Behind the Mask
Written October 2001
Synopsis: A delusional computer analyst becomes obsessed with Operations.
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of LFN Productions, Warner Bros., and USA Network. No infringement is intended.
“Good evening, Edward. Just get here?”
The doorman smiled brightly at Madeline and tipped his hat. “Well, I haven’t seen you in ages! Either you come home early or you don’t come home at all. Busy at the office?”
She pulled open the door. “You wouldn’t believe.” She walked to the elevator and took the long ride up to the top floor of the building.
Her conversation with Paul intruded on her thoughts. She couldn’t get his hurt expression out of her mind. Telling him no had been the hardest thing she had done in a long time. Though she was reluctant to admit it, she missed him when he was away. He was the only person she allowed to get close to her heart, and although she hadn’t regretted that decision, it always made things difficult in Section. His judgment wasn’t up to its usual standards when she was around.
She stepped out of the elevator and headed for her apartment, pulling out her keys. She would have time to talk to Paul again tomorrow. Maybe she had been too hasty on her previous decision. Smiling, she unlocked her door and entered, turning on the lights.
Alarmed, she looked at the speaker, who sat on a kitchen chair in the middle of the room. “Amy?” She paused, frowning slightly. “What are you doing here?” Amy stood, and Madeline took notice of her outfit. “That’s my suit, isn’t it?”
“It looks good on me, don’t you think?”
“The hemline is a little short.”
She chuckled. “A sense of humor. I didn’t see that in your personnel file.”
Madeline hung up her coat slowly, gazing at the woman. The way Amy held her head, her purposeful mannerisms, were a mirror of her own. “So you’ve been reading my files?”
Amy took a few steps forward. “Researching is a more accurate term.”
“Then you’ve been breaking Section encryption codes. That’s grounds for cancellation.”
“True…but you won’t cancel me.”
Madeline barely had a chance to react as Amy swung at her. Something cracked against her head, and she crumpled to the floor, moaning. She struggled with her consciousness, trying to stay awake as the world around her became blurry. Amy appeared above her, dangerously out-of-focus. Madeline’s eyelids dropped closed, and she was consumed by darkness.
Paul sat in the breakfast room, dining alone. Madeline hadn’t bothered to show up, which was completely unlike her despite their discussion yesterday. He sighed. Where had their relationship gone wrong? Years ago, nothing could keep them apart. And now…
He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, dialing her number.
Amy stared at the ringing telephone. She had been practicing Madeline’s voice all night, but the real test would be a live conversation. She picked up the phone. “Yes?”
“Madeline, it’s me.”
She recognized Paul’s voice right away. “Hello.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m at home; why?”
“We usually have breakfast together,” he reminded her. “If this has anything to do with yesterday, I–”
“No, it doesn’t. I had something that required my immediate attention. I apologize for giving you the impression that I stood you up.”
“It’s okay,” he replied, relief evident in his tone. “How about dinner? No, wait, I have that meeting… Uh, meet me tonight, eight-thirty, in the park.”
“I’ll be there.”
The line disconnected, and Amy sighed happily. Her first date with Paul… She glanced at Madeline. The woman was still unconscious, laying on the floor with her ankles tied together and her wrists secured behind her back. “Hey, wake up.” She slapped her gently until she came to. “Good morning, sunshine.”
Madeline lifted her head gingerly. The movement sent sharp pains through her body, and she winced. Her vision was still fuzzy. She tried to sit up, but the binding of her arms and legs made it difficult. She blinked, trying to clear her vision enough to see her captor clearly. The events of last night were still a blur. Finally focused, she took a good, long look at Amy–and couldn’t believe her eyes.
It was like looking into a mirror. Not only was Amy wearing her clothes, but a mask and wig had transformed her completely. She was her. Madeline’s jaw hung open slightly.
She began to speak, imitating Madeline perfectly. “So what do you think? Do I make a good you?” Chuckling at Madeline’s shocked expression, she gazed at her appearance in a hand-held mirror. “You have no idea how beautiful you are, do you? Such perfect skin…deep brown eyes…no wonder he desires you.”
“Why are you doing this?” Madeline asked. The situation was something out of a nightmare.
Amy raised her eyebrows. “Isn’t it obvious?”
She paused. ‘No wonder he desires you.’ He. “You’re after Operations, aren’t you?”
“Yes, but not in the way that you think. I’m not a double agent, I’m not after his job–or yours, for that matter.” She smiled happily. “He’s in love with me.”
Madeline wanted to frown. Paul, in love with Amy? It didn’t make sense. He barely knew her. “Why the games?”
