The Handler and it's Characters are not my own. I borrowed them from the CBS series The Handler.

On New Years Eve. A voluptuous auburn haired woman in a black halter cocktail dress, walks down the hall of a night club. She goes to the ladies room and closes the door. Inside another woman is waiting for her.

"Heather, I've been made by the Fenelli boys. I don't know how. I can't get a hold of Max." Said the auburn haired woman.

"Rusty, don't worry when my Handler comes I'll see you get out of here. It's only a few minutes until he comes for my notebook." Said Heather.

"Good, so this Handler of yours is he a good guy?" Asked Rusty.

"Yeah, he's cool too so it should be ok. He's going to be pissed that Max stranded you." Said Heather.

"Ok, I'm hoping that I don't have to go back out on stage." Said Rusty. "I feel like a sitting duck out there."

"Why don't we just wait back stage." Said Heather as Milton the stage manager came to the ladies room door.

"5 minutes Rusty." Said Milton.

"Ok." Said Rusty. "Oh crap I shouldn't have answered. Well, I'm a dumb shit tonight."

"It's ok, Joe will help you." Said Heather.

"So his name is Joe. Ok I have to go and do another set. I just want out of here before those boys get here." Said Rusty.

"Do your set and I'll keep Joe here." Said Heather. She hugged Rusty.

"Thanks Heather. You're a good friend." Said Rusty.

"You'd do the same for me. I know that." Said Heather.

Rusty gave her a weak smile and a wink and left. She felt desperation welling in her. And the feeling of a trapped rat in a cage. But she went on and smiled like there wasn't anything wrong.

Joe Renato got there at a little after 11pm. He had just gotten though with a sting himself. Dressed to the nines in a blue wool blend suit and tie he sat down and waited for Heather. He sat listening to the redhead on stage. As he listened further he began to think she was really good. He smiled and Heather came up to him and put down her notebook with a napkin and sat his coke on the table instead. The napkin had "Please wait. There is a problem." on it. He looked down and saw the message.

"Hi Heather. What's wrong?" He asked as Heather sat down. The noise from the night club was loud. The place was packed that night.

"See that redhead on stage?" She asked.

"Yeah, she's good. She's also really beautiful." said Joe smiling. He put her notebook in his inside coat pocket.

"She's one of us and she is in deep shit." Said Heather.

"What?" Asked Joe.

Heather got closer and talked in his ear. "She's in trouble."

"Ok, I give what is she?" Asked Joe.

"She's one of us." Said Heather.

"Ok, what do you want me to do?" He asked. "Where's her Handler?"

"We can't reach him." said Heather.

"Max Shelton?" He asked. "That son of a bitch always does this."

"He's her Handler. I know." said Heather.

"After she gets off stage I'll do my best to make it back there." Said Joe.

"Ok, I'll tell her." Said Heather.

"Oh and what is this lady's name?" He asked.

"Rusty." Said Heather.

"Ok tell her. I'll wait." Said Joe. "This had better be good or there will be several people get reprimands."

Heather went off to wait out her set. Joe sat back took out a cigar and lit it and enjoyed the rest of her show. As her set ended Heather saw the Fenelli boys sons come in the back door. Heather went down to Joe again.

"The Fenelli brothers boys are here." said Heather.

"What? You mean she was on a case with those wise guys?" He asked. "Did Max put her in here alone?"

"Yeah, Max is a dumb ass." Said Heather. "I'll meet you after my shift with her things at the outlook."

"Yeah and trying to get her killed." Said Joe. "Ok we have to get out of here. I'll stop her at the stage before she gets off. Joe took matters into his own hands. He went up the stage steps in front. Went on the stage and got a hold of her hand he got a firm grip on her.

"Come with me." Said Joe.

"Who are you?" She asked getting her fist ready.

"I'm Joe, Heather sent me."

She smiled, unballed her fist and went down the steps then they saw the boys coming into the club from the back. There was a virtual sea of people. Music from the DJ was playing now. Diana Ross was belting out "Someday We'll Be Together".

"Come dance with me make this look natural if you can and we will get out of here." Said Joe softly into her ear.

"Ok, anything to get the hell out of here." Said Rusty into his ear as she put her arms around his neck.

He got a hold of her and started slow dancing his way to the door.

"Heather says your in trouble with the Fenelli's ." Said Joe.

"Yeah, someone here made me." Said Rusty. "I'm sorry for the trouble."

"It' s ok but Max's butt is going to be in a sling tomorrow. I mean on the second." Said Joe.

"I appreciate the help. You know this would be a lot more fun if we didn't have those boys up our butts." Said Rusty smiling weakly at him.

"Yeah I'm sure it would be." Said Joe giving a half smile to her.

"We are almost there." Said Joe. "Heather will meet us at our meeting spot we have in a few hours with you things."

"Thanks Joe." Said Rusty.

"Your name is Rusty right?" He asked.

"Yeah. That's right Handsome." She said not realizing she had.

"Handsome?" He asked kind of surprised.

"Well you and I are dressed to the nine's here and that blue suit is killer." Said Rusty.

"Thanks." Said Joe smiling a little as they finally got out the door. He took her hand and they started walking to the car.

"Shoot I didn't get my wrap." Said Rusty.

"Here you need this worse than I do. I have a jacket in the car." Said Joe as he gave her his suit jacket and put it on her shoulders.

"Thanks, you are a true gentleman." said Rusty.

"My team might beg to differ there." Said Joe.

"So what do we do now?" She asked. "It's about 15 minutes to midnight on New Years Eve."

"Maybe I should just drop you off at your place and call Heather back." Said Joe.

"I don't have my keys." said Rusty. As they got in the car.

"Ok, so we don't do that. How about some coffee?" He asked. "I think another night club is out of the question for this evening." Said Joe joking with her.

"Yeah I think so maybe next time?" Said Rusty giggling she was releasing the tension of before. "That's fine, I'm sorry to interrupt your evening."

"Maybe next time. This was a good interruption." Said Joe. "I'm sorry Max is such a schmuck."

"Me too but, since your not mad that I did interrupt your evening it might be a good thing?" She asked.

"Yeah, but he is still in shit with me." said Joe as they got to the coffee shop. They heard the sounds of car horns and people whooping it up.

"Must be midnight." Said Rusty.

"Must be." Said Joe he looked over at her and smiled. "Happy New Year Rusty."

"Happy New Year Joe." said Rusty and she leaned over and kissed his cheek.

"What was that for?" He asked.

"For helping a lady in distress." said Rusty. "And you know that isn't enough for my white knight." She leaned over again and gave him a peck on the lips.

"Rusty, you didn't have to do that. But thanks anyway." Said Joe smiling at her.

"I know you and I don't know each other but I think that is going to a thing of the past soon." She said.

"Yeah I got that feeling when we were dancing." said Joe as they went into the coffee shop.

"Yeah, I know Handsome." said Rusty getting a hold of his arm.

Two hours went by and by then they had at least broken the ice with each other and found they had things in common. They were at the outlook already sitting in Joe's car. Rusty had never been there.

"Oh Joe, it's beautiful! It's like I'm a queen and I've been given a trunk full of jewelry laid at my feet and opened." Said Rusty. "It's breathtaking."

"You know I've been here so long I never noticed it before but your right it is beautiful" said Joe looking over at her and smiling. He put his arm over the passenger seat.

"It's been a good two hours Joe I've enjoyed the company. Thanks for the coffee." Said Rusty.

"Your welcome, this is one new years I wont forget. I've enjoyed your company too" said Joe still smiling at her.

"Me either. Are you really going for a reprimand for Max?" She asked.

"You bet Rusty. He put me, you and Heather in danger tonight. I would rather you not report to him and just go with me Monday to see Marty. I'm afraid he has gone loose cannon this time." Said Joe. So when he calls don't answer it. And call me, that is my cell number." He gave her one of his business cards. "Something is going on here. I don't know what it is yet. I know those men back there would have given you cement stiletto's."

"Ok, it might be best. It's what I have been thinking too." Said Rusty. "But why would Max want me……….."

"Who knows Rusty. Just please take my advice. I know you don't know me but I have been doing this a long time and I have a good track record. Just ask Heather if you have trouble believing me." Said Joe.

"Oh Joe, you put yourself at risk tonight helping me. Why wouldn't I take your advice it's sound enough for me." She said.

"Ok then, if you run into trouble just call we will figure something out." said Joe. Heather came about that time.

"Ok I'll do that. There she is." Said Rusty.

"Yeah, I'll see you Monday if things go smoothly. If not………"

"I'll call." said Rusty. "I promise. Thanks again and Happy New Year Joe." Said Rusty smiling. She gave him a hug and got out of the car.

"Happy New Year Rusty." Said Joe giving her a hug back.

She got in Heathers car and they all drove off into the night.

"So Rusty how was it?" Asked Heather.

"You did me more than a favor tonight." said Rusty. "Joe's the best."

"Oh don't tell me you and Joe like each other. I saw him dancing you out the door but it worked." said Heather.

"Yeah, we like each other. He's a really nice and cool guy, plus handsome." Said Rusty.

