The Handler and it's characters are not mine. They belong to CBS and are from the Series The Handler.

It was the middle of the night early on Saturday morning when Rusty's cell phone went off. She rolled over and answered it.

"Yeah this is Rusty." She said sleepily.

"Honey, It's Joe. I'm sorry to get you up in the middle of the night like this but we have a major problem brewing." Said Joe.

Rusty looked groggily at the clock that read 3am. She yawned and ran her fingers though her red locks.

"It's ok Handsome, what's up?" She asked rolling to her back.

"I shouldn't go over it on the phone. I'm going to come on home." Joe asked.

"Sure, come on home Darlin'. How far away are you?" She asked pitching off the covers and sitting on the edge of the bed. Just then two headlights flashed in the window from the driveway.

"I'm already here Honey." said Joe .

"Ok see you in a minute." Said Rusty.

He hung up and she quickly put her cell phone down. She went to the front door of the house she and Joe were renting and switched on the porch light then off then on again. That was the all clear signal they had devised.

Joe wearily walked up the steps and on to the porch. Rusty was waiting at the open door with her night gown on. Joe was on assignment and had been for a week or so. So this was a surprise to say the least for Rusty. He took one look at her and smiled a very tired smile. He was dressed in a suit and tie. The tie hung around his neck untied his shirt unbuttoned one button. She opened the screen door and he walked right into her arms.

"My goodness Joe something really bad must have happened for you to have needed to call me." She said as she hugged him.

"Yeah, really bad." Said Joe. "You are a sight for sore eyes Gorgeous." He let up on the tight hold he had on her too look at her face. Then he gave her a kiss like he hadn't seen her in years.

"Humm, Handsome I've not been missed so much in my life. So what's this bear hug and the tonsil cleaning all about? Not that I'm complaining." She asked after he had finished kissing her. As he let her go but not of her hand. He closed and locked the front door.

"Remember I was sent to secure Anton Cormov the singer's testimony so that witness protection could take over?" He asked as they sat down on her couch.

"Yeah, and it looks like it didn't go down well." Said Rusty's intuition kicking in.

"That's an understatement Honey." Said Joe. "When I got there tonight he was dead in his penthouse an apparent drug overdose. The needle still in his arm."

"Shit." said Rusty. "Did you get outta there without anyone seeing you?"

"Yeah I believe so. I've been driving for two hours making sure no one followed me. He got up and turned the light off on the end table and looked carefully out the window. Nothing. He turned on the light again.

"Ok, so you think it's alright now?" She asked.

"Yeah if there was anyone following me they aren't now." Said Joe. He sat back down and ran his hands though his hair and face. "I called Marty from the scene. He told me he would take care of it and I was to get outta there. I told him I was going home."

" I'm glad you think of it as your home. I bet you could use some coffee." said Rusty getting up and going into the kitchen. He followed her.

"I have for a while now Honey. Some of your strong coffee would be appreciated. I know you and the band are ready to play gigs together now since Sardoni. You up for that again?" He asked.

"Yeah, So you are going to need us again right?" She asked.

"I'm afraid so Honey, I'll need you and the band tomorrow." Said Joe.

"Your talking tired talk Darlin'. Your not making much sense here." Said Rusty. She started making the coffee.

Joe yawned. "Yeah I know I'm sorry. But it's good to see you. I've missed you Rusty." Said Joe as she finished making coffee and he pulled her into another hug.

"I've missed you something awful too Darlin'." Said Rusty as she patted his back then pulled away a bit to look at him.

"I'm not sure what to do right now. I'm so tired I can't think." Said Joe.

"Then don't." Said Rusty. "Just let me get you some coffee and we will sit a while." Said Rusty.

She got down two mugs and poured the coffee and handed him one of them.

"Thanks Honey. I knew I could count on you." said Joe sipping it. "Good as always."

"Thanks. You know you can always count on me. Have you eaten?" She asked.

"No but I'm not hungry." said Joe.

"Ya sure I'll make you something." Said Rusty going for the fridge.

Joe caught her hand. "Maybe later." Said Joe as they walked back to the couch.

"I'm sorry to have to pull you into this mess with me but, you have talent for the singing and music part of this. Plus, you have a way of extracting information like I couldn't. I think someone inside Allegra Records offed Cormov tonight. I don't think the man did drugs." said Joe sipping more coffee.

"What ever you need me to do Darlin'. You know that. Thanks for the compliment." Said Rusty.

Joe sat back and started relaxing.

"I really shouldn't sleep. I need to brief you." Said Joe.

"You can do that in the later am Darlin'. Maybe a little sleep will help you think things out." Said Rusty as Joe started to doze off. He caught himself and jerked awake.

"Joe just relax. Give me the coat." Said Rusty as he took off his suite coat. She went to hang it on the coat rack on a hanger. When she went to do that and on returning Joe was asleep on the couch. She didn't have the heart to wake him to have him come to bed. She carefully got his shoes off and swung his feet on to the other end of the couch. Then she got the pillow that was on the other end and carefully put it under his head and covered him with the crocheted afghan. He settled comfortably in on the leather couch turning on his side. She touched his hair and smiled.

"Good night Darlin'. She whispered.

"Good Night Honey." Said Joe almost unintelligibly. She slipped off back into their bedroom and got into bed .

Rusty got up the next morning putting on her robe. She went out to check on Joe. He was still asleep. She looked at the clock on the kitchen wall. 11am is what it said. She heard him stirring in the living room. Rusty threw out the coffee she had made the night before. It was cold she had turned off the coffee pot upon going to back to bed. So she started another pot. Joe looked around then he knew where he was. He slid upright yawning. Then he heard her in the kitchen so he got up and went into see what she was doing.

"Good Morning Gorgeous." Said Joe smiling in a little better mood than he had been last night. He came over to her and put his arms around her.

"Good Morning Handsome. How'd ya sleep?" She asked.

"Really good. But I wish you had woke me up to go to bed." Said Joe.

"I didn't have the heart Darlin'. You look a might better than last night or shall I say early in this am." Said Rusty she gave him a hug and a kiss.

Joe hadn't let that smile leave his face.

"Thank you for last night Rusty. It's good to know I have someone to count on." Said Joe.

"Oh Darlin' I didn't do anything really. I just helped you outta that tree you got stuck in." Said Rusty they were still in an embrace.

"Yes you did. I love you Rusty." Said Joe.

"I love you too Handsome. I owe you a lot my sweet Darlin'. You got me help when I needed it after the Max incident. You picked up on it almost from it's beginning. You went the extra mile for me and I'm grateful." Said Rusty.

"That's what happens when you care about someone. That's the way it's supposed to be." Said Joe.

"You sure about that Darlin'." Asked Rusty.

"Yep. So ya made more coffee?" He asked as the last of it dripped into the pot.

"Yeah, I turned the other off." Said Rusty. "Your going to have to let me go in order for me to get you some."

"Yeah, I know." Said Joe pulling her close again.

"My goodness Joe Renato what has gotten into you?" She asked.

"I just realized something about all this." Said Joe.

"What's that?" She asked.

"That my instincts were right." Said Joe.

"Told ya." Said Rusty as he let her go finally. "You hungry?"

"Yeah, as a horse." Said Joe. "You going to be up to making a demo tape this afternoon with the boys in the band?"

"Sure what's your take?" She asked getting out some eggs and bacon.

"Cormov was killed because of what he knew. You know he came here 10 years ago for asylum." Said Joe.

"Yeah, He came here because the Russian Mob was after him to join them. Didn't they kill his parents as a veiled threat to make him join?" Asked Rusty. "You cooking this or am I?" She asked.

"You have been looking though the files on my desk again haven't you?" asked Joe smirking a smile at her.

"Well you seem to go though mine the same way." Said Rusty. Rusty looked at Joe. "I guess we are cooking breakfast."

"That's what they did. Yeah we are cooking breakfast." Said Joe. "That's your way of watching my back, because if it is I'm doing the same thing with you."

"Ya think?" She giggled.

"I think so." Said Joe. "He had turned informant in exchange for witness protection."

"That I didn't know." Said Rusty.

"He was part of a really popular singing group in Russia in the late 80's early 90's. When the wall fell in '89 the Russian Mob was trying to get into music piracy. They wanted his help in securing tapes for them." Said Joe. "Or at least that is what Elaina told me." Said Joe.

"How is she anyway?" Asked Rusty.

"Ok I guess." Said Joe. "I hope you don't think…….."

"No, I know. Who's bed do you sleep in? She and I talked. In other circumstances we could be friends." Said Rusty. "It's ok I know she is your informant."

"Glad you understand that." Said Joe. She was frying the bacon up and he was scrambling the eggs.

"You were playing his manager weren't you?" She asked.

"Yeah and I don't know if my cover has been blown. I did mention that I had other talent." Said Joe cutting her a grin.

"I guess I'm the other talent?" She asked.

"That you are. Looks like you are going to get a contract whether you like it or not." Said Joe smirking a knowing smile at her.

"Oh, I know it isn't real Joe. I don't want one you know that. I'm happy where I am." Said Rusty smirking one back at him.

