Equalizer story.

McCall sat at the table waiting for his appointment to arrive. It had been a little garbled on the phone. It had started one way, a plea for help, like so many he'd answered before, only to finish like the young lady had, had a revelation. Truly it was intriguing.

"Still waiting?" Pete asked.

"So it seems." He looked at his watch, "although she isn't late, I think I am a bit early."

"Do you know what this one is about?"

"No," he paused, "but I think I am about to find out." He nodded to the young lady who had just entered. She was slim with blonde hair, and bounced along as she walked, like a small puppy, who had just discovered that she was off the leash.

Pete smiled and moved away from the table.

Looking around the young lady spotted his table, and almost ran to it. Are you McCall? Robert McCall?" Breathlessly she waited her eyes eager with anticipation and doubt.

"Yes."

"Then this is for you!" She exploded as she shoved an envelope into his hands. "She's been looking for you for ages," She paused long enough to catch her breath. "She'll never believe that I finally found you! To think, I found you first, oh! She'll be green with envy, I finally got one over on her."

McCall opened the envelope, as she was talking and began to read the letter inside.

His face gave away none of his expression as he read the contents, half listening to the young lady talk on the other side of the table.

"She really didn't look all that hard you know, I think maybe she was a little afraid of what was in the letter, and didn't want to get involved." She smiled, "I mean can you blame her? She always had such a rough time with her mother, and I think she really just wanted to put it all behind her."

"Who are you talking about?" McCall asked, "And may I know the name of such a pretty young lady who is sitting talking to me and telling me all about this 'she'?" McCall smiled a patient and gentle smile.

"Oh" She paused stunned; "I'm Katie! And 'She' she, is Sarah, Sarah Miles."

"And this Sarah," McCall held the letter up, "She is the one who wanted to find me and deliver this to me?"

"Well not really," Katie stopped.

"What do you mean, not really?"

"Well," Katie looked around the restaurant; "Sarah never actually looked very hard." Katie blushed, "She's a wiz with the computer, and she can do anything. Track down people, move money around, I mean if she wanted too, she could rob fort Knox and put it in a Swiss bank account and still have time left to hack into somewhere else!

Just when it came to you..." Katie dropped her eyes to the table and began to inspect the top. Finally realizing something that had not occurred to her before.

"She didn't seem to be able to work her computer magic." McCall finished for her.

"Well, yeah" Katie looked up, "But I know it's just cause she was scared of getting into her mother's business again."

"What do you mean her mother's business?"

"Sarah never really said much, but I met her mom once, and she wasn't what you'd call a typical mom. She seemed, she seemed," Katie was lost for words.

"Addicted." A voice from behind Katie answered.

McCall looked up and saw another young lady who was around 5 foot tall, with light brown hair and flashing brown eyes. Robert noticed the similarities between Sarah and Joan the woman who had written him the note. They both had that strong chin, inside of an oval face, with fair skin, and an almost surprised innocent look that could melt your heart.

"Sarah!" Katie turned and saw her friend standing behind her. "This is.."

"I know who he is." Sarah ground out, her eyes flashing a warning that this time Katie had gone too far. "And if I had wanted to find him, I would have, I though that was understood between us. I thought I had made it perfectly clear that I didn't need another complication in my life."

"I know what you said," Katie defended, "but it's just coincidence that led me to him. I was actually calling him about another matter, you know the trouble that you're having?"

"I don't need any help with that either."

McCall, who had been sitting quietly and watching the exchange, spoke up, "I think you and I had better have a talk Sarah." He nodded to Sarah.

"Look if you want to help, stay out of my life!"

Sarah stepped forward and turned her back on him, staring at Katie she said, "I will talk to you when you come home, make sure it's not soon."

Sarah moved quickly to the door, with one hard look back at McCall she exited the restaurant, and hurried down the street.

"Tell me more about Sarah and her problem." McCalll said pleasantly to Katie.

"Look," Katie hesitated.

"If what you said on the telephone is correct," McCall pointed his finger in the direction that Sarah had just gone, "then your friend is in a lot of trouble.

And judging by this letter, it is not going to get any better in the near future." He held up the letter, "so unless you want your friend to find herself in even more trouble than she is in now, you had better start telling me what the problem is, so we can find a way to help your friend despite what she might say."

Katie weighed up her options, and started haltingly to tell McCall what she knew. "Sarah's Mom passed away, and she left something to her, or at least I think she did. Anyway after she died, Sarah began to get these phone calls."

"And that was the start of the trouble." Macall interrupted.

"Yes," Katie paused, looking at McCall, and trying to judge what she should say next.

McCall waited expectantly, patiently waiting, "Go on." He prodded.

"Then some men came around, you know the kind that give you the creeps?" McCall nodded, and she continued, "They said that they had to see Sarah. I wasn't going to let them in, but Sarah said it was okay. So I let them in, but I stayed really close, I was right next to the phone. You know just in case?" McCall nodded again, indicating that she should continue.

"These guys, they talked really low, almost like they were whispering, I couldn't hear anything. I only heard a bit, and that didn't sound too good, Sarah was keeping her voice low too, which is really unusual for her, she likes to be really open you know? Anyway they left and that seemed to be an end to it, but then things seem to start happening, and like it all seemed to get out of control, you know?" she paused and McCall nodded for her to continue. "I know her mum was an addict, and I think maybe she owed a lot of people money, so I offered to help her out."

"But she said you couldn't help." McCall interjected.

"Yeah," Katie looked perplexed, "Sarah and I have been through a lot together Mr. McCall. My mom was an addict too; we met in a program that helps the family of addicts. My dad made me go and although the program didn't help a lot, Sarah did. We got along great, and Sarah really knew how to make me feel good. She always seemed to be able to keep it together, even when things were really bad, and I mean they got really bad with her mum. I don't know how she put up with it sometimes. Sarah was all alone, I had my dad but she had no one. Sarah only had me to rely on, but most of the time I was crying on her shoulder.

When all of this started to happen, I thought it was a good way to show her how much I appreciated her help and how much she meant to me, but she wouldn't let me help. I know she wanted to get help, but she had no one to turn too, except me..."

"But she kept pushing you away." McCall finished for her.

"Yes," Katie looked at him with tears in her eyes. "I know Sarah can be abrasive at times, and she sometimes makes it hard for someone to get near her. She can seem really tough, but on the inside, she's like this little lost girl, and she can get hurt really easily.

I don't know what that letter said, and I don't' want to know." Katie held up her hands as McCall opened his mouth. "All I know is that Sarah is my friend, and your ad said you could help, so please. Help her."

"I will do my best." McCall laid his hand on top of Katie's. "As long as I know the truth, I can help her."

"Please, you've just got to help her," Katie, pleaded as she stood up, McCall stood up too, his hand still on Katie's, "She needs to know she's not alone. Whatever that letter said, it's close to her heart, otherwise she wouldn't have pushed it so far away. Don't let her push you away, she needs someone in her corner."

"I won't let her push me away." McCall assured her.

Katie just nodded and turned to go, leaving McCall standing with the letter, that at once confused and confounded him, bringing back a flood of memories.

Sarah had been fuming when she left the restaurant, but as she walked down the street she began to calm down.

She knew that Katie had only done what she thought was a good thing, and because she had not explained the whole thing to her that she was partly to blame for the debacle that had happened.

Since her mother's death, Sarah had had to deal with a lot of nasty people, he mother had been as far removed from a saint as you could get, but she had coped.

Now she had another complication in her life, this McCall guy.

Sarah fervently hoped that he would read the letter, know what her mother was like, and just throw it in the bin without a second thought.

She remembered McCall, and knew he was a pretty good guy, although she did not know if her memory was playing tricks on her.

Sometimes she could almost make herself believe that the past had not happened, that she did have a normal life, with normal parents and normal schooling.

Sarah saw the man move quickly in front of her, by instinct she dodged to the side, just narrowly missing being grabbed.

Sarah ran towards him hoping that by moving in a direction that was against the odds it would throw him off balance.

It worked for an instant, but not long enough for her to make a clean break, there in front of her was another larger man who seemed very determined to make her stop.

"Sarah," a familiar and unattractive voice said to her. "I was hoping to catch up to you, I do hope that your little meeting went well."

"It wasn't a meeting." Sarah turned and faced the voice, Gary was a nasty piece of work, his cruelty clearly marked on his face. "A friend just got mixed up in a little business, nothing to do with me."

"It didn't seem that way to me." Gary smiled, "But I could always be wrong."

"Like you could ever be right." Sarah sniped.

She felt a hand hit her on the back of her head, and knew that it was the guy that was ready to hold her still if she tried to get away.

"Now, now, let's not air our dirty laundry in public." Gary kept on smiling. "You do realize that my patients are not eternal, I expect you to start paying back what you owe soon."

"I don't owe you anything. What I will give you is a courtesy, not a debt, and that is only to get you out of my life and off my back, my mother was the one with the debts."

"And you being the faithful daughter want her to go to her rest in peace don't' you?" Gary put a hand on her shoulder; "I wouldn't ask it of you unless it was absolutely necessary. I mean I don't want my clients to think that by dying you find a way out."

"No of course not, that would mean that you weren't all powerful." Sarah smiled at him, " And of course we know that power is just a substitute for inadequacies in other areas don't we?"

Gary stepped forward and held her chin in his hand. "If you don't' hurry up and do as I have asked, then I will show you how inadequate I can be."

He pushed her hard as he let go and signaled to the others to back off. "Till later Sarah, don't keep me waiting too long." He threatened.

Sarah watched him go, longing to throw a rock at his head.

She would have to get a move on, and that would mean getting Katie out of the picture for a while.

If only Katie hadn't of gotten this McCall character involved.

Sarah began to walk, not going anywhere in particular, just walking. She needed to think, and walking always helped.

She could tell that this was going to be a very long walk.

Pete sat down across from Robert, knowing he had something on his mind, but not knowing if he needed to share it with someone.

"Penny for your thoughts." Pete said with a smile, as she handed him a glass of fine whiskey.

Robert looked at her, not knowing what to say, "A little early for this?" he managed

"You looked like you could use it."

He handed her the letter that he still held in his hand.

She read it, the writing was almost illegible, but slowly she made out what it said.

Robert:

If you could see me now, you would say I told you so. So many time I wanted to pick up the phone and just call, tell you to come and rescue me, but stubborn pride always made me stop. I know this has been hard on my little Sarah. She has always been a good girl, and now at the end, I can't even give her a decent bit of peace.

I am in debt Robert, big debt, it's not my fault though, I wanted to quit, but my cravings were just too strong. I wanted to die, to escape this place, the pain, the memories. I should have taken you up on your offer, but you never gave me a chance. All I needed was a chance.

I am still all messed up, and no one is here to help me! I didn't want to be like this, I wanted to be something better. I wanted to really turn my life around, but the chance was never given to me. No one ever gave me a chance.

Sarah's a good girl; she knows how hard I struggled, how hard it was for me.

Please Robert, for the sake of our friendship, look after her.

Give her the chances I was never given. I tried, I really did, but it all went sour, and I couldn't find anyone to help me.

Please Robert, you know I wouldn't ask unless I was desperate! Don't let me down like all the rest!

