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.
Something was wrong.
When he returned to Section, Paul went to the closest computer terminal and logged into the database.
Most recent access data on all files for operative//Madeline
LOCATION: 2-12A; UNKNOWN
Who accessed files on operative//Madeline
He paused thoughtfully. Her files had been decrypted less than a half an hour before they had met at the Parc de Bercy. One place of access was her office; the other was unknown. The person who had accessed them had taken great measures to hide that fact. Had Madeline’s safety been compromised? There was only one way to find out.
Amy waltzed into Madeline’s apartment, feeling as light as air. Paul was even more wonderful than she could have imagined. Their rendezvous had been a dream come true.
Madeline watched her for a moment. She seemed oblivious to anything in the room. Eventually, she knelt down and removed the gag. Madeline smiled slightly. “Did you have a good time?”
“Oh, it was amazing!” she gushed, sitting next to her. “He’s so caring and thoughtful and romantic! It was the best night of my life!” She rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling, sighing dreamily. “We’re going to be so happy together.”
“So did you tell him that it’s really you in disguise?”
“There wasn’t time. He had to get back to work. But it doesn’t matter.” She sat up and looked at her. “I knew that he loved me, but tonight really convinced me that it was true.”
“Well, he put his arms around me and held me close. And then…” She blushed. “And then he kissed me. It was like the world stood still…”
“He didn’t kiss you, Amy.” The woman frowned in confusion, and Madeline continued icily, “He kissed me.”
She slapped her sharply across the face then drew her hand back in shock. Calmly, she said, “Don’t worry; you’ll be out of the picture soon enough.”
There was a knock at the door. Madeline glanced at it, about to call out when Amy’s hand clamped down over her mouth.
“Who is it?” Amy asked, disguising her voice once again.
“It’s Paul. Can I come in?”
“Just a minute!” She yanked Madeline off the ground and dragged her to the linen closet in the hallway. “Be quiet,” she hissed, shoving a wash cloth into her mouth and pushing her into the tight space. “Or I may be forced to do something drastic.” She pulled her jacket aside, revealing a pistol, and closed the door.
Madeline couldn’t move; the shelves pressed into her back and the door smashed against her face. She turned her head and listened intently to the conversation outside.
“What brings you here at this hour?” Amy asked, letting Paul into the apartment.
“I couldn’t stay away.” He kissed her forehead, his eyes raking over the room. “Mind if I hang up my coat?”
Amy watched him curiously. “Make yourself at home. Can I get you anything?”
Paul didn’t use the rack beside the door. Instead, he opened the closet and, after a short pause, hung his coat on a hanger. He turned to her. “If memory serves me correctly, you have a bottle of wine in your pantry.” He stepped past her and pulled open the door. “Let’s have a drink.” Taking the bottle off the shelf, he gave it a slight shake. “Will you get some glasses, please?” When she turned away, he popped the cork. The red liquid bubbled over the edge, splashing onto his shirt. “Dammit! I just had this thing dry cleaned.” He handed her the bottle and headed toward the linen closet.
Amy stood in place, numb, tears stinging her eyes. He knew. But how? Her performance had been flawless, her voice and appearance perfect. She had been so careful…
Paul opened the door to the linen closet, and Madeline tumbled out. He caught her before she fell, easing her to the floor. “Madeline!” He knelt down, pulling the cloth from her mouth. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” she replied, her voice scratchy and faint.
He stroked the side of her face, his fingers touching the blood-matted hair. He looked at her bound feet and hands, sighing. “Oh, Madeline…”
She saw something behind him. “Paul!”
He spun around, keeping her behind him protectively. A gun was pointed at them, and he looked at the person whose shaky hand held it. As she tossed her mask aside, his eyes widened with realization. “Amy?”
“You should move, Paul, because I’m going to kill Madeline now.”
“Why?” he asked, ignoring her request.
“So we can be together. You love me, we should be together.”
He frowned slightly. “Amy… I don’t love you.”
She chuckled. “It’s okay, Madeline already knows how you feel. You can admit it.” When he didn’t say anything, her face fell. “But–but you got me flowers, and we went to the park together. You kissed me.”
He opened his mouth in surprise. How could this have happened? Wasn’t it obvious–the flowers, the park, the kiss–that they were all meant for Madeline? “I–I’m sorry, Amy.”
“Amy, put down the gun,” Madeline ordered softly.
She wasn’t listening; she was still focused on Paul’s words. “You…don’t love me?”
He shook his head. “No.”
Madeline shifted uneasily. She knew what Amy was capable of, and the admittance could push her over the edge. He sensed it, too, putting his hands on hers. He gave her a tender gaze.
Amy watched them, the simple concern that he showed for her, and tears fell from her eyes. She had lost. Paul didn’t love her; he never had, and he never would. “I…I see.” Dazed, she brought the gun barrel to her chest, aiming at her heart.
“Amy, no!” Madeline shouted as Paul lunged for her. The shot echoed in the hallway, and Amy’s body slumped to the floor.
Stunned, Paul leaned back against the wall, glancing at Madeline. She continued to stare straight ahead, a blank expression on her face.
They went through their usual breakfast routine, discussing whatever came across their computer screens. The night before wasn’t an issue, but Paul brought it up. “I got a call from Section Three this morning. They were wondering when we were going to be done with Amy. Apparently, she had sent them a message saying her presence was still required here. She signed my name to it.”
Madeline nodded slightly, taking in the information. “We should increase security measures and limit the amount of access we give to new recruits. She shouldn’t have been able to find out as much as she did.”
“I agree. Still, her methods were impressive.” He paused, removing his glasses. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
“For the past twenty-four hours, you didn’t exist.”
She gave a small shrug. “It’s over now.”
“Let’s hope so. I’m still surprised she survived her suicide attempt. But perhaps what’s more surprising…is your insistence that, instead of being cancelled, she receives proper psychiatric treatment at a Section-run facility.”
“Why does that surprise you?”
“Why shouldn’t it? The woman held you hostage and lived your life. She had total control over your job, your relationships… Sympathy isn’t exactly what I expected.”
“I don’t believe Amy’s intentions were harmful. She knocked me unconscious so I would cooperate, but while I was tied up, she was rather hospitable. She did what she did so she could be with you. And for a day, she was.”
He raised an eyebrow at her lack of concern. “What if it had been longer, if I hadn’t figured it out?”
“I would have been extremely disappointed in you.” He chuckled softly, and she began to butter a croissant with casual disinterest. “Just out of curiosity, what tipped you off?”
He leaned back in his chair, lighting a cigarette. “She told me she loved me.”
Madeline raised her head. “Really?”
“It was an honest mistake. Normally,” he said slowly, looking into her eyes, “people in love say those things to each other. It probably made sense to her that we would be the same way.”
She held his gaze for a moment. “It’s not that our relationship is abnormal, Paul. It’s just that we’re…beyond words.”
He smiled slightly. “Yes, we are.”
They spent the rest of their meal in silence.