"I feel like you are wasting that beautiful voice of yours. That's why I helped you get the band together really. I was hoping you would see that." Said Joe.

"Joe, my Darlin', what have I told you?" She asked putting the bacon on the plates.

"That you are happy being a Handler." Said Joe almost in monotone.

"Yeah, my voice isn't exactly like it was before Max got though with me." Said Rusty. She ran her hand over the place where he had got her with a rope.

"Your voice hasn't changed at all. No more ok? No use in starting that bad shit up again." Said Joe as he started the eggs and switched places with her.

"Yeah ok, I'm with you on that Handsome." Said Rusty.

They sat down to eat.

"I'm grabbing a shower after breakfast." Said Joe.

"Ok. Would you enjoy company?" asked Rusty.

Joe cut a sly grin. "Yeah, we haven't done that in a long time with our schedules like they have been." Said Joe.

. "This is the first time you didn't take me along with you on an assignment." Said Rusty. "I want you to know for sure you have been missed."

"I think it can be arranged this afternoon. As to why I didn't take you with me. I wanted you to see that you were ready for your own team." Said Joe. "You handle ours so well."

"First I'd heard of it." Said Rusty. "I told you I'm happy………"

"I know but at some point you have to have your own team, Honey." Said Joe.

"Why can't things just stay the same?" She asked as he was shoveling in his portion of the breakfast.

"Because Rusty you are wasting………."

"Yeah ok. Now you need me and I'm here and I don't have a team of my own. What would happen if I did?" She asked.

Joe thought a moment. "Ok so you have me there."

"'nough said then Darlin. My, you are hungry as a wolf." Said Rusty. "I'm not going to take it away from you. Slow down."

"Well ok, but we just cook good together." Said Joe. "Want some more coffee?"

Rusty put her hand over her coffee cup and cut a sly grin of her own. "No I think I would rather……………."

"Yeah I know we haven't had the time for that." Said Joe. "I'm sorry too."

"I've missed that." said Rusty.

"Honey, look you tell me when we have had the time for something like that." Joe said.

"Ok I just thought you might be loosing interest." Said Rusty sheepishly.

Joe shook his head. Smiled and looked at her. "Baby if you only knew."

"I wish I did Joe." said Rusty as they finished breakfast.

She was getting up and about to take the plates to the sink and he stopped her. Took the plates from her and embraced her.

"Now, I'm gonna tell you this one time. Don't worry about it. I'm gonna clear up any reservations you have soon enough. I think after this assignment you and me are gonna find a beach somewhere and….." Rusty interrupted him.

"Humm, better make that a private beach there Darlin'." Said Rusty winking at him.

Joe chuckled. "Rusty you have to quit that reading my mind part. It's already summer. When we take this vacation, you had better go and find a new bathing suit." Said Joe. "I'm making that your choice of what kind."

"I got something in mind already." Said Rusty smiling and then kissing him.

He pulled back a little. "Did I say that we didn't have time for……….."

"You did Darlin'." Said Rusty starting to giggle.

"Maybe I was a little premature on that speculation." Said Joe.

"It was the way I kissed you that made you think twice?" She asked.

"Yeah it was Baby." Said Joe. Things were turning to clearing the table the hard way when his cell phone went off.

"Ah, Damn it!" Said Joe.

"You said it for both of us." Said Rusty as he let her go and she straitened up the beginning of a mess they had started. He got his cell and answered it.

"Yeah, this is Joe." He said with some sarcasm in his voice.

"Anton is dead." Said the man on the other end of his cell. Joe put his hand over the phone.

"It's Pavel." Said Joe. Rusty nodded.

"What's that Pavel?" Asked Joe.

"Anton was found this morning dead in his penthouse." Said Pavel. "They are taking him to the morgue."

"I'll be right down." Said Joe.

"Thanks Joe I will meet you there." Said Pavel.

He slapped shut the phone.

"I'm going to have to ask you to issue another rain check Honey. I'm sorry." Said Joe. He wasn't happy about the situation either.

"It's ok I know you have to go and identify him. You want me to go with you?" She asked.

Joe thought for a moment. "Yeah maybe you should. Then I can introduce you."

After Joe got though with identifying the body he and Pavel were walking down the hall. Pavel Sorokin, a Russian immigrant himself owned Allegra Records. Pavel had been one of Anton's band mates in Russia.

"Joe, you know we will need to replace him and I know that will be hard I'm thinking replace is not the right word but you understand don't you? You said you had other talent didn't you?" He asked.

"Yes. I have one of my clients with me right now. Just so happens she and I are in a relationship." Said Joe. "The red head over there. Her name is Rusty."

Pavel looked at Rusty who smiled at him.

"Lucky man you are Joe. A woman that good looking must be a lot of trouble though." Said Pavel.

"Not really, we have our moment but we still meet half way. She has talent above what prejudice I would have though Pavel or wouldn't offer for you to hear her sing." Said Joe. They walked up to Rusty.

"Rusty this is Pavel Sorokin head of Allegra Records. Pavel this is Rusty Mc Dowell." Said Joe introducing them.

"Good to meet you Rusty." Said Pavel.

"Pleasure is mine." Said Rusty. Pavel was about her own age. He was a handsome, tall, blonde man. When she and Pavel shook hands something happened that she never expected. Something began passing between them. She was trying to blow it off but Joe noticed.

"Joe says you have a voice that I must hear for myself." Said Pavel. By now Joe knew something was going on in Rusty's mind. And probably Pavel's.

"That's up to you sir." Said Rusty.

"Please call me Pavel. Rusty is it." He asked. Joe began to believe that they had forgot he was there.

"Yes." Said Rusty as Joe jerked her back into reality. When eye contact was broken between them it went to normal. Rusty shook her head.

"You ok Rusty?" Asked Joe.

"I just felt a bit off there Handsome." Said Rusty. "We are standing in the morgue waiting area."

"Are you well enough to sing for me later this afternoon?" Asked Pavel. "I must have a headliner and soon. It's going to be hard replacing Anton but, I'm going to have too." Said Pavel. "We were friends for a long time since what you call high school."

"I'm sorry I have two long time friends of my own. I know this must be a hard time for you." Said Rusty. Then the second time she looked at him and made eye contact she saw something different but didn't let on.

"Yes it is." Said Pavel pulling his eyes away from hers. What grief he had he was having to make up as he went she thought.

Meet me at the Allegra Records sound studio at 5pm then." Said Pavel. "Joe I suspect she has a band?"

"Yes she does." Said Joe. "We will be there."

"Good then we shall have dinner." Said Pavel. "See you then." He kissed Rusty's hand again but this time she wasn't too happy about it. She hid the fact that she felt she was on to him.

After he left Joe was ready for her to answer some questions.

"Ok what was that?" He asked. He crossed his arms and looked a bit on the pissed side.

"Joe he is hiding something. The grief he had was a make up as you go. The first time he kissed my hand it was like he was trying to impress a point on me. Like if he wanted me he could have me and at that point the had me who-doed." Said Rusty. "I don't think it's the same thing as Max. No he wanted to possess me. Max just thought he was smart enough too. This guy is another story though. He would possess you body, soul, mind and you would wear the dog collar to match it all."

"That is not what I was getting." Said Joe. They walked outside. She knew he thought she had fallen for him.

"Oh what the hell would I do with a 6 foot Russian with blonde hair. I'd be afraid mostly." Said Rusty. "I like Italians better." She said grabbing his arm and hugging it.

"You sure Adonis didn't as you put it, turn that pretty little red head of yours?" He asked.

"He's pretty Joe that's it. But pretty isn't what pretty does this time Handsome. So get off the jealous pot." Said Rusty.

"Ok, but I saw that look you got." Said Joe.

"For how long did I have it for him?" She asked. "How long have I been looking' back at you like that without hesitation?"

"Ok so you got me again." Said Joe. "I know you love me. It just scared me."

"Don't let it. I'm not into mind control and I think that is what he is good at. Lucky that I have my Handsome steady here to keep me in line." Said Rusty. "Yeah I love you Joe. You should know it. I know you love me."

"Yeah you do and I know it. I think the whole of LA does but I'm not sure about the people that live in the hills." Said Joe chuckling. "I for one……….."

Rusty let his arm go. She crossed hers. Joe looked at her. "Ok, I love you too Rusty. That's no secrete either." Said Joe. "Come on we have to get the boys together."

"I think someone is asking for a spanking." Said Rusty. Joe pulled her along and entwined her arm with his.

"I think you had better catch me first or put your money where that pretty Scottish mouth is." Said Joe.

"Did you get the same feeling from Pavel?" She asked.

"Somewhat but not as strong as you did. One reason I wanted you in on this case. I've come to trust your intuition. You have been right more than wrong in things."

They both went on to find the boys.

Later on at Allegra Records Rusty and her band were playing for Pavel. She chose the song Sleeping Angel. A song Stevie Nicks had sung. Rusty hadn't had time to come up with an original song for him. However; Pavel did see she had talent he decided to record the song. Joe was proud to see her so at ease in the recording booth. It was like she belonged there. In that song there was a message Joe had caught on too.

"That was wonderful Rusty. I can't believe you did that on only two takes." Said Pavel.