Your friend to the last;

Joan Miles.

Pete looked at Robert, compassion in her eyes. "She was a friend?"

"She was," Robert took a sip of his drink contemplating it's contents. "Joan was quite a woman, but she was also an addict." He paused, "And like all addicts, it was never her fault, it was always someone else's fault."

"Is Sarah?..." Pete let the question hang in the air.

"No." Robert shook his head; "She was born before I met them. She was a bright, skinny little thing, with lively little eyes and a cheeky grin. She was a mirror image of her mother. I use to love bringing her little gifts; she always had such a delighted look on her face when she got something. Joan always said I spoiled her too much."

"Sounds like you got close to them."

"I did," Robert took another sip, "but Joan didn't want another relationship, she said she was still recovering from the last one. I think I knew then, that she was an addict, I just didn't want to admit it."

"So?"

"So, business took me away, and by the time I got back, they had disappeared."

"And you never tried to find them?"

"Yes, but Joan made it very clear that I was not welcome anymore. Apparently she had found somebody new. I had hoped that it would help turn her life around." Robert let the statement hang in the air.

"Will you help Sarah?" Pete asked.

"She doesn't seem to want my help."

"That's not what I asked." Pete looked at him steadily.

"Yes." Robert said exasperated, "I will."

Pete grinned, "How did I know you would say that?"

"I don't know Pete," Robert grinned back at her, "How did you know." He tipped up his drink, feeling better now that he had decided what he was going to do.

Sarah opened the front door, before she even stepped in, she knew Gary had been there.

Drawers were left open there were pictures and debris on the floor, and glass crunched under her feet.

"Damn!" she violently took the keys from the door, knowing that stomping about and swearing was not going to fix the situation, but also feeling better as she vented her anger.

She moved through the wreckage to the walk in pantry in the kitchen. Picking out the little broom and pan, she proceeded back to the living room.

Katie had contacted Robert McCall, someone she had rather hoped was a figment of her mother's drug induced imagination, but secretly she remembered him.

He had, for the most part of what she remembered, been a nice man, rather formal, but nice. He had brought her little gifts, which some how always seemed to mysteriously disappear after a while. She had begun to suspect then what her mother was, but she hoped that this nice strong man would make it better.

It was after they had moved; that Sarah realized that McCall was not the sort of man to put up with her mother's drug habit.

Her mother had told Sarah it was McCall's fault, he just couldn't cope with her painkillers.

Her mother had wanted to stay with him, she had said, but he had given her a choice, give up the drugs or he was gone.

Her mother had taken the drugs, she had whined that it wasn't her fault, but she had chosen, not McCall.

Addicts! Who'd have em! Sarah thought to herself, as she sank to her knees and began picking up the things that lay strewn on the floor.

Luckily we don't have a lot; she barked a small laugh to herself.

"I see Gary paid another visit." Katie stood in the doorway.

"Don't worry it'll soon be over." Sarah didn't bother to turn around; she concentrated on the mess.

"Leave it," Katie said as she walked towards her friend, "he's just gonna do it again. You know that."

"I know," Sarah sighed with resignation, "but I can't just leave it."

"I think you should let Mr. McCall help you."

"And what do you think he can do?" Sarah turned and looked up at Katie who still stood in the doorway.

"He can do a hell of a lot more than we can by ourselves."

"We?" Sarah jabbed, "We! There is no we! There is only me! You're not involved and you won't be involved."

"Sarah, your my friend."

"Yeah, and as your friend." Sarah got up and moved to Katie, "I'm telling you, get out and leave me alone." She pushed Katie out of the apartment.

"Sarah," Katie pushed back, "I'm not leaving."

"You are! And I don't want you back till this is all over."

"That is a very good idea." McCall said to the two girls fighting in the doorway.

"How did you get here?" Sarah glared at Katie.

"The address was in the envelope." He smiled, "You have grown."

"All grown up and no place to go." Sarah sneered back. "Look," she took a deep breath and ran her fingers through her hair. "I know you want to help, and hey that's great! But I hate to tell you this; I really don't need much help. It's all under control."

"So it would seem." McCall nodded to the mess in the flat.

"We have big rats." Sarah quipped.

"Very large ones indeed." McCall brushed past the two girls into the apartment. "Now, as I see it, your friend is giving you very good advice," he nodded to Katie, "I think you should find somewhere else to stay, at least for the next little while."

"Only if Sarah comes with me."

"I can't." Sarah's jaw set stubbornly.

"Then I'm not going either."

"Katie," McCall said patiently, "Sarah will be staying with me. Her mother and I were old friends, and I do believe that she asked me to help you." He said pointedly to Sarah, ignoring her stubborn outraged protest, he almost clapped a hand over her mouth. "And despite what you want, I am willing to honor a dying woman's last wish."

"Dying woman's last wish!" Sarah managed to grind out between gritted teeth. "She wrote that years ago! Dying wish my ass! My mother, " Sarah almost ground the word mother out like it was a disease, "couldn't think of anyone else but herself, and where her next fix was coming from. I spent years covering her debts, picking up the pieces and taking her to hospital." Sarah began to verbally attack him trying to throw him off balance in the process.

"You come in here, all noble, like your some knight in shining armor. What are you going to do? Rescue me? Put me on your white horse and ride off into the sunset. Oh wouldn't that be nice," her voice became sickly sweet with sarcasm. "Oh I can just see it, a family I always dreamed about, mummy, daddy and me. Now isn't that just sweet?" she clapped her hands together under her chin and made and innocent wide-eyed face, adding to the sarcasm.

Robert just stood there waiting till her tirade was over.

"You're about ten years too late! I stopped believing in fairy tales a long time ago. I can handle this by myself. I don't need your help! I don't want your help! So you can just pick up your noble sentiments, your old regrets, or whatever connection you thought you had with my mother and me and get out! I don't' need you! I don't want you! So don't let the door hit you on the way out!"

McCall stood quietly calm as she moved closer to him and screamed in his face. "I am not about to let the door hit me, and you are not about to drive me off." He faced her down, neither one of them giving an inch. "You're as stubborn as your mother."

"I am not my mother!" She screamed back at him, attempting to hit him in the face.

"No you're not your mother." His calm demeanor infuriated her as he grabbed her hand before she was able to hit him and held it tight almost hurting it. " I did get a letter from her, and I don't care if it was written ten minutes ago or ten years ago," he intoned emphatically pronouncing each syllable, "it asks for my help, and that is what I am going to do." He pushed her a little as he let go.

Sarah stood there seething. She measured him up, not knowing how far she could or should push this man.

Robert McCall might seem like a normal, almost gentle type, but somewhere under the surface, she could detect a determination to do what was necessary, with such a cold effecientcey that it shook her to her core.

The two of them stood toe to toe, McCall cool and confident, Sarah fuming.

"Alright," she stamped her foot in disgust, "you win."

"It's not a matter of winning," McCall stated, "it's a matter of doing what's right, and right now you need to get out of this place and somewhere safe."

"I'll pack a bag." Sarah moved to the front of the flat and went into the bedroom off to the left.

"That's the first time I've ever seen her give in." Katie spoke with awe. "Well,

With out physically making her submits. Not that any one would do that." Katie quickly added as McCall looked at her.

"No of course not. You would have stopped them." He pricked her conscience.

"I'd better go." Katie began to back off, "I'll give you my number just in case, Sarah's too mad to talk to me right now, but if she needs me, give it to her please?" Katie scribbled a number on a piece of paper and handed it to McCall.

"Of Course," McCall took the number "Don't you want to pack a bag?" McCall asked politely.

"No, it's okay," Katie quickly began to back away, "my dad always has my room ready, and I've left plenty of stuff at his place. Besides, with Sarah in this mood I think it's safer if I just left, and soon."

McCall nodded and watched as Katie beat a hasty retreat. He waited for Sarah to finish; she seemed to be taking a long time.

He was just about to check when he heard someone in the doorway.

"Loose something?" Mickey said from the door, his hand wrapped tightly around the neck of Sarah's shirt.

"Thank you Mickey." McCall said non-chalnately "I was wondering when you would turn up."

Sarah just looked disgusted at both men, as they smiled at each other.

"We'll stay here for the afternoon," Robert opened the door, "just till I can arrange a safer place for you to stay for the moment."

"I hope you know, I won't take anything under five stars."

"I will see if I can arrange it for you." Robert drawled sarcastically.

"If it's not the best," Sarah sweetly replied, "then I guess I'll just have to leave."

"You will do as you are asked." Robert warned, "Now if you will kindly stay put," he motioned to the couch, "I will see to your arrangements."

There was a knock on the door, silencing the reply that Sarah was about to throw back.

"Pete!" Robert was surprised, "What are you doing here?"

"I thought I'd come and see how you were making out." Pete smiled at Sarah who was now sitting on the couch.

"He's just fine, me on the other hand, feel like a prisoner." Sarah glared at McCall.

"Well there is no use glaring at me like that, it will get you no where." Robert walked with Pete into the living room.

"If only looks could kill." Sarah said pointedly.

"Making threats," Robert began.

"My name's Pete." Pete interrupted, putting out her hand towards Sarah, as she defused the situation.

Sarah gave her a baleful look before taking the offered hand and shaking it. "Come to baby sit?"

"No, just watch." Pete quipped at her.

Sarah grinned despite herself. "Aw, can't you referee?"

"Not this match." Pete grinned back at her; Robert just threw his hands up and went into the kitchen, "I think I'd be too much on Roberts side. So are you settling in okay?"

"Nice change of subject, yeah I'm okay, for a jail it's not too bad."

"And where would you go if not here?"

"I've got my places."

"As nice or as safe as this?"

"Look I don't' need any help. I've looked after myself for years, probably more years than you think. Mum was not what you would call mother of the year material."

"What was it like?"

"Hell." Sarah said matter of factly.

"Robert really is trying to help you know."

"Maybe, but it's better if I do this alone."

"Why?"

"Because I can depend on me, I know me, and I know what I can and can't do. Him, him I don't know, and I don't know what or who he is. All I can remember is he was a pretty nice guy, and nice guys are not what I need right now."

"Robert is a nice guy, but when it comes to his friends, he can be very protective. If a little pig headed."

"I heard that." Robert joked as he brought out a tray with mugs of coffee on it. "Coffee."

"Manna from heaven." Sarah said involuntarily. "My one addiction," she smiled sheepishly.

"I think you're in good company there." Pete said gently back.

Pete and Robert sat on the couch; Sarah sat in the chair, leaning back with her coffee in hand.

"So are you going to tell me what is going on, and who redecorated your apartment."

"Well I hired this company." Sarah started sarcastically.

"Sarah," Robert said gently, trying not to show his irritation at her flippancy. "You may not think you need my help, but from what I have seen, and what your friend Katie told me. I think your mother had some pretty powerful people after her. And now it seems they have targeted you. Now we can sit and bandy about insults, but that will not fix the problem."

Sarah looked at him, not wanting too, but finding herself wanting to trust this man in front of her. "She didn't have debts exactly," Sarah took a sip of her coffee and continued, "She promised information. Something she could get me to get for her. I would have too, but the silly bitc... Cow," Sarah corrected herself, "sold my computer for a hit."

