Disclaimer: The Equalizer and all its characters are property of Universal and are used here without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
"Tell me again whom weíre going to see," Erin McCall said to her husband as the black Jag sped along the highway that fateful evening. It was nearly dusk. She stroked his silver hair with the fingers of one hand as she twisted in her seat to face him.
"A woman named Patricia French called the number and said she was being chased by an unknown assailant. She was afraid to go home and will meet with us in Central Park to explain her situation," Robert McCall answered, thoroughly enjoying her show of affection.
"Why didnít she call the police?" Erin asked as she studied his profile, contrasted against the dark window of the car.
"Sheís called the police before, she said. Theyíve investigated and found nothing. They think sheís a bit of a flake."
"I see," Erin said, "And what made you think otherwise?"
"I donít know," Robert said slowly and glanced at her from the corner of his eyes, "Maybe it was just the tone of her voice. There seemed to be something close to panic behind it."
"Or sheís a good actress. Why would she want to meet us in such an open place like the park? It seems less protected there than in a restaurant or some other public place." Erin frowned and said suddenly, "Robert, what ever happened to Romanov? Did you ever find him again?"
"What in the world brought that to mind?" Robert asked in surprise as they rounded a corner and headed for the park. "Why would you connect Romanov out of the blue to this woman?" He favored her with a frown.
"I donít know, Robert. Just something inside makes me shiver the way it did when Romanov contacted you before. Something that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, like pure evil is approaching. Darling, I learned to recognize and appreciate these types of feelings when I was on operations in the jungle. They saved my life several times. I have a hard time ignoring them."
"Well, you were right with Romanov before," Robert mused quietly. "I promise to keep a sharp eye out, for both of us. Okay, partner?" He glanced at her again, but with a smile on his face.
"Okay, partner." Erin said with a laugh. The car glided silently into a parking space and they quickly got out, looking penetratingly into the growing dark all around them.
"She said she would meet us by the fountain and would be dressed in a long leather coat," Robert said as they strode across the grass. Erin ran ahead to reconnoiter the area as Robert slowed his approach toward the fountain. He would give her time to check out the area before approaching the woman he saw sitting on one of the park benches circling the fountain. He lost sight of Erin within a few yards as she entered the darkness among the trees and found a place beside a tree to stand and wait for her go ahead signal. Moments later he saw her red flashlight lens blink at him three times, indicating she saw no immediate danger. Robert checked the pistol in his pocket before continuing his way toward the woman on the bench. He looked carefully around them before introducing himself. The woman jumped to her feet and started speaking to him in a wild, hysterical voice, gesturing toward the bushes and trees around the fountain. Robert had a hard time understanding her strange accent and tried his best to calm her down. Finally, after about five minutes of pleading, he got her to agree to go to a diner with them and tell them what was happening in a much more calming atmosphere. He sent the woman toward the parking lot were the car was and called for Erin in a low voice. There was no response. He called again, starting to walk toward the spot where she had signaled him with her flashlight. Robert peered into the dark, searching for signs of his wife, straining his ears for her response to his call. Nothing. Then his foot collided with something on the ground. It was Erinís military issue flashlight. He turned it on and scanned the ground for evidence of a struggle. Nothing again. He felt panic start to rise within him and strode through the trees, calling her name more loudly. His search circled the area of the fountain and led him back toward where he had parked the car. The woman he had met with only moments before was now gone, evidently a distraction to keep him occupied while someone took Erin. That had to be it, he thought. Oh, God, Erin! Robert swallowed his panic and ran to the Jag. Dialing the car phone quickly, he reached Control at home.
"Control, I need your help immediately. Erinís been taken, kidnapped! We were meeting a client in Central Park just now. She had scanned the area for people just moments before I met with the client. After about ten minutes, I looked for her and all I found was her flashlight on the ground. The client must have been part of the set-up. Control, sheís been taken by someone! Can you help me?"
"Settle down, old son. Something might have come up. Give her an hour or so to try to contact you," Control said soothingly into the phone. "Sheís extremely capable, as you well know. Be patient."
