A Dish Best Served Cold
Summary: Lee and Amanda are the focus of a plan for revenge. Can the daring duo stop the plans of a madman before they and the Agency are destroyed?
Feedback: Welcome, on-list of off.
Author's Notes: An infinite amount of thanks to BohemianFling for the idea, the encouragement, the beta reading, the editing, and everything else she did to help me complete this story. Thanks go also to the SMK5 crew for their encouragement and tips. I am honored to have been included in this endeavor to keep SMK alive.
Disclaimer: I do not own Scarecrow and Mrs. King nor it's characters. I am simply borrowing them from Warner Bros. and Shoot the Moon Productions, the actual copyright owners. Please do not reproduce this story without the author's consent.
< Nordvik Institute for the Insane, Russia>
The tall, dark-haired man stood looking through the small caged opening set into the door of the cell. He watched as his mentor, Serge Krutiov, sat on his cot, rocking back and forth, mumbling.
The dark-haired man spoke. "Sir. All is finally in place. It has taken almost a year, but we are finally ready to proceed with Project Morpheus."
There was no response from Krutiov. He continued rocking, still mumbling unintelligibly.
"We shall have revenge on the Agency, Sir," the dark-haired man said, clenching his fist and shaking it for emphasis. "We shall pluck the stuffing from Scarecrow and take care of the woman as well. Soon, very soon, the Motherland and the Agency will see that your theories are correct, and you will be recognized as the genius that you are."
The tall, dark-haired man strode away from the door. Inside the cell, the rocking motion became faster, the mumbling became louder, with certain words becoming clear: "Scarecrow...dead...King...Agency...Scarecrow..."
"...So let's keep our eyes open," Billy Melrose was saying to the agents who had gathered in the conference room for the morning briefing. He smiled as he picked up a stack of folders, knowing the reactions he would get from his agents as he handed out this particular assignment. "I know this is running long, people, but there's one more thing." As everyone grumbled, Billy's smile grew even bigger. "It's our turn to investigate the new recruits." He passed out the folders, nodding and smiling at the agents as he gave each of them their assigned recruit. "In each folder you'll find the dossier and some photos of the candidate. They are currently under 24-hour surveillance. The photos from this surveillance will be delivered to you every day."
The expressions of the agents as Billy gave them their files were all the same: a mix of exasperation, irritation and annoyance. Billy was expecting a different reaction from his 'newest' agent. He was not disappointed.
"Oh, thank you, Sir," Amanda King said with a big smile as she took the folder. Billy could always count on her enthusiasm. He could also depend on the reaction of her partner.
"Yeah, thanks a *lot,* Billy," Lee Stetson added, displeasure evident in his voice.
"The interviews with your assigned recruits are scheduled for tomorrow," Billy said as the agents began filing out of the room. "Be thorough people, these are the agents who may be watching your back someday."
Lee sat at his desk in the Q-Bureau, pencil in hand, an unfinished report on the desk in front of him. "Aw, Amanda," he said, addressing his partner and wife. "This isn't fun, and it's not exciting. It's not even interesting. Besides, interesting can get you hurt," he said with a pointed look at his wife.
"Oh, Lee. This *is* important."
"Look, I've been through this before. Whoever's in that file is perfect. They don't let anything out of the ordinary get through the first...fifty screenings. This is just a formality."
"But it's still important. What if they *did* miss something?"
"Amanda," Lee said, getting up and moving to sit on the corner of her desk. "This isn't 'real' work for experienced agents like us. This should be...I don't know...Beaman's job."
"Lee, I've never done this. I never even went through the process, remember? I need to know how this whole thing works. Besides, would you really want Beaman to decide who should watch your back?"
"No, I guess you're right." Lee took a deep breath and turned a sultry gaze to Amanda. "First, what do you say to an early lunch with a handsome sexy secret agent?"
"Love to," Amanda replied, with a twinkle in her eye. "Do you know one?"
Lee grabbed Amanda's arm and pulled her up into his embrace. Gazing into her eyes, he replied, "I think I might," then drew her closer for a deep, passionate kiss. When he released her, Amanda was breathless.
Breathless, but not speechless. "I guess you'll do."
"'I'll do, huh?" Lee asked as he released her so she could get her purse.
"Yeah," she replied, glancing over her shoulder at him as she opened the door and walked out. "For now."
Lee just smiled and shook his head as he followed her out of the office.
Amanda sat in front of the computer while Lee paced back and forth.
"See, Amanda, I told you. Perfect," Lee said, tossing the file on his desk.
"Yeah, too perfect," she replied, picking up the file and looking through it again.
Lee stopped pacing and pointed at her. "Amanda King, I know that tone. There is nothing wrong with Betsy Miller. Everything is in perfect order." Gesturing to the folder, he said, "You've gone through that file a hundred times. You're not going to find anything."
Amanda shook her head. "There's just something about it that bothers me."
"Your instincts about people are kicking in again."
Amanda closed the folder and set it on the desk, then looked at Lee. "What's wrong with that?"
