This was originally written in response to the May 2009 Writing Challenge but Jan made some suggestions and/ or posed some questions which spurred me on to write this.
Title: The Repair Always Rings Twice
Summary: The return of an old adversary results in Lee spending the weekend "house-sitting" for Amanda.
Timeline – Season 3 – Lee's just starting to admit an interest in Amanda and 'normal' life
Genre - Adventure
Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King and its characters belong to WB and Shoot the Moon Productions. No infringement is intended. This is written for entertainment purposes only. Please do not redistribute or reproduce this story without my permission.
Lee lay back and let the warmth of the sun soak into him. He closed his eyes and felt his body relax. There was nothing to think about, nothing to do...He was on vacation and could do whatever his heart might desire.
In the distance he could hear a dog barking and children playing. Several houses away someone was mowing the lawn and the scent of fresh cut grass drifted by on the gentle breeze. The smells and sounds served to reinforce the fact that he was lounging in the backyard, doing absolutely nothing. A smile spread over his face.
The day was hot—ninety degrees last time he'd checked. A little river of sweat dripped down his bare chest, tickling faintly. Lazily, he rolled his head to the side, opened one eye and focused in on the soft drink sitting on the table beside him. The can was wet with condensation. He could take a drink but it was too much of an effort to reach that far. Instead, he closed his eyes again and began to doze.
Time passed—how much, he was unsure. The neighbour had finished cutting the grass and the children had gone to play elsewhere. All was quiet. Lee wiggled slightly adjusting himself in the hammock and it began to gently sway from side to side. He allowed one leg to drape over the edge and the grass brushed against the bottom of his foot.
He was just about to go to sleep again when his stomach rumbled—he really would like a bite to eat. With a contented sigh, Lee hefted himself out of the hammock and stood, stretching. He ran his hands over his face and through his hair, then made his way towards the house with plans to raid the fridge.
Amanda was right. House sitting for her was great way to spend a few days off. As he stared around the yard with its neat flower beds and white picket fence, a wave of contentment washed over him. For some reason this reminded him of his parents and how it had felt to have a 'real' home. Maybe Francine was wrong—life in the suburbs wasn't really so bad after all.
He thought back to the Q Bureau yesterday morning. It had started off as a typical day as a 'spy'. Lots of boring paper work and filing—the part of the job he liked the least yet it took up over fifty percent of his time. Of course, Amanda had been there helping or, more precisely, prodding him along. She wanted both of their desks cleared off before she left for a four day vacation. Some distant cousin was getting married—Lee never could keep her family straight.
"Lee, can I ask you a favour?" Amanda was frowning at her day-planner.
He looked up from the file he's been reading, pleased to take a break from the paper work. "Sure, what do you need?" As he spoke, he pushed his chair back, stretched his arms, then locked his hands behind his head and propped his feet on his desk. Talking was much better than reading boring reports.
"Well, I just realized that I have someone coming to do a yearly service on the furnace on Friday and no one is going to be home."
"Just call up and reschedule." He wondered why she hadn't immediately thought of that obvious solution.
Amanda gave him a patronizing look and attempted to explain. "Lee, you can't just reschedule things like this. It takes forever to get on the maintenance program and if I do call to reschedule, my name will go to the bottom of the list. Even worse, I could be flagged as an 'unreliable customer' and once your labelled it gets around to all of the other services: the washer repair man, the phone company, the handy man who cleans out my eaves troughs... Maintaining a good working relationship with these people is really important if you want good service. No, if I try to reschedule, I'd be lucky to get someone in before December."
"Wow—I didn't realize it was that complicated."
"Well that's because you've never lived in the suburbs."
Just at that moment, Francine walked in. Hearing the end of the conversation, she obviously couldn't resist a snide comment. "Scarecrow? In the suburbs? He'd die of boredom. It would be a fate worse than death."
"Francine, lay off." Lee warned as he sat up, ready to receive whatever message she was delivering.
The blonde agent cast a fake apologetic smile in Amanda's direction and then proceeded to ignore her. "Lee, Billy wants you in his office right away. Seems someone from your past has emerged and is making threats against you." She turned to go, then paused, "Oh and he wants to see Amanda too, though why, I can't imagine." With a shrug she bustled on her way.
Lee and Amanda simultaneously rolled their eyes and then headed downstairs to Billy's office.
They knocked on the Section Chief's door and entered upon his command. Billy gestured for them to take a seat. He looked more than a little out of sorts. His words confirmed his mood.
"Scarecrow, I'm going to get right to the point. Lezinski was spotted at Dulles airport last night. I'm sending you to a safe house immediately. Rodgers will escort you home to get a few things and then you're going into hiding until Lezinski is captured. Understand?"
"Whoa, slow down, Billy! You're trying to railroad me here. I'm not going anywhere without a full explanation."
"I'm your section chief, you'll follow my orders." Billy stood, placed both hands on the top of his desk and leaned forward, his demeanour stern and unyielding.
"No." Lee sat back and folded his arms, unflinchingly staring into the other man's eyes.
Billy sighed, threw up his hands and shook his head, suddenly reverting to his usual calm, reasonable self. "I told Smyth it wouldn't work."
"What wouldn't work?" Lee cast a puzzled look at Amanda, unable to make sense of the man's wild mood swing.
