Set in Season Three – Just Before Over the Limit.
Synopsis: Lee gets a wake-up call when Billy assigns Amanda to work with a visiting agent.
Disclaimers and Caveats: Scarecrow and Mrs. King was created by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming, and is a production of Shoot The Moon Enterprises, in conjunction with Warner Bros. Studios. Shoot The Moon Enterprises, Ltd. is owned by Kate Jackson. Scarecrow and Mrs. King was filmed at the Burbank Studios and surrounding areas in Burbank, California. Stock footage filmed in Washington, D.C. during the first season. Regrettably, I do not own the characters, but I did take them out for a spin. Also very regrettably, I will not receive any remuneration – this was just for fun.Excerpts and paraphrasing from Filming Raul – Written by Rudolph Borchert. References to There Goes the Neighborhood – Written by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming.
Highland Fling – Chapter one
"Scarecrow, my office! Now!" barked Billy Melrose from his office door.
Lee Stetson turned from the computer printout spilling over the desk to see a graceful figure in pastels, quietly excuse herself from Billy's office. "Sir, I really think...," she said turning toward her superior.
"That's all right, Mrs. King. I'll take it from here," Billy's tone downshifted to the gentle, genial tones he reserved primarily for his favorite civilian aide.
Amanda sighed, worry wrinkling her forehead. She bit her lip and nodded as she quietly exited the bullpen without looking at Lee.
"Trouble in paradise?" intoned Francine with a sarcastic bent.
"Button it, Francine...I'm not in the mood!" snapped Lee. Francine merely lifted her eyebrow in inquiry as Scarecrow took long strides across the room to face the music in Billy's office.
"Look, Billy, I had every reason in the world to ream out Amanda," Lee strode in and swept his hand out forcefully as he began to make his case.
"How interesting, Amanda didn't mention it." Billy responded, "Sit!"
Lee rested his lean length on the back of one of Billy's two office chairs. Billy barked once again, "I didn't say 'Rest', I said 'Sit!'," pointing to the seat. Lee's lips tightened as he gingerly lowered himself into the chair. It was going to be one of those meetings, he could tell.
"Why are you so all-fired pleasant with Amanda and you treat me like a badly trained puppy?" Lee groused, raking his hand through his hair.
The section chief planted both fists on his desk and leaned forward, "Mrs. King brings out the best in me, Lee. Do you know why?" Not allowing Lee to respond, Billy continued, "I give orders...she says 'Yes, sir!' - no matter now tedious or how challenging, she agrees. Then, she leaves here and - Get this novel concept - she follows orders. At least as long she as she is able to do so without interference from operatives who should know better!" As his tirade went on, Billys voice increased in volume and stridency until he all but deafened his senior agent. Heads turned in the bullpen to monitor the conflict.
"Billy, I...," Lee began.
"Did not follow orders this morning!" Billy finished. He was on a roll now. "Perhaps you do not consider them orders, but rather gentle suggestions for how you should spend your days, Scarecrow? That will change. Pronto! Understood?"
Lee cautiously nodded. There were times to pick your battles with Billy, but this was not one of them.
"Despite your 'assistance' this morning, which nearly blew her cover. Mrs. King was able to get the message from the MI 5 courier. Ian Fraser will be arriving from London tomorrow. We will be working on a mission in concert with MI 5 and that will be our top priority for the next week, at least."
"Ian's coming here? I thought he was behind a desk now." Lee responded quizzically.
"His being here gives us some idea of how high a priority this mission is, Lee." Billy replied heavily. "They've lost three of their agents already."
"What time do I pick him up?" Lee asked.
"You don't. I've assigned Amanda as his partner and she already has her orders to pick him up tomorrow. You'll be working with Francine." Billy replied with finality.
Lee sputtered, "Amanda?...You've assigned Amanda as his partner? Billy, just how important a priority do you think this mission is anyway?"
Billy glared at the younger agent, "I have rather more faith in her abilities than you do, apparently. Out, Scarecrow, now!" He spat as he pointed to the door. "Perhaps you can finish that report I ordered from you this morning, unless you think you have something more important to do?" Billy's voice rang with an irony that belied the firm expectation that, this time, Scarecrow would comply.