"Handsome? We talking about Joe Renato?" Asked Heather.

"Yeah. Was the best New Years I have had in a long time." Said Rusty.

"Ok if you say so." Said Heather shrugging. She shook her head.

Rusty was awakened by her cell phone ringing about noon she looked at the ID it was Max. She let voice mail get it. Then she got Joe's number out and dialed it and stored it.

"Yeah this is Joe."

"I'm sorry to bother you again. This is Rusty Mc Dowall. Max just called."

"No bother Rusty. Just sit tight on it." said Joe.

"Joe I'm beginning to think we are both right. I'm in deep shit." said Rusty.

"It's ok Rusty. You have anyone in town you can go and see today just to be with people?" He asked.

"Heather is the only one I know other than you. I've only been here a couple of months." Said Rusty.

"Oh that's right I remember you saying you came out here from the Dallas Office." said Joe.

"Yeah and I haven't had time to get too friendly with people." said Rusty.

"I see. Well, There isn't much opened today but I know of a sports bar it has pool tables." said Joe.

"Sounds fun. I paid for college playing pool. That and a few other odd jobs." Said Rusty.

"Well, if you don't mind spending the rest of the day with me. I had nothing going but bowl games and a six pack." said Joe.

"Ok, when do you want to meet?" She asked.

"Will an hour be enough?" He asked.

"Yeah, just fine. Where is this sports bar?" She asked.

He gave her directions. Then in an hour she pulled up in her 1966 T-bird convertible. Joe was leaning against the hood of his Pontiac when she drove up. He smiled when he saw her and her car. She got out and came over to him.

"Hello Rusty." Said Joe.

"Hello Handsome." Said Rusty. She couldn't help herself there.

Joe smiled at her. "Your going to give me a complex with that, but if you insist." Said Joe.

"Complex?" She asked.

"Yeah, my head is going to swell." Said Joe joking with her. "My team thinks it's too big already."

"Oh, well I don't' know why I call you that. It just pops out." Said Rusty. "I'll………."

"No need Rusty it's ok. I like that car." Said Joe pointing at her car.

"Oh, well, that's Minerva. She's my baby. I talk to her I know that's a little………"

"I know guys that do that Rusty." Said Joe. "Come on and well find a place to talk about this." Said Joe as they started walking into the sports bar and into the pool room.

"I know procedure in this. Last night I was scared out of my mind." Said Rusty.

"I think you mentioned that you had been a Handler in Dallas. Why not here?" He asked.

"Max doesn't want me to do that here. He wants me all to himself. For the last few months he's made advances but nothing that I could report he's been careful." Said Rusty.

"Has he touched you?" Asked Joe a little angry.

"No, I'd drop him if he did." Said Rusty.

"Somehow I believe that." said Joe as they got inside and got the balls. Joe chose a table in the back next to the juke box it was secluded and you would have to come all the way back to see them in there.

"Now I have to warn you I'm pretty good at this." Said Rusty.

"We'll see." Said Joe smirking a sly smile at her. He started to rack the balls. "You break."

"Ok you asked for it." Said Rusty as she poised herself to break up the balls on the pool table. Joe stood back and watched her. She let the cue go and broke, three balls went in. Joe's mouth dropped open a little bit.

"Ok so I'm not wagering any bets with you." Said Joe as she attempted another shot.

"I warned you." Said Rusty.

"Yes you did." said Joe as one more ball made it in the corner pocket. "Your good Rusty how are you at poker?"

"Thanks. Oh pretty good." said Rusty as she made another shot it didn't go in. She was taking it easy on him.

"We'll have to see about that too." Said Joe as he made a shot. It went in. It was a difficult shot.

"Ok, so I 'm not betting on pool with you either." Said Rusty as she watched him make another shot.

"I haven't played in a long time." Said Joe.

"Well, now you have a someone that will play pool with you." Said Rusty.

Joe smiled at her. "I like the sound of that."

"I do too." Said Rusty as he scratched.

They played a game and then sat down to talk.

"So why were you in there alone with those wise guys?" He asked.

"Max believed I could handle it. I was supposed to play one of the brothers and get him interested in me. Max said that I was the perfect bait." Said Rusty.

"Well, he's right about that. You are beautiful. But what information were you trying to get?" Asked Joe.

"Thanks Joe. There's someone in the FBI that is taking kickbacks from them." Said Rusty.

"Humm, you were supposed to get close enough to find out who it is right?" Asked Joe.

"Yeah, That's right. I didn't get much before I was made. If anything. Then Max went missing when I got made. Funny thing is what tipped me off about me being made was I overheard them talking to the guy over the phone in question. He seemed to know who I was and quite a bit about me. "Oh, Jesus Joe!" Her face held horrible recognition. So did Joe's.

"Rusty, I'll say it. I think Max is the Rat Bastard that made you." Said Joe.

"Yeah, would fit but we have no proof." said Rusty as her cell went off again.

"Max?" Asked Joe.

"Yeah, I'll let it go to voice mail like before. He didn't leave a message last time." Said Rusty as they waited this time there was a message.

"Would you let me listen to it first?" He asked.

"Sure." said Rusty handing him her cell. Joe hit the voice mail feature and started listening.

"Rusty where the hell are you?" Began Max. "I need a report on what happened last night. I got to the club at midnight and you were gone. The bar tender said you left with some guy. I have to talk to you. Call me when you get this message. That's an order."

"Well, he knows you are alive. I was hoping to play that. He's slick this guy. I don't know him very well but from what I do know he's not to be trusted. Rusty I think you ought to just stay with me today. At least I could offer some protection." Said Joe.

"Ok, I'd feel better about it. What about going to Marty today?" She asked.

"We might have to do that." Said Joe.

"Let's think on it." Said Rusty. "I know we don't know each other but I believe your going out of your way for me."

"I would do that anyway. One thing I hate is to see another agent treated like the way Max treats you. We have to gather information on this. It might mean that you have to play him. I don't like to have to ask you to do that. I know you don't like him." Said Joe. "Besides I'm not your boss."

"I think that's fixin' to change." Said Rusty.

"I think so too. It would be a good idea. I think Marty will agree." Said Joe.

"He seems nice but a little gruff." Said Rusty.

"Yeah, he can be but he's a stickler for policy. So am I. I never jeopardize my agents." Said Joe. "I'd soon see the assignment go down in flames as to see any one on my team get hurt."

"I understand that. I'm the same way." Said Rusty. "I never allowed my agents to put themselves at jeopardy."

"We'll have to see but I want to see you reinstated as a Handler. That's why you were sent here. Max is a ass." Said Joe.

"Putting it mildly there Joe." Said Rusty.

"Yeah really." Said Joe. "I'm sorry your in a mess. I wish we had met under better circumstances."

"Yeah but we didn't. If this wasn't meant to happen it wouldn't have." Said Rusty.

"Would you like a drink?" He asked.

"Yeah but just a Dr. Pepper." said Rusty.

"Ok I'll get us some soda's. You sure do make playing pool interesting." Said Joe.

"Oh?" She asked.

"Yeah. If you don't mind me saying so a man could make that into a spectator sport for himself. It's an observation Rusty not a come on." Said Joe.

Rusty smiled slyly at him. "You sure about that?" She asked slyly.

"If I knew you better it would be." Said Joe.

"Sounds as if that's what you want is to know me better." She said.

"Yeah why not. I liked you from the get go. By the way you have a lovely voice." Said Joe.

"I saw you out there listening." Said Rusty as he motioned the waitress over.

"It's too quiet in here I'm going to put some money in that juke." Said Rusty.

Joe started to give her some change.

"This is my treat you paid for the pool." Said Rusty touching his arm and smiling. He looked at her smile. She had freckles on the bridge of her nose he hadn't noticed before.

"Ok, I didn't notice your freckles last night." said Joe.

"It was dark remember. I'll be back in a moment." said Rusty getting up and going to the juke box. She picked out a few tunes. Joe ordered some soda's and she came on back to the table.

"Hey you made a good choice there." Said Joe.

"Music is a part of my life like breathing. I play guitar and piano." Said Rusty.

"You'll have to play for me sometime." Said Joe.

"Sure, I'd love too." said Rusty.

"When we get done here I think we should go to Marty. I'll call him. I don't think this is going to wait." Said Joe.

"Me either. It would be best." said Rusty.

Marty agreed to come down to the pool hall and meet with them.

"Marty do you know Rusty?" Asked Joe.

"I've had the pleasure once before. Good to see you Rusty. Although this is not a good circumstance." Said Marty.

"Yeah, I know." Said Rusty. "But it is good to see you again too Marty."

"Now, what's all this about Max Shelton and you being made last night." said Marty.

Rusty told her story again to Marty who grew madder the more she talked.

"So there you have it. Joe saved my ass last night. He's been good to try and help me." Said Rusty.

"Well, Joe is like that. As of now you are on Joe's team. Don't bother with Max I'll handle him." Said Marty. "Joe I'm doing this because you know what's going on. We will see about putting a team together for Rusty once we find out what Max is doing. Her Handler status is here by reinstated. I have the authority. We will find out if he's working for the Fenelli's. I'm hoping it will be without your help Rusty. I think you are in danger. Since you know Heather why not put Rusty with Heather for now. I don't want you alone for an instant."