"I'm glad you think I'm good enough to record." Said Rusty. "Thanks."

"I'm glad Joe brought you by. Do you have anything else prepared?" Asked Pavel. "We can work out the copyright on this later."

"Sure, boys let's do Sweet Child of Mine. The Sheryl Crow version." Said Rusty as she picked up her Guitar and got on the stool.

"That sounds good." Said Pavel.

Pavel was very impressed with Rusty. Joe watched Rusty play. He never got tired of it. Over the last few months they had known each other he had come to love her talents as well as the woman. Joe smiled as he listened to her.

"Joe I'm glad you brought Rusty to me. I can make her a big star." said Pavel.

"I knew and I want it for her. She's been playing since she was about 14 in a band." Said Joe.

"That's a long time without being discovered. What is she 30 maybe 35?" Asked Pavel.

"She's 40. But you wouldn't know it." Said Joe.

"I wouldn't at that my friend."

Later on after they recorded some songs Pavel had dinner waiting in his conference room. For a small recording establishment Pavel had pulled out all the stops. The meal included Lobster, Steak, and Beluga caviar. With Champagne. After the meal Pavel toasted Rusty. He had a contract for her to sign. He knew talent when he saw it. Joe knew that even with Pavel under suspicion he would still have the pull to make Rusty a star even if it was for just a little while. Joe lit a cigar and sat back with his arm around Rusty.

"Fine meal you provided Pavel." Said Rusty. "Thank you so much."

"No it's me that should thank Joe and of course you. I'm going to make you a big star like Anton was." Said Pavel.

"I'm glad you believe I have talent." Said Rusty.

"You do. Joe was right. Even with him being maybe a little prejudice he was right." Said Pavel.

"I know talent Pavel. Rusty has it." Said Joe.

"Yes and a lot more than I would have suspected. We will get the rights to the songs Monday but I plan to put her out on the radio soon. How soon would you be able to play at some clubs I have association with?" He asked.

"She's free to do that." Said Joe.

"Good then I will set up some dates. We must do this introduction right." Said Pavel.

"It's like I am coming out of no where though." Said Rusty.

"A lot of singers do that. Just show up on the scene. So don't worry." Said Pavel. "It's late and I need to plan Anton's funeral. I will get back with you on Monday if that is ok?"

"That's fine. If I can help plan it Pavel, I would be happy too." Offered Joe.

"No need for that. He will have a church funeral. Least I can do for him." Said Pavel as they said their goodbyes.

"Ok then, let me know when it is and I will be there." Said Joe.

"I will. Good Night to you and Rusty." Said Pavel taking Rusty's hand again and kissing it.

"Good Night Pavel." Said Rusty.

Joe nodded and shook his hand. They left after that.

"You know there will be copyright infringement with that." Said Joe.

"I know. But I cleared those songs a while back." Said Rusty.

"Good. Then it will only be in Russia that it will be pirated." Said Joe.

"Yeah, I cleared a lot of songs for use." Said Rusty. "I'll have to come up with some original material though. I haven't had a lot of time for working on anything. I have some old pieces but, I'm afraid they will not be good enough for publication." Said Rusty.

"I'm sure they would be. You might run some by me." Said Joe.

"I might at that." Said Rusty.

"Let's go home. I have to get some sleep." Said Joe.

"Yeah after last night I suppose you do." Said Rusty.

They went back to the house.

"I'll be glad to sleep in my own bed with my own woman tonight." Said Joe.

"Yeah will be wonderful having you back to snuggle with." Said Rusty as they got undressed and climbed into bed.

"I'm sorry but that is about all I can manage tonight." Said Joe. "In the morning is going to be a different story though."

"I know Handsome. Good Night." Said Rusty they started snuggling down together.

"Ok. Good Night Gorgeous." Said Joe.

For the next few days Rusty was busy trying to come up with new material. She had played in a club with her band. Pavel was becoming increasingly protective with her. Joe knew Rusty had been right about him being a control freak. Joe was barely allowed access to her. By now he had her living in hotel suite. Joe was worried that he had put her in this and that Pavel had ulterior motives for her. Rusty was a beautiful woman and not only that she was good hearted and wise Joe had known that for a while. But now as he was being denied access too her, almost covertly in fact. She was always busy and not allowed a cell phone. But one night she had, had enough of not being able to see Joe and snuck out of the hotel and called him.

"Joe Darlin' it's Rusty. Sorry to wake you."

Joe looked at his watch. It was a bout 4 in the morning.

"Hello Gorgeous. It's ok Honey how have you been? I've been worried." He asked.

"I hate to have to ask you but could you meet me across the street from the hotel at the diner there. I got away from the goons for a while. They think I'm sleeping." Said Rusty.

"Sure be there in just a few." Said Joe pulling on his shoes. He had been sleeping in his clothes for days hoping that she would call.

"Ok Darlin' I'm sorry it's been so long. I tried to tell you Pavel was a control freak." Said Rusty.

"Yeah you did Honey. I wish I had listened. I feel like you have been taken right out of my life for good." said Joe as he got his hat and locked the door.

"The only way that was to happen would be for me to be dead Handsome. That's the only way in the world. Cuz nothing but that could keep me away from you." Said Rusty.

"I'm getting in the car right now." Said Joe. "Let's hope that isn't a scenario."

"Ok, I'll be waiting." Said Rusty.

"Oh by the way, why did you wait so long to call me?" Said Joe.

"Pavel has almost been right up my butt for a few days now. I'm almost a prisoner." Said Rusty.

"I think we need to get you outta there." Said Joe.

"No but I could sure use some help." Said Rusty.

"I'll think on it and we will talk in a few minutes I'm almost there." Said Joe.

"Ok see ya in a few." Said Rusty. She hung up the phone and decided to wait outside in the shadows for him. He parked the Mercedes and started to walk inside.

"Hello Handsome." Came Rusty's voice from the shadows. Joe looked down toward the alley way and started to walk faster. Upon arriving there he and she both threw there arms around each other and held on.

"Hello Gorgeous." Said Joe almost holding too tight.

"I see you missed me. I missed you too Handsome." Said Rusty as they let up on the embrace a little so they could almost see each other's faces there was little light in the alley. They kissed for the longest time then stopped.

"You really did miss me." Said Joe.

"You bet I did Darlin'. It's like a Russian Gulag working for Pavel. I feel like Faust a little you know he signed a contract with the devil and the devil reneged right?" She asked.

"Yeah I know the story. I'm sorry it's been that way. He has been covert in his ways of stopping me from seeing you. I am going to send someone in to help you out." Said Joe. "I'm afraid something is going to happen to you."

"I'm beginning to have the same feeling and I for one am not done with this world yet. I still have things to do." Said Rusty. "I play at the night club tonight. Maybe you could send someone in to help me there."

"Ok I'll do that." Said Joe. He pulled her into a hug then he got an idea. "Rusty are they speaking a lot of Russian so that you can't understand?" He asked.

"Yeah, I'm afraid he is planning something and I have no idea what." Said Rusty.

"I have a wire in the car. One that goes in that pin of yours you wear. Also, I'm going to ask Elaina to come into the game. She can help you out that way. I know she will she likes you a lot." Said Joe.

"I'm doing what ever you want now. This is too much. I have no freedom." Said Rusty.

"Honey, has he…………….."

"No, not yet but I feel like soon he will try and it is not going to be subtle either. He is going to hit me with that all at once not like Max." Said Rusty. "I may have too but I just don't want to think about it."

"Yeah I know. I don't either. I think I would have to take him out myself then." Said Joe. "I know you don't have a lot of time."

"No, I should hurry." She looked at her watch. They were still holding on to one another.

"I'm so sorry Rusty." Said Joe.

"You didn't know he was like this. You were only there a couple of weeks before Anton was murdered." Said Rusty. "Rats don't show their bad side until it is almost too late sometimes."

Joe pulled her a little closer. "If something were to happen I could never forgive myself. This would have……………"

"No, don't you go and do that. I'm doing my job my sweet Darlin'. Part of that includes risking everything. Now, I need to go but I don't want too." Said Rusty as she pulled back to see Joe's face in the faint half light.

"Ok but your getting help and I will have someone listening 24/7 here." Said Joe as they went to his car. He fixed the pin so it would work for her. "Frank will be on call for this. He admires you a lot."

"Not as much as my boss man." Said Rusty.

"I'm not your boss Rusty. We are equals in this. You know that." Said Joe as he pulled her again into another embrace. "You be careful."

"I will Darlin'." Said Rusty. "I'll expect to see Elaina."

"Good. I love you Rusty." Said Joe.

"I love you too Joe." Said Rusty as they kissed again. Joe reluctantly let her go and got in the Mercedes. Rusty waved faintly at him and he tried to smile and waved back. She then rushed back up the back steps and into her hotel suite. Joe called Frank and he agreed to listen in he would be in a van outside the hotel in about 20 minutes.

Joe was kicking himself at this point. He hit the steering wheel of the car several times in frustration. But the best he could do for her was to get Elaina in there to translate things and to help her find a way out. He hit Elaina's number.

"Hello." Came a Russian female voice.