Lee shot from the office and across to his desk, slapping a manila file open. Francine looked at him and opened her mouth, then thought better of it. She turned to gaze at her section chief through the glass walls of his office to see him lean back and rub both hands over his face. Billy then reached for his bottle of antacids in his top left desk drawer. Another day in paradise, indeed.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Francine Desmond knew that there was more than one way to skin a cat. With barely suppressed curiosity, she headed out of the bullpen at a staccato clip on her three inch heels. Amanda had been heading for the break room, she was sure of it. The only way to keep ahead in this office was to always know what was going down. Information is power, she reasoned.
Swinging into the break room, she was surprised to see Amanda sitting with her head down, hunched over the lamentable brew that passed for coffee in the office. Amanda glanced up in surprise at the blonde powerhouse's arrival, not bothering to put on the amenable face she always displayed in the office. Her fingers curled more tightly around the coffee mug, "Was there something you wanted, Francine?" Amanda's voice was uncharacteristically flat and her face impassive.
Francine prided herself on cracking the toughest operatives to gain the secrets they hid. She doubted any housewife from Arlington would be a match for her skills. "No, of course not!" Francine lied, as she sauntered behind Amanda to fill a mug for herself of the tepid, tar like brew. She added cream and three sugar packets to make it more palatable. She lazily stirred the coffee and tilted her head to the side and turned to Amanda, "Tough day at the office?"
Amanda kept her gaze focused down to the table "I've had better," she replied tightly.
"Just what was Scarecrow on about back in the bullpen?" Francine jerked her head toward the door, referring back to the blistering set-down she had heard Lee giving Amanda as they entered the bullpen in the late morning. She slid into a seat facing Amanda.
"Nothing important, Francine." Amanda sighed, leaning back and closing her eyes. She would rather pretend the disagreement had never happened, but it was difficult to do with an eager audience for gossip fodder.
"Amanda, don't tell me you think you'll get off that easily," Francine laughed. "It's all anyone is talking about this afternoon."
"I'm sure." Amanda replied wryly, taking a sip and grimacing. "A quick synopsis, then, and you'll move on to another victim?" She asked, briefly glancing up.
Francine pouted at the barb, but decided to let it slide in the interest of expediency. "Do tell...," she purred.
"It's not all that complicated, Francine. Billy asked me to go to the florist on Delaney Way to pick up a message this morning. I headed out and had the feeling someone was tailing me. I doubled back twice and couldn't shake him, but I couldn't get a good look either. So I took my time along the shops, 'window shopping', --just trying to get a good look at the person reflected in the glass. I was running really late for the pickup when I realized who had been tailing me...," Amanda trailed off.
"Who was it? It can't be any of Rostov's crew, we've cleaned them all up...Do you think it was KGB?" Francine thought aloud.
"It was Lee, Francine!" Amanda was clearly exasperated. "Apparently he doubted that I could make a clean pickup and was tailing me to provide cover. He only succeeded in scaring me half to death!" Amanda was clearly irritated at the memory. "So the row started in the cab ride home from the pickup and continued all the way into IFF."
"Just what was he so upset about anyway?" Francine loved being the first to learn the airing of dirty laundry.
"Oh you name it, Francine, you know how he can be...He was angry that I continued to go to the pickup when I knew I was being tailed. He was upset that I let myself be a 'sitting duck' staring into shop windows. Then, he was mad that I almost blew the pickup by being so late." Amanda rolled a paper napkin tightly into a ball, squeezing it in tandem with her description. She realized that she was making a cardinal error in sharing her frustration with Francine, of all people. Francine looked entirely too delighted at Amanda's misfortune. She let out a short, forceful breath of frustration. "So that's it, Francine. You have the full scoop." Amanda stood and began abruptly clearing her place. She turned and set to washing her mug carefully at the sink, before placing it back on the rack.
"What did Billy have to say about all this?" Francine inquired, not having read that the winds were changing during this verbal storm.
"Then I guess you'll just have to ask Billy, Francine. I have work to do." Amanda wiped her hands together briskly and was clearly done with the coffee, the conversation, and the memories that went with them. She strode out of the office without bothering to look back at Francine as she headed off to pick up more tapes for transcription. Had she looked back, she would have derived a measure of satisfaction at the shocked, open-mouthed visage of Francine Desmond. Francine slowly traced the top of her coffee mug with her index finger. Apparently, Amanda King had a temper and claws, after all. Who would have known?