"Thanks Marty. Wait, we need to back this puppy up a minute. I think that's the wrong way to handle this." said Rusty.

"What are you saying Rusty?" Asked Marty.

"Well, if he gets an ass chewing……..You catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar." Rusty began to have that I have an idea forming on her face. She didn't like the idea but figured it would be best.

"Well?" Asked Joe.

"I'm going to have to play him." Said Rusty.

"Are you nuts?" Asked Joe. "He'll kill you."

"No he wont. Not if I get in close enough and give him just at what he has wanted from me all along." said Rusty.

"That's dangerous. Now that you are on my team I wont………"

"Joe, listen if anyone can get the information I can. I already have an in. I am forming a cover story for my absence. You and your team can run surveillance. The cover story goes like this. I was slipped Ruffies by the guy I left with. I know that was you but he doesn't know that. I have been out the last day. You can get a blood sample from the hospital. I know someone there that will help us out. That way if he checks then I've been in the hospital." Said Rusty.

"If I didn't like you so much it would be a great plan Rusty." said Joe. "I bet you were a hell of a Handler back in Dallas." Said Joe.

"That's what her boss said when I called him to get her files." Said Marty. "As to why Max wont let you here is still a mystery."

"No mystery. He wants me. I'm not going that far with this if I can help it." Said Rusty. "I'll make that promise right now. If I have my back against the wall then I'll have no choice and man I don't want that. I rarely get cornered."

"Ok what do you need us to do to set this up?" Asked Joe.

"First of all I need to go to the hospital and get the phony records. Mitch my informant works there as a nurse. I knew him back in Dallas. Then I will have to be admitted and then call him crying that I was Ruffied. Then I take it from there. I play him and play him good." Said Rusty.

Joe got a warning look on his face. "Rusty, He's gonna wanna………….."

"Yeah I know and I'm going to play cat and mouse with him for a while. Give him just under what he wants. Then I start looking in his office for evidence. Then if there is none there his house or car." Said Rusty.

"Ah, no Rusty. This is getting really dangerous I'll go along with the Ruffies scenario and I will even go along with you playing him just under what he wants for a while but not the house and car." Said Joe.

"Ok so you try to do what I am going to do." She said a little pissed crossing her arms.

"He's not my type." Said Joe a little pissed too.

"Ok then, I have to do this. Do I have your blessing Marty?" She asked.

"Ok but you report all you know to me or Joe. You be careful it's a good plan but dangerous." Said Marty. "I don't want to loose a good agent and from the looks of it Joe doesn't want to loose a new friend for the lack of a better word. You be careful too Joe. Happy New Year to you both."

"Happy New Year Marty." said Joe

"Happy New Year. "Said Rusty.

Marty left them at that.

"Rusty I think you have a good plan but……." said Joe.

"That sounded like a big but with two t's." Said Rusty.

"It was. Rusty……….." Rusty changed the subject but it would be changed for long.

"Yeah, Marty's a good guy. I wish they had put me with him or you instead." said Rusty.

"You are on my team for now. So you got your wish there." said Joe.

"How'd you know?" Asked Rusty.

"Just a guess." Said Joe. "Come on it's getting late. We need to get this set up. I'm calling one of my agents."

"Joe does Max know your agents?

"I see your point. He might." Said Joe.

"The less people in on this the better for now ok? Just trust me like I trust you last night." Said Rusty.

"Ok. For now. I don't like any of this Rusty." Said Joe. He stopped her before she got up.

"What did you want to do about this?" She asked.

"I hadn't formed a plan yet." Said Joe. Nothing of this was sitting well with him.

"Ok then……..please Joe let's try. If it doesn't work I can go into hiding ok. That's all that is left to us unless you can come with something in the next few minutes, Darlin'." Said Rusty as she put her hand on his hand.

"You know you are quite the spitfire. God help anyone that wont let you do what you want." Said Joe. "I just hope that doesn't get you killed. Rusty I just met you I don't really want anything to keep what passed between us last night and today destroyed." Joe looking into her eyes and held her hand.

"Me either. Just know I don't like the idea of him touching me at all but I'm going to have too." Said Rusty.

"Yeah, it's kinda turning my stomach. But I'll get over it." Said Joe.

"Now then off to the hospital." Said Rusty. Can you get someone to take my car and put it back at the apartment?" She asked.

"Yeah, I'll call Heather and Lily." said Joe. She handed him the keys to Minerva.

"Good now you will have to do the surveillance at the hospital. Just grab some scrubs and a mask." Said Rusty.

"Damn Baby, your good." Said Joe smiling at her widely. He actually was pretty impressed her coming up with things so fast.

"Just wait till you see how I work. Your gonna get those boots knocked off your feet." Said Rusty smiling at him. "By the way were did the Baby come from?"

"Oh sorry it slipped. I got a little………well I…….."

"Got a bit excited at the fact I could come up with things so fast?" She asked.

"Yeah, that'll do for an explanation. Now let's get this started." Said Joe. They started to walk out of the sports bar. "Better buckle that seat belt of yours Joe Darlin', it's going to make for a bumpy ride." She said bumping her hip into his. Joe shook his head and chuckled as they left.

Next they went to the hospital and got things set up there. Mitch, her informant got her records made up. The next thing was to wire the room. Rusty and Joe did that quickly and then it was time for her to call Max.

"Well, it's set up." Said Rusty. "We did good."

"Yeah we did we seem to work well together. If you don't want to do this stop now." Said Joe.

"I have too. We have to get him indicted and out of the FBI." Said Rusty. "We work really well together if you ask me."

"Yeah but as to you having to do this……….."

"It's ok. Now you got your scrubs and mask?" She asked.

"Yeah, right here." Said Joe.

"Go and get them on just in case." said Rusty.

"Just who is handling whom here?" He asked chuckling a bit.

"I think we are handling each other." Joe started to chuckle then he broke and laughed. "Oh Joe I'm sorry that didn't come out the way…….."

"I know what you mean Rusty. I think we are handling each other for the lack of better words." Said Joe letting a few more chuckles out.

"Not too bad is it?" She asked getting out her cell phone.

"No, I've had worse Handlers and certainly not one that is as beautiful." said Joe.

"Now now, your going to turn my head with that kind of talk." Said Rusty as she got into bed. "Joe just put those over your clothes no one will know. Now come over here. She sat on the bed as she looked him over. You need a jacket. She got up and started out the door. He stopped her at the door. The second tie had been forgotten on her hospital gown. Her butt and panties showed.

"Rusty." Said Joe as he got behind her and tied the bottom string. "You forgot the back end here. Your underwear is showing."

"I'm not shy Joe. But thanks." Said Rusty as he shook his head again but this time let out a breath like this was going to be a long assignment. "Here just use this one."

Joe put it on and then she tied the mask for him. "Not so tight!" yelped Joe.

"You are a big baby you know that." Said Rusty fussing at him.

"I am not. Rusty get back into bed and call that rat bastard so we can get this over ok?" He asked. Fussing at her.

"Sheesh. Ok." Said Rusty. She did as he asked. "Talk about grouchy. Someone didn't drink his ovaltine this morning."

"You are gonna see grouchy here in a minute." Said Joe. "You are looking at a spanking if you don't…….."

"Don't make me promise you don't intend to keep there Handsome." Joe rolled his eyes. "Ok I'll call him." Said Rusty as she turned on the wire to her phone. "Max, Oh thank God!" she was turning on the scared helpless woman routine.

"Where the hell have you been?" He asked angrily.

"Oh Max I got a dose of Ruffies I'm in the hospital." She was sobbing almost hysterically. Joe was watching her do this and was pretty impressed with the way she was doing it.

"What? What happened?" He asked.

"The man I left with slipped me a dose and then he………." Until he heard her say that.

"I understand which hospital are you in?" He asked

"Rampart." said Rusty.

"I'll be there in a few minutes." said Max.

"Hurry I'm scared to death." She balled.

"I will, I'll be right there." said Max and he hung up.

Joe looked at her. "Ok what was I supposed to have done."

"If you don't know I need to have a talk with you Darlin'." Said Rusty.

"Rusty! Shit no I……………"

"He doesn't know who the hell you are remember." said Rusty. "So don't worry Handsome." Said Rusty.

"Ok, now I'm going to get down the hall to the surveillance room we set up. Frank had to be called in I don't know all I should about this shit now." Said Joe.

"I'll teach you later." Said Rusty winking at him. He took the wire that was on her cell phone.

"Be careful." said Joe.

"I shall." said Rusty. He closed the door.

Max got there within 20 minutes. He came into her room. Max was about 45 dark hair and piercing brown eyes. He was a handsome man but the things he did made him grotesque.

"Oh Max!" Said Rusty.

"What happened?" Asked Max coming over to her. She flung her arms around him.

"I was Ruffied last night." said Rusty.

"Did he……….."

"I don't know yet they haven't ran the tests." Said Rusty laying on the crying routine.

Joe and Frank listened in. "This chick is good. I've seen her before somewhere." Said Frank.