"Come on, Amanda, you haven't even met her yet, and you already think there's something wrong. Face it, sometimes your instincts are wrong."
"And sometimes I'm right. Remember William Towne? And Connie? And--"
"Amanda. I agree, all right? Sometimes you *are* right. But you haven't even met her yet. Why don't we wait to make any decisions until after the interview tomorrow?"
"Ok." She smiled at him. "We have been at this all afternoon. I think I'm ready for a break."
"Break?" Lee moved around the desk to stand in front of her. Smiling roguishly, he said, "I think we ought to call it a day."
With a mock look of distress on her face, and a mischievous glint in her eye, Amanda asked, "You mean leave early?"
Lee bent down until he was face to face with Amanda. "Mmm hmmmm. Your mother's not expecting us for dinner 'til...what? Seven? That gives us a few hours to..."
"To what, Scarecrow?"
"Spend some time in the...'editing room?'" he said as he wrapped his arms around her.
"You know, we've been late so many times, and used that excuse so much, that I don't think Mother believes it anymore."
Lee let Amanda go and stood up. "Well, we could always tell her that we were really--"
"No!" she said, taking his proffered hand. "The 'editing room' is fine."
Betsy Miller approached the tall, dark-haired man enshrouded in the shadows of the alley. "Comrade Gurov."
"Here is your script," he said, handing her a large envelope. "Study it well. You must say each phrase at the precise time in the conversation to have the most effect. And make sure you dress exactly as I have indicated."
"Sir, Scarecrow is a trained, seasoned agent. I don't understand how what I say will make him susceptible to future requests. Especially not those intended to have him betray his oaths and his partner. Would it not be better to work on the woman, instead?"
"Do not question me. I have studied Scarecrow and Mrs. King for almost a year. This will work. You will see."
"Good morning," Amanda said cheerfully as she entered the kitchen.
"Morning, Mom," Phillip and Jamie replied around mouthfuls of the cereal they were eating.
"Good morning, darling," Dotty replied. She was sitting at the table, eating. Spread across the table were the photos from Betsy Miller's file.
Amanda picked up a bowl to fix herself some cereal. "So what are you fellas doing after school today?" she asked.
Phillip spoke first. "Jimmy and I are going to his house to work on a science project for school. Can I spend the night at his house?"
"Sure, sweetheart, as long his mom says it's all right."
"Dad was gonna pick me up from school," Jamie said, "and take me to this really cool camera shop. Can I stay with him tonight?"
"I think that would be terrific. Now, you two better scoot or you're gonna be late for school."
Phillip and Jamie stood up, grabbed their things, each placed a quick kiss on Amanda's cheek, hollered a very brief 'bye' to their grandmother, and were gone.
"Sure is quiet when they're gone," Amanda said, staring at the door through which the boys had just left. She turned around to face her mother and saw the pictures. "Mother, what are you doing?" She walked towards the table.
"I was just looking at these pictures. Who is this girl? She seems to be in every shot."
"Mother, that's...that's an actress IFF is thinking of hiring for our next documentary. We have to evaluate the test shots to make sure she's what we need."
"Well, these shots are a bit strange. I mean, look at this one," she said, holding up a shot of Betsy in the stands at a football game. And this one," she added, holding up another. "She is trying to flag down a taxicab. Now, who would pay to have pictures taken of them like these?"
"Well, Mother, documentaries aren't like regular movies." Amanda started picking up the photographs and putting them back in the folder.
"It almost looks as if someone followed her around and took these when she wasn't looking."
"We look for something different in the actors we use, Mother," Amanda said, taking the photos from Dotty, "and we prefer spontaneous shots, instead of normal test shots."
Dotty stood up and moved into the kitchen carrying her coffee cup. "This whole 'documentary film' thing is very strange."
The telephone rang at that moment and Dotty walked over to answer it. "I mean, you do keep strange hours." She picked up the receiver. "Hello...oh, good morning, Lee...I'm doing fine this morning...She's right here."
Hearing who was on the phone, Amanda had walked over to stand next to Dotty. She took the phone as her mother held it out to her. "Thank you, Mother. Good morning, Lee."
"Hi," Lee responded, the smile evident in his voice. "I was just on my way out and thought I'd drop by and pick you up."
"That would be terrific."
"I'll see you in 20 minutes."
"I'll be waiting."
While Amanda had been on the phone, Dotty had put on her coat, grabbed her purse and was heading for door.
"Amanda, will Lee be picking you up?" At Amanda's nod, Dotty continued, "Then I'm going to take the car. I have a date tonight, and I saw the most wonderful dress in a shop window yesterday."
"All right, Mother. Have fun," Amanda called.
The ride to the diner was quiet for the first few minutes. Lee broke the silence.
"Listen, since you've never done this before, I'll handle the interview. You can just take notes."
Amanda glanced sharply towards him. "Lee, I've done interviews before."
"Yeah, but not for an agent-candidate. Besides, I think you're already biased against her."
"Because there's something wrong with her file," Amanda insisted.