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Billy looked through the plate glass walls to the left of his desk and saw Amanda returning to the bullpen. She walked with quiet dignity to the desk she had been using and slipped on her headphones, preparing to engage in another long grueling session of transcription. Her outward calm was a marked contrast to her partner. Lee's eyes darted over periodically to assess Amanda; he appeared more tense than ever when faced with her cool oblivion.
Billy's eyes slid across the room to take in the Scarecrow pounding away on his keyboard as if the computer had done him a personal injury. There really was no better way to reprimand Lee Stetson than to force him to sit behind a desk facing a mountain of paperwork rather than being out in the field. It's a pity it was such a waste of his talents. Amanda ably halved that mountain on a regular basis, not that Scarecrow ever appeared to notice. What was he going to do with the two of them?
Perhaps this latest attempt of his would bring about a resolution. Ironically, it was Amanda herself who unwittingly provided him with a solution. He thought back on their conversation an hour earlier. She had, on his request, described the pickup that morning. As usual, she was downplaying the conflict with her partner and made sure she said nothing to incriminate Scarecrow. Billy could read between the lines. Hell, he heard Scarecrow lambasting the poor woman all the way into the bullpen. Billy sighed, Lee had a notoriously short fuse, but the only person who could light it without fail was the blameless, diffident Mrs. King.
How could Lee be so blind to her ability and her instincts, he wondered. Historically, Lee had been great with his green agents when showing them the ropes. What was so different about Amanda? Billy enjoyed Amanda, even when he became lost in her convoluted explanations. She was unfailingly gracious, even in the face of Francine's spiteful comments. She was prompt, courteous, efficient, and...fearless. Amanda had come through some of the most harrowing moments any of his agents had ever faced, usually brushing it off with a shrug and a half-smile while gamely facing the next day's challenge. Amanda had a great ability to read people. They opened up to her and shared their personal stories openly in the face of her compassionate and attentive presence. If her solutions to problems and mishaps were unconventional, then she was certainly no different than her partner himself. Scarecrow had given him an ulcer over the years with his unconventionall solutions.
Mrs. King had a life. That life outside the agency gave her a perspective and skills they badly needed. What's more, he truly enjoyed hearing about that 'normal' life. It kept him grounded and made him realize that was the very reason they were there, day in and day out, facing impossible odds and uncertain chances. It was to keep those normal lives just as they were: school plays, little league games, potluck suppers, and PTA meetings. Their jobs kept all those people able to live the lives they were meant to lead. Amanda was his touchstone for that real life most days. He often sought that normalcy as they wound up their time together.
Today, she had been relating her latest go around with her boys Jamie and Philip. "Well, sir, next time, I think they'll know better than to eat chocolate brownies for dinner and stay up until two before a ball game the next morning!"
"Did you really let them eat only chocolate and stay up as late as they wanted?" He laughed, "What on earth possessed you?"
She laughed in response, "Well it certainly wasn't easy waking Jamie up at 6:30 a.m. and reminding him he had to pitch today! I thought Philip was going to fall asleep in the outfield! I just got so tired of battling with them about the obvious. Sometimes, sir, the best punishment is to give them exactly what they think they want."
Billy paused to let that sentence sink in. Once again, Mrs. King had nailed it. He knew what he had to do.
"Mrs. King...about that MI 5 agent, Ian Fraser...," he began.
"I would like you to be his partner on this mission. He will be briefing us all tomorrow afternoon. I'd like you to pick him up at Dulles at 1:30 p.m.. The recognition code is 'I hear the traffic is unbearable today' and the response is 'only for those that mind it too much'. Ian's photo is in this file, but you can't miss him. He's the one who is 6 ft. 6 in. with a Scottish burr wider than the Potomac, or perhaps I should say the Clyde! You two should do well together."
"Oh, but sir, I am so used to working with Lee...I feel funny...," she quivered.
"Amanda, are you questioning my orders?" he replied firmly.
"Oh, no, sir, but...are you...," she began again.
"Yes, Amanda, I'm sure," he reassured her. "I have my reasons."
"Very well, sir." She gathered the file, her sweater and purse without making eye contact. He rose to escort her out, before calling the Scarecrow in.
Billy had taken in her just punishment of the boys. "Sometimes the best punishment of all is to give them exactly what they think they want." How many times had Scarecrow asked him to work solo or at least be partnered with a professional? Billy almost smiled to himself. He was going to enjoy this.