"Yeah she's good." said Joe.

"I thought you were dead somewhere." Said Max.

"No just out cold." Said Rusty.

Mitch came in about that time with her chart. It had she hadn't been raped on it.

"Ms. Mc Dowall, all indications say you were not raped." Said Mitch.

"Thank God." said Rusty.

"Yes that is good. "Said Max.

"You will be released soon do you have someone that could take you home?" Asked Mitch.

"I'll do that." Said Max.

"Very well." Said Mitch. "I'll have you checked out I about 15 minutes."

"Thanks." said Rusty. Mitch left.

"Oh that is so sweet of you." Said Rusty. "I think misjudged you."

"You did but you can make it up to me." Said Max.

"Oh?" She asked.

"Yes come home with me." Said Max.

Joe heard that and thought to himself. "She will do it. I can't do anything to stop her."

"Oh Max could we maybe do that tomorrow night? Seeing as I am still groggy." said Rusty. "You do want a good response from me right?" She asked.

"Good Girl Rusty." Said Joe breathing a sigh of relief.

"She's really good." said Frank.

"Well yes." Said Max as she got out of bed. They saw her on the monitor. She was walking to the bathroom and he grabbed her.

"I've wanted this a long time." Said Max.

"I know you have." Said Rusty.

He kissed her and started messing around with her.

"Shit." Said Joe.

"She can handle him isn't that Rusty Mc Dowall?" Asked Frank.

"Yeah?" Said Joe.

"Oh yeah she can handle it, dish it out and bake it. She busted the Cortez drug Cartel in Texas a year ago." Said Frank.

"Yeah Really? She was in on that?" He asked.

"Yeah and got the bastards." said Frank. "That little lady there is grade A as far as agents go." Said Frank. "They call her Miss Combustible."

"I didn't know that. I just met her last night." Said Joe.

"Yes, Joe she'll be ok. What ever happens we wired her on radio transmitter. It's in her pin. I gave it to her."

"Good. I'm glad you told me about her reputation." Said Joe.

"She's first class all the way Joe. She knows what she's doing." said Frank. "Do you want me to go and take her to the lobby?" Asked Frank.

"Yeah you 'd better. Max knows me. Here take this mask." Said Joe taking off the mask he had put it around his neck earlier.

"Just listen in. Then we get in the van." Said Frank. "I'll be back in a minute."

"You had better wait a moment. He isn't done with her yet." said Joe.

Rusty finally got him to stop. She went into the bathroom her mic was on.

She whispered. "Joe he is supposedly taking me home. I'll get rid of him and you wait there I'll turn the light on the porch on and off. I'm dressed. Send Frank in now. Thank God I wore jeans today."

"Ok, Frank go on and get her downstairs." Said Joe. "I have some calls to make."

"Ok, Joe." Said Frank as he left with a wheel chair to take her down in.

Joe made a call to Marty and told him they were in. Then Joe tailed Rusty back to her place in the van with Frank. She went with Max. "I appreciate this." said Rusty.

"No problem what's a handler for?" He asked. "Rusty I have a proposition for you. A business one on top of the other." Said Max.

"Oh, what would that be?" She asked.

"I have business associates that would give you a recording contract. I'm quitting the FBI. I don't make shit here and with my business associates I would. I could keep you in fur and diamonds." Said Max.

"Oh, my goodness. Well if you want too. When I can I meet them?" She asked.

"That would mean if I want it you give it 24/7." Said Max.

"For fur and diamonds I'd stay naked 24/7." Said Rusty.

"You sure she knows what she's doing?" Asked Joe.

"Yeah that's a play." said Frank. "You know that but it would be kind of fun to see that don't you think?" Frank was joking.

"If I was in a better mood I could get a mental image of that. Better not though." Said Joe. "She will just say anything to get what she wants."

"That's Rusty's play Joe." Said Frank. "She knows the game."

"With her looks she's a natural." Said Joe.

"I'll let you go for now Rusty. I'll see you tomorrow night." Said Max. "This is between us."

"Surely." Said Rusty. He grabbed her kissed her and started messing with her again.

"Whoa now big fella, you'll get a slice of Rusty tomorrow." Said Rusty as she got out of the car.

"Ok, but I am planning on it after meeting with my associates." said Max. She got out of the car and they waited for a few minutes. She turned on and off the lights on the porch.

"That's the signal. Want me to wait to take you back?" Asked Frank.

"No, Rusty said she would take me to my car. But thanks. It's been enlightening to say the least." Said Joe getting out of the van. Frank closed the door and Joe walked up the steps over to her door and rang the bell.

"Come on in Handsome." Said Rusty.

"Hi Rusty. Nice place. So you would stay naked 24/7 for diamonds and furs?" He was chiding her.

"Oh Darlin' don't you know diamonds and furs are a girls best friend?" Said Rusty she was countering him.

"I'd be a horney bastard too if you said that to me." Said Joe. "It was a good but dangerous play." "I just bet you would but that would depend on a lot of things Handsome."

"On what?" He asked.

"Whether you could stand all that pain." said Rusty.

"What?" He asked.

"Doing that 24/7 would mean you'd get the bends or cramps in something or other." Said Rusty as she winked at him.

"I'd chance the hazard." Said Joe countering her.

"We going to flirt all night?" She asked.

"Looks like it. Rusty would you settle for cubic zorconia and faux fur?" He asked. "That's about all I can afford." He was countering again."

"Rusty has her pride. I would never accept fake for real. Real is best. Then you don't have to take off the made in china label." Said Rusty. Joe started laughing and so did she.

"Rusty I was kidding I hope you know that. However; I got to know you tonight though Frank. I have to tell you he sung your praises. Told me you busted the Cortez cartel." said Joe.

"Yeah, me and my team." Said Rusty.

"I need to know something though?" Said Joe his face took on a somber tone. He put his hands in his pockets.

"You want to know if I am playing you. The answer to that one Darlin' is no. Never." Said Rusty. She came over to him. She touched his am.

"Ok good. I was afraid after you cooked Max's goose……….."

"No." Said Rusty looking at him in the eyes. "What ever happens between you and me is real and natural." Said Rusty. "I could never play someone I care about or love."

Joe smiled at her. "Your telling the truth. I can tell your eyes change color. From blue to sea blue."

"Yeah and don't give that secret away." Said Rusty.

"I wont. Do you want to work on a game plan for tomorrow night?" Said Joe.

"I think we will have to play that one by ear Darlin'. "Said Rusty.

"Ok then you will have to take me to my car." said Joe.

"Ok, let me get the keys…………."

"I have them." Said Joe jigging them.

"Ok, so you have me right where you want me do you?" She asked. "Minerva's virtue is at stake."

"No, here." Said Joe he tossed her the keys to Minerva. He was joking around with her.

"Oh you are a real………….."

"Yeah what?" He asked.

"You're a real good guy Joe Renato." said Rusty.

"Thanks. I'm proud of you Rusty. Your something special." said Joe.

"I'm glad you think so." said Rusty.

"We'd better get some rest." said Joe. "But this has been an interesting day." Said Joe.

"Ok me and Minerva will take you back to your car. It has been an interesting day." said Rusty.

They pulled along side his car. She parked Minerva and they sat for a few minutes.

"I had a pretty exciting New Years Day." said Joe. "By the way I really Like Minerva."

"She said the feeling is mutual. Me too. If I run into trouble I'll call you." said Rusty.

"I'd appreciate that now that you are on my team. I'll see you tomorrow to coordinate." said Joe. "I'm going to have to call in my other agents on this. I don't want to leave them out for long ok?"

"Ok I think we had better go ahead and at least let them know, Good Night Joe." She said.

"Good Night Rusty." Said Joe. There was a short pause like something was supposed to happen but didn't. He smiled at her and she smiled back. Then he got out of the car. Rusty waited till he started his car and then she went on her way.

Joe went back to his apartment. Lou his brother was there back from working at Gino's Restaurant were he was working as a wine steward for the time being. They had plans to make him a chef soon.

"Hi Joe, your really late tonight. By the way Happy New Year." Said Lou sitting up on the couch.

"Yeah, Happy New Year Lou. I got involved in a case with another agent." said Joe.

"Can you tell me about it. Looks serious." Said Lou.

"I can tell you about her." said Joe.

"Oh so it's a dame is it?" He asked smiling at Joe.

"No a lady, this woman is one hot………………"

"Yeah, Yeah come on and spill it Joe." Said Lou.

"She's a red head." said Joe.

"Built?" Asked Lou.

"Like a brick house." said Joe.

"Sounds gorgeous to me." Said Lou. "Blue eyes or green?"

"Blue with a tint of green." Said Joe. "Freckles on the bridge of her nose."

"Does she have a sister?" He asked.

"I don't know I just met her last night." said Joe sitting on the sofa with Lou.

"Find out will ya?" He asked.

"Ok." Said Joe chuckling. "You want to double date do ya?"

"Sure. Your not bangin' her are you?" He asked.

"No, I just met her yesterday. Sheesh Lou, she's a classy lady. I would never…….."

"Yeah and that's what's wrong with you and women." said Lou.