"The hit that killed her?" Robert asked.

"No." Sarah remained quiet for a few moments, gathering her thoughts.

Robert was about to say something, but Pete put her hand on his arm.

Sarah began again; "I have been getting information for her for a while. I like computers, they're easy, always the same, never changing. You want something new, you add new software, you don't' like it, you take it away. Easy. I learned all I could about them, how to break codes, how to look for something on someone else's computer. Where the back doors were, and that kind of thing. I got pretty good too. So one day, I broke into this bank, seems they loved computers, put their security system on it. I deactivated it."

"And your mother told someone."

"Yep" Sarah sighed.

"And she asked you to do it again?" Robert asked.

"Yes, but a different place, somewhere downtown, I have no idea why? It was just a regular building, easy alarm system, nothing heavy."

"So that was what you were going to do for this person or persons who are threatening you now?"

"No, not exactly." Sarah blew on her coffee before she took another sip. This was too easy.

"Well what exactly are you suppose to do?" Robert prodded a little harder.

"I was suppose to look up police stations, find out where there was a big haul of drugs, you know the one that was taken off the jet. Anyway, I was suppose to find out where it was, and see if I couldn't spring it."

"Spring it? I don't understand." Robert took off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes, getting information out of Sarah was like pulling teeth.

"I go in on computer, I send a message, that the drugs are going to be picked up at such and such a time, by so and so, and to be ready with an escort."

"And do you know the time they want to pick up these drugs?

"Not yet. I still haven't found the drugs, mind you I really haven't been looking." Sarah gave him a genuine smile.

Robert smiled back; she really did have a lovely smile, just like her mother's use to be.

McCall sat swishing his drink, contemplating its contents.

"So?" Pete prompted as they sat there on the couch while Sarah had a shower.

"She's lying." Robert stated.

"How can you tell?" Pete was incredulous, "I thought she was very genuine."

"Oh she was truthful about some things, but not about everything." Robert picked up the cups and put them on the tray. He got up and moved to the kitchen, Pete followed him.

"How could you tell?"

"She is very much like her mother," Robert put the dishes in the sink, " Sarah didn't once look at either of us when she was talking. She avoided all eye contact, her mother use to avoid the eyes when she lied too. Joan had a saying, why tell the truth when a lie will do."

"So what do you think she was asked to do?"

"I don't have a clue, but I'm willing to bet that she has to do it within the next few days."

"You mean you expect her to try and disappear?"

"Precisely."

"And you've got some who's going to follow her."

"You read my mind."

"Do you think she knows that you know?" Pete smiled at the way that had come out.

Robert leaned on the counter thinking of old memories. "I think somewhere deep inside she does. But she's as stubborn as I remember her, she never backed down, even when she was wrong." Robert laughed at the memories that flooded into his mind, "she was such a firebrand, she never seemed to stop. I think Joan envied that in her, it use to grate on her nerves that Sarah would be able to stand up to her, neither one of them ever gave and inch. Don't get me wrong, Joan loved Sarah, when I saw them together, they were like mirror images of each other. They would play together for hours, I could spend hours watching them make up their own games. It was like they lived in a world all of there own.

They were like the inseparable pair then. Two fast paced free spirits that no one could touch." Robert lost himself in the memories that crowded his mind for a moment.

"I suppose that's why I found it so hard to forgive her." Sarah disturbed his reverie, "She had so much love, and it seemed like she just threw it away, for some buzz that she could never catch. It's like she had this giant hole that could never be filled. Not by me, not by anyone. Just this hole that seemed to get bigger and bigger, sucking more and more of her spirit and sense of self away. It was sad in the end, she didn't even know why anymore, just that she couldn't take it. She finally just let go, and ended it."

"She took her own life?" Robert seemed amazed.

"Oh yeah," Sarah smiled at his amazement, " You didn't know her in the end. It took hold of her, the thought of escape, the thought of not having to live in constant need of wanting something that she could never have. She wanted to end it, tried a whole bunch of times. Finally I'd had enough, so when she said she wanted to kill herself again, I handed her the knife and walked out the door. When I came back, she was dead."

"Oh god that must've been awful." Pete put her hand on Sarah's shoulder.

"I think it was for the best," Sarah shrugged it off, "She didn't have a life anymore, just living from one hit to another, it was for the best." Sarah walked to the door. "You don't mind if I get a little air do you?"

"No," Robert said, "just don't go far, and for heaven's sake take a jacket."

"Yes father." She joked back.

"I mean it, it's getting cold out there," Robert went to the hall closet and got out a jacket, "here take this one. I think it will fit."

Sarah begrudgingly took it, and put it on, "So you have lots of young women about my size here?" she smiled up at him.

"Oh too many to count." He laughed back at her.

"I won't be too long." She said as she went out of the door, she turned impulsively and gave him a hug, then with a smile bounced out the door.

Robert shut the door and came back into the living room.

"Who did you get?" Pete asked.

"Mickey, I just hope he's up to the job."

"What do you mean?"

"She's had years of practice at this I think," Robert ran a hand over his eyes, taking off his glasses. "She would have to have, to keep up with her mother's habit."

He sighed, all he could do now was wait, and hope he wouldn't be too late.

Sarah new that McCall had let her out too easily, so there must be someone following her, now to loose who ever it was.

She walked along a street full of shops, hoping to catch a glimpse of the person who was following her, but so far she had, had no luck.

Taking a chance, she ducked into one of shops, pretending to admire a dress, she asked if she could try it on, and the sales woman was more than happy to help.

It only took Sarah a minute to figure out that there was no back door to the shop, and although she thought she could probably find another shop that would have a dressing room in the back, she didn't want to waste time.

If her plan were going to work, she'd need a diversion; quickly she looked under the small opening to the cubical next door.

Just as she thought, the woman had left her bag on the floor as she stepped out for a look at the new dress she was trying on.

Sarah took the security tag off her dress, and quickly put it in the lady's bag, not knowing how much time she had, she tried on the dress, and then stepped out, showing the shop assistant what she looked like.

It was a nice dress, and although she had, had no intention of buying it, she just couldn't resist.

She took out McCall's wallet, which she had lifted as she gave him a hug, looked at the signature.

Easy to copy, she then paid for the dress and continued to look around the shop.

Mickey had followed Sarah as McCall had asked.

He had been sure to stay of her sight, and now he waited for her to come out of the shop.

He saw her at the front of the window looking out, but was careful to make sure he faded into the background so as not to be spotted.

Waiting till she saw the woman who was in the back with the black bag left, she went back into the dressing room and looked at the ceiling. It was quite solid, except for a small opening just above the last cubical. Hurrying, she managed to just make it into the cubical before the alarm went off.

Waiting till there was a momentary drop in the flow of people coming in and out, thanks to the alarm, she hoisted herself up and pushed at the attic opening. It gave easily although it left some chalky residue on the carpet below. Hoping that no one would notice, she quickly squeezed through and put the covering back in place, she had hoped there would be a vent or opening that she could squeeze through in the roof. If not then she would stay where she was until she was sure that the person following her was gone. Or at least had lost her trail. Moving in the dark she began to search as her eyes became accustom to the dark.

Mickey had heard the alarm going off, and thought she might use that as a cover to slip out quietly, not seeing her come out again, he waited. As time dragged on, he began to wonder, and crossed the street to investigate.

Everything seemed normal in the shop, and when he went in, ducking behind some of the dress racks, he pretended to be looking, while he tried to observe everyone in the shop.

"Can I help you," a woman's voice asked.

"Yes," Mickey put on his best smile, "My girlfriend comes in here all the time, and yesterday she came in and said there was a blue dress, that kind of had a low neckline." Mickey tried to sound as embarrassed as possible, "she said it was perfect for our anniversary, but she couldn't afford it."

"Ah I know just the one." The saleswoman exclaimed, "did she have blonde hair, and really beautiful blue eyes?"

"That's the one." Mickey smiled like he meant it, knowing that the woman was using such a general description to make the sale.

"I know which one you mean, if you would care to follow me?"

"Look," Mickey said conspiritally; "I really don't want her to see me."

"I understand," the woman almost whispered back, "why don't you wait in the back, if you turn left through that door, you'll see the changing rooms on your right, and on the left is a little staff room. If you want to wait there, I'll get you the dress. What size is your girlfriend?"

"She's a size six?"

"Well if it doesn't fit, tell her to bring it back, and we'll exchange it."

Mickey quickly ducked into the doorway, looking at the changing rooms as he passed. They all seemed to be empty at the moment, and he couldn't see Sarah anywhere.

McCall was going to kill him.

Mickey saw a wallet on the floor, and picked it up. It was McCalls wallet; he was not going to be pleased, inside it had one word written in it. Sucker!

The sales woman was busy trying to find a blue dress with a low cut neck, so Mickey quickly walked up the line of change rooms. In the end one he saw the white chalky residue on the floor, as he looked up he noticed the small hatchway the lead to the airway above the shop.

"Damn!" he swore, and quickly made his way to the front door, leaving the gasping sales woman with two blue dresses in her hands, and a frozen smile on her face.

Mickey was not looking forward to telling McCall that he had lost her, or that she had lifted his wallet.

Sarah pushed herself through the roof, moving from beam to beam.

She knew Mickey would find the chalky residue on the floor, it was from the plaster that had been laid over the top the beams in the ceiling.

She hoped that he would not be so careful and miss the residue, but she had a sneaking suspicion that this guy was good, she would have to be very careful with where she came out.

If luck was with her, the ceiling should run right along the length of the building, and if she were careful she should be able to make her way out of the building without being seen.

Finally after what she thought was a long time, she found an opening, it was very narrow, and she wasn't sure she would fit through, but it was her only chance to get out.

She pushed the small ventilation cover; it was stuck fast, so she began to move and bend it, hoping the metal would give way without too many sharp edges.

Finally after a short, but exerting struggle, she managed to pull the cover off, and squeeze through.

'I'm not as fat as I thought I was.' She commented to herself.

Feeling extremely proud of her, she made her way back to the street, and with a quick look around she began to get a move on.

This loosing the guy had taken a bit longer than she had imagined

Sarah found a pay phone, and dialed Katie's number.

"Hello?" Katie answered.

"Katie?"

"Yes, Sarah?"

"Yeah, now please just listen. I have to get in touch with Gary, and I don't want you to tell anyone okay?"

"Sarah," Katie began, "I thought Mr. McCall was helping you."

"Yeah he is," Sarah sounded confident, "but I need to see Gary, he's got something I need, and I want it back. He's harmless anyway, you know that."

"I don't know that, after what he did to the flat? I think you should let Mr. McCall handle it." Katie didn't sound convinced.

"I am letting McCall handle it, he's right here, I just need you to call Gary and tell him to meet me. Then Mr. McCall can talk to him and get him off my back?"

"Sarah let me talk to Mr. McCall."

"Katie, we don't have time for this, we need to set this up right away, okay just trust me? Please?"

"I still don't like it." Katie's sounded dubious.

"Look, I'll give you his number, just ring him and tell him to meet me at the doorstop cafe, it's not far from where you met McCall, okay?"

"Alright," Katie gave in, "but I don't like it."