"Giving you orders with no explanation and then demanding compliance. Smyth seems to feel that I don't 'handle' you correctly and told me to just 'lay down the law' and you'd fall into line."
Lee snorted, "Smyth's an idiot. You know me better than that."
"That's what I said, but he insisted that I try. So now I have and I can tell him it didn't work. Thank you, Scarecrow, for proving him wrong." Billy sat down and leaned back in his chair.
"My pleasure." Lee nodded towards his boss. "Now what's this all about?"
"Lezinski is back in the States and, from all reports, he's planning on killing you."
"Excuse me, Sir." Amanda interrupted the conversation, a worried expression on her face. "Who is Lezinski and why does he want to kill Lee?"
Lee turned to Amanda and explained. "About five years ago, Lezinski was an up and coming Russian Agent—no one was better than him. He got his hands on more secret data than any of his counterparts, eluded all of our attempts to catch him, took out several of our men...he was invincible."
"Until Scarecrow was assigned to his case." Mr. Melrose continued the tale. "Lee set up a sting and got Lezinski to 'steal' top secret programming for upgrading long range missiles. Unfortunately for Lezinski, the data was bogus and actually contained a 'bug' that made several of the Russian operating systems crash."
Lee smirked at the memory. "Yeah—it put them at least six months behind while they tried to repair the damages. And Lezinski was shipped back to Mother Russia in disgrace."
"So now this Lezinski person is back in the States and wants revenge." Amanda concluded.
"That's right. He's planning to take out Scarecrow as a way of redeeming himself with his superiors. Which is why," Billy stared meaningfully at Lee, "we need to get you out of harm's way."
"Billy I don't run and hide from these types of threats. That's not my style." Lee shook his head. "Give me the intelligence we have on the guy and I'll go after him. I brought him down once and I can do it again."
"Normally I'd say yes, but this time Smyth has put his foot down. You're too valuable for us to risk. Smyth wants you out of the way in one of our safe houses."
Lee rolled his eyes in disgust and prepared to protest but Billy cut him off before he got a word out.
"Lee, I'm sorry but my hands are tied."
"Sir, what's my part in this? Lezinski has nothing to do with me. This all happened before Lee and I were partners." Amanda had a puzzled look on her face.
"Actually I need a favour from you, Amanda. You and your family are away for the weekend, correct?" Amanda nodded and Billy continued. "Good. Is there any chance that Scarecrow could stay at your house while you're gone? I'm not convinced that our 'safe houses' will be safe enough; in the past Lezinski had an inside source and seemed to know every move we made. We think we plugged the leak but it's better to be safe than sorry. I figure Lezinski would never think of looking for Lee in the suburbs."
"That would be fine, Sir. It would even help me out of a problem that I have." She turned to Lee. "Remember, I was going to ask you a favour earlier? It was to stop by my house on Friday and let the furnace repair man in. This would work out perfectly."
"Excellent," Billy answered before Lee could protest. "Scarecrow, Rodgers will accompany you to your apartment while you go pack your bags and then he'll bring you back here. You can spend the night in the Q Bureau and head over to Amanda's tomorrow morning, as soon as her family is gone."
"Spend the night in the Q Bureau? Aww Billy, that couch wasn't meant to be slept on," Lee protested.
"Well, the holding cells have beds—I suppose you could sleep there..." Billy unsuccessfully hid his smile at the look on Lee's face.
Lee scowled at his boss. Amanda laid her hand on his arm, "Lee, it won't be any worse than some of those dreadful stakeouts we go on where we spend the whole night in a car. The most important thing is that you're safe." She stared at him with a mixture of concern and something else that he couldn't quite name. After a moment, he finally conceded.
"All right—but I won't like it."
"Oh, it won't be that bad, Lee." Amanda reassured him. "Look on the next few days as a vacation. You'll be able to relax and just enjoy a quiet few days off. We're leaving tomorrow, so you have from Thursday until early Monday to rest. I'll even stock the fridge with some of your favourites, so there'll be no need for you to go anywhere."
"And hopefully by the time Amanda is back, we'll have this Lezinski thing taken care of." Billy added.
Lee looked sceptical but, since he had no other choice, decided to make the best of the situation.
Now as he walked across Amanda's backyard and into her kitchen, he admitted that she was right. This was great. He'd never felt so relaxed. His stomach rumbled again and he wondered what culinary delights awaited him. Amanda was a great cook, not gourmet stuff but just plain good food. Maybe there'd be some brownies...
Just as she'd said she would, Amanda had stocked up the fridge before she left. There were cold cuts, veggies, fruit, a chocolate cake, juices...and some brownies! He'd hit pay dirt. Eating one of the chocolate treats first , Lee then grabbed the makings of a sandwich and fixed himself a meal. Carrying it into the den, he sat down and began flicking through TV channels. Finally deciding on a ball game, he sat back to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.
The day passed uneventfully and he read a bit after a supper before deciding to go to bed early. He thought he should use Amanda's room just in case he accidentally left something behind. It wouldn't do for her family to find a man's sock or a piece of his shaving kit in their bedrooms. He made his way upstairs and peeked in the various rooms as he went down the hallway. He'd only been upstairs by climbing through the window and it seemed a bit strange to be moving about her house like a normal person.
Once inside Amanda's room, he looked around, peaking in the closet and opening a few drawers. 'Force of habit,' he muttered to himself trying to explain his actions. He eyed a pile of silken lingerie and had to stop himself from running his fingers over it. Shutting the drawer, he set his suitcase on the bed, pulled out clean boxers and went to take a shower.