"Na, I'm not bangin her." Then he though and a smiled crossed his face. "Yet that is but that would be up to her."

"That's better. She sounds like a dream." said Lou.

"Almost. She is pretty smart and she's braver than I gave her credit for." Said Joe.

"Where's she from?" Asked Lou.

"Dallas, TX. Her drawl just drips like honey when she talks. Ok that's enough of Rusty." Said Joe.

"So that's her name." Said Lou.

"Yeah, Rusty." said Joe.

"Appropriate name for a spitfire and that's what you just described." Said Lou. "Makes me feel lonely all of a sudden. Hey why don't you bring her by and introduce me to her."

"Yeah right and………..then you put the moves on her. Let's talk about something else."

"No I wouldn't do that and you know it." Said Lou.

"Whatever. "Said Joe turning on the TV.

"Hey if you can't tell your brother…….."

"I know. There's nothing on I'm calling it a night." Said Joe as he got up and went into his bedroom.

"Good night Joe.

"Night Lou."

The next day Joe called a meeting with his agents. They met at the old bar.

"Joe how's Rusty." asked Heather.

"That's why I called everyone here. Max Shelton is playing double agent here." Said Joe.

"How'd you find that out asked Heather. Is Rusty ok?" She asked again.

"Yeah, Rusty's fine and on her way. I just called to see where she was." Said Joe. "Max was trying to kill her because she knows he's working for the Fenelli's. She's in with him though. She was able to come up with a plan to take him down." Said Joe.

"Ok, who is Rusty?" Asked Lily.

"I am." said Rusty as she walked in the bar. "Hey Joe."

"Hi Rusty come on in I'll introduce you. This is Darnell, Lily and Marcy you already know Heather." Said Joe. "Team meet a new member."

"Hi everyone." Said Rusty.

They all said their hello's and Heather came up and hugged her. "I'm glad you and Joe are ok."

"I am too. Good to see you sweetie." Said Rusty returning the hug.

"Anyway. She has a "date" with Max tonight. Max has been making moves on her from the beginning. She is going to play him for information. We have to have evidence he is selling us out." Said Joe.

"Ok what do you want us to do?" Asked Marcy.

"Marcy we need you to help coordinate. Lily you and Darnell shadow him. Heather I guess you and Rusty will have to team up for a little while since you know each other. Me, I'm going to be in a van with Frank. We need eyes on the restaurant tonight. Anything fishy and we pull out." Said Joe. "Do you know where he is taking you yet?"

"No he hasn't called yet." Her cell went off about that time. "Speak of the devil himself."

"Go on and answer it." Said Joe.

"Hi Max. Yeah what time. 7pm at Gino's? Sounds good. I love Italian." She winked at Joe. He smiled. The others didn't understand yet. "Oh, Max please Hon don't start here on the phone. Yeah we can do that tonight." She was making faces.

"What's he saying to her?" Asked Lily.

"My guess it's not something you say to a lady over the phone." Said Darnell. "Unless you know her and she doesn't mind."

"Max please you are making me blush." Said Rusty she pretended put her finger down her throat. "Max, oh ok go on." She rolled her eyes.

"Now what is going on?" Asked Lily.

"My guess he's being a very nasty boy." Said Joe.

"Ewww." Said Lily. "And she's letting him?"

"What choice does she have?" Asked Joe. "You saw her act like it was miserable."

"Ok Max I'll see you tonight. Bye." Said Rusty.

"Well?" Asked Joe.

"'scuse me while I revisit lunch." Said Rusty. "That boy is nasty. Your right Joe." she shuddered a little.

"Yeah we heard." Said Joe. "Sorry he did that. I know it was miserable listening to him."

"You got that right. He said 7pm at Gino's." said Rusty. "Among other things."

"Ok. Heather can you help Rusty dress for this?" He asked.

"Yeah sure. You want an Updo Rusty?" She asked.

"Yeah. I'm not sure what to wear though." said Rusty.

"Can I offer an opinion here." Asked Joe.

"Yeah, go on." Said Rusty.

"That little black number looked nice the other night." Said Joe.

"So you liked that. Humm, I'll have to remember that Darlin'." Said Rusty.

"Ah, what's going on?" Asked Lily. "I must have missed something?"

"I think we all did." Said Marcy. "Joe's been busy."

"Ok everyone. Rusty and I like each other. We met on New Years Eve. She was made at a club. Heather offered my help to get her out." Said Joe.

"Ok, well that explains a lot. "Said Lily.

"We all need to get back to what we were doing. Rusty and I need to get back to the office. Max will start getting suspicious." said Joe.

"Can I help get you dress Rusty?" Asked Lily.

"Sure. The more the merrier. Anyone else want to help out?" She asked giggling.

"Ok, let's get back to work." Said Joe as he smiled at her and they all disbanded.

Upon returning to work Max called her into his office. When she went in he closed the blinds. Joe could just see it happen. He turned on the bug he had put in there.

"Rusty do you have anything you can sing tonight?" Asked Max.

"Well, I can sing something if that is what they want." Said Rusty.

"Now about what I want." said Max. He came over to her. And embraced her and started kissing her neck.

"This is risky Max." Said Rusty. As he backed her up against the blinds and they moved. Joe got on the phone and called Marty.

"Marty, she's in trouble. Can you go into his office. He's about too……….."

"I'm on my way." Said Marty hanging the phone up. Joe could see the blinds moving again.

"Oh come on Rusty just a little feel after lunch." Said Max. "It would do you good."

"It might but if we get caught here. It's both our asses." Said Rusty.

"Then you………He whispered in her ear what he wanted. Joe barely caught it.

"Hurry up Marty." said Joe. Joe waited with baited breath for Marty to come around the corner with papers for Max to sign.

Marty didn't knock he just came in. "Max I need you too………What's going on?"

"Nothing." Said Max as he let Rusty go.

"Rusty don't you have a case or two to finish?" Asked Marty.

"I do. I'll see you later Max." Said Rusty slipping quickly out of there.

Joe breathed a sigh of relief. She walked on up the hall passing Joe's office making an Ok sign with her fingers. She winked and smiled at him as if to say thanks. He shook his head yes and smiled back.

Heather and Lily met up with Rusty at her house. They drug everything out of her closet. Joe got there as they were attempting to still find her something to wear. Rusty had on a robe over her slip. Heather answered her door.

"How's it coming." Said Joe.

"She can't decide what to wear." Said Heather.

"Women." Said Joe shaking his head.

"How about this one?" Asked Lily.

"Well, ok. But I really don't want to stain that. It's silk and wine is hard to get out." Said Rusty as she was about to step into the dress Joe came around the corner.

"Hey Rusty." Joe stopped dead in his tracks. "Excuse me." Said Joe as he turned around.

"I told you I wasn't shy. But you just scared me into my early 50's and I'm only 40." Said Rusty.

"Your how old?" Asked Joe.

"40. Turned that in October." Said Rusty.

"I thought you were at least 25 or 30. I feel a bit better now." Said Joe. "By the way I like the slip."

"I thought you would. Thanks Lily." She said as Lily zipped her up. She wore a lavender colored silk file dress with spaghetti straps and the front of it went into a cowl like fold. Which exposed some of the mile of cleavage she had. She put her hand on Joe's shoulder. "Now then."

He turned around. Heather had done her hair in an updo and she was ready to go.

"Rusty, you look………he took a breath in and let it out. "You look gorgeous." there was no way he could help not smiling a little.

"Well, thank you Handsome." Said Rusty smiling.

"You ready for this?" Asked Joe.

"Yeah, I'm fine. By the way thanks for getting Marty to come in. He wanted me too……."

"I know what he wanted. That's why I got Marty down there. I bugged his office." Said Joe.

"You are just as crafty as I am Joe Renato." Said Rusty as they left her bedroom.

"I think we are two of a kind eh Rusty?" He asked.

"Yeah, ya think?" She said smiling at him.

He stopped her in the hallway. "Rusty be careful tonight. I well, I have gotten used to having you around. I promise you I'll do what ever I have too to keep you safe."

"I know you will. I'm used to having you around too so you and the team be careful." she said as she tipped his hat into his eyes. Joe tipped it back and smiled.

They all left and Joe waited for Max to pick her up. At 7pm Max got there. She saw him and met him at the door. "You look good enough to…………"

"Thanks." Said Rusty as she closed and locked the door.

"I made reservations at the Hilton for us. We will go there after dinner and your show." Said Max.

"Ok." Said Rusty and she got into his car.

Darnell called Joe with information. "Joe it's Darnell, Lily and I snapped some pictures of him and the Fenelli's together. Exchanging money it looked like." Said Darnell.

"Good, then maybe after Rusty's date we can have him busted. Between the pictures you have and the audio we have it will be enough to nail him. I hope so I'm getting concerned for Rusty." Said Joe.

"Yeah, I'm a little concerned too and I don't know her. Why is she putting herself at such a risk?" Asked Darnell.

"Well, the bastard tried to have her killed that's part of it. The other is she is loyal to the FBI. Third I think she's a little crazy but, not really." Said Joe.

"She seems like a nice woman, really classy. Plus she is beautiful." said Darnell.