"What?" Lee asked, looking at Amanda.
She turned away and looked out the window. "I don't know, yet."
"Uh-huh." Lee shook his head. "Amanda, there is absolutely nothing wrong with her file."
"At least I'm questioning it," she stated. "You seem to be blindly accepting that she's fine."
"I told you, the process she has already had to go through and the background checks that have been made are practically a guarantee that everything is fine." He placed his right hand on her thigh and rubbed soothingly. "Now stop worrying about this."
Lee and Amanda sat at a small table when the interview was over, watching as Betsy Miller left the diner.
"Well, that went well," Lee said with a big smile.
Amanda's eyebrows rose and her eyes opened wide. "It went well?"
"Sure," he replied, standing up. "You ready to head to the Agency?"
Amanda didn't stand up. "No. I'm not ready to head to the Agency."
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"I'm not sure," she answered, shaking her head.
Lee sat back down. "You're making my day."
Amanda looked at Lee. "Do you remember that Betsy said she had never been here?"
Shrugging his shoulders, he responded, "Yeah, so?"
"The waiter seemed to know her pretty well," she whispered, pointing over her shoulder towards the waiter who was now behind the counter.
"Amanda, he was just doing his job; he was being friendly." Lee smiled as he leaned back in his chair. "Then again, maybe he was trying to hit on her. She is pretty."
"Maybe. But why would she lie about not being here before? I think we should talk to that waiter."
Lee sighed. "And I think you should let it drop."
A look of determination settled in Amanda's eyes. "If you're not going to help, then I'll do it myself."
"Amanda, we came in the same car," he reminded her.
She smiled at him. "Then I'll get a cab and meet you back at the office."
"Amanda, why are you doing this?" Lee asked, annoyance creeping into his voice.
"Because there's something wrong. I can tell."
"There is nothing wrong with Betsy Miller." Lee smiled and shook his head. "You can't get more American, or more patriotic, than the girl that just left."
Amanda stood her ground. "I'll meet you at the Agency in an hour."
Lee stared at her for a few seconds. "Fine."
The tall, dark-haired man sat on a bench across the street from the diner. He watched as Scarecrow and Mrs. King argued. He watched as Scarecrow stood and left, alone. He watched as Mrs. King tried to compose herself after the argument. He watched his plan develop exactly as he had predicted. Using the theories of Serge Krutiov, he, Konstantin Gurov, would bring the Agency to its knees.
Amanda walked into the Q-Bureau expecting to find Lee sitting behind his desk with his feet propped up, doing absolutely nothing. Instead, she found an empty office. Thinking he had just gone down to the Bullpen or to Billy's office, Amanda sat down at her desk to wait for him. She decided to look through the file on Betsy Miller again, hoping to find what had been bothering her since she first read the file. The statement the waiter made kept flitting through her mind: 'Oh, sure. She comes in a lot with some older guy.'
At the sound of the door opening, Amanda, anticipating Lee's entrance, turned to the door wearing a bright smile. That smile faded as she saw who it was.
"Oh, it's just you," Amanda said as Francine walked in.
"Well, a cheery good morning to you, too, Amanda," Francine replied acerbically.
"I'm sorry, Francine, I was hoping you were Lee. Have you seen him?"
"He was here earlier, but he got a phone call and took off like a shot." Francine's face formed into a smirk. "I bet it was one of his old girlfriends. He probably--"
"Francine!" Amanda interrupted. Gesturing to the folder Francine held, Amanda asked, "Do you have something for me, or did you just want to get in a few good shots before lunch?"
Francine was slightly taken aback. Amanda
was usually good for a little verbal sparring. Handing the file over, she
replied, "I'm sorry. These are the surveillance photos of your agent-candidate
for the last twenty-four hours."
Amanda took the folder and started looking through the photographs. "Thank you."
Francine nodded, then headed for the door. Amanda's voice stopped her.
"Francine, do you recognize this man?" she asked, showing Francine a picture of Betsy Miller with an older gentleman.
Francine shook her head. "No, I don't think so. Do you want to run it through the computer?"
"No, not yet. I know I've seen him somewhere before."
Francine moved to the door again. "Let me know if I can help."
"Thank you, Francine," Amanda muttered distractedly. Immersed in yesterday's photos, she did not notice that Francine was already gone. "A-ha!" she exclaimed a few minutes later.
Betsy Miller was on the verge of tears. Lee could see them pooling in her eyes, threatening to spill over and run down her cheeks. He shifted on the bench so that he could look her more directly in the face.
"It'll be ok," he said, taking her hand in his.
"No, it won't, Mr. Stetson. Mrs. King doesn't like me," she said, the tears beginning to stream down her face. "I know she doesn't."
"Betsy," he said, wrapping his arms around her shoulders as she leaned into him for comfort, "it's not that she doesn't like you. She's just trying to be thorough." Lee leaned back a little and saw a tear escape down the young woman's cheek. "Maybe too thorough," he finished, pulling her close again and patting her on the back.