Standing under the warm spray, he sniffed the shampoo and smiled as it reminded him of his partner. A pink razor sat on the edge of the tub and he imagined it sliding along the length of her long legs... Giving himself a mental shake, he grabbed the bar of soap and began to wash, turning the water to cold to keep his mind focused where it should be.
Shivering, he stepped out onto the bathmat and grabbed a towel, rubbing himself down then stepping into his boxers. He often slept in the nude on warm nights like this but didn't feel quite right about it since it was Amanda's bed. Exiting the bathroom, he stared at the mattress wondering what side she slept on. Finally choosing the left, he climbed in, propped up the pillows then swore softly. He'd left the murder mystery he'd been reading downstairs. Briefly he considered going to get it but it seemed like too much effort.
Glancing at the night table he saw a stack of paper backs and picked one up. The book was titled "Love in the Louvre." He studied the cover art with raised brows. An almost naked woman was clinging to the bare chest of a dark haired man. In the background, Mona Lisa was smiling serenely.
Lee snorted. "As if the Louvre security would ever let that happen." Turning the book over ,he read the synopsis. 'Jessica was an art historian by day and a sleuth by night. Notorious art thief, Daniel, The Master, was planning to steal the famed Mona Lisa. Will Jessica be able to withstand The Master's charms or will she turn her back on all she believes in, for a night of passion?'
"Does Amanda really read this stuff?" He flipped the book open. Dotty's name was written on the inside cover at the bottom of a list of names. "Hmm, they must pass these books around." Lee surmised. Some of the pages were dog eared and the book seemed to want to fall open at certain parts. "Well, there's nothing else to read. Guess I'll check out what all these ladies find so fascinating." Adjusting the pillows one more time, he settled back, let the book fall open and began to read.
"Daniel pinned Jessica against the wall with his body. He laughed lustily while watching the sultry sleuth's eyes grow heavy with passion. Leaning forward, he captured her mouth, kissing her nearly senseless."
Lee rolled his eyes and grimaced at the quality of the prose. The author certainly liked alliteration. He continued on reading.
"Jessica moaned. Her knees grew weak. Unable to deny what she had wanted for so long, she cried out 'Please, Daniel! Let me know why they call you The Master.'
'The Master?" Lee said incredulously, while turning the page.
"Daniel smiled smugly. 'If that is what you want, my darling Jessica, who am I to deny you?' Lifting her in his arms, he laid her at the base of the Mona Lisa. 'Tonight is ours, but tomorrow I will steal the lovely lady looking down upon us.'
"And tomorrow I will capture you and turn you over to the authorities to pay for your villainous past." Jessica vowed. 'But tonight...tonight we will have this.' She pulled him down to her and passion pulsated through her beautiful body. Oh yes, Jessica thought, Daniel was indeed, The Master..."
Lee threw the book down. "This is what suburban housewives read before going to bed?" He shook his head in disbelief. "I think I'll pass." Putting the book back on the night stand, he slid down on the mattress, while ruefully acknowledging the effect those few passages had had on his body. Pulling up the covers, he turned out the light, punched the pillows into shape and closed his eyes.
Amanda's bed was comfortable enough but he slept fitfully, her scent working its way into his unconscious thoughts, the softness of the sheets caressing his skin lightly like a lover's touch. In his mind, he was stalking a brown eyed brunette clad in silken lingerie through a museum. He moved quickly down the silent marble hallways, catching tantalizing glimpses of her as she turned corners and ducked behind displays. Faster and faster he ran through the building yet she was always just out of reach. He wanted to call out her name, tell her to wait for him but he didn't know who she was. She was so familiar...He was sure he knew her if his mind would only open up... When he finally awoke, he was sweating and had Amanda's pillow wrapped in his arms. His body was aching with need and he took another cold shower, while trying to determine who the mystery woman might have been.
After getting dressed he wandered downstairs to make some coffee. Sipping the hot beverage, he leaned against the kitchen counter and contemplated his plans for the day. Resting all day had been great but today he felt the need to do something physical. Maybe he'd try cutting the grass. He'd never done that before; it seemed so 'suburban.' Lee had just made up his mind to investigate the lawn mower when the doorbell rang.
Setting his cup down on the counter beside the coffee maker, he made his way to the front door. Using the peek hole, he checked to see who could be calling at such an early hour. A man dressed in blue coveralls, a cap and carrying a clipboard was on the porch. On the road behind him a van with lettering on the side could just be seen.
'Oh that's right, the repair man.' Lee muttered to himself as he opened the door. 'That's funny, I thought he was coming in the afternoon...'
"Reliable Water Service – Frank Lawson, repair man – I'm here to check your hot water tank, Sir." The man said by way of an introduction.
Lee frowned. 'Was it the hot water tank or the furnace that was being checked?' He should have listened more carefully to Amanda's instructions but the suburban babble had just washed over him. Recalling Amanda's concern about maintaining a good relationship with these people, he decided he'd better not make a fuss. "Sure, come on in. The basement's this way." Ushering the man inside, Lee led the way through the kitchen towards the basement.
"I was told that Mrs. King would be here to sign for the service. Are you Mr. King?" the repair man questioned, studying his clipboard of papers as he followed Lee.