“I did a lot of reading last night. Your files were very helpful. And, looking back, I’m surprised that I didn’t notice it before. When you’re around, he wears the silliest, most endearing smile I’ve ever seen. He loves you.” She paused slightly. “Well, he did love you. Your refusal of his affections changed that.”
“So you’re pretending to be me in the hopes that…”
Amy sighed as if it was obvious. “He’s the head of Section One. You’re the only one that can get close to him. I have to be you to spend time with him, not counting the fact that I’m supposed to be at Section Three right now.”
Confusion made her head hurt more than it already did. “But by pretending to be me, aren’t you convincing him that I reciprocate his feelings?”
“You’re not as smart as your file indicates. How disappointing.” Amy’s face brightened. “No matter. Paul asked to meet me at the park tonight.” Her smile wavered slightly. “Which park is he referring to?”
Madeline stared at her. She hadn’t reviewed Amy’s psychological profile in detail, so she wasn’t certain what the woman was capable of. She needed to know what kind of danger she–and Paul–were in.
Madeline still remained silent. Fire burned in Amy’s eyes. Furious, she slammed the mirror on the floor. It shattered, and Madeline curled into a fetal position, shielding her face. Amy jumped in shock, staring at the broken glass. Stunned, she began to clean up.
Madeline looked at the woman, still puzzled. Amy had been surprised by her own behavior. Her file had indicated a lack of social bonds and difficulty in forming interpersonal relationships. Borderline personality disorder? She certainly had a weak self-image and intense anger. There was no way to tell; a diagnosis required days of testing.
Amy stood and headed for the bedroom, turning off the lights. Madeline sighed. Looks like I’ll have plenty of time to study her…
Amy walked through the halls of Section, careful to keep her posture straight and dignified. She didn’t know exactly what a chief strategist did, but it couldn’t be that difficult. Regardless, she would have more time to read the real Madeline’s files.
An operative nodded at her, and she smiled and said hello. He gave her an odd look and continued on his way. Amy frowned. Her disguise was foolproof. The wig and mask were top-notch, and the outfit was authentic since it had come from Madeline’s closet. And she was confident of her vocal imitation. What had caused the operative to give her that look?
Amy thought back to Madeline’s interactions with others, and it dawned on her. The smile. Madeline never smiled. Nodding to herself, she quickened her pace slightly–Madeline probably didn’t stroll leisurely either–and went to her office.
Over the next few hours, Amy pored over every file she could get her hands on. She read everything: psych profiles, mission debriefs, commendations, promotions, other various reports… Madeline was incredibly complex. The files gave Amy a much better feel for her history and personality. She seemed to lead a double life. In Section, she was detached, reserved, and somewhat aloof. But she had an inner core of emotions that remained hidden–most of the time. Her journal indicated that Paul knew her better than anyone. Amy nodded; she could use that.
Her eyes were fixed on the computer screen, watching interrogations that Madeline had performed in the White Room. She didn’t hear the door open or notice Paul as he walked in and moved behind her.
“What are you doing?”
She jumped slightly, spinning around and gazing up at him. She took a breath and altered her voice. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
“I noticed. Why are you watching that?”
Amy looked back at the screen, thinking of an explanation. “I thought it might be beneficial. My style has changed over the years. Perhaps I am neglecting a useful method.”
“But isn’t that from last month?”
She shook her head. “I’ve had a lot on my mind lately.”
The seriousness in his tone made her turn to him again. His eyes were beautiful, a clear pale blue. They were enchanting, and she couldn’t look away.
Paul shifted uncomfortably. “I, uh… I got you something.” He presented her with a potted plant.
Smiling slightly, Amy took it. It was the most unique gift she had ever received. The plant had extremely long, spiney stems with bright yellow flowers at the tips. “Thank you.”
“Do you like it?”
Madeline was a horticulturist in every sense of the word, so Amy nodded. “It’s fascinating. What is it?”
Paul laughed. “Madeline, you’ve been talking about this plant for months! Davenport’s team just got back from Madagascar; I had him bring one.” He pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. “Look, Pachypodium rosulatum. Just like you wanted.” He paused again. “This is what you wanted, isn’t it?”
Her head was swimming with the name of the exotic plant. Pachy-what? “Of course it is. I just…” She stood and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you, Paul.” Although she wanted to kiss him over and over again, she forced herself to walk around him and place the pot on the metallic stand in the middle of the room.
Paul smiled to himself. “You’re welcome.” He started for the door. “Will I see you tonight?”
Amy turned. “Uh… which park?”
“Le Parc de Bercy, of course. Eight-thirty.”