"That's a plus alright. Take that film to the lab and you two come and help out surveillance." Said Joe.

"Ok, be there as soon as we get the film developed." Said Darnell. "I couldn't get a digital one."

"That's ok. See you in a while." Said Joe and he hung up. Joe turned to Frank who was listening in on what was going on.

"They just got here." Said Frank.

"He been a really bad boy?" Asked Joe.

"Not very good. He has plans at the Hilton after." said Frank.

"His plans are going to be cut short if I have anything to do with it." Said Joe. "My brother works here. I wonder if it's mafia owned."

"Max said that the Fenelli's owned it." said Frank.

"Damn then I have to get him to quit. That's not going to be easy. They made him wine steward the other night. Which means………………….."

"If things get messy he can get Rusty out." Said Frank.

"Yeah he would do it. I know he would." Said Joe. They listened as she sang for the Fenelli's.

"She needs a recording contract." said Joe.

"Yeah she does and a band to back her up." Said Frank.

"I know some guys that play various instruments. I should ask her about it." Said Joe.

"Might as well. Might help you with an in sometime." Said Frank.

"Yeah." Said Joe. His cell phone rang about that time. "Yeah it's Joe."

"Joe it's Darnell Lily and I are in place."

"Keep a lookout of the car and the parking lot. We can see a little from this angle. I can just see the back door." Said Joe.

"Their ordering the wine now." Said Frank. Joe listened in and heard his brothers voice.

He rattled off some of the finer wines and champagnes.

"We'll have some champagne." Said Max. Rusty looked at the wine steward and smiled. Something about him was vaguely familiar but she couldn't put her finger on it.

"Max how about a Merlot instead?" She asked.

"Whatever you want Rusty." said Max smiling at her and holding her hand.

Lou looked at her and wondered if this was Joe's redhead. He had made the assumption from the description Joe had given him the night before.

"The lady has a lot of class. I'll bring the best we have." Said Lou smiling at her he took the wine list from her and left to go and get a bottle.

"Now to business." Said Aldo Fenelli the oldest brother.

"Yes. To business." said Max. "Since you like Rusty's voice and she wants a recording contract could she start singing at one of your clubs?"

"I don't see why not. She is quitting the FBI?" Asked Tomas' the younger brother.

"Yes. I'm tired of not getting anywhere. I would like a better life for myself. Max here promised me diamonds and furs." Said Rusty.

"And you shall have them senorina. In exchange for your lovely talented voice. You sing like an angel." Said Tomas'.

"I think Max is going to have competition for Rusty." Said Frank.

"Sounds like it." Said Joe. "What am I saying we are getting her out as soon as we can." Joe's cell rang again.

"Joe you had better look at what's going on out here. Someone is messing around with Max's car." Said Darnell.

"I'll be right there." said Joe as he climbed out of the van. He went up a little and saw the three men he had seen coming after Rusty working on the car wiring it for something. Then he saw the red digital timer. Joe's eyes grew large and he went back to the van.

"I think they are wiring Max's car to blow. From the looks of it that it might be C-4." Said Joe. "We have to pull the plug on this now."

"We haven't enough to bust them." Said Frank.

"Record as long as you can. I'm going to talk to my brother about getting Rusty out." Said Joe.

"Ok, I'll record everything." said Frank as he went back to listening.

Joe went to the back door. And as luck had it Lou came and answered it.

"Joe what's up?" Asked Lou.

"You know that Fenelli party you have back there?" He asked.

"Yeah, so what?" He asked he had Rusty's bottle of Merlot in his hand.

"You know the redhead I told you about?" Asked Joe.

"Oh so that is your Rusty?" He asked. "Your right she's built like a……….."

"I don't have time to talk, you have to get her out. Lou this place is Mafia." Said Joe.

"What? I thought it was legit." said Lou.

"No, so when you get Rusty out, get yourself out too your working on a parole violation. There is a van waiting over there. Both of you come and get in." Said Joe.

"Ok so how am I supposed to get her out?" Asked Lou.

"Think of something man she's in danger." Said Joe.

"Ok I will." Said Lou. "See you in a few."

"Ok thanks bro." Said Joe and he went back to the van.

"Max just spilled everything. That's why they are getting rid of him. He is a loose cannon for both sides." Said Frank. "So did you get a hold of your bother?"

"Yeah and he is working on getting Rusty out." said Joe.

"Here is the Merlot you ordered." said Lou. He opened it poured some for Max to taste. Max nodded yes and he went over to Rusty and started to pour the wine in her glass. Then he came up with a plan to get her out. He spilled some wine on her dress.

"Oh I'm sorry Miss. Forgive me." Said Lou.

"It's ok but this is going to stain." said Rusty looking at him again. Then Bingo she had it were she knew him from. He had the same brilliant smile as Joe. She knew he had a brother.

"Come with me and I'll get some club soda to help with the stain." Said Lou.

"Ok. Max I have a small problem here." Said Rusty.

"I see that. Go with the idiot." Said Max. "Come back fast though."

"I will." Said Rusty as she got up from the table.

"Oh that isn't going to go well with Lou." Said Joe starting to sweat.

Rusty saw that Lou was about to say something. "Quickly, this is going to set." she said pulling on his arm.

"Ok, Miss come on with me." Said Lou backing down.

"Rusty, Rusty, Rusty. I could kiss you. 45 years I've known him and I never got him to back down." Said Joe.

"So why haven't you?" Asked Frank. "She's interested in you."

"Frank I just met her. You and Lou………I swear." said Joe.

"Ok man, but heck I would." Said Frank.

"Ok, Ok." said Joe.

Lou walked out with Rusty to the linen pantry. He ducked in.

"I think I know who you are." Said Rusty.

"I'm Lou Renato, Joe's brother." Said Lou.

"Pleased to meet you, so what's up?" She asked. They shook hands.

"Something is going down here. Joe wants you out." said Lou. "Pleasure is mine believe me." "The smile gave it away." Said Rusty.

"Yeah other than that we don't look a thing alike. We aren't even alike."

"I wouldn't say that. You give off the same good vibes. So don't think you are not alike in some ways." Said Rusty. Joe was listening to that. He smiled.

"We both have to get outta here." Said Lou. He looked out of the pantry. "The coast looks clear by the way, sorry about the dress."

"It's ok. Let's get the hell out of here Lou." Said Rusty she grabbed his hand and he lead her out into the kitchen and out the back door.

"Joe said you were gorgeous. But he didn't come close to describing you." said Lou.

"Thanks, He told me about you too. Don't worry I believe in second chances Lou. For everyone." said Rusty.

"Oh so you know about that? He said you were smart and classy too he didn't lie there." Said Lou he still had a hold of her hand.

"Yeah? He said that? It doesn't matter to me." Said Rusty. "We all have crosses to bear."

Joe was listening to this. It wasn't being recorded. "Yeah so you weren't going to put the moves on her." Said Joe.

"He's just small talking Joe." Said Frank.

"Yeah, I know what he's doing." said Joe rolling his eyes. They got to the van and knocked. Joe opened up the door. Lou still had Rusty's hand. Upon seeing Joe's pissed face Lou dropped her hand.

"Well here she is." Said Lou.

"I see that. Now get in we have to get outta here before that car blows." Said Joe. Frank stopped the tape they had enough to hang him but the mic was still on. Joe helped her in. Lou climbed in after her.

"Where did Rusty go?" Asked Max. He was looking for her.

"Shit we have to get out of here now." Said Joe as Frank jumped into the drivers seat. Rusty and Lou scrambled for a seat. Joe pulled her over on his lap and they went on. She didn't have time to climb to the front seat.

"My goodness Handsome what's got into you?" She asked. Getting a hold around his neck with her arms. He got a firm hold on her.

"Nothing. I'll tell you later." Said Joe looking at Lou almost with daggers.

"Now, Now that's your brother Joe. He didn't do anything improper." said Rusty looking at him. "So come on Darlin' lighten up." About that time the car blew. Frank stopped. Joe, Lou and Rusty looked out the back window at the blast.

"Lily and Darnell?" Asked Frank.

"They already left they are ok." said Joe.

"So that's why you got me outta there." Said Rusty. "Thanks Handsome." Joe looked at her and before he could say anything she kissed him quickly on the lips.

"Ok what was that for?" He asked Joe was a little taken aback but pleased he was smiling when she quit.

"I think she was thanking you. Ah, Rusty if you want to thank me you can later but I'm settling for a handshake." Said Lou. She reached grabbed Lou's shirt and kissed his cheek.

"That's not enough." Said Rusty. "Now you boys say your sorrys and get with the program ok? Your brothers and that should never keep you from getting along."

"But Rusty…………." Said Joe.

"But Rusty nothing Handsome. I don't have siblings and I don't know what happened to get you two where you two are right now but if I'm going to be around your going to have to settle this." Said Rusty.

"Ok Joe. Whaddaya say. The lady is right." Said Lou. Rusty was still sitting on Joe's lap.

"Yeah she's right Lou." Said Joe as he put out his hand for his brother. They met half way that night because Rusty had demanded it. They shook hands.