"Uh – no. She couldn't be here, so I said I'd wait for you."
"Well, I guess it will be all right. Sign here, please." The man passed the clipboard and a pen to Lee who scrawled a signature on it.
"Lee Stetson?" The man questioned the signature, then briefly glanced up at Lee from under the brim of his hat.
"Yeah—is there a problem?" Lee noticed that the man hadn't really looked him in the eye yet and his previously relaxed senses were gearing up, setting off internal alarms. He didn't know much about suburban life, but something didn't seem right. The guy seemed to be hiding his face...
"No, sir. No problem. I just forgot to bring in my flashlight. I'll be right back."
The man set down his clipboard and went back out to the van. Lee picked up the clipboard and scanned the information across the top of the invoice. It looked fine but it was better to be safe than sorry. He reached for the phone while keeping an eye on the workman through the window.
"Francine? Scarecrow. Listen that repair man that Amanda was talking about is here but something doesn't seem right... Yeah, I know—nothing in the suburbs is 'right' in your mind. Just bear with me here. Can you run this name through the system? ... Great. The invoice says he's with Reliable Water Service and his name is Frank Lawson.... Yeah Lawson, L-A-W-S-O-N. I'll hold while you check him out." Lee reached over and poured some more coffee into his mug while waiting for Francine to get the information that he needed. Looking out the window, he realized that the repair man was no longer at the van. "Francine—I've got to go...Francine?" He jiggled the cradle of the phone but there was no dial tone.
Slowly Lee hung up and turned around to find the repair man standing with a gun pointed straight at him.
"Hello, Scarecrow. I'm sorry to have 'cut' your conversation short but outside phone calls aren't allowed while you're my prisoner." He pulled off his cap off, glasses and fake moustache. Lee got his first good look at the man's face.
"So glad you remember me, Scarecrow. It's been a long time."
"Not long enough." Lee studied his opponent blandly, his face giving no indication of how his mind was racing, trying to find a way out of his present predicament.
"I was surprised to find you here Scarecrow. I came looking for your partner—the beautiful and talented Mrs. King."
"Leave Amanda out of this. She's not even an agent."
"Really? I find that hard to believe." Lezinski shook his head laughing derisively. "Don't try that story on me. I know that it's propaganda put forth by your government in a vain attempt to hide her real role. I've spent a great deal of time following your exploits over the past five years. Recently her name has become inextricably linked to yours. The team of Scarecrow and Mrs. King is extremely well known behind the Iron Curtain and spoken of with great respect. You should feel honoured. Every intelligence operative out there would love to capture either one of you. I however, only want you. I came here, thinking she'd give me leverage against you. Instead here you are. I couldn't believe my luck and even had you sign that invoice so I could be doubly sure it was you. It's so nice to eliminate the middlemen, don't you think?" Lezinski smirked at Lee.
"Oh, I agree. This is strictly between you and me."
"See—already we have common ground. You know," Lezinski continued in a conversational tone. "We are more alike than different. "
"How so?" Lee stalled for time as he formulated a plan.
"We are both superior agents. Intelligent, quick thinking, skilled in a wide variety of disciplines..."
"And modest." Lee mocked.
Lezinski smiled and tipped his head in acknowledgement of Lee's remark "Yes, that was my downfall. I was too full of my own success and let my guard down—that is how you caught me. But never again. I have learned to be more cautious, to think before acting, and now I am ready to resume my rightful place as the top Soviet operative. By capturing the formidable Scarecrow and turning you over to my superiors, I will demonstrate that my skills are still to be reckoned with."
"Turn me over? Rumour has it that you were going to kill me."
"That was my first impulsive plan. But you see? I have learned from my mistakes—I now think first. I realized that you have a great deal of knowledge tucked away in your head. By killing you, it is lost. If we take you back to Russia, we will have plenty time to extract information and when you are no longer of any use—then I can kill you."
"I'm glad you have everything figured out so well but did you consider this?" As he spoke, Lee grabbed the pot of coffee off the counter and threw it at Lezinski. The Soviet screamed as the hot liquid hit his skin and began blindly firing his gun in Lee's direction.
He had planned to head out the backdoor, but Lezinski's shooting had blocked the way, so instead Lee dove and rolled across the floor towards the next nearest exit—the door that led to the basement. As the Soviet agent bellowed in pain and rage, Lee slipped down the stairs, pulling the door shut behind him. There was no lock, so he jammed a convenient broom handle in place. It wouldn't hold for long but might buy him a few minutes during which he could look for a way out.
Descending the stairs as quickly as the darkness would allow, Lee cursed himself for forgetting to turn on the lights but didn't dare waste time going back. He paused at the bottom trying to get his bearings. He had only been in Amanda's basement one other time, when he had helped her carry some boxes downstairs. Scanning the dark space, he wracked his brain for any information she might have told him about the area over the past three years. There were no windows or doors that he knew of...but she had said something about a skunk getting into the basement once. After a moment he recalled the incident. There'd been a broken air vent...
He wondered how big the vent was. Would he be able to fit through it? At the moment it appeared to be his only option. Carefully, he made his way towards the wall, determined to use it as a guide while circumnavigating the space and looked for a means of escape.