"Look you don't have to like it, just call. The number is, 773 6519, and tell him to meet me in about an hour."

"I still don't like this."

"Just do it, for me?"

"Okay, but I don't have to like it do I?"

"Thanks Katie I knew I could count on you."

"Sarah?"

"Yeah?"

"Just be careful okay?"

"Okay, bye."

"Bye"

Katie turned to McCall; "she's meeting him at the doorstop cafe, in an hour."

"You did the right thing." McCall squeezed her shoulder.

"I just hope she sees it that way." Katie gave a little smile back to him and Mickey.

Gary was already sitting at a table and looking as impatient. "I should break your arm for keeping me waiting like this."

"What a greeting." Sarah snapped back, "besides if you broke my arm, then I wouldn't be able to do the job for you could I?"

"I could always find another way of hurting you." Gary leered at her.

Sarah repressed a shudder. "So where is it?"

"Here," Gary shoved a manila file at her, "It's all in there."

"Do you know about security?"

"Like I said it's all in there."

"How reliable is the source," Sarah looked up from the folder, "I need the best info I can get."

"It is the best that money can buy."

"That's not re-assuring. What about afterwards, do you have a plan?"

"Look," Gary said lighting a cigarette, "you just do the job. I'll worry about the details."

"Details are my job, idiot."

"I am not an idiot," Gary raised his voice, causing several people to turn around.

Sarah raised and eyebrow at him, putting on a sardonic look. "You really should learn to control your temper."

"And you should learn to show proper respect."

"If I meet anyone I respect I will."

"Look you bitch..." Gary began.

"Look yourself," Sarah countered, "I'm the one putting myself on the line, not you. I call the shots as to where and when this thing goes down, and if everything is okay then fine, we go. But I will not put myself in danger because you get impatient, got it?"

"A fine speech from someone who doesn't have a choice."

"Never kid yourself asshole!" Sarah's voice carried although it was a low almost inaudible whisper; "I have a choice."

"Your Mr. McCall?"

Sarah went back to studying the file, ignoring him.

"He won't be able to help you," Gary sucked on his cigarette with satisfaction, "He's just a trumped up wanna be detective. I had him checked out."

"He's more than that," Sarah said not looking up from the file, "he's a very powerful man. And I can guarantee that he is more than a match for you. Hell he's more than a match for me." Sarah looked up and saw McCall standing by his car. She smiled, she had hoped that he wouldn't make too much of a fuss, but she doubted that he would be very happy.
McCall nodded at her and smiled.

"You'd better make yourself scarce," Sarah didn't take her eyes off McCall, "I think I'm about to get the riot act read to me." Sarah grinned, and began to feel the old fire burn inside. She took one last look at the paper inside the manila folder and lit it up with Gary's lighter.

Gary looked at Sarah then at McCall, "You got something going with him?" he asked incredulously, "cause if he wants a cut, it's out of your share."

"Not yet," Sarah sat back and sipped her coffee, "but give it time. Give it time."

She almost laughed, noting the comical look of shock on Gary's face. "Not in that way, he's just good fun to get around. Besides he doesn't know anything, and I'd like to keep it that way. If you get my meaning."

Gary looked at the them pair of them, first at one then the other; he shook his head, and began to move off. "I won't say a word."

Mickey intercepted him, and without a word, escorted him to where McCall stood.

Sarah got up, and moved from the table to where McCall, Mickey and Gary stood by the car, "I'd let him go, he's not worth it."

"I just thought I'd let him know, that you're under my protection," McCall started his gaze level with hers. "And that what ever endeavor he and you had planed, is now at an end."

"And what if I don't want it to end?" Sarah knew she was fighting a loosing battle.

"Then I am ending it for you."

"You're not my father."

"No I'm your friend."

"Then from one friend to another, butt out." Sarah said in the nicest voice she could muster.

Gary began to back away, but Mickey smiled, and put a hand on his shoulder making sure to grab a handful of his jacket as well. Gary looked at him, and gave a wan smile back.

"Sarah," McCall said overly patiently, "I do believe that we have had this conversation before, and I do believe," he paused dramatically, "that you understood that I was not going to take no for an answer."

"And you believe your own rhetoric? Do you?"

"It is not rhetoric."

"McCall it's nice that you want to look out for me, but I told you before, I don't need your help, I don't want your help. I can look after myself. Besides, I like my job, I work hard at it, and the rewards can be quite satisfying."

"Putting drugs on the street satisfying?" McCall looked at her levelly waiting for her to deny it.

Sarah shrugged, "hey people gotta get high."

"And when were you going to level with me and tell me what's really going on." McCall pointed his finger at Gary. "Mr. Gary Hayes is not a drug dealer, he is a fence, and what he deals in is high value items. So what are you really after, huh? Or do I have to beat it out of Mr. Hayes."

"Leave him out of it." Sarah had to smile at him, she knew what he was doing, and she knew also that Gary was stupid enough to fall for it. "Besides, he's too tough, he'd never talk."

"Oh Really," McCall almost smiled back, "You think I'm playing a games here."

"Aren't you?" Sarah cut him off from making any speeches, "I know you McCall, dealt with your kind before, " Sarah held up her hand to stop him from speaking, "I know you mean well, but you don't live in the real world. You live in your nice little world where everything is black and white world, everyone has a home, and you live nicely respecting each other. The fence is always white, and the grass is always mown. Well I've got news for you; this is the real world. This dirty little game, is my world, it gets me off, it keeps me sane, and I get to eat for another couple of months."

"Your mother never owed him did she?"

"Oh she owed him, she sold me to him! Shocked? Why? She was a bitch, an addict, she needed the money, and he wanted an apprentice. So, it worked out, at least this way, I ended up with a trade that doesn't include old men slobbering all over me."

"What happened in the past is the past, you can do better than that."

"Better?" Sarah laughed, "this is my best, and if you don't like it, then I'm afraid you and I have nothing more to talk about!"

"I don't believe that! You are a highly intelligent and resourceful girl, you could do whatever you put your mind too. Now I would love to stay and drill that into your head, but I have another appointment, and I just can't take the time to argue with you about the logistics of your professed profession." McCall nodded to Mickey who held her arm as McCall turned on Gary.

"Mr. Hayes, this is what you are going to do." McCall stared at him, his eyes hard, "You are going to go away, and if I ever see you around here again, I will not be so lenient as I have been today, is that clear?"

Gary nodded, looked at Sarah then at McCall, fear lighting his eyes.

"Then I will bid you a good day, Mr. Hayes." McCall nodded to Mickey who moved back still holding Sarah.

Gary seized the opportunity and took off at a run, not looking back.

"You get in the van." McCall said to Sarah nodding towards Mickey's van, "and this time no tricks."

Sarah moved to the appointed van, then turned around and stuck out her tongue at McCall as she rolled down the window.

"Well that was easy." Mickey said.

"I know," McCall's voice was full of suspicion. "I have a feeling that I have just been lead up the garden path again. I know she's up to something, I just can't figure out what yet."

"Pete said she might come over later, maybe she'll have more luck." Mickey said, "You said they seemed to get along pretty good."

"Yes," McCall put his keys to his lips thinking carefully as he said, " watch her carefully. I don't want you to loose her, and I think she may try something tonight." He walked to the van and said to Sarah " I want you to go with Mr. Kostmayer he's going to take you to a safe house. I don't want you to give him any trouble."

Sarah looked out the rolled down window, "I promise I'll be as good as I can."

McCall just looked at her doubt in his eyes, then said to Mickey, "be careful."

Mickey nodded understanding his meaning.

Robert drove his Jag to the Restaurant where he had agreed to meet Scott; as usual he was the first one to arrive.

He gave his coat to the coat check, and then followed the maitre d to the table.

"Would you care for an aperitif?" the waiter asked.

"Yes, I'll have a double scotch, on the rocks." He was looking forward to that drink, with all that had happened to day, he thought he could really use one.

As was his want he sat facing the door, and saw Scott enter the restaurant with a woman. He couldn't make out what she looked like, as she had her face partially hidden behind a Grey woolen clock with the hood up.

"Scott." Robert greeted him with a warm hug.

"Bad day?" Scott asked as the waiter came and put Robert's drink on the table.

"The usual." Robert remained standing for the lady, waiting for Scott to introduce her.

Scott stood there with a grin on his face.

"Well aren't you going to introduce your lady friend?"

"Dad, don't you know your own daughter?" Scott barely contained his laughter.

"Yvette?"

"Surprise." She said as she flung the cloak's hood back.

"Yvette!" Robert said as he embraced her heartily, "When did you get into town?"

"Last night," she smiled back at him, "I was in Chicago, my aunt had some business there, and since I was close, I thought I'd come by. You weren't at your apartment, and I ran into Scott."

"And the two of you cooked up this little scheme?"

"Your not mad are you?" Yvette asked.

"No" he hugged her again, "how long can you stay?"

"Only till Friday, I want to see the big new display at the museum, it's suppose to be fabulous."

"What new display."

"You know," Scott interjected, " it's called the Czar's last treasure, it's suppose to be like the Russian crown jewels. It's been in all the papers."

"No I hadn't heard," he took a sip of his drink.

They began to talk and enjoy the time they were spending together; the three of them talked and laughed till late in the evening.

"Where are you staying?" Robert asked Yvette.

"With Scott."

"It's a little crowded there isn't it?" he looked dubiously at Scott.

"Not really." Scott defended his apartment.

"Scott gave me the bedroom, and he's sleeping on the couch."

"The couch folds out into a bed." Scott again defended again.

"And the bed is really comfortable," Yvette laughed at Scott's hurt expression. "He even changed the sheets."

Robert and Yvette laughed at Scott's obvious discomfort.

"It's okay, I'm quite happy there. Besides Scott promised to take me out to a few jazz clubs he knows." Yvette finally finished.

"As long as you don't stay out too late, it gets dangerous in the city at night." Robert warned them.

"See, now that's why she wants to stay with me," Scott laughed, "you'd make her come home early, and then you'd give her the third degree."

"I would not." Robert protested.

"Yeah Dad," Scott was still laughing, "and I'm the pope."

"Yeah, I would like to stay out past ten o'clock this time." Yvette joined in the teasing.

"Well I can see I'm going to be out voted," Robert gave in gracefully, "but I want you to come over for lunch tomorrow."

"And tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day." Scott laughed.

"I'm your father Scott," Robert pretended to growl, "I think I deserve some time with my own daughter, even if my son doesn't respect me."

Scott just howled more with laughter, as Robert couldn't keep the smile from his face. " "But seriously, I do want to spend some time with you." He said seriously as he took Yvette's hand in his.

"I know," she squeezed his hand, "I won't be far, and I will come and see you everyday, I promise."

"Thank you," Robert looked at Scott, "and I'd like to see more of you too."

"I know Dad," Scott said, laughter still playing around his eyes, "we'll both come over for lunch tomorrow, unless you two want to spend some time alone?"

"No Scott, I'd like you to be there too."

There was a pause in the conversation as the three of them just sat and enjoyed the moment.
"Well I think we'd better go before we get kicked out." Scott said finally as he noted the waiter beginning to remove the tablecloth from the other table, "we're sort of being given a hint."