"You know you are worse than Ma is?" Joe said to Rusty.

"Oh I think she's a lot worse." Said Lou. "I think Ma would like her."

"Yeah I do too." Said Joe glancing over at Lou.

"Ok guys so is he dead?" Asked Frank.

"Looks like but I want a CSI team all over that crime scene. Pronto." Said Joe.

The Fenelli's vanished but the CSI team came in and took evidence from the car. It would be into the next day before they knew if Max was in the car.

Rusty was working on her paper work for the sting. Joe came and knocked on her door.

"Hey there Handsome." Said Rusty looking up from her paperwork.

"How's it coming?" He asked. He came on in and sat in front of her in a chair.

"Ok, I guess. Since we don't know if Max made it out or not I'm kinda worried." Said Rusty.

"Yeah, I know what you mean. I was going to ask you how you got Lou to back down from Max?"

"I just asked him to come on and get something for the stain from the wine he spilled on me. That's all I did." Said Rusty.

"I've never got him to back down in all the years I've known him." Said Joe.

"You're his brother that's why. For what ever reason you hit his rebellious side." Said Rusty. "I think he resents some of the things you do. But take heart in the fact that the other night you both met in the middle." Said Rusty.

"You busted heads that night." Said Joe. "I have to hand it to you Rusty, it's been a lot better between us. Thanks Honey I appreciate it."

"Ok when did I become Honey?" She asked raising her eyebrow.

"It's no secrete Rusty we like each other. I know it's not been a long time but, well I think there's something here."

"Chemistry." Said Rusty.

"Yeah you could call it that." Said Joe. "Do you want your own team?"

"Well, yes and no." said Rusty. "I really enjoy working with you and your team."

"I feel like your wasting your talents if you don't get your own team though." Said Joe.

"How would you feel having me on the team for a while. Just until I decide." She asked.

"I'm fine with it. But I don't want you to hold yourself back." said Joe. "Or me hold you back either."

"I'm not. I think I need to get acclimated first having Max for a handler was giving me a complex." Said Rusty.

"So for now you are with us." Said Joe he smiled at her.

"Yeah, for now." said Rusty.

"You ever think about having a band to back you up?" Joe asked.

"I had one in Dallas." Said Rusty.

"Oh you did? Well, I know some guys………………"

They talked about making a band for her. She was agreeable to meet the guys he knew that played instruments. Rusty came around the corner to Joe's office and knocked on his door this time.

"Have they got the DNA test back?" She asked.

"Not yet I just called." Said Joe.

"I have to go and run an errand I thought I had better clear that with my boss man first." Said Rusty.

"It's ok with me. I wish I had time to go with you just to get out of here." Said Joe.

"You looked snowed under to me." Said Rusty as she came over to his desk and sat at it's edge on the inside where the chair was and crossed her legs. "Is there anything here I can help you with?"

"Rusty, you might…….ah no not at the moment." said Joe being careful of what his mind was thinking and his mouth was saying. "I'm waiting on that call from the crime lab. Maybe we can catch some lunch."

"If your sure now." She asked and winked. "That would be fine Handsome." Said Rusty smiling at him.

"I wish I was sure Gorgeous." Said Joe. She smiled widely at him.

"So now I'm Gorgeous." She said slyly.

"Since I'm Handsome I thought it was appropriate." Said Joe.

"You're a mess Joe Renato." said Rusty pushing his arm.

"Wait till you know me better you'll be using four letter words then." Said Joe.

"I might but It's high unlikely." said Rusty. "I had better go and get what I need to do done." Said Rusty.

"Just be careful and I'll see you in a little while then." Said Joe getting up and walking her the short distance to the door.

"Ok. See ya later." Said Rusty as she walked on down the hall. Joe stood there and watched her move down the hall. Then sat down and started his paperwork again. He smiled to himself and went back to work.

Not 10 minutes after she left the phone in his office rang.

"Yeah" He answered.

"This is the crime lab. The DNA did not match Max Shelton's. It matches the DNA of a missing valet from the restaurant." said the CSI.

"Thanks. Bye." Said Joe. He thought for just a moment more he put two and two together quickly. Then he got up and lit out of his office. He went by Darnell's office but he was out in the field. Heather sat at her desk.

"Heather come with me quick." said Joe. "I don't have time to explain."

"Ok, I'm on your heels." Said Heather as they ran to the elevator.

"The DNA didn't match Max's. Rusty is in deep shit I know it." Said Joe.

Meanwhile down in the parking garage Rusty got in her car. She had put the top up because it had rained a little that morning. She was in a hurry and that part of the parking garage was a secure area meant for only Handlers and their teams. Before she could start the car but had put in the key and started to turn it a pair of brown eyes met hers in the rear view mirror. She gasped but it was the last breath she was allowed to take in. Max was in her back seat he had a short length of nylon rope and had fashioned it to pull. And pull he did.

"So you thought you could play me. Who's in this with you? Is it Marty and Joe Renato?" He asked. Then he let it loose enough for her to say but she wasn't talking. "Bitch tell me." Said Max angrily. He tighten up the rope again but before he took her to unconsciousness she hit the panic button on her car. She had equipped the 1966 T-bird with an alarm system. It started going off bringing people to come and look that were coming and going from the garage.

"Where is the switch? Turn it off!" Said Max.

Rusty shook her head and coughed. "NO." That was the last thing she remembered. The choking had finally taken her into unconsciousness.

Max drug her out of the car and was attempting to drag her to a waiting one but about that time Joe came down stairs and hit lockdown. The doors were closing on Max so he dropped her to the ground and ran out before the door shut.

"Shit we lost him." Said Joe. "Rusty!" Joe yelled looking for her car.

"She's right over there." Said Heather as they ran over to see about her. She was still out of it.

"Rusty, come on." said Joe patting her face a little. He got down to see if she was breathing.

"Joe is she……?"

"No she's not dead and she's breathing. Go and hit lock down reset."

She went to do just that.

"Now get me that first aide kit in my car. Hurry up." said Joe pitching her the keys.

"Is it in your trunk?" She asked. Joe got down on the ground and brought her up on his chest.

"Yeah. Come on. I need the smelling salts in there." Said Joe.

"Hold on Honey." said Joe.

Heather found the first aid kit and broke it open. She handed Joe the smelling salts he broke it and stuck it under her nose. She came too right away. But coughing in fits.

"Atta girl. That's good Rusty come on." Said Joe. Rusty looked at him and it was like she didn't know him she started to fight him.

"Whoa Rusty it's me Joe. Stop it!" said Joe.

"Rusty it's Heather. Stop." Said Heather. She looked like a wild frightened animal for a few seconds and stopped fighting them.

"That's better. Jesus Rusty, I'm not going to hurt you." said Joe.

Rusty tried to talk but couldn't. "Don't try that right now. You need to go to the hospital." Said Joe.

Rusty nodded no.

"I don't think you are going to get a say in this. You were out of it when we found you."

Heather had stopped her car alarm too. So that stopped blaring.

Marty had heard lockdown and went down to the parking garage gun drawn. He saw Joe and Heather near Rusty's car. He came over.

"What happened?" Asked Marty putting his gun away.

"Max tried to kill Rusty again. This time with a rope." Said Joe. Heather handed the rope to Marty.

"Is she ok?" Asked Marty coming over and checking.

"Yeah, I think so. Miss Stubborn doesn't want to go to the hospital to get checked out though." Said Joe.

Rusty was still coughing and choking.

"Well, this time she is going." Said Marty.

"I'll take care of securing her car." Said Heather.

"Ok." Said Joe as he picked her up with Marty's help. They put her in Joe's car that was on the other side of hers. Joe pitched Marty the keys and sat in the back with Rusty.

"It'll be ok Rusty." said Joe looking down at her. She sat up a little and really couldn't.

"Just stay still. Here." said Joe bringing her up against his chest. "Is that better?"

She nodded yes and coughed again.

"We'll be at Rampart in a minute." said Marty. "Better keep her awake Joe."

"Rusty, come on don't go to sleep on me." Said Joe as she was falling off to sleep.

Joe patted her face a little. "Rusty Don't go to sleep." Said Joe as he brushed the hair from her face.

She looked up at him and tried to nod yes. She managed but it hurt. They got to Rampart Hospital and Marty parked the car in the emergency drive. She tried to get up on her own but failed.

"Rusty, no just let us get you out." Said Joe as Marty got a hold of her and stood her up leaning against him.

"Rusty just let us get you inside." said Marty. "She is stubborn."

"The Scot in her I guess." Said Joe. "Here I have her now."

The hospital staff come out with a gurney about that time. Joe laid her on it.

"What happened to her?" Asked the nurse as they went inside.

"She was choked while being mugged." said Marty.

"You her father?" Asked the nurse.

"No, I'm her………"

"Uncle." Said Joe.

"And you are her husband?" Asked the nurse. Addressing Joe.

"Yes." Said Marty getting him back for the uncle thing. Joe looked at him and agreed with the assumption.

"She doesn't have family here Joe. There's no one to look out for her." Said Marty. "So we will."

"Yeah, Ok. Since she doesn't." said Joe. "What a scenario." They took Rusty into a waiting area and did triage.