The basement was filled with an assortment of boxes, old furniture, Christmas decorations and sports equipment all of which kept him from quickly exploring the room. Stumbling over a hockey stick, a plastic Santa and several boxes of old books, Lee worked his way around the dark room, feeling the walls for any kind of opening. Momentarily he paused and listened. Above him, he could hear the Soviet agent stomping about and water running as the man possibly tried to cool the burns. It was only a matter of time before the Russian tried to break into the basement; Lee resumed his search.
He was about half way around the basement when his fingers finally distinguished the feel of cool metal versus rough cement walls. A brief feeling of triumph shot through him as he realized he'd found a means of escape. Stretching, he peered through the slats, trying to determine where it led to and wondering why there wasn't more light coming through it. Green foliage met his gaze. Apparently a shrub had been planted in front of the opening. The presence of the bush would make it trickier to climb out but he'd cross that bridge when he got to it. First, he had to loosen the metal grate that covered the opening. Lee felt along the edge, trying to find some place to gain a finger hold. When no opening presented itself, he tried to work his fingers between the slats only to discover that they were too closely spaced. Swearing under his breath, he looked around for something that might be used as a makeshift pry bar.
Spying a pair of ice skates, he took one boot and wedged the blade between the slats in the grate. Working the skate blade back and forth, he managed to create an opening large enough for his fingers. He dropped the skate, grabbed the vent covering and began to pull. It moved fractionally, emitting just a sliver of dim light from the outside. He flexed his hands and felt the stickiness of blood trickling down his skin from where the metal had bit into his fingers. The injury however was the least of his worries and he pushed the discomfort out of his mind.
Behind him, Lezinski was battering against the basement door. It was only a matter of moments before the man broke it down. Lee grabbed the vent and pulled even harder. A screeching metallic sound let him know that the screws were giving way. Bits of cement dust trickled down and landed on his face, sticking in the beads of sweat that were forming. Shifting his grip, Lee yanked once more gasping as the metal cut deeper into his fingers. The vent moved fractionally, then a bit more. Lee leaned back using his weight as well as his muscles. The vent creaked on last time and then pulled free, just as the basement door also gave way.
Lee momentarily lost his footing and stumbled backwards behind the nearby furnace just as the Soviet agent flipped the switch at the top of the stairs. The room was flooded with light.
"Scarecrow!" Lezinski called from the top of the stairs. "There is no way out of here. Give yourself up. "
Lee stood frozen behind the protective bulk of the furnace. Only his eyes moved, darting to the now open air vent. It was only about three feet away but with Lezinski present, it was no longer a viable means of escape. By the time Lee wiggled his large frame through the opening; the Soviet would either shoot him or be waiting outside of the house for him.
"I will hunt you down, Scarecrow. I prefer to bring you in uninjured but if I must shoot you, I will. I have had five years to plan this moment and this time it will end in my favour."
Lee made no reply. He could hear the stairs creak as Lezinski slowly descended. No doubt the man was assessing the area, determining what items might be hiding his quarry. It would only be a matter of time before he made his way to the furnace.
Briefly Lee closed his eyes and steadied his breathing. He might put on an implacable facade but the truth was situations like this scared the hell out of him; only a fool wouldn't be scared. Facing someone with a gun whose main intent was to kill you wasn't a walk in the park. The trick was to keep the fear under control and your wits about you; to let the adrenaline rush heighten your senses, quicken your responses and speed up your thinking rather than overwhelming you. Then, when it was all over, you could enjoy the remaining chemical high and laugh at having thumbed your nose at death one more time.
Opening his eyes, he began to weigh his options. All too soon, he realized that beyond hand to gun combat—and he really didn't like the odds of that one—there really was only one thing he could do. He'd have to work his way over to the stairs while Lezinski moved deeper into the basement. Unfortunately there was only a slim chance that he would be able to make it up the stairs without Lezinski noticing him. Lee acknowledged that his opponent wasn't an idiot. The man would keep looking back towards the only exit, knowing that Lee would try to make a break for it.
There had to be some way of evening the odds. Looking around, Lee saw the electrical panel was only a few feet away. A smile broke out on his face when he saw that Amanda had carefully labelled each switch. The one for the basement was in the bottom right hand corner, closest to him. If he could flip that breaker, the basement would be dark again. Lezinski would have a harder time searching for him and, under the cover of darkness, Lee might be able to make his way to the stairs. It wasn't much, but at this point, Lee would take what he could get.
He wiped his bloodied fingers on his pants then peered out from behind the furnace. The Soviet agent was looking in the other direction. With a grim smile, he realized luck was on his side. Quietly he bent and picked up the skate he'd used earlier, then threw it across the basement. It made a satisfying thud as it hit the wall. Lezinski spun around and fired in the direction of the noise. Quickly Lee darted out of his hiding place, flipped the breaker and then ducked back behind the furnace, without being seen.
As the basement plunged into darkness, Lezinski gave a shout of surprise, spun around and fired two more random shots. Lee threw himself to the ground as a bullet pinged off the edge of the furnace. His heart was pounding; that had been too close. Briefly he wondered how Amanda would explain the bullet hole in the furnace to her mother but then his mind moved on to more pressing matters. As the Soviet cursed his name wildly, Lee cautiously left his hiding place and began to inch his way towards the stairs, praying the cover of darkness would be sufficient to keep the Soviet from spotting him.