"Do you need a ride?" he asked Yvette and Scott as he got up from the table

"No thanks," they both said in unison, laughing at each other as the three of them walked to the door.

"There's a club near here, plays some good music," Scott looked at Yvette, she nodded in Robert's direction, "do you want to come?" he said to his father.

"I think I'll pass on that," Robert said, "but the two of you go, and have a good time. Do you need any money?"

"Dad," Scott almost whined, "I do have a job you know."

"I know." Robert held up his hands in defeat. "I just wanted to know if you needed cab fair."

"I've got it covered."

"Don't stay out too late."

"Yes dad,"

"I mean it Scott, Yvette is probably tired after he long trip here."

"It's okay Robert, I'll be fine." Yvette moved to hug him, "I'm glad that you worry though." She hugged him

Robert kissed her on the top of her head, and held her close for a moment.

"Come on." Scott said impatiently.

"You'd better go." Robert smiled as he brushed an imaginary hair from her face.

"I'll see you tomorrow," She hugged him again briefly, "I promise."

"I'll hold you to that," he let her go, "Have a good time."

"Bye dad." Scott called to him already out the door.

He stood for a moment watching them go, then feeling slightly melancholy, he headed to his car and started home.

It was midnight, and still Mickey seemed to be wide-awake and ready for anything.

Pete had come over earlier, with coffee and a bite to eat. She and Sarah had talked, and although Pete was able to make Sarah feel comfortable, she gave away none of her secrets.

Sarah liked Pete, she liked Robert and Mickey too, but she just couldn't let them know what she was up too.

How long would any of them like her if they knew what she had done in the past, what she was about to do now. They were all too straight laced to understand.

She couldn't see them understanding the lengths to which she had gone to keep herself and her mother out of trouble.

Sarah lay back down on the bed; the house McCall had chosen had been a good one. The Back door opened onto an enclosed courtyard with very high walls, with razor wire on top. (Nice touch, she had thought when she saw it.) The house itself, was a small worker's cottage, with one bedroom. The bedroom had a small window that was painted shut, with a view of the brick wall that surrounded the back of the house. There was no entrance hall, the front door opened into the living room, which was sparsely furnished, and dominated by a huge fireplace. The kitchen was a small ramshackle affair that was in desperate need of some modernizing. A small out dated bathroom that was attached to the kitchen where the backdoor use to be completed the picture.

Which meant that there was only one door, and since the bathroom had no windows, only one window that was out of Mickey's line of sight and that was of no use to Sarah.

Sarah had looked, and schemed but so far had no way of getting out of the cottage without being seen.

Mickey had been true to his word, and kept and eye on her, trying to make conversation, which Sarah had deflected as best she could. Mickey seemingly had an endless amount of energy that could out last the best of them. So far he didn't even look as if he were tired.

Still she had to admit he was a nice guy, but then again nice, was never her strong suit. She had done what she did to survive, and although most moral upstanding people would spit on her, she knew how to keep most of what she had done to herself, and not let anyone near enough to see how much she despised herself for what she had become.

Sarah fervently wished she didn't have this much time to think, thinking was dangerous. It dulled her mind, made her slow and question everything she did.

Right at this moment, she didn't need to think she needed to act, she needed to get out and do something, anything!

"You want any more to eat?" he asked as he stuck his head around the corner into the room, "I'm going to get pizza."

"Delivered."

"Yep." Mickey grinned at her, and despite herself she grinned back.

"Tell you what," she started, "If you like, and I promise to be good, why don't we go out to eat. I've got a headache and I was wondering if I could get some aspirin."

"Out of the question." Mickey grinned at her still; "McCall would skin me alive if we left this house."

"Can you send someone to get some?"

"Nope." Mickey smiled, "And yes there is someone I could send, but I'm not going too."

"I wasn't fishing." Sarah put up her hands.

"Then why don't you put the fishing line away." Mickey continued to grin at her.

Sarah laughed at his half-hearted attempt at humor, "Don't give up your day job."

"What do you want on your pizza?" He said ignoring her last remark.

"Nothing, I'm not really hungry."

Mickey smiled and held back a quip that came into his mind, as he went back into the living room. The phone rang just as he was about to pick it up.

"Hello?"
"Mickey it's Robert."

"Hi Robert. Anything wrong?"
"No just wanted to check in before I got all the way home, do you need anything?"

"We were just about to call for pizza, although if your in the neighborhood and have some Aspirin?"

"Headache?"

"Not me, Sarah."

"I'll be there in about ten minutes."

"Do you want any pizza?"

"Didn't Pete bring you something to eat?" Robert sounded amazed at Mickey's appetite.

"Yeah but I'm hungry again. Do you want me to get you any."

"No, I'll see you there."

Mickey pushed the buttons on the cradle, and then dialed the local pizza place. He ordered and then went to tell Sarah that the pizza was on the way, just in case she had changed her mind.

As soon as he opened the door, he ducked.

"How'd you know?" Sarah said as she recovered from her missed swing, dropping the lamp on the floor.

"Shadows." Mickey pointed to the wall. "Were you really going to hit me?"

"Yes." Sarah grinned at him. "But I'll remember the shadow bit next time.

: Thanks for the warning."

"Your Welcome, anytime."

"Does your mother know what you do?"

"She taught me."

"Bet she's real proud of you too."

"The proudest."

"McCall is on his way over, and I asked him to get some Aspirin."

"Thanks, I really do have a headache you know."

"Well just so I don't get one, want to come in the living room and wait?"

Sarah shrugged "I guess, although I think it's just as boring there as here."

"We could play cards." Mickey suggested.

"Okay," Sarah moved a chair closer couch, "is there a table around here some where?"

Mickey moved to the end of the couch, he picked up an old end table that had seen better days, putting the phone that had been on it on the ground, and put it in front of the couch. "It'll have to do I'm afraid."

"Be afraid Mr. Kostmayer, very afraid I'm about to beat the pants off of you."

"Call me Mickey," Mickey said, "and I'll believe that when I see it."

Robert arrived to find Mickey and Sarah playing cards, with Sarah cheating as much as possible, and Mickey trying to get her to play fair.

"Mickey you are trying to convert the unconvertible." Sarah chided him as she got up to take the Aspirin that Robert had brought.

Mickey quickly picked up her cards, and looked at them.

"Did you get anything more out of her?" Robert asked quietly.

"Not a thing." Mickey sat back down; "she wouldn't even give a hint."

"Scott said something that was interesting tonight." Robert sat next to Mickey on the Couch; "it has to do with a museum event, the Treasures of the Czars."

"What treasure?"

"There is suppose to be and exhibit opening soon, which all the crown jewels of Russia being brought out on display."

"And you think she is after them?"

"Could be," McCall took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, "but then again maybe not. It's hard to fathom this one." He nodded in Sarah's direction.

"She does keep things very close to her chest."

"I noticed that, I don't think she even told Katie what she was up too."

"She's basically a good kid, but she never apologies!" Mickey shouted the last at the kitchen where Sarah was taking the Aspirin a grin on his face.

Robert looked at Mickey, "what did she try and do?"

"Hit me on the head with a lamp, and didn't even apologies!" Mickey said loudly enough for her to hear.

"Told you," Sarah yelled back, "I had to take the chance."

"You should apologies anyway." McCall stood up and moved to the kitchen a few feet away. Looking at Mickey then at Sarah, noticing the easy banter between the two of them.

"Look," Sarah turned and looked at him, "you know and I know that if you or him," Sarah nodded towards Mickey, "had been in the same situation, you guys would have tried it too. Would you apologies?"

"No I suppose not," McCall turned and looked at Mickey.

"I would have." Mickey defended.
"Yeah right." Sarah goaded him.

"I'm that kind of guy, sweet honorable..."

"Full of it." Sarah laughed.

Mickey grinned back at her, "I'm wounded."

"Shouldn't you be asleep?" McCall interrupted what was going to be another sparing match between the two.

"I was waiting for the Aspirin."

"Have you taken it?"

"Alright I'm going." Sarah stuck out her tongue at Mickey as she moved to the bedroom, slamming it.

"You'll break the house!" Mickey shouted to her through the closed door.

"It would save on demolition costs!" she shouted back.

McCall turned back to Mickey, "Your enjoying all of this aren't you?"

Mickey gave him a guilty smile, "sort of. She's pretty good at mind games, and it passes the time."

"Well I hate to break up the party," McCall started. "But she should be asleep very soon."

"They weren't just Aspirin were they?" Mickey smiled up at McCall who stood in front of the couch.

"Well I thought you could use some sleep." He smiled back. "You know how grumpy you get."

"I'm not that bad." Mickey protested.

"I know, but I need some sleep too, and I don't fancy waking up to a phone call that you lost her." Robert got up to leave. "If you have any trouble, ring me."

"Bye McCall," Mickey waved him away and settled back to wait for the pizza to come.

Sarah had begun to feel sleepy, and she knew that McCall had given her more than just Aspirin, but she had only taken one, and it had left her tired, but at least she could still function.

She really needed for Mickey to fall asleep soon; otherwise she might give into the drug that McCall had given her.

'Mind you,' she thought, 'at least I don't have a headache anymore.' She giggles to herself, feeling light-headed and drunk.

Mickey poked his head in the bedroom, and she pretended she was asleep, which wasn't far from the truth.

The more she lay there with her eyes closed, the harder it became to open her eyes and move any where.

Finally he left.

She got up and moved to the door, listening as she leaned against it.

It seemed to Sarah that Mickey took ages to go to sleep.

Trying not to stumble, she made it past the couch, only to fall into the door.

"You weren't really going to leave were you?" Mickey mocked her from the couch.

"Yep" she slurred back, not turning around her hand still on the doorknob.

"Come on," Mickey was behind her supporting her as she began to sag against the door.

"You're in no shape to go any where." He gently helped her back to bed, tucking her in.

"I hate you." She slurred at him.

"I hate you too. Now go to sleep." He sat down on the edge of the bed until her eyes closed, he listened to her breathing, trying to see if it was regular or not.

He couldn't tell if she was really asleep as he went out to the couch, but he thought she was.

Still, Mickey only catnapped, keeping an ear out, justs in case.

In the morning McCall could barely contain his smile, as a rumpled and grumpy Mickey met him at the door. Robert offered Mickey a Styrofoam cup of coffee, which he gratefully took.

"You look fresh." Mickey accused, "you said she would sleep."

"It was suppose to make her sleep for at least eight hours." McCall defended.

"Well take it back it didn't work."

"Sarah is in the bedroom I presume?"

Mickey nodded.

Robert went to the door, and knocked, but there was no response. "Sarah, " he said waiting for a response. " Sarah, are you alright?" again he waited, "I'm coming in." McCall opened the door, to find Sarah passed out on the bed. She was still clothed and looked like she had been sitting up then fell asleep.

Robert shook her gently waking her; "it's morning."

"Ugh!" Sarah tried to roll over and pull the covers over her head.

"Not now," Robert pulled the covers and grabbed her hand, pulling her to her feet, and making her leave the room. "You should have done that last night, instead of making Mickey stay up. You know he gets grumpy."

"I do not!" Mickey shouted from the kitchen.