Betsy leaned back and looked him in the eye. "She'll try to keep me from joining the Agency, won't she?"
"I don't think--"
She sat up straight. "Maybe you can help me."
Lee spread his hands wide and asked, "How?"
"Let me help you solve a case."
Lee shook his head. "No," he stated emphatically. "That won't work."
"Yes, it will." Betsy wiped the tears from her face. "If I can solve a case, or at least come up with some really good ideas, she'll have to see that I'm Agency material."
Lee opened the door to the Q-Bureau. There were files everywhere. They covered the top of his desk, Amanda's desk, the couch, the filing cabinets, and were stacked on the floor.
"Amanda?" Lee called out, wondering what his wife was doing.
"In here," she called from the vault. She emerged carrying another stack of folders.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"I've seen him somewhere before."
Lee was puzzled. "Who?"
"He was in some that Francine just brought
in and I remembered seeing him in some with Mother this morning and I know I
recognize him from somewhere else I just can't place where."
"Amanda, stop a minute. What are you talking about?"
Amanda picked up the photos of Betsy with the older gentleman in them. "Him. Do you recognize him?"
Lee looked at the pictures. "No, should I?"
"Francine and Billy didn't recognize him either," she said, setting the pictures on her desk, "but I know I've seen him somewhere else."
Lee stood in the center of the room with his arms crossed. "Amanda, why are you so hell bent on keeping Betsy out of the Agency?"
Shocked, Amanda asked, "What?"
"Since the first time you read her file, you decided there was something wrong with her."
Amanda hesitated before she spoke again. She knew that this conversation would take them into an argument that would be pointless. Lee could be just as stubborn as she could. "I just want to be thorough." She walked over to him and put her hand on his back. "Will you come over for dinner tonight? Mother has a date and the boys will be out."
Lee stepped away from her. "I can't. I have to take care of a special assignment."
"Oh. Can I help? Then we can--"
"No! Uh, I have to take care of this personally." Lee walked to his desk and took a key from his pocket. He used it to open a drawer and take a few files.
Amanda was shocked and hurt; again, he was turning her away. "'Personally?' Would this have anything to do with the phone call you got this morning? And your disappearance?"
"Sometimes, I get a call from a contact and I have to leave. I can't always tell you where I'm going." He shut the drawer and locked it, then headed to the door.
"I'm your partner, I'm supposed to know where you go." Amanda walked over to Lee. "Usually, I'm supposed to go with you."
"Well, not this time. I won't be back for the rest of the day," he said as he left.
Amanda was dumbfounded. What had just happened? Had Lee really just left? The more immediate question: how was she supposed to get home?
Dotty walked down the steps and into the living room to find her daughter sitting solemnly on the couch, clutching a mug of hot chocolate.
"Amanda, darling, what's wrong?" When Amanda started to respond, Dotty held up her hand to keep her quiet. "Lee picked you up for work this morning, and you came home in a cab. You have been quiet since you got home. Did you and Lee have a little spat?"
Dotty sat next to Amanda on the couch. "Your father and I could have some of the worst arguments, but we always made up."
"Mother, Lee just got tied up with an assignment and couldn't get back to bring me home. I'm feeling tired, and I have a little headache. That's all."
"Amanda, why don't I stay home with you. I can call--" Dotty placed the back of her hand to Amanda's forehead, checking for fever.
"Mother, I'll be fine." Amanda gently pushed her mother's hand away. "Don't break your date."
Dotty, concern showing on her face, said, "I don't want to leave you alone if you're not feeling well."
"It's just a headache, Mother. I think a little peace and quiet and a long, hot bath are all I need."
Before Dotty could say any more, the doorbell rang. She looked in the direction of the door, then back to Amanda and asked, "If you're sure..."
"Go, Mother. Have a good time."
"All right, but you get some rest," Dotty said as she leaned over and placed a kiss on Amanda's cheek, then rose and walked to the door.
"I will. Good night, Mother."
Amanda sat in the quiet of the house for a few minutes, then set her mug on the coffee table and picked up the book she had put there earlier. She thought to get a little reading in, but found trying to concentrate on the words nearly impossible. Her thoughts kept drifting back to Lee and their 'spat.' Amanda set her book down, walked to the phone and dialed Lee's number, sighing when his machine answered. She hung up without leaving a message. Retrieving her mug of hot chocolate, Amanda carried it to the sink and stood for a minute in front of the window, looking into her backyard, wondering if Lee would knock on the glass tonight. Deciding that he probably wouldn't after today, she headed up the stairs to go to bed.
"Did you bring the files?" Betsy asked, glancing around surreptitiously. She stood at the edge of a circle of light cast by a street lamp, Lee by her side.
"Yes," he responded, "but I don't think you need them."
"I do." Betsy looked around again, squinting her eyes as she peered into the darkness. "Mrs. King doesn't want me to join the Agency. I have to do something to prove myself."
"Look, Amanda's just on some wild goose chase. She has pictures of you and some older guy. She's sure she's on to something."