It was Friday morning. Amanda drove down Maplewood, trying to think of a way out of her present predicament. She'd wanted to call Lee to warn him that she was coming home early but her mother had stuck to her like glue. It was only when Dotty had used the washroom at a service station that Amanda had been able to make a phone call. Of course the line had been busy. Now she just hoped she could get into the house before her mother and hide Lee in her bedroom. After that...well, she'd think of the next step when the time came.
Pulling into the driveway, she brought her vehicle to a stop and looked over at her mother. "Well, we're home."
"And not a minute too soon. I have such a headache...When I think of how we all paraded down to your cousin Mary-Beth's, just to have her call the whole thing off—"
"Mother! She found her fiancé in bed with the Maid of Honour—what was she supposed to do?"
"I know, I know. But I took ages picking out just the right dress to wear to upstage your Aunt Lillian then getting the wedding present and a nice card...Oh well, I suppose it can't be helped. At least the boys will enjoy themselves, staying for the weekend with Timmy and Steven. They don't get to see enough of their cousins."
"And it was nice of Aunt Lillian to say she'd bring them back on Monday."
"Humph. She just wants to get down here and spend a few days freeloading off of our hospitality."
Amanda closed her eyes and prayed for patience. Her mother and her aunt fought like cats and dogs and it was no use trying to change them. She turned off the car and reached for the door handle, noting the service truck parked in front.
"That's strange, Mother. That truck says 'Reliable Water Service.' I wonder why the plumber is here." Amanda bit her lip. What could be wrong inside her home? It had only been a little over twenty four hours that she'd been gone. What possible trouble could Lee have gotten into in that short length of time? She hoped he hadn't summoned a plumber just for a dripping tap but, even when it was a problem that warranted a plumber, they just didn't appear. It usually took a few days to get someone to come to the house. Of course, Lee did have connections through the Agency and could likely get a lot better service than she could ever hope for, but still...
Dotty interrupted her train of thought. "You don't suppose that fellow from work, the one who was going to let the furnace repair man in, plugged the drain or something, do you?"
"I wouldn't think so; he was just stopping by for a little while today." She inwardly winced. Amanda hated lying to her mother but she couldn't very well tell her that Lee was staying the weekend because he was in hiding from some crazed Soviet spy. "I'll just go in and see. Can you start to unload the car? Just put the suitcases in the driveway and I'll bring them the rest of the way in." Pleased to have an excuse to enter the house before her mother, Amanda quickly exited the car before Dotty could protest. As she walked up to the back door, she puzzled over the presence of a plumber and prepared to shove Lee into her bedroom, a closet or any hiding place that she could find. Glancing back to ensure that her mother was still occupied with the suitcases, she went inside.
Internal alarm bells rang as soon as she stepped into the kitchen. A large puddle of coffee was in the middle of the kitchen floor, the broken carafe lying neglected beside it. Water was splashed all over the counter and dripping down the cabinets. The door to the basement was half broken off of its hinges and even as she took a step in that direction, she heard a man shout and the sound of gunfire coming from below. With a gasp, she quickly ran outside, pulling the door shut behind her. She leaned against the wall, heart pounding, trying to rapidly assess the situation.
Lee must be in her basement and someone was shooting at him. Mr. Melrose's idea of hiding Lee in the suburbs had obviously failed. Rapidly planning her strategy, she hurried back down the driveway to the car. Dotty had just finished unloading the suitcases.
"Mother—how's your headache now?"
"Well lifting all of these suitcases certainly didn't help it any. "
"Oh good! I mean, that's not good. But guess what? I just remembered that we're out of your headache medicine. How about you drive to the drugstore and get some?"
"Out? I thought we just bought some! I suppose I could just take some plain aspirin..." Dotty appeared to be wavering.
"Now Mother, you know that never works as well. Here are the keys. You go to the store—take your time." Amanda ushered her mother into the driver's seat and shut the door.
Dotty rolled down the window. "Amanda, did you find out why the plumber is here?"
"The plumber? Oh...you were right. My friend did plug the drain. You know how men are. Umm..., the plumber might have to turn the water off, so maybe you should go over to your friend Sadie's house after you get your medicine. If the water's off here, you can't get a drink to take your pills or get cleaned up or anything, and the plumber will be banging pipes and such. You'd rest better at Sadie's"
"Well, I don't know..."
Amanda threw in another enticement. "And you can tell her all about Aunt Lillian and the cancelled wedding."
Dotty's eyes lit up at the thought. "Amanda, I think you're right. I think I will stop by Sadie's. You just give me a call when the plumber's finished."
"I'll let you know as soon as it's all clear." Breathing a sigh of relief, she watched her mother pull out of the driveway. Once she was certain the older woman was on her way, Amanda spun on her heels and hurried back to the house.
Her senses alert, she cautiously entered the kitchen listening for sounds coming from the basement. The occasional muffled grunt let her know someone was moving about down there, no doubt tripping over the array of boxes and other items stored below. Making her way to the doorway, she peered down the stairs but was unable to see anything in the darkness. A slight stream of light seemed to be coming from the far side and she smiled. Lee must have remembered the air vent and pulled it open.
Then she frowned. Had Lee made it out? It was a small opening and she wasn't sure his shoulders would fit through it. A voice from below drew her attention.
"Scarecrow! Why don't you show yourself and we will settle this once and for all." There was a pause as the speaker waited for a response but none was forth coming. The unknown man spoke again. "I know you're still down here. You can't use the air vent because I'm watching it and you can't reach the stairs without me hearing you. I will find you eventually."