"Elaina, it's Joe."

"Well, hello Joey how's things? How is Rusty?" Asked Elaina.

"Not good Elaina we have to discuss you working for us again." Said Joe.

"I can tell from the sound of your voice something has happened. Meet me at the old bar in 20 minutes. You know I am up all night with my girls." Said Elaina.

"Ok, 20 minutes then." Said Joe.

Joe met her at the old bar down town. He explained the situation to her and she listened.

"That is some story Joey." said Elaina. "I'll be happy to help her out."

"Ok how much of a cut do you want?" He asked.

"Small percentage I am helping a friend here. 5 percent?" She asked.

"Nice to know you have some sort of loyalty. Ok." Said Joe almost sarcastically.

"Oh Joey, I do especially with her. I don't want to see her dead because of something I could help prevent. Actually………." She started talking in an American accent. "Actually I have been practicing this accent."

"Very good Elaina. No traces of a Russian accent at all. How did you learn that?" He asked.

"Watching TV and listening to my girls talk. Some are American you know." Said Elaina.

"You'll go in tomorrow and not as a call girl either. Business woman I think." Said Joe. "Do you need clothes or anything?"

"I could use a car." Said Elaina.

"I'll see you get one." Said Joe. "Come to the office in the morning before noon." Said Joe.

"You need rest Joey. How long as it been since you slept?" She asked.

"Been a while. I'm worried about her." Said Joe.

"I wish someone loved me that much. Talk about your loyalties." Said Elaina.

"Yeah, I'll see you tomorrow Elaina and thanks." Said Joe.

"Don't worry so much. Rusty is a smart girl." Said Elaina. She patted his shoulder.

"Easier said than done Elaina." said Joe with a half hearted smile. Elaina turned and walked out the door. It was 6 am when Joe finally got to his office. He got in his chair and rested awhile. At 9am Marcy woke him.

"Joe you been here all night?" Asked Marcy.

"No, I met with Rusty." Said Joe.

"So she finally called. Was wondering about her. She is supposed to check in every day." Said Marcy.

"Cut her some slack. Pavel is almost glued to her and he wont allow her access to a cell phone. I screwed up putting her in there." Said Joe.

"No you didn't. How much has she uncovered? She found out Anton was offed by someone in the Russian Mob didn't she think it was actually Pavel?" Asked Marcy.

"Yeah that's what she said when she reported a few days ago. She hasn't been able to find out much. He has eyes and ears on her. I'm sending Elaina in to see what's up. Rusty said they are doing a lot of their business in Russian and she doesn't understand." Said Joe. "I really want her out of there. Pavel is a control freak."

"So I heard. Maybe she should just close up and make herself disappear." Said Marcy.

"She probably will." Said Joe.

"Listen you need to go and get some sleep." Said Marcy.

"I will. I need to get cleaned up too. I'm getting a bit on the scruffy side." Said Joe as he ran his hand over his three days of stubble.

Darnell and Lily came in about that time.

"Joe you heard from Rusty?" Asked Darnell.

"Yeah, she's alive and well for the moment. Something is going down soon though." Said Joe.

"When we didn't hear from her we were getting worried. Do you need us to tail her or something?" Asked Lily.

"I have Frank listening in. But yeah. Could you run interference tonight at the night club?" He asked. "I can't go in there. Also Elaina is going in to see what she can find out. She knows Russian and Rusty doesn't." Said Joe.

"Ok we go in tonight." Said Darnell. "Anything to help her."

"I'm glad you like her so much." Said Joe.

"What's not to like?" Said Lily.

"Elaina comes at noon. I'll try to be back before then. I don't think I can sleep." Said Joe.

"I'll get her what she needs and get her ready before you get back ok?" Asked Marcy.

"Ok I'm outta here for now." Said Joe.

"She will be ok. Rusty is really smart." Said Darnell.

"Yeah, she is and with Elaina there she will know how to plan." Said Joe.

"See ya later." Said Lily.

With that he left. Heather saw him walking down the hall way and went into his office where Marcy, Darnell and Lily were discussing what they needed to do.

"I take it he heard from Rusty." Asked Heather. "So she is ok?"

"Yes. He talked to her early this morning. She's ok but he is calling in you guys to help watch her at the club she is playing at." Said Marcy.

"I'm going." Said Heather. "Rusty is my best friend."

"We all are. Joe can't go in there. Pavel has made it so Joe is off limits to Rusty now." Said Marcy.

"I hope it's not another Max thing." Said Lily.

"I hope not either. I wish you could see Joe. He looks like something his cat drug in." Said Marcy.

"Yeah, I noticed that the other day. He's a mess but he is holding it together. It's going to take everything he has to help her." Said Darnell. "He loves her."

"She loves him." Said Heather.

"They are a good team. I've learned a lot from both of them." Said Lily.

"We all have." Said Marcy.

When Joe got in the Mercedes he put the disc in that Rusty had made of her demo tape. The strains of her beautiful voice came gently from the speakers. It felt bittersweet to him at the moment. It was the song that she had sung for him Sleeping Angel. He drove to the house listening to it. He finally got inside. He went to the couch and got a few hours sleep. Before he lay down he bowed his head. He said a silent prayer for her safe return. And for his team to help her since he couldn't do it any other way. It wasn't in his nature not to have better control of the situation. He prayed for guidance and he prayed because he loved her.

For Valentines day Joe had got her a diamond cocktail ring she hadn't taken it off since he gave it to her. It was in a white gold setting in a diamond shape with brilliant stones. She looked at it as she woke up. Pavel was there bringing her breakfast again. She got out of bed and locked the door so she could dress. Then she came out.

"Did you sleep well?" asked Pavel.

"I slept ok." Said Rusty.

"What is wrong?" He asked.

"I'm going to need a secretary." Said Rusty.

"Ok, you shall have one." Said Pavel. "What else is wrong?"

"I can't see Joe." Said Rusty.

"Now we talked about that. I'm the only one that should be managing you Rusty. You don't need him." Said Pavel.

"But I love him." She countered.

"You don't need to worry about that now. Your mind should be on your career and not on some man that is too old for you. I'm more your age. I am 41." Said Pavel.

"That's awfully generous of you Pavel but Joe and I have been together a long time." Said Rusty.

"Has he offered to marry you?" Asked Pavel.

"Somewhat." Said Rusty.

"I would marry you. Make you my wife and give you everything your heart desired." Said Pavel.

"Like I said Joe and I……………….."

"You refuse?" He asked. Rusty knew she had better not argue with Pavel.

"No it's just sudden. Please give me time." Said Rusty.

"Ok but no more Joe. He is out of your picture now." Said Pavel. "I'm going down town. Be there in two hours."

"Ok." Said Rusty she gave him a smile and he left. Upon his leaving she went to the bedroom and started crying. Frank was out side and heard everything. He felt bad for her. About that time Darnell came to get the first tapes.

"Hi Darnell." Said Frank. "I really feel bad for Rusty. It's just like Joe said. That Pavel doesn't want her to have anything to do with Joe."

"Is that what that Rat said?" Asked Darnell. "That's not going down too well with Joe."

"Wouldn't with me either." Said Frank. "There isn't much on this tape. She mostly slept tossing and turning. Darnell she has been crying. "

"Damn, I really feel for them both." Said Darnell. "Thanks."

"No problem. In two hours I'll be moving to Allegra Records parking lot." Said Frank.

"See you there then." Said Darnell as he got out of the van and went to his car. Lily sat waiting.

"Well?" Asked Lily.

"Frank just said Rusty was to have no contact with Joe." Said Darnell.

"Oh that's going to go down really swell." Said Lily. "Joe is going to have what Rusty calls a conniption fit."

"Don't I know it." Said Darnell.

Elaina was sent on over. Rusty had just got there and saw her. Elaina gave her a sign not to notice her. Rusty nodded and went on in to Pavel's office.

"I called an employment office and someone is coming for an interview." Said Pavel.

"There is a woman out there. She is blonde could that be her?" Asked Rusty.

"I'll go and see." Said Pavel. "I want you to be as happy as you can be Rusty."

"Thanks." Said Rusty as Pavel went to see about the blonde in the lobby. Elaina being very astute decided that the secretary part was her in. She followed Pavel in to his office and Rusty and she shook hands.

"You say you need a secretary." Said Elaina.

"Yes." Said Rusty almost astonished at her American accent.

"I have had 5 years business training along with 10 years of experience." Said Elaina.

"Ok then I think we would get along just fine actually. You will be taking care of me more as a personal assistant." Said Rusty.

"That's fine I can do that too. When would you like me to start?" She asked.

"Today if you can." Said Rusty.

"Your in luck I can." Said Elaina.

"Good then. Let's go to my office." Said Rusty.

Pavel stopped them before they left his office.

"You sure you want her?" Asked Pavel some what suspiciously.

"Yeah, I need a personal Assistant. You can't keep waiting on me." Said Rusty. "It doesn't look right and you know it."

"Your right this time but I say who comes and goes around here." Said Pavel. Rusty crossed her arms. She had almost had enough.

"Ok, ok take her to your office I have no time to argue with you and if I did you would loose." Said Pavel. The two women left the office and went to hers.

