and took her fragile hand in his. The monitor was now at a steady rate. Amanda's breathing was shallow.
"Amanda," Lee's voice broke. "I don't know if you can hear me or not. But please, hang on. You have to get better. I need you to know that there's nothing between Francine and me. It was a cover, to protect you. You're the only one I want. Please, you have to come back to me."
Dotty was shown into the room, having overheard Lee's last few words. She stayed for a while, then asked Lee to call her if anything changed, as she had to pick up the boys from Joe's. She planted a kiss on her daughter's forehead before she left. "I know you'll stay with her," she said to Lee with a small smile.
"Of course," Lee said. He had no intention of leaving her side.
Lee laid his head down on the bed and closed his eyes. All he wanted was to be here with Amanda.
Amanda could not open her eyes or talk. She was barely awake, but she was aware of Lee's voice, sounding so concerned.
The doctor looked in on Amanda and found Lee asleep, his head on the bed and one arm draped across Amanda's legs. He decided to let him stay. Knowing Scarecrow he wouldn't be able to make him leave anyway.
Lee awoke with a cramp in his neck and shoulder. He looked at Amanda. She looked the same as last night. He decided to check in with Billy and see if there'd been any progress.
There was a young woman in Billy's office Lee had never seen before. "Lee, I want you to meet Colette Gerlovski, Olga's daughter."
Lee just stared. Billy said, "Thank you for you help, Miss Gerlovski." Billy shook her hand and she turned to Lee, speaking in halting English.
"I'm sorry for the part I play in my mother's plan for revenge. I have always been afraid of her. So I followed her orders and poisoned Mrs. King's food. But when she told me the full story...I felt so bad. I have a young man...I love him very much. I would hate if someone took him away from me. I know my father was not a nice man. Again, please forgive me."
She left the office, escorted by two agents, who were taking her to interrogation. She had offered full cooperation.
"Colette brought the antidote. The Scandanavian Flu is anything but the flu. It's called that due to the symptoms it inflicts. Francine took it upstairs as you were coming down. This is a break, Lee. Dr. Mac John said it was looking pretty hopeless."
Lee closed his eyes in relief at the word 'antidote'. He ran a hand through his hair and smiled at Billy.
"What are you waiting for? Get back upstairs with her!" Billy admonished.
Lee raced out of the office and back to the hospital. When he walked down the hall, he heard the doctor talking to the nurse.
"It'll take a while, but she should make rapid improvement from here. Just keep and eye on her."
As they came out of the room, the doctor motioned for Lee to go in. He sat down, watching Amanda's face carefully.
After about two hours, Amanda stirred. Lee snapped to attention, watching and listening. Amanda raised a thin arm and put her hand to her head, moaning quietly.
Grinning, Lee waited impatiently for her to open her eyes. Amanda dropped her arm back down, and stretched her entire body, then exclaimed, "Ouch!"
She opened her eyes, her eyelids fluttering rapidly until she adjusted to the light, making little waking up noises in her throat as she did so.
She raised her head slightly and saw Lee. She smiled. "Hi," she said, her voice dry and raspy.
"Hi," he returned, his voice full of emotion.
"What happened?" she asked.
"You don't remember anything?" Lee asked.
"I remember...the plane. I remember...being sick. So sick...That's about it."
"Do you remember coming into the Agency?" Lee asked.
"Umm, kind of. I remember being sick in the ladies room and Francine of all people came in."
"That's all you remember?" Lee asked hopefully.
Amanda was suspicious now. "Why, what should I remember that I'm not remembering, that you're so worried about me remembering?"
Lee laughed at her familiar way of expressing herself. he had thought he'd never hear her voice again. Taking her hands in his, he kissed each finger, then the backs of her hands. "I'll tell you a story when you get out of here, how's that?"
Amanda smiled. "Okay," she agreed, as Lee leaned in and gently kissed her lips.