Amanda quietly stepped back from the basement doorway. Lee was still down there. She made her way to the phone to call for backup. Lifting the receiver, she quickly dialled the Agency and then waited – nothing happened. No ringing. No sarcastic Francine. She jiggled the cradle and listened. No dial tone. Someone had cut the line.
Biting her lip, she realized that it was up to her to save Lee, but how? Obviously she couldn't go down there. She was unarmed and didn't know where the man might be. What she needed to do was to get the enemy to come up to the kitchen. If she could distract him, Lee could sneak up from behind and disarm the man.
Looking around for possible improvised weapons she stared thoughtfully at the sink. A glimmer of an idea began to form and she smiled. Yes, that should work. With a plan in place she took a deep breath and slammed the back door.
"Lee, sweetheart, I'm home!" She used her loudest and perkiest voice as she proceeded to ramble on about her trip. "Lee? Are you in the basement? Well, finish up whatever you're doing down there darling and come on up. You'll never believe what happened at the wedding except of course there really wasn't a wedding because ..."
Down in the basement, Lee froze in his hiding place behind a box marked "Halloween decorations." The sound of the back door slamming and Amanda's cheerful voice reached his ears. What was she doing home so early? And what was the 'sweetheart' and 'darling' business all about? Unless she was trying to let him know that she knew something was wrong...That must be it. Mentally Lee congratulated her on her ingenuity while studying Lezinski's reaction to this turn of events. From his vantage point, Lee could just make out the silhouette of his adversary. The Soviet looked up the stairs and then back across the basement.
"Scarecrow." Lezinski spoke in a loud penetrating whisper. "Your partner is back, 'darling.' Apparently rumours are correct and there is more to your relationship than just working together. How interesting.... I think I will pay your lover a surprise visit. Perhaps that will bring you out of hiding."
"Damn!" Lee cursed to himself while watching Lezinski quietly make his way up the stairs. Amanda knew something was wrong but was she prepared to face a gun toting Soviet agent bent on revenge? The sound of Amanda's unconcerned chatter drifted down into the basement. Knowing he couldn't leave her to face the man alone, Lee slipped out of his hiding place and began to silently work his way towards the stairway.
Lezinski stepped into the kitchen out of sight, just as Lee reached the base of the stairs. Pausing, he listened to Amanda's voice trying to judge when to make his move. He was unarmed and glanced around for something to use as a weapon. Spying the hockey stick that had tripped him earlier, he grabbed it and tested its weight in his hands. He winced as his fingers protested the movement Leaning against the wall at the base of the stairs, he used the sounds he was hearing and his knowledge of the kitchen layout, to begin creating a mental picture of what must be taking place above him.
Amanda's voice wasn't quite as clear as it had previously been so she probably had her back to the doorway and would be unaware of Lezinski coming up behind her. The water was running so she must be at the sink. The sink was midway across the room, about ten feet from the basement door. Lezinski would probably take two or three steps into the room before confronting her. That meant the Soviet would be approximately four feet from Amanda. Lee swallowed hard. At four feet, there was no way that Amanda wouldn't be hit, if Lezinski fired.
But would he shoot? Lee thought rapidly. No...or at least not right away. The Soviet wanted to use Amanda as a lure to bring him out of hiding. Lee's best option to save his partner, and hopefully himself, was a surprise rush attack from behind while Lezinski was still looking at Amanda. With that in mind, Lee began to silently climb the stairs while listening to Amanda rambled on, apparently unaware of the villain creeping up behind her.
"You wouldn't believe what happened to poor Mary Beth. She found her best friend, the Maid of honour no less, in bed with her fiancé! Of course, she called off the ceremony..."
Lee was at the top of the stairs and peeked into the kitchen. Lezinski was about three feet behind Amanda. She had her back to the Soviet as she stood at the sink. He could hear the water running and Lee briefly wondered what she was doing, since he hadn't left any dirty dishes sitting around...
"Mrs. King." Lezinski addressed Amanda and she turned quickly at the sound, the vegetable sprayer still in her hand.
"Oh, hello. Are you the plumber? I saw your van out front and wondered if it was for my house. I'm so glad you're here. I called two weeks ago because this vegetable sprayer just doesn't work properly. See?" With that she squeezed the nozzle and sprayed a shot of water right into Lezinski's face.
Lezinski sputtered and dropped his gun. Lee rushed into the kitchen and hit the Soviet with the hockey stick, knocking him unconscious. Unfortunately the floor was wet and that, combined with his own momentum caused Lee to lose his balance. He fell in the puddle of water.
Quickly turning off the tap, Amanda exclaimed in concern as she bent to help Lee up. "Lee, I'm so glad you're safe. I wasn't sure if you were or not. Oh, and look at your hands.!" As she pulled on his arm, her feet slid out from under her and she fell to the ground, knocking Lee off balance again. This time, he landed on top of her.
Lee was surprised at the shot electricity that jolted his system as his body pressed closely to Amanda's. He stared down into her big brown eyes and then seemingly of its own accord, his gaze moved lower to her mouth. Her tongue flicked out to wet her lips and he did the same. An intense awareness of her began to grow within him. The sound of her breathing, the scent that was uniquely hers, the softness of her hair as his fingers moved to brush it from her face...Their eyes locked and time seemed to stand still. Slowly he began to lower his mouth towards hers. Her lips parted and her eyes drifted shut—
Bang, bang, bang.