"I haven't been glad to see anyone in my life Elaina. See what a horses ass I have to put up with?" Rusty asked.

"Yes he is a regular Jack ass." Said Elaina. "I could handle that for you."

"No, I have to do that. He is interested in me. Say you look wonderful dressed that way." Said Rusty.

"Your Joey sends his love Rusty." Said Elaina.

About that time Rusty broke. "I'm afraid I will never see him again."

"You will, he misses you too my friend." Said Elaina patting her shoulder.

"You must be since you offered to do this." Said Rusty.

"Rusty, I have been for a while now. Let me do what I need to do to help you." Said Elaina. "I can come and go from here like you can't."

"Your doing a wonderful American accent there. I hardly knew it was you." said Rusty.

"Good that is the way it's supposed to be. Now to listen in on what he is doing. This office have a door that goes into yours?" She asked.

"Yes right there." Said Rusty.

"I was given a bug to plant in his office." Said Elaina.

"That's going to be some trick to do that." Said Rusty. "I could probably do that easier."

"Maybe." Said Elaina. She handed over the bug to Rusty who went to Pavel's office again.

"Pavel, what about tonight?" She asked. "Am I still playing at the club." Asked Rusty. Pavel looked up at her from the mountain of paperwork. Rusty came over to the front of his desk and accidentally knocked over some books.

"Oh I'm sorry. I'll get those." Said Rusty She got down on the floor and looked quickly for a place to plant the bug. She choose a chair next to the desk.

"Clumsy are you not?" He asked smirking at her.

"Just a little. You know us Lefties." Said Rusty.

"Yes I'm afraid I do. Yes you will be playing tonight at the club. Now get out of here and don't bother me again for a while." Said Pavel. She left and went back to her office.

"Ass Hole." Said Rusty angrily. I wish I could just leave out of here and disappear."

"Joey said for me to tell you to get out when you could he wants to pull the plug on it." Said Elaina.

"How is he Elaina?" She asked. "I saw him this morning and I don't think he had changed clothes or shaved or anything for days."

"He's a mess Rusty your right and hasn't slept. He's doing everything he can to get the information and get you out. I know this type man. He wants everything and doesn't want to work for it. Gets things on the backs of others." Said Elaina. "He is not better than the KGB was."

"I'm sure you know about them." Said Rusty.

"I do. Not a good story either. I was sent to Siberia and managed to escape before I got there." Said Elaina.

"I sure hope tonight we can all get out of this mess." Said Rusty.

"I think we will. I'm going to go now and report what I know. By now they have turned on the transmitter for that bug." Said Elaina.

"Maybe you should just stay now." Said Rusty.

Elaina looked at Rusty. She smiled. "Well ok. I can see you are scared. If I were in your place I would be too. Just keep that wit about you and you'll do fine."

Meanwhile in the van Frank was picking up a conversation in Russian. Joe had got into the van after he had gotten cleaned up and had some rest.

"Elaina or Rusty one planted the bug we gave Elaina. It sounded like Rusty though." Said Frank.

"Has he said anything about tonight?" Asked Joe.

"She's playing tonight at a club." Said Frank.

"So that is still on." Said Joe. "That could be good and bad. I'm beginning to be apprehensive about all this."

"Well, I hate to have to tell you Joe but Pavel just nixed your involvement with her. He told her that there was to be no contact." Said Frank. "Darnell was supposed to tell you that but I think he was afraid too. You need to know it though."

Joe got an angry look about him. Then he thought better of it. He would have time to be angry later he needed to stay focused.

"The conversation is in Russian. I don't know enough to tell you what is what." Said Frank.

"That's ok Elaina will help with that. She is supposed to meet me here in a little while." Said Joe.

Back upstairs.

"Rusty I really must go. Joey asked me to meet him in the van I will return in a little while. I'm saying I'm going to get you a bite to eat." Said Elaina.

"Give him……….."

"I will. I'll be back soon." Said Elaina smiling at her. She went out the door. She heard talking in Russian from Pavel's' office. The translation went like this.

"Vlad, we have to be careful. I think we are going to have trouble with this girl." Said Pavel. "But, Vlad she is our best bet to use as a mule for the tapes too and from……….ok. Thanks."

Elaina went on down the hall. Pavel was coming out of his office as the car for the elevator came.

"Elaina, what are you doing going anywhere without asking?" He asked coming over to her.

"Rusty is hungry, I'm going to get something for her to eat would you like something?" She asked sweetly.

"Oh, well ok but don't be long." Said Pavel.

"I wont." Said Elaina as she got into the car to go down.

Pavel went to Rusty's office.

"Rusty, you know you have to ask to go places why did you not?" asked Pavel. He went over too her.

"I forgot I am sorry Pavel." Said Rusty. She got up Pavel got a hold of her and smacked her. Joe and Frank heard it.

"If he does that one more time Frank I'm going to go and tear into him myself." Said Joe.

"Don't." Said Frank. About that time Elaina came to the van. She knocked three times. Joe let her in.

"You in?" He asked.

"Yes as her personal assistant. They have something planned. Did you hear him on the phone?" She asked.

"What was said?" Asked Joe.

"They plan to use Rusty as a mule for the tapes to and from Russia." Said Elaina.

"That's what Anton was doing I bet or he refused." Said Joe.

"Joey you had better figure a way out for Rusty tonight. These guys work like KGB." Said Elaina.

"Oh great, and like the mob too I bet." Said Joe.

"Yeah, they are bad men. Rusty is in big trouble." Said Elaina.

"Ok tonight we will all be there. Except for me and I will be just outside." Said Joe.

"Good. She needs an out right now." Said Elaina. "If she refuses to do what they ask they will have no problem killing her. I'm not afraid for myself I'm afraid for her. Do you have enough to nail him?" She asked.

"Almost." Said Joe. At least we have him saying what he was doing. At least we have you to translate for the moment."

"Your welcome. I'll have to go and get something fast for her to eat. That was my excuse to leave. He does what you call a mother may I for leaving." Said Elaina.

"You mean you have to ask permission from him to leave. He just smacked Rusty for not asking." Said Joe.

"I'm sorry Joey. That was my fault." Said Elaina. "I had better get going."

"Yeah, because if he hits her again and I hear it………"

"We know." Said Elaina. "Oh and Joey she says she loves you." Said Elaina leaving the van.

"Give her mine too Elaina." Said Joe as he closed the door to the van.

That evening Lily, Darnell and Heather went into the club as patrons. The place was full. They had planed to use pyrotechnics as part of the show.

"Elaina, after the show we get outta here. I can't stand this. I think we have enough information to nail him now." Said Rusty getting ready.

"I think that would be a good idea. Did you know he is replacing your band?" She asked.

"Yeah and I don't like it. Who knows how these boys play." Said Rusty angrily.

"You know about the Pyrotechnics don't you?" She asked.

"Yes, and I am not too happy with that either. There was a fire at a club not too long ago and a lot of people got killed." Said Rusty.

"Just be careful." Said Elaina. Pavel came in about that time.

"Elaina I need to talk to Rusty. Leave us for a while." Said Pavel. Elaina looked at Rusty and went to the door.

"Ok, I have some things to do anyway. Take care Rusty." Said Elaina. She disappeared out the door and Pavel came to Rusty.

"Rusty, After tonight you will be going to Russia for a while." Said Pavel. Rusty's face couldn't hid her anger.

"Why?" She asked.

"You ask questions? Rusty what have I said about that?" He asked taking hold of her. Joe was still listening in.

"I have to get her outta there." Said Joe.

"They have plans to leave after the show Joe." Said Frank.

"I know but………."

"Just let them get out the way they can. They both know what they are doing." said Frank.

"Now my little spitfire you and I must talk." Said Pavel. "I have played nice with the not asking for affection but now I am insisting."

"Oh Shit." Said Joe as he started for the door. Frank got up and stopped him.

"Pavel, I really can't right now." Said Rusty.

"You refuse?" He asked.

"No, it's just that well………."

"What is she doing?" Asked Frank.

"The old I'm on the rag play." Said Joe smiling.

"I take it she is lying?" Asked Frank.

"Yep." Said Joe.

"Well?" Pavel asked.

"I'm having that nasty monthly thing." Said Rusty.

"Oh, well then we can wait." Said Pavel. Joe was almost laughing.

"At least she stopped him." Said Joe.

"Yeah, at least she did. Some guys don't care." Said Frank.

"Yeah but Pavel does." Said Joe as he breathed a sigh of relief.

"Oh and by the way Rusty………I want……….." The mic started to go out.

"Frank what is going on." Said Joe.

"The mic is out. I'm sorry Joe." Said Frank trying in vain to get her voice back.

Meanwhile Pavel was asking.

"I want that ring you wear. It's from Joe is it not?" he asked.

"Yes but………." Pavel took her hand and removed the ring.

"You don't need reminders of what you don't need." Said Pavel.

"But Pavel……….I………."

"Rusty don't make me hit you again. It angers me you wear something from him. So you wont." Said Pavel.

"Pavel this is not working out." Said Rusty.