"We need her name and information." Said the nurse handing Joe the documents.

"Ok. Can I stay with her?" He asked.

"Yes they will be examining her in a few minutes. Just fill out the paperwork." said the nurse looking at Rusty. She coughed again.

"Rusty don't try to talk just let your Uncle Marty and I take care of everything ok Honey?" He asked.

Rusty looked at him like he had lost his mind.

"We haven't been married but a few days. Someone pinched her wedding ring." said Joe.

"That's a shame." said the nurse.

"Yeah but I'm glad she is still alive. I found her like this when I was coming out of the house." Said Joe.

"So did she know who did it?" Asked the nurse.

"No. we already talked to the police." said Joe.

"Ok I'll help you with that. I know this is a bad time to try and do paper work." Said the nurse.

"Ok her name? Birthday and SSN." Said the nurse.

"Rusty Renato." said Marty. Joe looked at him and so did Rusty. Joe looked over at Rusty and gave her the go along with it sign. She agreed and laid her head down again.

"Birthday." Said the nurse.

"October…….." Rusty held up three fingers. "October 3, 1963."

"SSN?"

"I'll have to get you that information, I don't know it off the top of my head……….

They went on like that halfway making up her life. If Rusty could have killed both of them right then she would have. But she just went along with it. Heather got there after securing Minerva.

"Rusty you ok?" Asked Heather. Rusty nodded. "Minerva is fine she is with friends.

"That your daughter?" Asked the nurse.

Joe just smiled and shook his head. "Yeah she's our baby." Rusty almost lost it. If she hadn't been unable to speak she would have killed them and eaten them. They took Rusty in and Joe left when they examined her. Heather stayed. She asked Heather to get closer.

"Marty married me and Joe just a few minutes ago." Said Rusty in a faint whisper.

"So your Rusty Renato?" She asked.

"Yeah for whatever reason." Rusty sounded mad.

"Why are you mad? Joe was only trying to help you they know you don't have family here." said Heather. "Listen I didn't mean to make you mad either."

"Yeah, I know I'm sorry." She said. "I know I shouldn't be mad." She began a coughing fit again. The doctor gave her something for pain and a breathing treatment then admitted her for the night pending her coughing fits stopped.

"We will bring in a cot for you if you would like Mr. Renato." said the nurse.

"The recliner is ok. Her sister Heather might stay instead I need to get back to our daughter." Said Joe.

"Ok then I'll stay." said Heather. She knew Joe didn't want to have too since Rusty might need the help of Heather to get up to the bathroom and things.

"I'll be happy to stay." said Heather.

A day later Rusty was up and taking a shower. Heather had stayed to help her do that.

"I want to do as much as I can on my own ok?" She whispered.

"Ok but I am right outside the door if you need me." Said Heather. Rusty nodded and went into the bathroom. It was the first time she had, had to herself to think about what had happened to her. She knew she had to hide what she really felt but all too soon that would unravel. She got in and got the water going. Rusty was a strong woman but she had never come that close to death. She cried softly as the hot water ran over her. She did her best to get it out in privacy. For she knew she would have any for a while. She knew it was going to be hard to hide this from Joe. He knew almost everything she thought and she him. But she was determined to come to terms without anyone's help even his.

Heather believed that she was taking too long. Rusty had finished her shower but was grieving longer than she anticipated. Heather decided to come in on her to check.

"Rusty you ok in here?" Asked Heather. She heard the faint sound of crying. She pulled the curtain back a little.

"Forgive me but………Rusty what is it?" She asked. She knew she had been crying.

Rusty stopped and turned her head away from Heather.

"Oh Rusty." said Heather and she stopped the water and handed her a towel.

"Please Heather………Don't tell Joe." Said Rusty in the same whisper.

"Oh Rusty let him help you. I don't know how this feels but know this I care about you and I know Joe does very much. I wish you could have seen him when we found you He did everything he could to help you but his eyes were scared to death." Said Heather. "He was afraid Max had killed you."

"Please………I'm begging you don't tell him." Said Rusty.

"Alright but you go and see someone on your own. Don't try to handle this yourself. I'm asking this as your friend not another agent. Really Joe could find………."

"No, please this happened to me Heather. I'm the only one that can take care of it." said Rusty.

"Ok but if things get bad………"

"Then you tell him but not before. Please." Said Rusty as they got her dried and a new hospital gown on her.

"Ok that I will agree too." said Heather.

"I love ya gal." Said Rusty.

"I love you too Rusty." said Heather.

Two days later they released Rusty by now she was in full denial of what happed to her. Joe took her back to the house she rented.

"It'll be a few days until you go back to work." Said Joe as they walked in her door. "You know I like this house. It's got a really nice front porch."

"That's why I rented it. And it faces East. I love to sit and drink coffee in the morning on it." said Rusty as they went inside.

"Rusty I hope you didn't mind me taking the part of your husband. Marty insisted after I made him your uncle." Said Joe.

"No I didn't mind. It was nice having such gentlemen as faux family." Said Rusty "Please have a seat and I'll get you some ice tea."

"I really shouldn't stay." said Joe.

"Oh please after all that at the hospital. It's ok." Said Rusty.

"Well if you insist. How are you feeling?" asked Joe.

"I'm ok. I still have the ligature marks." She felt of her neck. "Anyone found that boy yet?" She asked.

"No, I'm putting in a call to a friend of mine in Vegas. She…………."

"She?" Asked Rusty.

"She's an informant." said Joe. "Not my girl."

"Ok just as long as we know where we are here." Said Rusty.

"Elaina helps us." said Rusty.

"I understand. I have Mitch remember. He's married with kids but he still looks out." Said Rusty.

"Anyway Elaina is a Russian Madam. She might know Max." Said Joe. "I get the feeling she will know where he is."

"That's good. I don't want to have anyone call you in the middle of the night and say…….."

"Me either. That was one of the most scary situations I have ever seen. I was afraid Marty and I would have to do CPR there for a minute." Said Joe as he finally sat down on her couch. Rusty handed him some tea.

"This is Green tea good for the soul." Said Rusty.

"Ok I'll try it." said Joe as he took a sip. "Yeah it's good."

"I drink it when I'm sick or need a boost." Said Rusty.

"I could use one of those after the last few days." Said Joe. He liked the tea and took a few swigs of it.

They talked for a while and Joe finally left.

"I'll call you tomorrow. See how you are. If you need me then………"

"I'll call." said Rusty.

"See ya Gorgeous." said Joe leavening out the door.

"You bet handsome. Said Rusty. He stopped just short of the curb "Why was he leaving so soon." he thought. Then he turned around and went back up to the porch steps.

"You wanna play cards. It's really still early yet?" He asked.

"Sure." Said Rusty.

"How about poker?" He asked.

"Na." she said.

"Gin?" He asked.

"No I'm not too good at that ." said Rusty.

"So what do you want to play then?" He asked.

"How about Hearts." She said smiling slyly.

Joe chuckled, smiled and went up on the porch to her. She was standing out side the door. He put his arms around her.

"My goodness Joe what's………"

"Something is missing here. Something from the beginning." He said.

"Yeah I know." said Rusty. "It's ok Joe."

"I didn't want to mess things up starting this too soon." He said looking at her.

"It's not too soon. We have worked well together from the beginning. We have plenty of time now to explore what could be. But for now…………."

"So it's ok with you?" He asked.

"It has been since the beginning but you weren't picking up what I was trying to tell you." Said Rusty.

"I was but I wasn't sure if I should. I didn't want things to progress too soon. Can you understand that?" He asked.

"Yeah, I understand. I was beginning to wonder if you wanted……."

"Never doubt that ok? That's one thing you will never have to worry about with me." Before she could say anything else he took his hand and brought her lips to his. She put her arms around his neck and a passionate kiss ensued. A few minutes later he stopped.

"So how was that?" He asked.

Rusty smiled and arched her eyebrow. "You have been holding out on me. Whew, that was some kiss." Said Rusty as they held the embrace.

"It was some kiss." Said Joe smiling at her. She broke the embrace and opened the door. Then went inside. She got a hold of his shirt and pulled him inside.

"Am I staying?" He asked.

"You might if you play your cards right." Said Rusty purring.

"You just purred. You never did that before." Said Joe.

"That's what you get for kissing me. I only purr when I'm happy and content."

"I'll have to try and keep you that way." said Joe as they got another embrace going.

"Come on Handsome let's go get the deck." She said.

"You want to still play cards?" He asked. "At a time like this."

"Sure. You kissed me. The spell is broken but a new one is going to take it's place mighty soon." Said Rusty.

"Humm, well ok. If you insist. I guess this thing has to run it's course." said Joe she handed him the cards and he began to shuffle them.

"In due time Darlin'." said Rusty. "Want a beer?"

"Thanks." said Joe shuffling the cards.

"Are we playing for money or just to be playing?" She asked putting the beer on the kitchen table.

"Humm, I'll let you know later ok?" He asked he was half way chuckling.

"Joseph Renato you are a very bad boy yourself." said Rusty.

"I could be…………….."They both laughed. Fade to black.