"You be patient! I tell you, somethingís wrong! She had a premonition about Romanov. I believe she was right. Iím going back to the spot I saw her last to see if I missed anything!" Robert angrily hung up the phone and strode back to the spot where he had found Erinís flashlight. He scrutinized the area more carefully this time, looking for any evidence of her disappearance. This time he found what could be a tranquilizing dart. He would have to have it analyzed to see what it had once contained. It was a few yards away from where he had found the flashlight. Looking from the location of the dart toward where the flashlight was, McCall saw the grass was slightly bent down as if something, or someone, had been dragged away. Could the dart have fallen from her while she was being dragged away? Anger swelled inside his chest as he clenched his fists and walked back to the car again. First things first, McCall thought as he reached the parking lot. Iíll get the dart analyzed to see what was in it, if there are any fingerprints, and how it might have come to be in the park. The police will be useless in this, he thought sourly. Control has to see his way clear to helping me. I canít do this alone. Alone, oh God, alone again. I canít bear the thought of losing her again.
McCall was waiting inside the company lab when Control found him in the early hours of the morning. The technician had confirmed the dart had contained a tranquilizing chemical but no fingerprints could be discerned. He was checking to see what type of weapon could have fired the dart and at what range.
"Robert!" Control said urgently as he poked his head inside the door to the lab, holding a courier package in his hand. "This came in sometime during the night. I scanned it quickly just moments ago. You need to see this." He turned and headed back to his office. McCall jumped to his feet and followed close on Controlís heels. When he reached Controlís office, Control had already inserted a cassette into the player and started the tape. What he saw staggered McCall and left him trembling with a feeling of anger and helplessness the likes of which he had never experienced before. His precious Erin was tied naked, arms over her head, to a concrete column in a dark shabby room. Her back, buttocks, and legs were covered with welts and cuts, indicating she had been probably lashed with a whip. A man, unrecognizable in the dark, approached her and cut her down from the column. She slumped in exhaustion and agony, moaning as she hit the floor. The camera followed the dark figure as he drug Erin by one arm to a large wooden packing crate and secured her, face down, upon it. The cameraís picture zoomed in to show a hand running over the open wounds on Erinís back and legs, smearing blood on the fingers. The man stood aside and opened his trousers to pull out his erect penis. He covered the head of his penis with the blood on his fingers and then moved closer to rub it directly across her wounds. McCall watched, shaking and sick with dread, as hands clutched her buttocks and the manís blood covered erection was driven savagely into her rectum. Erinís scream of pain echoed through the room as her back arched in agony. McCall grabbed the edge of Controlís desk for support as he watched the man increase the pace of his thrusts, drawing curses and gasps of pain from her. Between his thrusts, he slapped her buttocks, back, and shoulders with his hand, causing her to writhe in misery. As minutes passed, Erinís exhaustion slowed her movements and her assailant had to strike her harder to get as much reaction from her as before. He stopped his assault and released her bindings. Roughly, he threw her on the floor, onto her back. Throwing off his coat, the man knelt between her legs and thrust his cock into her vagina. He held one leg up with his arm under her knee and used the other hand to slap her breasts and face as he savagely continued his rape. Erinís head rocked from side to side from his blows, but it became apparent she was no longer feeling the intense pain the man intended for her. In disgust, he rose from his position and secured his trousers, cursing her in a deep guttural voice. When she failed to respond, he kicked her savagely in the side, causing her to curl onto her side to protect her damaged ribs. The man stepped across her and delivered another kick into her kidney, drawing another scream of pain. Suddenly the picture was blank. After a few seconds, the camera focused on a piece of paper lying on a table or box. It read, ĎMcCall, hope you enjoyed the video. Thanks for the extremely pleasurable time with your lovely wife.í The letter was unsigned.
"Oh God, oh God," McCall muttered over and over as he slumped into a nearby chair. His face was white with shock and his body covered with a cold sweat. Control poured a glass of scotch and offered it tentatively. When his eyes focused again, Robert took the glass and gulped the fiery liquid, feeling it burn his throat and stomach. "What are we going to do?" he mumbled as he leaned forward to place his elbows on his knees and hold his head with one hand. Control placed his hand on Robertís shoulder.
"Everything we can, old son, everything we can. I will pull out all the stops. We will find this son of a bitch, and fast!"