"It is working fine with me Rusty and that is all that matters you signed a BINDING contract. Even Joe would tell you what ever I want you will give." Said Pavel. "After the show we are leaving for Russia. I have a passport for you."

Rusty was horrified at what he had just said to her. But in order to get her and Elaina out she would have to go along with it.

"Ok Pavel." Said Rusty. Pavel pulled her to him.

"You are a beautiful woman Rusty. You are still young enough to have children. Ours will be strong and spitfires." Said Pavel.

"Yes they will." Said Rusty. Pavel kissed her.

"Good then when we get to Russia we will be married." Said Pavel.

"Ok Pavel." Said Rusty. At that point anything to make him happy was what she was saying.

"Now get ready you go on in a few minutes." Said Pavel. He disappeared out the door. Elaina was waiting down the hall from him to leave. She went back into the dressing room. Rusty was crying.

"Ah Rusty, what did that dog say to you?" Asked Elaina walking over to her.

"He's taking me to Russia to be a brood mare." Said Rusty. "He is not going to like it when he finds out I can't have kids."

"It will not go that far. We get out of here after the performance. Joe is just outside and the rest of your team is in the Club." Said Elaina.

"Ok, I don't have intentions to go to Russia. Not without Joe." Said Rusty.

"I have no intentions of going back to Russia. You would not like it there." Said Elaina.

"I have to go on now. After you be waiting backstage and we split from this Gin joint." Said Rusty. "Elaina he took my ring."

"Bastard. I'm sorry Rusty. We will do what ever you say, Joe told me to use your judgment on us getting out of here." Said Elaina.

"Ok, Just be backstage." Said Rusty as they walked back to the stage.

Rusty started to warm up. She looked at the band whom she did not know and tried to smile. The men were not very receptive to her smile either. The bassist came over to her and told her what to play. She nodded ok to him and started playing.

Meanwhile, Lily and Heather stood at the bar.

"That's not Earl." Said Heather.

"No it isn't. Poor Rusty they must have changed her band too. None of those goons are her band members." Said Lily.

"Yeah I know. We are to go back stage when she starts finishing up." Said Heather.

"Ok." Said Lily. "Where's Joe?"

"I don't know he ran out of the van so fast I couldn't ask him." Said Heather.

"I see. Maybe he is going to turn up here." Said Lily. "He is pretty good at disguise."

"I don't know Lily." Said Heather. "Looks like to me she is in big trouble."

As the song ended the pyrotechnics went off. Unexpectedly flames started off the stage. People being people seeing fire started for the door. Lily and Heather went out the back. They knew Rusty and Elaina had a clear shot for the stage door. Inside there was panic. Rusty raced for the stage door headed by Elaina.

Out side Joe had managed to get into the line dressed in a suite and glasses. He saw the panic that was ensuring then he saw the flames. Darnell had managed to get out. By then the line had broken up and people were in a frenzy. Darnell managed to get to Joe.

"I have to go and get her out." Said Joe starting off. Darnell held him back.

"She was supposed to get out the back way with Elaina. She isn't in there." Said Darnell.

"Darnell, she is in trouble now. I'm going……………." A police man came up to Darnell and Joe.

"You two get back the fire is spreading the fire department is on it's way." Said the police man.

Joe showed his badge. "We have an agent inside." Said Joe.

"Sorry no one is going in there." Said the police man. "Now please sirs get back some this place might blow."

He looked at Joe "Am I gonna have to bodily move you back sir." he said.

"No, But there is a redhead in there that hasn't come out." Said Joe. "She is an agent."

Joe knew he wasn't supposed to do that but it was a matter of life and death.

"I'll tell…………"

A fireman came up. "What's up with these two?"

"There is a woman inside. She is FBI." Said the policeman.

"I'm going in I'll look for her. What is her name?" Asked the fireman.

"Rusty, Rusty Mc Dowall." Said Joe. "She's a red head about 5 foot 4 and gorgeous."

"Ok I'll look for her." Said the fireman.

"Thanks." Said Joe.

At the back door Pavel had managed to get a rag of chloroform on Rusty. She was out but Elaina was not letting him touch her. She was yelling at him in Russian by now trying to get hold of an out Rusty.

"So you are an agent are you? Ours?" He asked.

"Dog let her go." Said Elaina clawing at him.

"Shut up you bitch." Said Pavel. Then he drew out a gun and fired at Elaina. She was hit but not bad. She fell to the ground and played dead. Pavel stepped over her and out the door. Upon him leaving Elaina got up and out of the club following them. Her wound wasn't life threatening but it would prove a problem later for her.

Meanwhile outside at a safe distance Joe paced as the fire seemed to grow. The fireman was force back by the flame as the gas main was compromised and the club blew sky high.

"RUSTY!!!!!!!!!!" Yelled Joe He struggled against Darnell holding him back.

"It's too late now. I bet she and Elaina are in the back lets go and check." Said Darnell. "Damn it Joe stop. I bet she got out."

Joe stopped struggling about that time. He looked at Darnell. His eyes were on the wild side.

"Ok, Ok Darnell let's go and check." Said Joe. Darnell stopped his hold on Joe and they went to the back. To the stage door had been.

"She's not here." Said Joe. He began to look frantically for her.

Then he headed back toward the flames. Lily and Heather came up about that time and saw the struggle between Joe and Darnell.

"Stop Joe. If she is in there…………."

"Darnell don't say it or I'm going to deck you." Said Joe.

"Joe what's up?" Asked Heather. By then Lily and Heather had ran to where Joe and Darnell had been standing.

"Rusty could still be in there." Said Joe starting an angry helpless tone.

"If she is Joe she's………………." Began Heather.

"Heather please…………Don't………."

"I called Marcy and she is calling Marty." Said Heather. "There is nothing we can do now."

"Oh God she can't be………….." Started Joe. "I would know……I would know."

"Yeah you would so don't start jumping to conclusions." Said Lily.

"She just can't be………." Said Joe the helplessness taking over in his voice.

"Come on and lets wait for Marty out front this is not a good place to be right now." Said Darnell.

"Your right, your right Darnell. I'm sorry." Said Joe looking at Darnell. The four of them walked to the front where the fireman that had offered to go and find Rusty was standing seemingly waiting for them.

"Sir, I found this by the back stage door there was a pile of flames on it but I managed to get it before I had to leave. I didn't find her. Might this be hers?" Asked the fireman. He handed Joe the ring he had given her for Valentines Day. She never took it off. The only way someone would have extracted it was to kill her and he knew it. He looked at the ring in his hand and closed his eyes gripping it tight in the palm of his hand.

"Yeah this is Rusty's." Said Joe. He turned his back to his agents. Lily started to go to him but Heather held her back.

"Don't think the worst yet sir." Said the fireman. "We still have to sift though."

"Ok." Said Joe his voice breaking. He started to walk off and Marty pulled up along side of him.

"What happened Joe?" Asked Marty. He stopped the car and got out. Marty walked up along side him and stopped him.

"Joe what happened. Where is Rusty?" Asked Marty getting a hold of Joe's arm.

"She was in there Marty." said Joe hanging his head. "None of us saw her come out."

"Ok, what gives you the idea she is………."

"Please Marty." Joe asked almost begging. "Please don't."

"Ok, but what gave you that idea?" Asked Marty trying hard to word his questions.

Joe looked at him and opened his hand up to reveal her ring.

"Isn't that the ring you gave her not long ago?" Asked Marty.

"Yeah, she said the only way that someone would get it off of her was to pry it from her cold…………"

"I get the picture." Said Marty. "Still that doesn't mean she is…..well."

"I know Marty but it doesn't look good. The fireman fished this out from a pile of burning pillars." Said Joe his voice still breaking.

"Ok, Joe what do you feel? I know you and Rusty have this thing with you two. You finish the others sentences and such. What is your gut saying?" He asked looking Joe in the eyes. Joe looked at Marty. His face was starting to furrow and his eyes were beginning tears.

"I would know Marty." Said Joe finally.

"Yeah, I know you would so unless they get a body and ID it lets assume she is still alive just you and me." Said Marty. Joe brightened up a bit.

"She means…………."

"I know she does. We all love her you most of all." Said Marty giving him a small smile.

"I need to be alone for a while." Said Joe.

"Yeah I suppose you do Joe. Take a few days I'll keep you in the loop and get some things looked into to." Said Marty.

"Elaina is missing too." said Joe.

"Oh the Russian Madame?" He asked.

"Yeah, she and Rusty were working on more information. I sent both of them in there." Said Joe.

"That's your job Joe. They know what they are doing." Said Marty. "I bet neither one of them are dead."

"I sure hope they aren't Marty." said Joe. "Is that all?"

"Yeah, you go on home and I'll keep you in the loop. Marcy will take over for the time being." said Marty.

"Thanks Marty." said Joe. He walked off to the Mercedes and got in. He waited until he got back to were he and Rusty lived. Her T-Bird Minerva sat outside with the top up. He parked the Mercedes and got into her T-Bird. He started it and pulled out of the driveway.

"Minerva our girl is missing." He said talking to the car the way Rusty did. "We have to find her."

