Title: Crossing Boundaries
Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King is the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot-the-Moon Productions. I will make no money from my story, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Timeline: Mid-Third Seaon (early 1986)
Credits: Includes references to the episodes "Dead Ringer," and "The Wrong Way Home."
Author Notes: The story was first posted in 2005 at another site. Many thanks to Vikki and my other betas for providing their guidance and expertise.
Summary: Joe King's return tests the relationship of Scarecrow and Mrs. King. While Amanda is busy with her children and ex-husband, Lee takes a solo assignment, behind the Iron Curtain. When the case turns tragic, Amanda risks everything to save her partner.
The lonesome howl of a wolf pierced the clear night air, echoing through the lush valley and rolling hills that surrounded the small Hungarian village. Glancing out the cottage window with nervous anticipation, Zsofia Petrak searched for signs of activity in the tranquil countryside. Seeing nothing, she pulled her heavy woolen sweater more tightly around her shapely frame and sought to ward off the evening chill. Grateful for something to occupy her attention, she knelt by the massive stone fireplace and stoked the dying embers.
"Is Jozsef home?" The hoarse voice of her aging father interrupted her quiet introspection.
"Nem," Zsofia answered. "Not yet."
As was his habit, the family patriarch had fallen asleep in the old wooden rocker. Reaching for his pocket watch, he studied the bold black hands of the timepiece. "It is past ten o'clock. What could be keeping him?"
"Go to bed, Pater." There was a sharp edge of impatience to her weary voice.
"I cannot retire while one from our family risks his life for the Hungarian underground." Ferenc Petrak shook his finger at his daughter. "You and your brother have caused my hair to turn white."
"We only follow in your capable footsteps, Pater." Zsofia raised a sculptured eyebrow at the often repeated protest. "Besides, Jozsef is with Gyorgy Vadas. He will be fine."
"Vadas," the old man grumbled. "The Vadas and Petrak families have been friends for many years, but Gyorgy's double dealings are destined to bring us trouble. Sometimes I wish you would defect to the United States like your cousin Magda."
"Pater, you sound ridiculous. You know we refuse to be seduced by the luxuries of the west. Jozsef and I are not going anywhere. Besides, Gyorgy's risks are far greater than ours, and we reap the benefits of his efforts. The information he obtains is invaluable to the Resistance. Without his inside knowledge, there would be little news of importance to share with the western contacts. How can you not trust someone so dear to our family?"
"He is still a double agent, Zsofia. The Resistance and the western agents count him as an ally, but so does the KGB. Eventually his web of lies will bring someone down. Be careful that it is not you, my child."
The creaking of a nearby bedroom door captured the attention of the two Petraks. "Something woke me, Nagyapa." The large solemn eyes of the six year old peered back at his aunt and grandfather.
"Scoot, Zsolt. Back to bed with you!" The maiden aunt was not about to let her nephew test her will tonight.
"Nagyneni, please let me come out." The boy inched closer toward the old man, until two ample arms beckoned him to come. With three long steps and a jump, the child landed squarely in the generous lap of his beloved grandfather.
"Pater, you spoil him." Zsofia raised her hands in frustration and retreated to the couch by the window to continue her faithful vigil.
"Ah, he is young. A little spoiling is good for our motherless lamb."
"Tell me a story, Nagyapa - the story of our people." Dark curls spun around his face as he bobbed his head up and down.
"It is late, little one, is it not? Maybe I will tell you just the ending of the story tonight." The old man's glasses glimmered with the reflected firelight.
"Nem, Nagyapa. Start from the beginning." The child nestled contentedly into the strong embrace.
"Hmmm. We will have the short version, yes?" Kissing the small nose, he began his recitation. "Long, long ago, our people gathered around campfires and told the family tales of perseverance and bravery. Listen carefully, Zsolt. One day you must pass on the stories to your children."
"I will, Nagyapa, I promise."
The grandfather rocked the chair back and forth as he spoke of their cherished history. "We are the Magyars, the descendants of the great Asian Arpad dynasty. Many centuries ago, our ancestors were swept west by the wave of the Great Migration. They were nomads, traveling through rain and drought, and through scorching heat and frigid cold."
Ferenc's dark eyes held the gaze of the small boy. "The Magyars brought their tribe of people to the Carpathian Mountains. First came the martial outposts, riding small, sturdy horses through the northern passes and the lower Danube River Valley. Behind them came the ox driven carts of the very old, the sickly people, the women, and the children. Along with them came the herds of cattle and swine. Our people were not the first to reach the Carpathian Basin."
"Here comes the bloody part," Zsolt murmured. He snuggled closer to his grandfather.
The old man pressed a finger to the child's lips. "The great conquest followed as the Magyars struggled to claim the territory. Their fierce cavalry fought with bows and arrows and light sabers. Many of the Magyars lost their lives, but with their blood they purchased this land for their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren."
Suddenly, Zsofia leaped from the couch. "Something is happening," she shouted. Outside, cars screeched to a stop, doors slammed closed, and heavy boots pounded against the ground. Grabbing the child, she shoved him toward the bedroom. "Go quickly. Lock your bedroom door and be very, very quiet," she demanded. Without a word, the child complied, running like his life depended on it.