"What?" Betsy asked weakly. Lee didn't hear her and continued.
"I just wish she would drop the whole thing." Lee handed the folders he brought to Betsy. "Look over these tonight, and call me in the morning. We'll talk about them." Lee turned and was briefly illuminated as he walked through the light of the street lamp, then he disappeared into the inky blackness.
Betsy waited, watching in Lee's direction long after he was gone. Behind her, a form seemed to ooze from the shadows. It took shape as Konstantin Gurov.
"You heard?" she asked.
"Yes. Mrs. King is smarter than I expected. We'll have to move ahead with the plan quicker than I anticipated."
"What is the plan?" Betsy inquired.
Gurov said nothing, staring out at the black night.
"Comrade, the plan?" Betsy repeated.
Still, Gurov said nothing. He simply melted back into the shadows and was gone.
Lee pulled his Corvette in front of Amanda's house. Noticing that all of the lights were off, he just sat in the car thinking, watching her house. He reached for the door handle, then changed his mind.
"Why did I say those things to her today?" he asked himself out loud, as if adding voice to his thoughts would bring on the elusive answer. Unable to reach a satisfying conclusion and unsure of what to say to Amanda, he started the car and slowly drove away.
Amanda sat in her kitchen and finished her breakfast as she read the morning paper. She looked up from the newspaper when she heard her mother coming down the stairs.
Amanda hurried to the coffeepot to fix her mother a cup. Dotty looked like she could use one. A big one.
"Mother, you look awful. Did you have a late night?" she asked, handing the steaming cup of coffee to her mother.
Dotty took the cup and took a sip. "Thank you, darling." Dotty took another drink. "Dinner was fabulous, but the play we went to was horrible. Even worse than that horrid thing you were in last year, you remember, the one with all the 'Mon Dieu, Mon Dieu' lines? Well, anyway--" Dotty stopped when she saw the expression on Amanda's face. "Amanda, is something wrong? You look as if you've seen a ghost."
"Mother, I've got to go." Amanda set her plate in the sink and moved to pick up her jacket and purse.
"Amanda--" Dotty started.
"It's all right, Mother; I'm just going to be late if I don't leave now. I promise we'll talk about your date tonight when I get home." Amanda breezed out of the house, leaving a startled Dotty in her wake.
"I swear, that daughter of mine is going to run herself into the ground if she doesn't slow down."
"Good morning, Mrs. King."
"Good morning, Efram," Amanda replied to Beaman with a smile and a tone she hoped communicated a sense of urgency.
"What can I do for you this morning, Mrs. King?" he asked.
"I need the case study on Serge Krutiov."
"Krutiov? Didn't you and Lee put him away last year?"
"Yes, Efram, we did," she responded as if explaining to a two-year-old child, "but I need to look something up in his file."
"Got a hunch, huh? Sign here," he said, pointing to a line in a ledger.
"Yes, a hunch," she replied as she wrote her name where Beaman indicated.
"You field agents and your hunches. I just don't understand." Beaman moved at an agonizingly slow pace as far as Amanda was concerned.
"Efram, could I have the file?" she asked, her patience wearing thin.
"What? Oh, yeah, I'll get it for you." Beaman disappeared into another room for what seemed like an eternity to Amanda. Finally, he returned, carrying the folder. "Here you go, Mrs. King."
"Thank you, Efram."
Amanda was gone before Beaman could utter, "You're welcome."
Amanda practically ran up to the Q-Bureau. Once seated behind her desk, she opened the Krutiov file and the dossier on Betsy Miller. She began to compare photos from the files. In Krutiov's file, she found a photo of the same gentleman, albeit younger, who had been in the photographs with Betsy.
Something else about the photo seemed familiar to Amanda. She took a closer look, then pulled another photo from Betsy's file and compared them. Amanda's eyes widened as she realized that two of the people were Betsy Miller's parents.
She stood and walked to Lee's desk to write him a note asking him to meet her in Billy's office when he arrived.
When Amanda arrived at Billy's office, he was not there. She turned and saw Francine.
"Francine, have you seen Mr. Melrose?"
Francine glanced through the window of Billy's office. "He's not in yet? Guess not. He said something yesterday about an early meeting this morning. Is there something *I* can do for you?"
"Here he comes," Francine interrupted her. Billy and Lee were walking in to the Bullpen.
Amanda turned and caught Lee's eye. He seemed cold, distant. He didn't speak. The tension was not lost on Billy and he tried to lighten the mood.
"Good morning, Amanda. How are you today?"
"Good morning, Sir. I'm fine. I think I have some information on the agent-candidate Lee and I are investigating."
"Amanda," Lee started, thinly veiled anger in his voice.
Hoping to defuse a potentially volatile situation, Billy interrupted. "In my office, people." The four of them walked into Billy's office. Billy eased into his chair, and Amanda and Francine sat in the chairs in front of his desk. Lee paced behind the women. "Now, Amanda, what's this about your agent-candidate?"
Before starting, Amanda cast a quick glance over her shoulder at Lee. He glared back at her.