He wound up just driving around though. He finally went inside. It seemed different without her there. He went into the bedroom and there he took the ring out of his pocket and put it on his little finger. It would stay there until he found out what happened to her. Then in the privacy of their bedroom he finally broke and cried. Joe truly and utterly loved Rusty. This would be the turning point with him and Rusty. It would define the rest of their lives. And he vowed that for the rest of his she would be his and his alone.

While all this was going on. Pavel had taken Rusty to a motel awaiting their skip of the country. She was still out. He decided to take her clothes off leaving her slip on then he put her in bed. He got in with her. But there would be no sex. Pavel had a lot of secrets and impotence was one of them. He had to control everything around him because he had no control over anything about himself.

In an alley behind the motel Elaina had just about reached what she could do. She knew she should call Joe and tell him what happened and where she was. Unfortunately the gunshot wound in her side was proving more of a problem for her than she expected. She had to get help for herself and for Rusty before something happened to either of them. She crawled to her feet and holding her side walked down the alley holding to the out side walls of the building. She got out of the alley. It was just about daybreak when she couldn't go any further. She passed out were the side walk met the alley.

Rusty started to stir about that time. She believed that she was at home and Joe was with her. She rolled over to where Pavel was and embraced him.

Good Morning Handsome." She said.

"Good Morning Rusty." Said Pavel. That jerked her awake and she recoiled in horror, now fully awake she looked at the position she was in. Pavel rolled over.

"That was some night we had my little fox." Said Pavel. An evil grin started on his face.

"We didn't…………" Trailed Rusty.

"Oh yes we did Rusty and it was wonderful." Said Pavel coming closer.

"No, Pavel I don't believe you." She shouted and grasped the sheet to cover herself better.

"Not only did we, there were several times involved. How could you forget the best you ever had Rusty are you that stupid?" He asked. Pavel was about to try at least to take her.

"No, that can't be." Said Rusty trying to fight him off.

"You refuse?" Asked Pavel angrily.

This time she hauled off and hit him getting out of the bed. He caught her got her back on her back and sat on her. He put his hands forcefully on her shoulders.

"I say when and where Rusty." said Pavel. He got his balance good and hit her hard on the face several time. "Now you will each and every time I say."

Rusty looked up at him. Her arms were pinned under him. Her lip now bloody. Her look defiant.

"Ok Pavel go ahead……..If you kill me you wont have a mule to go from here to Russia and back. How are your superiors going to react once I'm dead." said Rusty. "Now get the hell off me and let me be."

Pavel looked into Rusty's eyes. He knew that she knew now what was going on.

"You are a defiant woman I give you that but you do that again and I will kill you and dump you on your door step for Joe to find." Said Pavel.

"What are you going to do to me." She asked. But still angrily

"You'll see soon enough." Said Pavel.

The police had found Elaina and taken her to a hospital. Her wound was taken care of and she was out from the gas they gave her to take out the bullet.

Meanwhile Joe was in a fitful sleep. The nightmare he was having jerked him awake. He felt the side of his lip where he had bit it. The taste of blood and the panic of the nightmare sent him strait up in bed.

"Rusty!" He yelled. Then he realized where he was and the space beside him was cold and abandoned. He took his hand and got the blood off of his lip. The nightmare told him one thing Rusty was still alive and that she was in deep trouble.

Joe got up and pulled on his clothes and shoes and ran out the door locking it. He went to Minerva and got in and started off toward the office.

Rusty struggled against Pavel's strong hold on her. She was right at wild with anger.

"What are you going to do with me?" She asked.

"I think we need a little session this morning Rusty." Said Pavel kissing her. He moved his body between her legs and thighs. She bit his lip. He in turn hit her again giving her another bruised jaw.

"Get the hell off of me you bastard." said Rusty as she realized that she could wrap her legs around him and flip him over like she had Joe a couple of times. But this wasn't playing and she clamped tightly down on Pavel's midsection with her thighs.

"Stop!" Yelled Pavel. "You are breaking my………"

"I'm gonna do more than break something you Son of a Bitch." said Rusty as she tightened down on him like a vise and rolled him over. Pavel was in pain by this time. He uncoiled her from him and got off the bed.

"Do you want to die?" He asked.

"No, but if you come back over here you might." Said Rusty. She had, had plenty and enough of this game.

"You seem to like that rough." said Pavel. "I bet that man of yours gets a real kick out of you." Said Pavel.

"Yeah and if you were him and had done all that "Fore Play" with me for the lack of a better word. He would be ready Freddy by now. She looked down at Pavel's equipment. Nothing of a sort was going on. She looked up at him and smirked a smile and arched an eyebrow.

"Pavel, ah might you have lied just a little bit about us doing the Nasty?" She asked. "Because, baby I see nothing ready about your Freddy."

"Bitch!" Yelled Pavel. Then he leaped at her and tackled her. She knew then she might have to kill him. He was forcing her knees apart with his hands but to not much avail. She took her fingernails and scarped the side of his face and side bringing blood. He yelled in pain then he took his fist and drove it to the side of her head. That knocked her out. He hit her repeatedly in the face, ribs and stomach.

Joe had gotten to the office and Marcy was right on him.

"A woman fitting Elaina's description was brought into Mercy General just a few hours ago." Said Marcy. I just got the call from Marty."

"Let's go then." Said Joe making for the Elevator. Marcy hot on his heels.

They got to Mercy General pretty fast. He had taken a photo of Elaina out of her file and one of Rusty's from the house. The doctor in charge of Elaina came out of her room.

"Doc is she ok?" Asked Joe.

"Yes. She had a bullet in her side. She's lucky." said the doctor.

Joe produced his badge. "May I see her?" Asked Joe.

"By all means sir." Said the doctor.

"Thanks." said Joe and he and Marcy went into Elaina's room.

Elaina was still out. He went over to her bedside. Then he went to the closet. Her clothes hung there. Marcy got a evidence bag and put them in it.

"Wait, do you smell that Marcy?" Asked Joe. He smelt of the skirt of the dress.

"Yeah smells like……………"

They both at the same time said "Chloroform."

"This needs to be run post haste." said Joe.

"Yeah, want me to go and do that? I'll be right back." Said Marcy. Joe pitched her the keys to Minerva. "Please be careful with Minerva." Said Joe.

"I will." Marcy skirted passed him with Elaina's clothes.

"Joey don't let her go yet." Said Elaina groggily.

He ran down the hall to catch Marcy.

"Wait Elaina is awake now. Come on back." Said Joe taking Marcy's hand and going back to Elaina's room.

"I'm glad you are ok Elaina. Do you know where Rusty is?" He asked.

"Yeah, She's at the Crazy 8's motel with Pavel. I'm afraid it might be too late to save her from being raped." Said Elaina. "But go and save her Joey. She's alive. I know you thought she might be dead and me too."

"Oh God. We had better hurry." Said Joe. He came over to Elaina and smiled. "What ever you need just ask Elaina." He bent down and kissed her cheek and squeezed her hand.

"Ok now go and save your Rusty." Said Elaina smiling up at him.

Joe and Marcy lit out of the hospital and got Minerva going. He called in for back up from her band members. They would meet him at the motel.

"She's Alive Marcy. I knew she was." said Joe.

"Premonition there Joe?" asked Marcy.

"Sort of. I had a dream she was in trouble but alive." Said Joe.

"It's just you telling yourself you know she wasn't dead." Said Marcy.

"You have your pistol handy?" He asked.

"You bet Joe." said Marcy taking out her service revolver.

Down from the motel he met up with her band members one of which was a CSI. Matt had brought his kit with him.

"Ok guys Dave you and I will kick the door in Earl you cover us." Said Joe.

"Ok." Said Earl.

"Ok on three. One, Two, Three!" said Joe as he and Dave took the door down. They looked around seeing no one was there.

"Damn it!" Yelled Joe as he started looking around. The rest stood at the ready. He looked in the bathroom and shower. Nothing. Then he came out and looked at the bed. It had blood spatter on it. He looked at it in horror. Matt came in about that time.

"Joe wait until I get something Ok? This is consistent with something like a head wound or a face wound and not life threatening." Said Matt as he put his hand on Joe's arm. Joe looked at him.

"Even that is too much. If I find him he is going to wish I'd killed him." Said Joe.

"I'm doing a semen search first." Said Matt. "Calm down Joe."

Joe looked at him a little horror stricken. The glow of the lamp and the spray Matt had used confirmed there hadn't been any kind of leakage constant with a sex act.

"Looks like she was lucky. No semen on the bed or in the bathroom. But there is blood consistent with what I told you before I'll have to type it to see which one it is." Said Matt.

"Rusty is B positive. I know I asked her." Said Joe.

"That's helpful." said Matt doing the field test.

"Yeah she told me a little while ago. We were talking about kids and……….."

"It's hers." Said Matt.

"So he has beaten her?" Asked Joe angrily. "Look in the waste basket. Need to check for condoms I suppose."

They looked but to no avail. Then Joe's cell rang.

"Hello?" He asked.

"Joey its Elaina. Did you find her?" She asked.

"No, she and Pavel are gone." Said Joe.