"I want to be there when you find him!" McCall rasped, his voice strained by whiskey and emotion.
"Stay here and Iíll get things moving," Control instructed as he headed out the office door and toward the operations center. As soon as he was alone, McCall let out a moan of despair. Fatigue was catching up with him quickly, but he resolved to see this through before he would rest. Iíll cut his balls off myself, he swore silently. Iíll put him through more agony than anyone can imagine before I let him die!
"Robert! Another tape! It just arrived!" Control shouted as he bolted through the office door. He slammed the cassette into the player and punched the play button. This time the camera fuzzily focused on a manís face, the features dark and brooding. "Do you recognize him?" Control asked urgently.
"No, not yet. Letís see if he says anything!" Moments passed in silence before the figure moved and began to speak.
"McCall," the voice said, severely distorted. "I have your wife, or let me correct that, I have had your wife." The voice laughed coarsely. "Sheís a fine piece of tail! A little delicate for my tastes, though, she passes out too quickly!" Laughter again. "Since sheís proven to be so disappointing, I will give her back to you on one condition. Meet me on Dock 37 in the Brooklyn shipping yard at noon today. No police or government agents! Iíll be watching for you." The voice laughed again and the picture darkened. A second later it focused in shocking clarity on Erinís face. Robert and Control could easily see the awful damage done from the savage beatings. The cameraís view traveled along the side her naked body as she lay on the floor and focused on her lower limbs. Blood had streamed down her legs from her groin. A foot kicked her over and the camera focused on the slashes across her back and legs. At least sheís still alive, McCall thought as he heard her groan, at least sheís still alive. The picture faded out again.
"Does the voice sound familiar, Robert?" Control asked in a choked voice. Robert shook his head sadly, then suddenly jumped to his feet.
"No, wait! Yes, I do know that voice! Thatís the bastard that helped Romanov bomb the warehouse when Erin and I first ran across them! Romanov must be holding the camera and letting the other one do all the talking so I wouldnít realize who was running the show!" McCall massaged his temples as he paced in Controlís office. "Remember? Romanov was always a loner and only got cooperation from the KGB when their objectives and his happened to match. He tended to have only one assistant at any given time. That has to be the same thug that helped him before!"
"Weíll get a team out to the dock immediately to assess the situation and locate Romanov and his helper. Maybe theyíll be able to establish where Erin is. Robert, are you going to be okay? Will you be able to go through with this?" Control peered apprehensively into his friendís face.
"Iíll be fine, Control, I have to be. Just be sure Romanov doesnít get scared off and become forced to move Erin. Whoís going to lead the team?"
"Kostmayer was my first choice, and Iím sure youíll agree heís the most qualified. Being as close to Erin as he is, heís less likely to take the chances someone who didnít know Erin would be. I have to finish up the briefing and get them on their way. Stay here and relax as much as you can, Robert. Itís 8:30 now. Theyíll be leaving in about forty-five minutes. You and I will follow around 10:00." Control left and McCall was alone with his thoughts once again. McCall bowed his head and silently prayed. Help me get her out of there, please, God, help me!