"Where are we going?" Sarah asked as Robert, still manhandling her, he maneuvered her to the front door.

"Just a little drive." Robert said calmly. "We'll be back." he waved to Mickey as he shut the door. "In you go."

"I feel sick." Sarah complained.

"Roll down the window." McCall was ruthless.

"Can we get breakfast?"

"I thought you were sick?"

"I'd feel better if I had something in my stomach."

"Later. I have something to show you."

They drove on in silence for a while, till Sarah realized where he was taking her.

"You want me to go to the museum?"

"Actually I want you to tell me you're not going to go to the museum."

"What do you mean?" Sarah asked as innocently as possible, all sleepiness now gone from her demeanor.

"The Russian crown jewels," Robert said bluntly as he parked his jag, "you are a thief aren't you or at least you profess to being one. A good thief if I remember correctly, and to a good thief, that would be a tempting target."

"I told you..."

"I know what you told me!" Robert turned on her, his fury growing at her evasiveness.

"But I'm not an idiot, although I know you would like me to be. Gary Hayes is a very expensive and exclusive fence. He doesn't just deal in everyday items; he deals in rare and valuable artifacts and then sells to the highest bidder. He has connections all over the states and Europe, so please don't try and tell me you're not interested. Sarah I am not going to let you do this, whatever trouble your mother got herself into, it was her trouble. You don't have to cover for her, or help her anymore. She's beyond your help."

Sarah just sat looking straight-ahead, not giving away anything.

"You are a very foolish young girl, how old are you now? Seventeen?"

"Sixteen."

Robert took her chin in his hand and turned her face towards him, putting a hard edge to his voice, "and if you think I am going to let you throw you life away, your sadly mistaken. I know what you are up to and I will not let it happen."

"So why do you care?" Sarah questioned, not letting her gaze drop. "Tell me what do you get out of all this?"

"I get the satisfaction in knowing that you have a chance at a decent life," Robert softened a little, "I know leaving a life that you have always known is hard, but your young and intelligent, you can get away from it."

"And you think I can what? Be a lawyer? Doctor? Indian chief?" Sarah mocked. "I'm not a nice person, I don't have nice parents, I don't have a great education. I don't have a nice normal life! I never got to stay in school, I missed most of it because I had to stay home and make sure my dear loving mother didn't drown in her own vomit. I am what my mother made me, I am a thief, a liar, and a... cheat! Sarah searched for the right words. "I am nothing! I have spent my life doing what I can to survive, and if that means breaking the law, well the law never helped me! I have always been on my own; I know how to take care of myself! You can't just come along and take it all away, make it all better, I am who I am, and you can't change that!"

"You can be what ever you want to be," Robert didn't rise to the bait, " and I can help you make it better, I will help you in whatever you want to do. You just have to do it."

"I told you what I am, and who I am!"

"I know who you think you are. I also know who and what you could be. I am not going to be push away; I am here for the long haul, so get use to it! I am in your life for better or worse, and if you think you can shock me, you're sadly mistaken. I've met far worse people than you."

They sat there looking at each other for a while, both not giving and inch.

Finally a single tear slid down Sarah's cheek. "Why are you so good to me? You don't know me."

"I remember what you were like when you were a little girl, and somewhere inside you, she is still there." Robert smiled; he brushed away the tear that lay on her cheek.

Sarah blushed.

"I remember that little girl who was going to grow up and be a scientist and cure cancer." He said seriously.

"I remember that," Sarah smiled at him, "you were the only one who didn't laugh when I said that."

"You can still do it."

" Somehow I don't think there's a point to that any more. Do you know why I wanted to cure cancer?"

"No."

"Cause that's what mum told me she had, it was her justification for why she needed the drugs."

"She did love you."

"I know, somewhere beyond the cravings I know she loved me." Sarah sighed, "and I know you care too, just don't expect too much okay?"

"I'll expect the best." Robert caressed her cheek, feeling he had just broken down a couple of walls. "Now shall we go and see what all the fuss is about?"

"It's not open yet."

"I have a friend." Robert said as he got out of the car.

"Why does that not surprise me?" Sarah said as she got out and joined him.

"Come on." He said putting his arm around her shoulders, giving her a quick hug as they walked towards the museum.

Sarah sat at the bar sipping her coffee, since Pete refused to give her anything stronger.

"You're not legal."

She couldn't even convince Jeremy to slip a little something in her coffee; she was loosing her touch.

Robert, as she had come to think of him, was having lunch with his kids, and although he said he trusted her, Robert was no fool, he had left her in the capable hands of Pete.

Pete decided that it would be a good time to find out how much Sarah knew about the restaurant business and to that end had made good use of Sarah's presence.

Now after putting away bottles of wine, bringing in meat to the cold room, and stacking vegetables, in the cool room, she was exhausted.

"Do you want anything?" Pete asked.

"Yeah something with a little more kick." Sarah joked, "only joking." Sarah added quickly as Pete opened her mouth to say something.

Pete grinned back at her; "You really are nice when you want to be you know that?"

"Oh thanks a lot, you mean I'm an absolute horror otherwise?"

"No," Pete laughed, "and don't twist my words" she pointed her finger at Sarah, "You know what I mean."

"I know," Sarah laughed back.

"You open?" Mickey asked from the door.

"For you, always." Pete replied.

"Hi Sarah, Jeremy." He said as he sat at the bar.

"Hey Mickey." Jeremy called, "Coffee?"

"Yes please!" Mickey said with enthusiasm.

Jeremy poured him a cup of coffee; "you look tired."

"Thanks to her." Mickey hitched his thumb at Sarah.

"You could have slept."

"And caught hell from McCall? No thanks, I'd rather loose a bit of sleep."

"Are you afraid of him?" Sarah teased.

"More than you know, " Mickey said a slight serious note creeping in. "he's not a guy you want to let down."

"I'll remember that and run like hell if I ever do."

"I'm not joking," Mickey said seriously, "McCall is a stand up guy, and he will back you to the hilt, but if you betray him, you might as well cut your own throat."

"I'll pack a knife." Sarah joked, "don't get so serious, it doesn't suit you."

Mickey just looked at her, not knowing if she was serious or not. He hoped she was only joking, but he wasn't sure, and that made him nervous.

Robert had spent the afternoon catching up with Yvette and Scott from the night before, he reflected on it as he washed up the last of the dishes that they had used.

It had been a pleasant afternoon, with Scott and Yvette gently teasing their father.

For the first time Robert felt like they were family, and although both Scott and Yvette had made plans for the evening, they did try and include him although clubbing was not really his scene, he smiled at the way the two of them got along.

He was sure there was nothing more important than family, and if he needed any proof, all he had to do was look into his children's eyes to find it.

It had taken him a long time to realize what he had missed with his children, but once he had found it, he was not going to let go.

Scott was growing up to be a fine young lad. Man now, he corrected himself.

And Yvette, although Yvette still didn't call him father, she was as close to him as any daughter could be.

He had even felt a stab of fatherly jealousy when she mentioned a young man she had been dating. He wished she lived closer, still she did come by whenever she could. He supposed it wouldn't be any different if she did live in New York, she would have her own life, and she wouldn't come any more often than she did now.

Robert finished up by drying and putting the dishes away, thinking of Yvette reminded him of Sarah, and how much she had missed out on. If only there was a way to really reach her.

He felt he had reached her in a sense that morning, but some how she would always hold a little bit of herself in reserve.

Maybe she was afraid of being hurt, or finding out what was on offer wasn't really what was there.

He would have to arrange a better place for her to stay at; the last place although it had been secure, was not a very pleasant.

Robert went to the phone; he would start by showing that he trusted her, although he would still keep someone posted outside the museum for a while.

After all, she still didn't fully trust his intentions, and he, in turn, still didn't fully trust her.

It was late in the afternoon by the time Robert entered O'Phalans.

Finding Mickey and Sarah again playing cards, this time either Sarah was cheating better, or not cheating at all, but Mickey was not complaining, although he was loosing every hand.

"That's one million dollars you owe me." Sarah grinned.

"McCall, save me!" he groaned as he saw Robert enter.

"You're on your own." Robert smiled at the pair.

Pete walked over to join him, "How has she been?" he asked her.

"Pretty nice." Pete assured him, "she seems to have settled down a bit, not so much on edge."

"Any inkling as to what she has decided to do?"

"No," Pete wiped a spot off the bar with the bar towel she was carrying, "but she does seem like she genuinely wants to stay. Her friend Katie called, she asked if she could go over there tonight."

"And you think it would be a good idea." Robert stated the obvious.

"Well you do have to show that you trust her."

"I suppose I could let her stay with Katie, but just for tonight."

Pete looked over at Sarah and nodded.

"You had this all planned didn't you?"

"Now Robert," Pete said in mock offence, "what ever gave you that idea."

"Save me from the influence of conspiring women!" he looked up at the ceiling with a smile on his face.

He was still smiling when he dropped Sarah off at Katie's house.

Meeting Katie's dad, who was as tall and willowy as his daughter but without the enthusiastic bounce in his step.

He felt he was leaving her in good hands, and didn't worry too much about it. He called Scott to see if his two children were still in, and if he could catch them before they left for where ever they were off to that night.

Sarah waited till McCall's car was out of sight, waving to him from the front lawn. "Thanks Katie, I owe you big time for this."

"You didn't tell him did you?" Katie asked.

"No," Sarah said with venom, "And I don't' want him to know! I have to do this, Nicky is depending on me, and I won't let him down. I'm not going to let him be stuck in the same situation that I was."

"If you would have told him the truth." Katie accused.

"Truth!" Sarah accused back, "I don't think you told him the truth as to where and when we met did you?"

Katie shook her head.
"And how helpful do you think he would be if he knew the truth. Huh!" Sarah attacked, "you and I are both the same, we lie, we steal, we do what we have too. Do you think he would like to know how many people we did? Or how we did them? Do you think he would understand all the times that I had to lie down with someone just to pay off mother's debts!

Nicky is the only one who's innocent in all of this, and I plan to keep him that way! And if that means bending the truth, or the law, I plan to do it to get him back, safe and sound!"

"But Mr. McCall would help you get him back if you just asked." Katie whined at her.

"Katie," Sarah began to explain slowly, "He wouldn't touch me with a ten foot pole if he knew half the things I've done. Would you tell him everything and hope he helps then?"

"No." Katie conceded.
"Where'd you find your father?" Sarah asked changing the subject as she pointed to the man now standing on the porch drinking a beer. "Nice likeness."

"He's a regular trick, it's his house, he loved the fact we look alike, when I was younger we use to pretend I was his real daughter, and we'd go out together. Use to fool people all the time."

"And how much you gotta pay him?"

"Not much," Katie grinned, "I paid him last night, I've been sort of staying here for the last couple of days. He thinks I'm a bit old, but, hey he ain't as young as he use to be either."

"You would pick a winner." Sarah laughed back, "but I gotta go."

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Nope," Sarah turned, "Look if I don't make it, give this to McCall, okay?"

"Don't make it, don't make me laugh." Katie grinned at her, "You've never been caught."

"There are worse things than that," Sarah got serious, "the brother's have Nicky, and they don't play for small fry. So if I don't' make it, give this to McCall, and don't you read it okay?"