"Oh my God Joey you had better get to the airport. He was planning on taking her to Russia soon." Said Elaina.

"Ok. Thanks Elaina." Said Joe.

"Find her. Hurry." Said Elaina.

"I will." Said Joe.

"There is not much here Joe." said Matt. "I need to process some things. Everything points to her being beaten but not raped."

"That's at least a little better than both. Dave you and Hank come with me to the airport. Matt can you run Marcy back to the office?" Asked Joe.

"Yeah I have to go right now. This stuff needs real processing. I did preliminary tests." said Matt.

"Ok, Let's go guys." said Joe.

"Joe." Asked Earl.

"Yes Earl?" He asked.

"I think you will need me." Said Earl the tall less talkative bass player.

"Ok come on then." said Joe as they took two separate cars to the airport. Marcy called Marty who would meet them there.

At the airport Pavel had Rusty supporting her. He had done a wonderful job taking the fire out of her for the moment.. He had made her make her face to hide what damage he had done too her. She had on dark glasses and a scarf. They stood waiting to buy tickets. Rusty was hurting badly by that time. Rusty had done just as good a number on Pavel with her thighs. He knew it when he breathed.

"So Pavel you killed Anton to shut him up didn't you. He didn't want any part of this Piracy scheme." She asked.

"Shut up." said Pavel. "You want to end up just like him keep on talking."

Marty met Joe and the boys outside the Russian Air terminal.

"You think he wants to get her out of the country now?" Asked Marty as they walked inside and though security the badges held so that clearance was given. The familiar beep as they cleared the metal detectors.

"Yeah." Said Joe he was almost running and it was hard for Marty to catch up with him. Joe was pissed. His walk suggested a stalking mode. They started looking around and spotted Pavel at a gate with Rusty or it had to be. Joe could see she by the way she had to be helped along by Pavel she had been beaten badly.

"Marty. I'm going up to the son of a bitch and tap his shoulder. You catch Rusty. Looks like he did a number or two on her." Said Joe.

"Ok, what are you going to do? Joe don't kill him." Said Marty.

"Yeah I know. But he is gonna wish I had." Said Joe his blue eyes starting to turn to steel. The furrows crept into his face again. He was saying everything though his clenched teeth.

"You guys just back me up and help me with the people." Said Joe. Then he went over and tapped Pavel on the shoulder. When Pavel turned around his face connected with Joe's clenched fist. Rusty started to fall to the ground. Marty and Earl caught her and took her over to safety.

The force of the sucker punch Joe had given Pavel made him fall back against the roped off place they were standing. He knocked over some pillars that held the rope. Then he hit the ground. People screamed and scattered. Joe stood over him and got him by the collar of his jacket.

"Pavel you are gonna wish I had killed you." said Joe with a wild angry look about him.

Pavel looked up and saw Joe about to hit him again and blocked it. He got up his mouth bleeding from the first punch.

"Nice punch Joe." Said Pavel. He swung at Joe hitting him in the face. Then they started to grapple. Pavel was taller than Joe by some inches and bigger but Joe was angrier. They fought it out until Joe got him into a half Nelson and as angry and upset as he was it would have been easy to snap Pavel's neck.

"Joe don't, we need him for questioning." Said Marty.

"Don't Joe. Stop now." said Rusty. Joe realized that he had Pavel and got his cuffs out. He handcuffed Pavel and Dave and Earl took over after that.

Rusty was standing still supported by Marty. He took one look at her and went over to her.

"I'll take over Marty." said Joe as Marty put Rusty into his arms.

"Baby, I thought you……."

"I know he wanted you to believe that. But you really didn't did you?" She asked.

"No, this morning I knew you were alive." Said Joe. "Oh and I have something that was taken from you." Said Joe putting his left hand up.

"My ring." Said Rusty taking it off his pinky. She put it on.

"The fireman found this under some burning pillars in the club last night." Said Joe. "I didn't want to believe you…….."

"But the main thing is my sweet Darlin' I'm not." said Rusty. She fainted at that point. Joe gathered her up.

"We need an ambulance." Said Joe.

"One's already been called. Put her here on the bench." Said Marty as he helped Joe take her the few feet to the bench. He lay her down and got her head up on his chest and supported her.

"It's ok Baby, everything is gonna be alright now." Said Joe brushing the hair away from her face and taking off the glasses. He looked into her face and was getting angry again. Pavel had done a really good job beating her up. Then he looked at Pavel. He looked to be in the same condition.

"Holy Shit." Said Marty.

"Yeah, Holy Shit is right. God what did she have to go though?" Asked Joe.

"She will tell her story and we will get him on assaulting a federal agent, smuggling, kidnapping and attempted murder among other things. He will be in prison for the rest of his life if we don't get to execute him for killing Anton." said Marty.

"Where in the hell is that ambulance. I don't want her to have to hurt anymore than she has." Said Joe as he stroked her face. "Oh Honey, I am so sorry this happened to you." Rusty started to stir a bit.

"I'm ok Joe. I'm safe now. Nothing can hurt me where I am right now." said Rusty looking up at him.

Five days later Rusty sat up in their bed at the house. She was using a lap top to complete her report. Joe came swaggering in smiling at her.

"How are you feeling Honey?" Asked Joe. He sat down on the bed.

"I'm fit as a fiddle and ready for love." said Rusty. She put the lap top on the floor beside the bed.

"Oh honey I'm glad to hear that." said Joe. "You are healing up nicely." Joe put his hand to her face.

"Yeah, I'm glad I'm home." Said Rusty. "I'm glad that Elaina is alright too."

"Me too. I'm glad they found out you were not raped." Said Joe.

"Me too but I would have known that. Ole Pavel needed either Viagra or hydraulics to have done that. I told him that if it was you doing all that foreplay, for the lack of a better word, you would have been ready Freddy." Said Rusty.

"Foreplay?" He asked.

"Ok so Pavel liked a little blood with his foreplay but……That's what I meant. I looked down at his equipment and nothing was going on. Dead in the water that is when I knew he lied about things." said Rusty.

"Ok you didn't say anything about that." Said Joe. "So, what did he do?"

"Well, this and this." Said Rusty pointing to her head and ribs.

"Honey that aint foreplay in my book. That's…….."

"Yeah, I know. I was worried you would never find me and I would be learning Russian right now. " Joe scooted in with her taking his shoes off. She laid on his chest.

"You are feeling better." Said Joe looking at her. She looked up and met his face with hers.

"Yeah I am. It's been a while since we have had time for anything." Said Rusty.

"Yeah and when you are well I'm going to make it up to you. I love you Rusty." Said Joe.

"I love you too Joe." said Rusty.

"Rusty, I need to ask you something. Something I promised you after the Sardoni case. Something I promised under the Truth drug." said Joe.

"Oh my Darlin' don't." Said Rusty. "You don't have to do that."

"I made you a promise and I intend to keep it." Said Joe. He let her go and walked out of the room. Rusty gingerly got out of the bed and followed him into the living room.

Joe produced a box out of his suit jacket. It looked old and worn.

"Rusty I can't live without you being mine and mine alone. I realized that when you were taken from me." Rusty started to interrupt. "Rusty hush for now Honey let me say what is in my heart."

"Well ok." Said Rusty she could see it meant a lot to him. They sat on the couch. He got down to the floor on one knee and opened the box. "This was my grandmothers. She wore it until she died. Now it's mine to give to the woman I love." Said Joe. "Rusty will you do me the honor of being my wife?" He asked.

Rusty looked at Joe's face. He was more serious than she had ever seen. She smiled.

"Ok Handsome. Yes I'll marry you." Said Rusty. "Now get up off the floor before you can't."

He sat back on the couch. Smiling widely. He took the ring he had given her off her hand and replaced it with the beautiful diamond his grand father had given his grandmother back in Italy.

"So this means you and I get married. It doesn't have to be soon. I just wanted you to know that I love you enough to marry you. That you mean the world to me and If I ever lost you I would be lost myself." Said Joe as he gingerly took her into his arms and kissed her.

"I decided that since it meant a lot to you how could I refuse." Said Rusty. "So Handsome, You think you can handle this filly?"

"That's good I was hoping you wouldn't give me shit about it." Said Joe happily. "Oh yes I know I can. I want too from now on."

"That's fine with me Darlin'." said Rusty. She looked at the beautiful half carat diamond in filigree setting. "Since you gave me something that meant so much. I would be foolish not too. I know you are serious. I know you love me."

"Good thing eh Rusty? Grand Pop had to save a long time to get that. He worked in a vineyard in Tuscany for a year to get it." Said Joe.

"I feel honored you gave it too me." Said Rusty. "So I'll be Rusty Renato for real some day soon?"

"That you will be. Ma gave me that a while back and encouraged me to give it to you. She didn't want to loose a good shopping buddy." Said Joe chiding her. Rusty hit his arm. "Ouch woman!"

"Is that the only reason you gave me this?" She asked.

"Na, I thought it would match that wit of yours. It's as bright as the ring." said Joe.

"Joe my love, you are a very bad boy. But I like that." Said Rusty as they hugged.

"I know you do." Said Joe he grabbed her gingerly and kissed her. as things fade to black.