Mickey Kostmayer and Ginger Brock crept quietly along the outside wall of a deserted warehouse on the Brooklyn wharf. So far, they had discovered nothing that would lead them to Erin or her kidnappers. Their headsets were quiet, indicating no one else on the team had seen anything noteworthy, either. It was 10:30 in the morning, an hour and a half before McCall was due to meet with the figure on the videotape. Mickey, as the team leader, was the only member of the group who had seen the ghastly tape. His stomach churned with bile as he remembered the cruel assault on Erin, his most valued friendís wife. I will take these bastards out for you, McCall, he promised himself. As he rounded the corner of the building, Mickey spied a man standing alone on the dock with an AK-47 rifle, the butt of the weapon resting on his hip and the muzzle pointed into the air. Mickey ducked back around the corner and motioned for Ginger to be still. He summoned the rest of the team to converge on the armed manís location and search the area without raising anyoneís suspicions. Mickey would keep an eye on the man with the AK-47. He noticed the man was similar in build to the dark figure in the videotape. As the man turned and wandered back along the way he had came, Mickeyís first impression became surer. The dark bushy eyebrows and wide, heavy forehead had been evident even in the poorly focused video picture. Mickey felt a surge of anger as he regarded the man who undoubtedly had inflicted so much pain and anguish on Erin. After about 15 minutes, Mickeyís earphone crackled with sound. The voice said another man was sitting inside one of the nearby buildings with a pistol on the table in front of him, reading a newspaper and drinking coffee. There was no sight of Cain, however. Maybe weíre looking in the wrong place, Mickey thought worriedly. Weíre expecting her to be inside a building, but maybe sheís not. Dufus over there might be guarding a boat, instead of a building. Mickey motioned Ginger to take his place watching the armed man walking aimlessly on the dock and circled around to find a ladder or stairway down to the waterís level below the dock. Sure enough, there was a motorboat with an enclosed cabin tied to the pier below the armed manís position. Mickey edged along the catwalk below the dock and peered in through the tiny windows of the boat. He heard, rather than saw, motion inside, as if someone was lying just below the window he was looking through. It has to be Erin, he decided. Mickey called Ginger on the radio and instructed her to make some sort of commotion that would draw the guard away from the edge of the dock momentarily so Mickey could board the boat and check out itís occupant. In seconds, Mickey heard a laughing squeal from above and heard the footsteps of the guard move away from the edge of the dock. He quickly boarded the small craft and crept below the deck. Inside he found Cain, blindfolded and still naked with her wrists bound behind her with twine. Her ankles were tied as well with a line connecting the binding to ring bolted onto the bulkhead of the boat. She shifted constantly, working her wrists against the twine, trying to loosen her bonds.
"Erin," Mickey choked out as he rushed forward with a knife to free her. He quickly cut the bindings from her wrists and ankles and slipped the blindfold from her eyes. Although he had seen the extent of her injuries in the tape, he was still shocked as he knelt beside the bunk that she had been lying on. Erin peered at him through badly swollen eyes before sitting up and wrapping her arms around his neck.
"Oh, Mickey," she murmured through her bruised lips, "I am so happy to see you! How quickly can we get out of here?"
"Iíll have to see whatís happening topside first." Mickey explained excitedly, delighted to have found her. He pulled a blanket from the other bunk and wrapped it around her shoulders. "Can you walk?" Erin nodded silently. "Okay, be ready to move when I give the signal!" Mickey climbed to the boatís upper deck and looked cautiously around for the guard. Seeing nothing, he climbed the ladder to peer over the edge of the dock and locate the guard. There, he was standing about a hundred feet away, talking and leering at a seemingly drunken Ginger Brock. Thatís a dangerous game to play with this one, Mickey thought darkly, watching Ginger weave, stagger, and then grab at the man for balance. Just keep going for another minute, he thought as he caught Gingerís eye and signaled his success. Ginger winked at him and pulled the man closer to the building, complaining about the intensity of the morning sun. Mickey stepped back on the boat and called for Erin in a loud whisper. Her head came into sight immediately as she climbed to the deck and moved painfully toward the stern of the boat. Mickey helped her onto the catwalk and they edged away from the boat. After what seemed like an eternity, they reached the ladder Mickey had climbed down to reach the water and with the utmost caution, crept back to the warehouse level of the dock. Mickey pulled Erin into a vacant room. As she wrapped the blanket more securely around herself and collapsed onto the floor, Mickey keyed his radio and called a team member to take Erin away. Suddenly he heard shouts from the dock. Cursing, Mickey started away.
"Wait, Mickey, give me a weapon!" Erin hissed. "Donít leave me here helpless!" Mickey handed her his backup piece from his ankle holster and knelt to give her a quick kiss on the forehead before turning to leave. "Stay here," he ordered. "Iíll be back!" Erin smiled gratefully and checked the readiness of the pistol.