"Well, Sir, ever since we were given the file, I've felt that there was something wrong."
Lee grunted and started to speak, but was silenced by a look from Billy.
"Please continue, Amanda."
"Yes, Sir." Amanda took several of the photos from Betsy's file and passed them across the desk to Billy. "There is an older gentleman that keeps showing up in the surveillance pictures of Betsy Miller."
After Billy looked at the photos, he handed them to Francine one at a time. "This is the man you asked me about yesterday."
"Yes, Sir, it is. At first I thought it was a coincidence, but he was just in too many. This morning I realized where I'd seen his picture before." Amanda opened the Krutiov file and took out the photo she had looked at earlier. She gave it to Billy. "That same man is in this photo of one of Serge Krutiov's 1962 psychology classes. He's a lot older now, but I'm certain it's the same man."
Billy looked at the photos. "It may very well be. Good work, Amanda."
"Thank you, Sir, but there's more."
Lee threw his hands up in the air. "Of course there is."
"Lee!" Billy warned. "What else, Amanda?"
"In the class photo, there are a man and woman sitting next to each other." She pulled another photo from Betsy Miller's file and passed it Billy. "This is a current photograph of Betsy's parents."
Billy looked at both photos, comparing them with a critical eye. "They look like the couple in Krutiov's class."
"Yes, Sir, that's what I thought, too."
"Francine, run a computer check on the Miller's, then see if we have anything on the man in these photos."
Francine nodded and stood up. As she turned and headed for the door, Lee blocked her path.
"You two aren't going to take this seriously?" he asked Billy and Francine.
Billy glanced at Amanda. She sat in her chair, head down. He eyed Lee warily. "You don't think Amanda has something here?"
"No, Billy, I *don't* think she 'has something,'" Lee replied scathingly.
Billy stood. "Explain yourself," he demanded.
Lee chuckled sarcastically. "Amanda has been looking for a reason to reject Betsy since we were first assigned to her. Looking at current photographs of people who *might* resemble someone in a twenty-five year old picture does not constitute 'having something.'" Lee's last words were full of contempt.
"Scarecrow--" Billy was interrupted by the ringing of his telephone. "Melrose here." He looked at Lee and said, "It's for you, Priority One."
Lee took the receiver from Billy and put it to his ear. He listened intently for a minute, nodding every once in while, then said, "I'll be right there." He hung the up the phone and turned to leave.
Billy took a step toward the door. "Scarecrow, we're not done here."
"I am." With that, Lee opened the door and walked out into the Bullpen.
Billy stared after him, not believing that Lee had actually left. "Amanda, what is going on with him?"
"Really," Francine quipped. "Usually he's all over any 'hunch' you might have."
"Can it, Francine," Billy warned.
Amanda shook her head, ignoring Francine. "I don't know, Sir. Ever since we started investigating Betsy Miller he's been acting strangely."
"We don't have time to worry about him." Turning to Francine, Billy told her, "Get busy on those background checks. Amanda, why don't you see what else you can come up with from those two files."
"Yes, Sir." Amanda stood and followed Francine to the door, stopping when she heard Billy's voice.
"Amanda, don't worry about Lee. He'll come around."
Amanda sat at her desk for half an hour trying to go through the two files she had, but she couldn't get her mind off Lee and the way he'd been acting. She had managed to put a few more clues together and now sat in Billy's office trying to explain them to him.
"Let me get this straight," Billy began. "You checked the phone log for a call that Lee received yesterday morning. The call was from Betsy Miller, who said some very strange things during the short conversation, things that caused Lee to run out and meet her."
"Yes, Sir. I think the whole conversation from Betsy's side was based on the theories of Serge Krutiov."
"Ok. You then checked the phone log for the call Lee got here this morning. That call was also from Betsy Miller, and she, again, said some very strange things, which I am assuming would also be based on Krutiov's theories?"
"Yes, Sir," Amanda nodded. "Sir, I'm afraid Lee is going to walk into a trap. Right now, he may not know what he's doing."
"But how could an agent-candidate make a Priority One call?"
Amanda hesitated. She knew what she was about to say could get Lee in trouble, but Lee was already in trouble, possibly in danger. She took a deep breath and forged ahead. "Well, Sir, I saw Lee take some files with him when he left yesterday. I'm pretty sure some of them were eyes-only, and he said he had to take care of a special assignment. Maybe he met Betsy last night."
Just then the door flew open and Francine rushed in. She looked at Amanda and said, "Good, you're already here." Turning to Billy, she said, "Listen to this. When Krutiov got back to Russia, the KGB was quick to point out that his theories didn't amount to a hill of beans. His elaborate scheme cost them the laser research, put the Agency on guard, and kept them from getting to Maria van Klausen, due to the added security. He quickly became the laughingstock of the KGB. The humiliation apparently drove Krutiov mad, and he was sent to a mental institution a few months later."
"A mental institution?" Billy asked.
"Yes," Francine nodded, "and he's only had one person visit him."