She nodded, smiling at his French accent. “I’ll be there.”
“Good.” His gaze lingered on her for a moment, then he walked away. Parc de Bercy? Amy’s smile vanished. How was she going to find him there?
Madeline lifted her head at the sound of keys jangling in the lock. Amy entered the apartment, smiling happily.
“Hi, Madeline.” She bent down and removed the gag from her hostage’s mouth. “Guess what? No one realized I wasn’t you today. My performance was superb.”
“I’m hungry,” she said softly.
“Hungry?” Amy repeated. “Well, I guess I should feed you.” She rummaged through the kitchen, settling on a package of wheat crackers. “Looks like you haven’t been shopping in a while.” She held out the food, and Madeline took a bite.
“You’re welcome.” As Madeline continued to eat, Amy told her about her day. “Paul brought me some flowers. Well, it was more of a plant really. He said it was from Madagascar. Poly, pachy, something.”
“Yeah, that’s it!”
Madeline smiled inwardly at Paul’s gift. “Could I have some water please?”
“Okay.” She retrieved a glass and held the cup to her lips. After getting a mouthful, Madeline nodded, and Amy took the liquid back. She disappeared for a moment and returned with a damp cloth, which she used to wipe away the dried blood from Madeline’s head wound. “I’m sorry I hit you, but I didn’t think you’d cooperate willingly.” Madeline winced, and Amy did the same out of sympathy. “Does that hurt? I’m sorry…”
“I have some needles in my nightstand drawer, along with a bottle of Demerol. 100mg, intravenous injection.”
Amy nodded quickly and ran to the bedroom. She didn’t want Madeline to be in pain; she might need her for something. She found the bottle and filled the syringe to the designated mark. She returned to Madeline’s side. “Where?”
“In the bend of my elbow.”
Amy reached for the knot that kept Madeline’s wrists together but stopped before untying it. “I… I can’t.”
She pushed the needle into her bicep, through the fabric of her shirt. Madeline groaned slightly at the pain. “If I had untied you, you might have tried to attack me. I can’t risk it.” She injected the drug and withdrew the needle. “I’m sorry.” She stood and retreated to the bedroom.
Though Madeline had considered it, she wasn’t going to strangle her. She needed to gain her trust, so when the moment was right, she could strike. The medicine took effect quickly, and she could think more clearly.
Amy reappeared, wearing a long black dress. “This is beautiful, Madeline! What do you think?”
She looked at her blankly. “I always liked that dress.”
She giggled cheerfully, dancing around the room. “Oh, Paul is the most wonderful man. We’re going to be very happy together, and I have you to thank for it.”
“Yes. The fact that you wouldn’t return his affections drove him straight into my arms.”
“But you are me. You look like me, act like me, sound like me. Are you sure you aren’t making him think that I want him?”
“We’ve discussed this before, Madeline. He loves me. He fell for me the first time he saw me. I’m everything he’s always wanted.”
Madeline nodded slowly. Her preliminary diagnosis might not have been correct. Amy seemed to be suffering from an erotomanic delusion that Paul was in love with her. Nothing would convince her otherwise. There was a good chance Paul wasn’t in any danger, thankfully, but should he find out the truth and confront Amy with it…
“Where in the Parc de Bercy do you two meet?”
There was no point in lying. “On the footbridge, near the Maison du Lac.”
Amy smiled. “Thank you, Madeline.” She put the gag back in her mouth. “Now I have to go, but I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.” She walked away, leaving Madeline alone once again.
Amy hurried through the park. It was mostly empty, despite the fact that it remained open for another hour. The footbridge by the Maison du Lac. It made sense; that was near the romantic gardens. Paul wanted to meet her somewhere romantic. She almost giggled.
She saw him on the bridge and slowed her pace as she approached him. He was smiling, and she returned the gaze. “Hello, Paul.”
“You look beautiful.”
“I’m glad you came.”
“So am I.” She looked into the lake at the ducks that swam in the water. She felt Paul’s arm wrap around her shoulders, and she tried not to blush.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about you since yesterday.”
“Me, too.” She looked up at him. “Paul, I lied. I told you no because that was the right thing to do… but it isn’t what I want.”
“No. I want you.”
He bent down and kissed her deeply. Amy wrapped her arms around his waist, moaning quietly. He pulled back and looked at her. “You’re so different, like you were years ago. I don’t know what changed your mind, but I’m glad it did.”
She leaned into his embrace, nestling her head in his shoulder. Her whole body tingled under his touch. “Paul…” She closed her eyes, moaning happily. “I love you…”
There was a long pause. “I love you, too,” he replied quietly.
End of part 2