"Lee, are you in there? Open up!" The sudden sound of frantic knocking and Francine's voice had Lee leaping to his feet and heading towards the door. Just as quickly Amanda got up and grabbed some towels to sop up the water on the floor.
Both Francine and Billy entered the kitchen expressing relief that Lee was alright. "When the phone went dead, I just knew something was wrong so Billy and I headed right over." Francine explained while looking around the kitchen with obvious interest.
"Amanda! I thought you were gone for the weekend?" Billy expressed his surprise at seeing half of his best team on her hands and knees mopping up the kitchen floor.
"Well, I was supposed to be away but then things changed so I came back early and a good thing too! Lee was trapped in the basement by this fellow—"
"Lezinski." Lee interrupted. "He came here, pretending to be a plumber, but was really looking for Amanda, thinking he could use her to get to me. He was pleasantly surprised at being able to 'eliminate the middle man' as he put it, and thought he had me until I threw the coffee pot at him—"
"Threw the coffee pot, Lee?" Francine's eye brows couldn't have gone any higher if she'd tried. "Isn't that usually Amanda's type of tactic?"
"Lay off Francine," Lee scolded. "It worked and I managed to make it to the basement but then I was trapped."
Amanda jumped in to continue the tale. "But when I came home and saw a plumber's van out front, I knew something must be really wrong. There was no way Lee could have gotten a real plumber to come to the house that fast, so I sent my Mother off to the store and came inside to see what was going on. When I heard this fellow in the basement, I knew I had to get him to come upstairs, since there was no other way out. I acted like I thought Lee was downstairs and started talking away and when he came up to grab me, I just shot water in his face with the vegetable sprayer. He dropped his gun—"
"And I ran up from the basement and knocked him out with a hockey stick." Lee finished the story.
Francine leaned back against the counter with a stunned expression on her face. Billy just beamed. "Congratulations you two. Once again the team of Scarecrow and Mrs. King got the job done through a combination of team work and ...er.....unique but effective tactics."
Amanda smiled and Lee gave her a one armed hug. On the floor, Lezinski groaned and Francine quickly moved to put handuffs on him.
"Hey Billy, you'll never guess what I learned from Lezinski today. Do you know that a lot of people behind the Iron Curtain think that Amanda is really a highly trained agent and the 'housewife thing' is just part of a clever cover? "
"Well, she's certainly as efficient as a trained agent." Billy nodded.
"Sir, if the 'bad guys' are starting to believe I'm an agent, maybe I really should have some type of official training. I mean, they've never been easy on me but..." Amanda voice trailed off as she bit her lip and looked worried.
"I'm working on it, Amanda. I'm working on it."
Amanda gave her boss a half smile and started to speak when someone knocked on the door.
"Hi! I'm here to check your furnace. I know I'm a little early..." A man in a light blue shirt and dark pants entered carrying a clipboard.
"Oh good! Being early is no problem. The furnace is just down the stairs." Amanda gestured towards the basement.
The repairman slowly walked toward the stairway while taking in the scene before him. Francine was pulling a soaking wet Lezinski up off the floor. He was cuffed and she had her gun trained on him. The man's eyes then moved to the blood stains on Lee's pant legs. "Umm...having a little trouble here?" The repairman asked in a hesitant voice.
"Oh it was nothing—"Amanda began.
Lee interrupted, pulling out his badge and flashing it at the man with his bloody fingers. "We belong to the US Service Workers Investigation Team. We've been checking this plumber's "on the job" performance and apparently he isn't completing work to the customers' satisfaction. We've come to revoke his licence."
The furnace repair man's eyes widened. "Geez, you people are really getting tough. Uh... Listen lady, I just remembered that I've got to be somewhere else. I...I... I'll come back another day." He backed out of the kitchen and ran down the driveway.
"Lee! Why did you say that? Now he'll spread the word to everyone that I complained about a plumber and no one will ever come to do service work here again! "Amanda glared at Lee, her hands on her hips.
"Oh, sorry...I forgot about that." Lee winced and looked at Billy for help.
"Don't worry Amanda. A few phone calls and it will be all straightened out." Billy reassured her.
"Thank you, Sir." Amanda looked relieved.
Francine led Lezinski away. Billy and Lee followed her down the driveway. Amanda had opted to stay inside, cleaning up the water on the floor.
"Well Scarecrow with Lezinski captured, you are no longer in danger so feel free to go back home and enjoy the weekend any way you wish."
"Are you going to line up a 'hot' date?" Billy nudged him and winked.
"Umm- maybe." Lee glanced back at the house. "I think first, I'll just head back inside and help Amanda clean up the kitchen and there's a vent in the basement that I need to fix for her..."
Billy tried unsuccessfully to hide a smirk. "Sounds like a plan. You wouldn't want to be one of those houseguests that leaves a mess behind."
"Right! I don't want to make a bad impression or I might not get invited back—not that I want to get invited back, of course." He hastily amended.
"Of course." Billy solemnly agreed while climbing into his car.
Lee stood watching his fellow agents drive away with Lezinski. Once they were out of sight he turned and quickly walked back up to Amanda's house eyeing the front lawn critically. 'Maybe,' he thought to himself. 'I'll still have a chance to give that lawnmower a try.'