Amanda spoke. "The man in the photos."
"Right. He's Konstantin Gurov. He became Krutiov's protégé in the early sixties. During his last visit to Krutiov, Gurov was overheard talking about 'Project Morpheus.'"
"'Morpheus?'" a bewildered Billy asked.
Amanda broke the silence that had descended in the office at the mention of Morpheus. "I don't understand what Morpheus would have to do with any of this."
"Amanda," Billy started, "do you know the name?"
"Yes, Sir." Amanda replied. "Morpheus is the Greek god of dreams; he's the son of Hypnos, god of sleep. Sometimes Morpheus is called 'the Sleeper.'" Noticing Francine's quizzical look, Amanda shrugged and quickly explained, "I helped Jamie study for a test on Greek mythology."
Francine's intended barb was cut off by
Billy. "'The Sleeper,'" he said and looked from Amanda to Francine. "Betsy's
parents must have been more than just students of Krutiov. He *sent* them here."
Francine confirmed Billy's statement. "Right. They came to the U.S. over twenty years ago under the pretense of attending graduate school. When their daughter was born here in the States, they were allowed to stay. They were never connected to the KGB, they've never been suspected of any crimes, and Betsy Miller has been a model citizen."
"I don't understand. What's 'the Sleeper?'" Amanda asked.
Billy answered her. "A 'sleeper' is a reference to the KGB's practice of placing loyal supporters in foreign countries, where they raise their children as members of that country, but remain true to Russia. Betsy Miller is a sleeper."
Realization dawned on Amanda. "Then, Lee could really be in trouble."
Billy nodded in agreement. "Amanda, do you have the address where Lee was headed?"
"Then let's go."
Lee walked up to stand behind Betsy, who was studying the graffiti that littered the walls of the deserted building where she had asked to meet.
"Did you find another Picasso?" he joked.
"No," she shook her head, "just some children with too much time on their hands."
Lee gestured to the building around them. "Interesting place to meet. You have a flair for the dramatic."
"I didn't choose this location."
"No?" Lee smiled. "Who did?"
Lee spun around to face the man who belonged to the voice. He cocked his head in recognition when he saw the tall, dark-haired man standing in front of him. "It's you, the man from the pictures."
"Yes. You should have listened to your
partner. She knew what she was talking about."
"Amanda was right?" Lee asked, confusion filling his eyes. "Amanda was..."
"Yes, she was, but I'm afraid we didn't give you much choice. You *had* to listen to everything Betsy said, and do everything she told you to do."
"Why?" Lee struggled to maintain his sense of self. The more this man spoke, the more Lee felt himself slipping away.
"Serge Krutiov. This is all to prove his theories are valid, and to discredit you and the Agency, Scarecrow. Now, with a few carefully worded phrases from me, you will pull out your gun and fire at Ms. Miller, killing her. This will seal *your* fate, and remove the only witness to my plan."
"Wait!" Betsy shouted. "I thought *I* was to kill *him!*"
"Ms. Miller," Gurov smiled mirthlessly, "you have been just as manipulated as the 'formidable' Scarecrow."
Betsy pulled a gun from her jacket pocket and aimed it at Gurov. Seeing the surprise flash on Gurov's face, Betsy smiled. "Perhaps you've not manipulated me as well as you thought, Comrade." She squeezed the trigger and Konstantin Gurov fell to the floor, a crimson stain spreading across his chest.
Outside, as Billy, Francine, and Amanda got out of an Agency car, they heard a shot ring out, and headed for the building from which the sound came. They peered in the windows and saw Lee and Betsy facing each other, guns drawn. Betsy was speaking to Lee. The more she said, the more confused Lee looked. Billy sent Francine around the building to the right, while he went to the left. Amanda was to enter through the front.
Amanda watched in horror as Lee lowered his gun and laid it on the ground. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Billy's signal to move in on Betsy.
"From the beginning," Betsy said, "I was not certain that this would work on an experienced agent such as you. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it did." She smiled sadistically at him. "I have learned enough from Comrade Gurov and my parents that I can make you do whatever I wish. I will kill you, as I killed Gurov." Cocking her gun, she said, "For Mother Russia."
Amanda flinched when she heard the shot. She was shocked when Betsy fell to her knees instead of Lee. Amanda ran to Lee and saw Francine, gun still trained on Betsy, walking out of the shadows.
"Take *that* for Mother Russia," Francine said derisively.
Billy joined the group. He looked at Francine. "Nice shot." Francine nodded and bent down to pick up Betsy's gun. Billy turned and looked at Lee and Amanda.
Amanda tried to get Lee to look at her, but his eyes were clouded with the confusion that Betsy and Gurov had been able to instill in him. "Lee. Lee, look at me," she pleaded.
Finally, his gaze fell on her. "Amanda...?" Lee grabbed her by the arms. "He said you were right. What's happening?"
"It's all right now, Lee," Amanda said in a soothing tone, maintaining eye contact.
"Amanda, get Lee to Dr. Quidd *now.* Francine and I will handle things here."