"Okay," Katie took the envelope that Sarah held out, "And Sarah?" She called as Sarah began to walk away.

"Don't get soppy eh?" Sarah pleaded with her.

"Just be careful."

"Always." Sarah padded off into the night, not thinking of what she was doing as right or wrong, just doing it.

Katie watched her go like always, but this time was different. This time there was no banter, there was no, "it's the big score!" this time, it was subdued, this time it was scary.

Katie looked at the envelope that Sarah had given her, she knew she shouldn't, maybe she'd have a drink first, maybe she'd have a couple of drinks first.

Sarah walked down the street, trying desperately not to think, but failing miserably.

She knew that Robert, 'no call him McCall' she chided herself, 'he's McCall, not Robert. Robert is too personal, and personal is not what you need right now.'

McCall would be disappointed, as Mickey had said, he didn't take to betrayal easily.

So be it, she had made her bed, she would take that chance, and he was nothing, a respectable, gullible refuge for a while, nothing more.

McCall, she reminded herself, wouldn't understand why she had done the things she had done.

He wouldn't understand that her mother had turned a blind eye to the men that had abused her. Telling her it was natural and that she should enjoy it, when the men were around, and then yelling at her and calling her a whore, and whipping her after they had gone.

He wouldn't understand that Gary had not only been her teacher at thieving, but at other things too.

Gary had a yen for young flesh, and since her mother had already given her permission to let Gary teach her everything he knew, he had taken a lot of liberties.

How could she tell McCall that she didn't mind Gary, at least he wasn't as rough and mean as some of the others. Gary was nasty, but in bed he was gentle, he never hurt her like the others.

Still she was ashamed, and still every time she came home her mother would yell at her and tell her she was dirty.

It had been hardest when she had fallen pregnant, she couldn't do much in the way of thieving, but she had learned to stand up to her mother, at least to the extent of not sleeping with men for money.

Gary, although he never admitted it, did take care of her, and gave her money when she needed it. Still Nicky had been born at home, with no doctors or midwives.

It was only after the birth that she had taken to thieving in a big way, even then her mother berated her and told her she was wrong. But every time she needed a hit, when she needed money, it was all smiles and gentle persuasion to get Sarah to do what her mother later told her was wrong.

'Stroked with one hand, hit with another.' Sarah thought. "My life really is shit."

Sarah took a deep breath, "let it go." She said out loud, saying in her head over and over, ' you are a master thief, with no conscience, no remorse, no feelings. You are a master thief, with no conscience, no remorse, no feelings.'

Robert stepped outside O'Phalens with Pete just behind him.

The laughter was still fresh in his eyes, as he saw Katie run towards him as he just finished going up the stairs.

Earlier, Scott Yvette and Robert had shared a light supper, Robert enthralled to hear about the evening's proceedings as Yvette and Scott told him about the best jazz they had seen in all of New York!

Pete had stayed behind to catch up on some long overdue bookwork, and had been glad to have the company.

Finally, it came time to say goodnight. Robert stayed behind to help lock up and escort Pete to the night deposit box, but before they could get there, they had seen Katie.

"Mr. McCall," she shouted, "It's a trap!"

"What's a trap," McCall all business now asked her, "What's going on, and where is Sarah?"

"Sarah's on a job," Katie out of breath, gasped, tears in her eyes, "She's in trouble."

"What kind of trouble, you'd better tell me everything." He put his hands on her shoulder, not sure if he wanted to shake her or comfort her.

"Sarah wasn't lying to you when she said it was drugs," Katie began to calm down, "what she didn't tell you is they had her son."

"Sarah has a son!? And who are they?" McCall asked.

"They're called the brothers, they took Nicky, Nicholas is her son, by Gary, and they said they'd kill him if she didn't get them what they wanted. I wanted to tell you, but Sarah said you wouldn't understand."

"Pete!" McCall turned his head to her, but she was already down the stairs unlocking the door and going in.

"Where should I ask him to meet you?" she asked him already knowing what he was going to say.

"Where?" McCall shook Katie a little.

"At a warehouse the police use to store evidence. I didn't know, honest, I didn't know till I read the note!" Katie whined. "She said to give you this" Katie waved the now open and crumpled note in front of her, " I read it. I wasn't suppose too, but I got scared. She talked about dying and then in the note she says to tell Nicky she loved him. She's gonna do something! She said she couldn't let them get away with it, that it was all fixed before you even got involved! She hoped you would understand and forgive her, and find Nicky a good home. You've got to help her, she had no choice, Nicky is her whole life, and she lives for that kid! That's why she did it."

"Stay here." McCall commanded her. " The police warehouse!" he yelled to Pete who was already on the phone talking to Mickey. "Make sure she stays with you. Call Jimmy and tell him what is going on, I want him to find that little boy!

You!" he pointed to Katie, "will give him a description and tell him where these brothers hang out. Call me the moment he finds him!"

Pete put down the phone then picked it up again, dialing Jimmy's number. Katie backed into the restaurant sitting at the end of the bar, looking miserable.

McCall jumped in his car, hoping Jimmy would find the little boy before anything happened.

McCall was already at the warehouse when Mickey arrived; they both did a quick survey of the area.

The warehouse was suppose to be closely guarded, but when Mickey checked it out; there were hardly any guards there.

"What do you think?" Mickey asked. "Where are all the guards?"

"Probably only a handful of guards at one time, most of it looks like it's dependant on cameras and other such infernal toys," McCall nodded towards the building, "they're already in, see the lights."

A small beam of light flashed by the window in the upper story.

"I'd say they found what they are looking for." Mickey noted that the lights had concentrated in one of the windows. "Pete said Sarah was with them? I thought she was going to go straight?"

"Katie told she didn't have a choice," McCall looked at Mickey, "did she ever mention a Nicky or Nicholas?"

"No, why?"

"Apparently he's her son he was taken and she was told that if she didn't do this, he would be killed."

"Do you believe it?"

"I think so, Katie was very genuine about it," McCall sighed suddenly tired, "and if this son of hers exists then it would explain a lot."

"And you want to get her out of there before the police arrive."

"If that is at all possible, yes."

"Then I guess you want me to take the back?"

McCall nodded and they moved off in unison, McCall to the front, Mickey to the back.

McCall took out his gun and went in the front door, it had an electronic lock that had been opened, the camera's around the door didn't move, as McCall stepped into view, they should have followed his every move, but they stood silent and still.

Someone had deactivated the alarm system, Sarah. That's why she was needed, Katie said she was a whiz on the computer, and this was all done but computers from the head office.

The lights in the warehouse were not turned on, only the emergency exit lights still glared into the gloom of the big building.

Echoing sounds from the floor above bounced off wooden boxes that stood blacker than the gray that enveloped them.

Small clawed feet scurried and hurried away from bigger booted feet, as they trod down the corridors that loomed overhead.

McCall followed the heavy tread above his head. Feeling rather than seeing his way, as his eyes pierced the gloom.

Gun in hand, back to the nearest surface, he listened. Making out the sounds of voices and footsteps.

There wouldn't have been many of them, maybe five at the most, and by the sounds of it, one of them was giving orders, and the rest were following

McCall's hand fell onto a stair rail, and as his silent feet began their assent, he saw Mickey approach from the other side.

A gray shadow that moved as silently as he did.

Mickey had gone around the back avoiding the cameras as best he could, but like McCall he also noted that they did not track any movement.

Soon feeling bolder, and more confident that he would not been seen by the eyes watching the screen, he deliberately and slowly made his way into the warehouse.

Waiting till his eyes adjusted to the gloom he used his ears. Listening, he felt rather than saw his way along the building's many pathways, the twists and turns almost as confusing as a maze. Finally he found a stairwell, and seeing a gray shadow on the other side, of which the height and broadness told him the shadow in front of him, was his mentor and friend, McCall he mounted the stairs.

The two men had shared and learned a great deal about each other, and most of the time when they worked together they were like one mind operating two bodies, and tonight was no different.

Each knew their roles, and each knew exactly what the other was thinking and intending, as they approached the door that a dull sheltered light spilled out of.

McCall on one side, Mickey on the other, they looked at each other, secretly passing between them the signals and subtle movements needed to communicate volumes of information.

Not counting to three, but at the same time, standing up McCall stood in the doorway, as Mickey stood just to the side of the door for back up if needed.

"Good evening." McCall drawled as he held his gun in front of him, "I don't' think you are suppose to be here."

McCall took in the room, there were four men standing in the middle of the room, he had been out by one. They stood watching someone who was behind a desk. It was dark and their features were very hard to make out.

"And just who the hell are you?" One of them who was taller than the rest asked he was obviously the one who had been giving the orders.

"Someone you don't want to mess with," McCall stated. "Sarah?"

"Katie read the note didn't she?" Sarah said from behind a desk, she was still working on the computer. "Let it go McCall, you don't have to do this, I'm almost finished. Just a few more minutes..." she concentrated on the screen in front of her.

"Well old man," the tall one sneered, "what are you going to do? There are four of us, and only one of you."

McCall saw Mickey out of the corner of his eye, and motioned with a slight hand movement for him to stay out of sight. "Well I could shoot at least three of you before you even moved." He started, "but I would much prefer if Sarah got up and came over here to me."

"She'll do that old man," Tall one said, "when she finishes what she started."

"I'd say she is finished." McCall intoned. "Sarah leave that and come over here."

"You don't understand!" Sarah shot McCall a venomous look.

"Oh, but I do understand. I understand a lot," McCall's voice oozed "you didn't tell me you had a son."

Sarah breathed in to clam herself, then nodded an acknowledgement that McCall was right.

"Sorry, but it slipped my mind," Sarah shot back, "do you want the whole sordid story?" she didn't stop working on the computer, only looked up for a brief moment.

"We can discuss this later," McCall said holding out his hand to her, "right now I want you to step away from the desk and come over here. Then we will leave these gentlemen to their business."

"You just want the girl?" the tall one asked.

"That's all I want." McCall nodded.

"You finished?" tall one turned and stared at Sarah, "I think your sugar daddy wants his sweets." He laughed.

Sarah glared at him, but her finger continued to tap away at the computer. "Well since you put it so nicely, yeah I'm finished. Just hit that button there, and it's all yours."

"That one?" he asked.

"No, that one." She pointed to it.

"You hit it." Tall one said suspiciously.

"As you wish." Sarah hit the button.

There was dead silence and nothing seemed to happen, but tall guy seemed very pleased.

"Now can I go?" she said to the tall guy.

"Now you can go anywhere you like." Tall guy seemed very pleased.

"This way Sarah." Robert said as he still held the gun on the four men in the room.

Sarah started to move over to where McCall stood, "And what about my son?"

"If everything goes right," Tall guy said, "Then you can have him back tomorrow."

"That wasn't the deal." Sarah said angrily.

"So I changed my mind." He sneered, "Looks like you'll be busy anyway, so I wouldn't worry about it, he's in good hands."

Sarah fumed and started to walk towards the tall guy.

"Come on Sarah," McCall put a hand on her shoulder, "we will get Nicky."