Frantic fists rattled the front door, until the elder Petrak could release the bolt. Two members of the Hungarian Resistance shouldered their way in, carrying the dazed form of Jozsef Petrak between them. At the command of the old man, they laid him on the floor by the fire. Without a word, they turned and beat a hasty retreat out the door. In an instant, the engine of their vehicle roared to life, and they sped into the night.
Gyorgy Vadas hurried across the threshold and threw his considerable bulk against the solid oak door. Securing the locks, he silently gestured toward the windows. Zsofia sprinted across the room to pull the thick drapes closed, while her father dimmed the lights and pulled the metal first aid box from its place on the kitchen shelf.
Gathering around the injured man, the threesome worked diligently, with only the glow of firelight to guide their efforts. Very carefully, they assessed Jozsef's head wound and tried to stem the flow of blood. "I am all right," he murmured through labored breaths. "It is only a bump."
"Jozsef was lucky he was not shot," Gyorgy said with seething anger. His large frame dwarfed the people around him. "We walked into a trap."
"A trap?" Zsofia's hands rested on her brother's shoulder as she ceased the medical treatment. "How can this be? Every precaution was in place. Who spoiled the meeting?"
"The Hungarian Secret Police, the KGB - all the secret agents were out in force tonight. Everyone was there, except the western contacts." Gyorgy waved his powerful fist in the air. "We were obviously set up. This makes the fourth failed attempt in a month."
With the help of his devoted family, Jozsef rose from the floor and gingerly moved to a chair. His hand pushed at the ice pack his father held against his head. "There is a leak in the pipeline, is there not? Someone is always one step ahead of us."
Vadas paced the length of the room while he mumbled his tirade. "The western agents are nothing but cowards. I risk my life to bring them information, and they are too nervous to come out of hiding. The old channels of communication with the west are no longer reliable. I want nothing more to do with them."
"They have good reason to be afraid," Jozsef reminded his friend. "At least one of the western agents has betrayed us. Information is getting to the Soviets with regularity."
"Yes, this is true," Gyorgy sighed. "And my communist associates lose faith in me. The fine line I walk between the two sides is blurring. I trust no one."
"Sit and rest, Gyorgy. We will think of something." Zsofia moved to the bedroom door. "You can come out, Zsolt. Everything is okay."
The door banged open, and small feet smacked against the hardwood floor. "Pater, you are home." The child flew into the waiting arms. Seeing the disheveled appearance of his father and inspecting the wound, the child looked alarmed. "Pater, you are hurt."
"It is nothing to concern yourself with, my son." Jozsef captured the small fingers in his larger ones. "Our friend, Gyorgy, fought off our attackers with his own hands and pulled me to safety."
Ferenc lit his pipe, silently gazing around the group. "You are to be commended for your heroics, Gyorgy. Soon there will be stories comparing you to the daring American agent who secured Magda's freedom."
Gyorgy shrugged at the compliment. "Humph - fairy tales. Many outlandish yarns of American superheroes are spread by gullible believers."
Ferenc's face crinkled into a smile. "It is true. My niece was a born storyteller with a flare for fantasy."
Zsofia managed a sardonic laugh. "The story of Magda's defection to America grows more exaggerated with each telling. The tale has taken on mythical proportions."
"Ah, yes," Jozsef snorted. "Her personal saga becomes larger than life." He looked at his son. "A superhero swooped from the sky like a bird and whisked cousin Magda away in his arms."
Zsolt's eyes grew enormous with astonishment.
"Oh, what nonsense," chastised Ferenc. "Do not tell the boy silly fables."
Jozsef brushed the hair from Zsolt's forehead. "The truth, my son, is always better than tall tales, is it not? Our cousin, Magda, was trapped and about to be captured. There was no place left to hide. Suddenly a deafening roar was heard from above, and a helicopter was seen on the horizon. It flew right into the midst of gunfire and hovered over a children's playground. Dangling from the doorway was an American agent, who grabbed Magda up in his arms and held her tightly until they could all fly to safety."
Zsolt was amazed. "Then it was a real hero who saved Magda, yes, Pater"
"Enough, Jozsef," Zsofia warned. "You fill his head with pictures that will keep him awake for hours." Beckoning to the child, she motioned toward the hallway. "Say goodnight, Zsolt. Off to bed with you."
As the boy kissed his father and left the room, Gyorgy rose from his chair. "Who is the American agent? You have a name, I trust."
Brother and sister exchanged glances with the family patriarch. With his nod of approval, Zsofia shared the family secret. "Stetson," she responded. "Lee Stetson."
Gyorgy looked thoughtful. "Stetson? This man, he is well known in the intelligence communities? He is a big fish, yes?"
Jozsef hesitated and then nodded in the affirmative. "Very big, I am certain. He works for an elite team of American operatives. Maybe you have heard his codename."
"What is his codename?" Gyorgy prodded with a commanding tone.
"His codename is Scarecrow."
"Scarecrow, you say?" Gyorgy's body stiffened with recognition, before a satisfied smile etched his ruddy face. "The name is legendary to the KGB. You must try to get a message to his superiors and request his assistance. Scarecrow could prove useful to our cause - very useful, indeed."
To Be Continued