"Yes, Sir. Lee, we need to go see Dr. Quidd." Amanda was afraid Lee was going to fight her on this, but what he did scared her even more.
Lee nodded and let go of Amanda's arms, slipping his hand in hers. He willingly allowed her to steer him out of the building, and eventually, to the Agency 'shrink.'
"No, you may not stay up to watch the late show." Amanda stood next to her couch, arms crossed, facing her sons.
"Aw, Mom, it's a really gnarly movie tonight."
"I know it is, Jamie, but you have school in the morning."
"I can do a report on it for school," Phillip said eagerly. "Mr. Smallwood said to find something about space and write a report."
"Phillip," Amanda said shaking her head, "I don't think a 1950's science fiction movie is exactly what your teacher had in mind. Now, both of you, go upstairs and finish your homework."
"Aw, Mom," Phillip and Jamie replied as they made their way to the stairs.
Phillip stopped and faced his mom. "If we finish our homework, can we stay up and watch the show?"
"If you finish your homework," Amanda paused, watching the boys faces light up in anticipation of her answer, "I'll fix you some hot chocolate before bed."
The boys' shoulders slumped in defeat; foiled again.
Amanda kissed each of the boys on the cheek as they passed her and headed for the stairs. "With extra marshmallows," she added. She chuckled as she heard the boys arguing with each other as they made their way up the stairs.
Dotty, watching from the kitchen, remarked, "You used to do the same thing, Amanda. Children and parents aren't that different from each other." She walked into the family room, adjusting her dress.
Amanda scrutinized her mother's attire and smiled. "Oh, I don't know, Mother. I wouldn't be caught dead in *that* outfit." Dotty was dressed as a 'flapper,' complete with a plum-colored knee-length fringe covered dress, a long cigarette holder, and a sequined headband with an adornment of feathers attached to the side.
"Well," Dotty laughed, looking down at her costume, "I hope I'm not, either. We're going to a 'murder mystery.' We have to dress in character." The doorbell rang and Dotty kissed her daughter on the cheek. "Good night, darling."
"Have a good time, Mother!" Amanda called to Dotty. She heard the door open, then close. Silence closed in on her. Even though the boys were upstairs, it was very quiet in the house. She picked up the glasses of milk that Phillip and Jamie had left on the coffee table. Walking into the kitchen, Amanda heard a light tap on the side door and nodded at the man outside. Quickly setting the glasses on the counter, she rushed out the back door to greet her husband. They caught each other in a fierce embrace.
"I've missed you," she said, her voice muffled by their closeness.
Lee chuckled. "It's only been a week." His tight grip on her was in direct contrast to the levity of his words.
"Does that mean you haven't missed me?" she asked lightly.
"Well..." he started. Amanda pulled back and gave him a playful slap on the arm. His gaze captured hers. "I've missed you more than you can ever know." Lee hesitated, knowing what he wanted and needed to say, but not quite sure how. "Amanda."
Amanda's eyebrows rose at the serious tone in his voice.
"I want to thank you for being so...persistent about Betsy. I don't know--"
"Lee," she interrupted. "It's all right. I just want you to be okay." Lee pulled her back into his arms for a brief hug. "Can I assume that, since you're here, your 'deprogramming' is finished?"
Lee nodded and stepped back. He leaned against the wall. "I'll need to make a few follow-up visits, but the doc says I'm back to the old Lee."
"The 'old Lee,' huh?" Amanda asked, a look of disappointment on her face.
"Yes," Lee said slowly. "Is there a problem with that?"
"Well," she said, walking farther into the backyard and away from Lee, "I was hoping the doctor could make you a little more..." she looked back over her shoulder at him and raised an eyebrow in amusement, "...romantic." She faced forward and kept walking, stomach flip-flopping in anticipation of Lee's response.
Lee silently walked up behind Amanda, grabbed her arm, and spun her around to face him. They stood that way for a moment, then Lee cupped her face in his hands and gazed longingly into her eyes. Amanda's shallow breaths came quicker, her heart beating faster. It was amazing what her husband could do to her with his eyes.
Lee knew the effect he was having on Amanda; she did the same to him. Slowly, never taking his eyes from hers, he kissed her, not on the lips where she was expecting it, but just on the corner of her mouth. Lee felt Amanda tremble, her knees weakening. He smiled at her as she struggled to take a breath. He trailed his fingers down her face, and softly traced an imaginary line down her neck.
"More?" he asked huskily.
"Mm hmmm," was all she could manage. The slam of a door inside the house broke the spell she had been under. "Not here, not now."
"Right," Lee nodded, stepping back. "The boys."
Amanda took a deep breath and tried to compose herself so that she could tell her husband to go back to his apartment, alone. "Mother's already gone."
"I know." A slow smile spread across Lee's face. "I think...maybe...that *you* have to be in the editing room *very* early in the morning."
Amanda's smile matched his. "*Very* early," she agreed. They leaned in towards each other for a quick kiss, then Lee turned and left.