Sarah looked at McCall, all her instincts told her to trust him he meant what he said, but part of her just couldn't let him take that kind of control. "No! You promised me my son would be returned when i completed the job, it's done, now live up to your end of the bargain!"

"You should know better than to trust a criminal!" the tall one laughed.

"Leave it Sarah," McCall grabbed her arm and pulled her towards the door.

Sarah tried to break free, and the tall guy took the opportunity to try and grab McCalls gun as he struggled with Sarah.

He lunged forward, knocking McCall off balance, as he pushed McCall towards the struggling Sarah.

The three of them ended up in a heap on the floor, Sarah grabbed for the gun as the two men struggled.

Mickey had waited knowing that McCall had the situation well in hand. At the first sign of trouble though he was there to back him up, and as the tall man and McCall fell to the floor, Mickey stood in the doorway, "Stay right there guys." He smiled at the other's who were about to help their friend.

McCall wrestled the tall guy into and arm lock, and held him on the floor. "Now," he snarled, "I do believe that you know the whereabouts of one frightened little boy. And I do believe you want to tell me where he is!"

The tall man groaned as McCall exerted more pressure on his arm, "Well?"

McCall pushed him harder.

"Where!" Sarah held the McCalls gun to the tall guy's head kneeling down beside him.

"Alright!" he signaled defeat, "he's at the chop shop on Bricks Street. Near the railway."

"Thank you. Sarah," he tried to help her up from the floor, offering her his hand.

Sarah kept the gun at the tall one's head, wanting with all her might to pull the trigger.

"It's not worth it," Robert said to her, "we will get your son, and then we can put this all behind us.

Sarah, if you do this, will you be able to look your son in the eyes?" Robert waited holding out his hand to her.

She hesitated, but finally took the offered hand, she looked shaken, and disbelieving, "Why do you care?" she asked.

"Because I do." He answered as he gently pulled her out; "now come on the police are on their way."

'We'd better hurry," Sarah started to run, "I've rigged the alarms to go any second, and if they do, we're locked in too."

McCall and Mickey didn't need any more urging, as they ran alongside each other reaching the front door, as the cameras started to move.

"Quickly." McCall said as he saw the red light begin to flash above the door.

The three of them just made it out as the door began to shut, seeing the men who were left inside trying to reach it also, but too far away to have a hope.

The trio ran until they were completely outside of the compound, as they reached the relative safety of their cars, McCall heard his phone ringing.

"Hello," he answered. "Jimmy! Good I'll tell her. Yes that would be fine. No I didn't know, I've been rather busy."

"Jimmy?" Mickey asked.
"Yes," McCall turned to Sarah, "He found Nicholas and he is safe and in good health if a little tired. Now do you want to explain all of this, and this time why not try the truth!"

"Can we get out of here first?" Mickey asked, "I think it would be wise to listen to this at another location."

McCall took his meaning as the first of the police began to arrive, sniffer dogs and all.

McCall nodded, and motioned for Sarah to get in the car.

Sarah looked at him warily, not sure whether it was wise or not, but the sound of the dogs barking soon changed her mind.

Mickey had already gotten into his van and pulled away, as McCall taking a last look at the scene that was unfolding at the police warehouse, he smiled as he got in the car.

Sarah asked, "When can I see Nicky?" as soon as he got in the car.

"As soon as we get to O'Phalans. Now are you going to tell me what is going on or not?" Robert demanded.

"Not until I know Nicky is safe." Sarah got that stubborn set to her jaw, and McCall gave up.

This time he would concede the point to her, he knew in the end he would get what he wanted, and hopefully she would get what she wanted too.

The ride to O'Palans seemed to take forever, as Sarah was anxious to see her son.

The reunion went well, with Nicky throwing himself at her like a missile as soon as he saw her.

His skinny little arms and legs flying as he reached her and she picked him up and twirled him around.

Sarah kissed hugged and caught him up to her several times until Nicky started to protest against not being able to get away from her.

Sarah sat down on a chair and began to rock him gently, drinking in his little elfin face and big round brown eyes, she felt his soft childish skin and stroked his soft little cheek.

McCall watched and was about to go over, when Pete put a hand on his arm, "give them just a few more minutes, he's pretty tired."

Robert nodded and watched, as Sarah was as tender as he had ever seen her.

Soon Nicky fell asleep, and although Sarah was loath to let him go, she agreed to let him lie on the floor on some blankets near her feet while she told them everything.

"Now I'd like some answers." McCall said as he sat down in front of her on a chair he pulled over.

"Where do you want me to start?" Sarah said resigned to her fate.

"Why not with him." Robert pointed to Nicky.

"He's Gary's."

"And you mother didn't know?"

"She knew," Sarah said flatly, "she knew about them all." She looked at the shock on Robert's face. "Yeah there was more than one. But I didn't encourage them." She defended herself, "no matter what they say I didn't ask for it."

"No you didn't" Robert leaned over and touched her hand.

She pulled away, "I'm not a whore, and I never was. I didn't want it to happen, but mum didn't care, all she cared about was what it could get her. When Gary came along, it wasn't so bad, he's nasty, but he's pretty straight and not rough, if you know what I mean."

"Sarah..." Robert reached out for her.

"No," She pushed her chair back standing up, "I don't care what you think of me, I don't care what you say. I did what I did to survive, and I'd do it again if I had too." She stood there breathing hard, daring him to question her.

Robert stood up and tried to hold her.

"No!" She shouted, "it wasn't my fault, she would tell me it was okay when they were there, and then yell at me and hit me afterwards. I told her, I told her everything, I told her how much it hurt, how much I didn't want to do it, but she wouldn't make it stop. She said I must have done something, I must have been born a whore. I'm not a whore, I'm not! I'm not" she started crying hysterically.

"Sh sh sh," Robert hushed as he finally got his arms around her. "It's alright, it wasn't your fault, you're not to blame."

He stood there and held her till she had finished crying. Then gently sat her back down.

"What happened after your mother died?"

"The brothers came around," Sarah regained her control, "they said that mum promised them I would help get back what was taken from them. It would be easy, and they'd pay a good price for my services."

"But you refused."

Sarah nodded, "they began to make threats, I told Gary, I thought he could talk to them make them stop, but it didn't work, it only got worse.

Then they took Nicky," Sarah looked quickly to where he lay sleeping, "they said if I didn't help them then he would suffer. Gary's his father, but he couldn't help, so I had to do what they wanted."

"Why didn't' you tell me?'

"And what, let you think I was a whore too?"

"I wouldn't have thought that, nor do I think it was your fault. What happened to you was not your fault, but your mother's fault. She let it happen, you did nothing wrong."

Sarah looked at him, wanting so much to trust him, but knowing it would not work out. He was too nice; she had to leave before he really got to know her.

"I do thank you Robert for all your help, and if I need you, I'll call." Sarah got up to leave.

"And just where do you think you're going?" Robert asked.

"I gotta find a safe place for me and Nicky," Sarah was wary.

"Sarah," Robert started, "after all that we have just been through, and all that you have told me, you need to find somewhere stable and safe. If not for you, at least for Nicky."

"Nicky will be fine," Sarah defended, "I can protect him."

"Against the Brothers?" Robert insisted, "They won't be in jail forever, and I can almost guarantee that they will want to exact some kind of revenge."

"I..." Sarah started,

Robert cut her off. "You have at least three people here who care and want to look after you," He motioned to Pete and Mickey as they stood by the bar, "I know you have been let down before, but you can depend on us, we won't let you down."
"You don't know me." Sarah said tears in her eyes.

"I may not know what you have done," Robert said putting his arms around her, "but in know who you are, and what you can be. Don't think I'm just going to let you walk out of here and forget about you. I cared about you when I first met you, and I care about you now."
"I'm sorry," Sarah stepped out of his embrace, "but I've got to go."

"You're not going anywhere." Mickey chimed in, "We've decided that you should probably stay with Pete for a while, at least until you finish school."

"School?"

"Yeah School." Mickey insisted.

"But ..."

"No Buts," Pete added, "Your only sixteen, and for once, your not the one who knows what's good for you."

"I can't let you do that." Sarah began to realize that she was trapped, and for once it felt like it might be a nice trap. "It's too expensive."

"That has been taken care of," Robert said putting his hands on her shoulders.

"I've got plenty of room, and the house could use a child's touch." Pete grinned at her.

"I don't suppose I'm going to win this am I?" Sarah looked at the three of them, their faces showing that they were not going to back down. "Do I have a choice.

"No." Robert said. "You have no choice in the matter at all, and if you know what's good for you, you'll give in gracefully

"Like that's going to happen." Sarah quipped back, a grin starting on her face.

"Now there's the Sarah I remember." Robert gave her a hug.

"Come on," Pete said, "we have to get this little one to bed," indicating Nicky, "and you look like you could use some sleep too." She said to Sarah.

"Don't blame me," Sarah said mockingly, "it's all his fault." She jerked her thumb at Robert.

"It wasn't me." Robert held up his hands.

"Don't look at me." Mickey said.

"I'm looking at both of you," Pete said as she handed the keys to Robert, "lock up before you leave eh? And no drinking the bar dry." She added as she hustled Nicky and Sarah out of the restaurant.

"Do you think she'll be okay?" Mickey asked Robert.

"I don't know Mickey," Robert walked behind the bar and poured them both a couple of big glasses of whiskey, "she'll need a lot of counciling, but I think with a little help she'll make it, she's a survivor. What shall we drink too?"

"To a better future." Mickey raised his glass nodding in the direction that Sarah and Pete had just gone.

"To a better future." Robert touched his glass to Mickey's.

End

Epilog

It wasn't until a week later that Pete gave Robert a frantic call saying that Sarah and Nicky had disappeared.

They had searched through the night but found no trace of them at all.

Robert had used everyone he knew, and still they could not be found.

The next morning at O'Phalens, Robert sat drinking a coffee Pete had made him, and picked up the morning paper. The headlines read:

Bank defrauded of over one million dollars.

Computer thieves managed to open an account, in a false name, using the latest is computer technology and siphen off more than a million dollars before bank officials noticed the theft.

Bank spokesman David Hallan said; "this is the theft of the future, it was done in broad daylight with very little fuss and no guns, but it is just as damaging."

Robert put down the paper and looked at Pete, but before he could say another word, Mickey walked in holding an envelope.

"I found this at Katie's" Mickey handed it to Robert. "Katie is gone too."

Robert opened it, to find Sarah's neat but hurried handwritten not inside.

'Robert;

I'm sorry, but this score was just too good to pass up, besides, it's not like I hurt anyone.

I know you were trying to help, but like I said before; I am who I am.

I am a thief, and a good one at that.

One day I hope you will forgive me, but until then, please, please know that I do thank you for all your help, and if things had been different...

Well let's just say, I always liked you, and I always thought of you as my friend.

I love you.

Sarah.

Robert leaned back on his chair and sighed, it would be a long time before he saw her again, he knew that. Pete had gotten very fond of her as well, she was even talking about Sarah living with her permanently. Even Mickey had liked Sarah, and especially Nicky, the little scamp really had gotten under Mickey's skin.

He sipped at his coffee, and readied himself to tell Pete and Mickey what Sarah had done.

He wasn't looking forward to this.

End