Outside, the armed guard had decided heíd played enough with the drunken woman wandering the docks and decided to check on his prisoner once again. When he found the boat deserted, he charged back up to the dock, shouting for Romanov. Romanov appeared immediately at the warehouse door, looking outside for the police or government agents who would inevitably arrive. Seeing nothing, Romanov ran out onto the dock, cursing the guard as he ran, motioning him to get aboard the boat with the intention of leaving the area as quickly as possible. As he ran the last few yards to the edge of the dock, a hail of bullets stopped him in his tracks. The guard threw down the rifle and knelt on the dock, his hands on his head. Romanov whirled around, seeking his captors, but saw nothing. He attempted to run again, only to be stopped by more gunfire. Terrified, Romanov turned back toward the warehouses to see Control and McCall slowly strolling toward him. Romanov pulled his pistol from his jacket and was immediately hit in the shoulder by the hidden marksman. The pistol bounced and skittered across the wooden dock.
Grasping his shoulder in agony, Romanov cried out, "McCall, you canít kill me! Iím a Russian national with diplomatic immunity!"
"Want to bet?" McCall sneered as he approached with Control at his side. "Oh, there would be some red tape to handle, but you would be surprised how little trouble that would cause me. But, no, donít worry. Iím not going to kill either you or your loyal associate here. Youíll simply disappear, someplace very cold, I imagine, where you can die as lonely and painful death as possible. No one will know youíve ever existed, or will wonder how you died. Youíll simply disappear." McCall smiled evilly as he regarded Romanov. Then he stepped around Romanov to address the man kneeling on the dock. "Enjoyed the company of my wife, did you?" McCall hissed as he stepped forward. Swiftly putting his hands behind the manís head, McCall drove his knee into the manís face, breaking his nose. The man fell onto his back, gasping and holding his face as his legs sprawled widely apart. McCall stomped on the manís testicles with the heel of his shoe, producing screams of agony. He turned to face Romanov, who cringed on his hands and knees, begging for mercy. Complete disgust evident in his face, McCall turned away from the pair and spotted Mickey carrying Erin from her hiding place. He ran forward and gently took her from Mickeyís arms.
"Oh, my darling," Robert crooned into her ear as he held her closely, "I was so worried about you!" Then he turned toward the dock and called to Control, "Get an ambulance, quickly!" Control nodded and strode off toward a waiting car. Armed company men were in the process of taking Romanov and his hapless associate into custody when Romanov suddenly seized a pistol from the belt of one of the company men and turned toward McCall and Cain, firing as he moved. McCall grasped Erin tightly and ran to dodge the gunfire. As he moved, he heard her gasp and felt her body tense in his arms. The agent, whose weapon Romanov had grabbed, tackled the fleeing Russian agent and threw him violently to the ground. Seeing Romanov once more in custody, McCall stopped and knelt to gently lower Cain to the ground. As he pulled his hands from underneath her, McCall was shocked to see them covered with blood. "Erin!" he whispered, "Erin!" She opened her eyes and attempted to focus on his face.
"Robert, Iím sorry. Iím so sorry. I should haveÖ. Darling, I love you, always." Her eyes became glassy and McCall could see her breathing had stopped. She was utterly still. He knew there was no chance to save her now. McCall knelt beside her in the growing pool of her blood. It seemed blackness was growing all around him as he tried to deal with the sudden shock of her death. He hung his head and closed his eyes for a moment as his grief swelled into uncontrollable anger. In an instant, he was off the ground and striding purposefully toward Romanov. He pulled his pistol from his jacket pocket and trained it on the Russianís head.
"Get away from him! Get away!" The agents holding Romanov dropped their hands and backed away.
Romanov froze and pitifully pleaded, "No, McCall, please! You canít do this! Please donít kill me!"
"Robert!" Control shouted as he ran toward the pair. "No! This is murder!"
"I donít care, Control. I will see this man dead in retribution for my wifeís death and the torture he ordered inflicted on her during her last few hours. You can take me to jail if you want, I just donít care!" McCallís finger tightened on the trigger as Romanov continued to plead for his life. Everyone surrounding them held their breath as the short space of time it took for the trigger to release the firing pin seemed to stretch into eternity. Suddenly, the pistol went off and Romanov dropped lifelessly to the ground, the back of his head a bloody pulp. McCall lowered his arm and stood staring at the body on the ground. He raised his gaze toward Romanovís assistant, who squirmed, terrified, in his captorís arms. McCall turned away from him and walked slowly back to where Cainís body lay on the ground. He knelt once again beside her and held his head in his hands. From a distance, Control and Kostmayer could see his shoulders heave as his sobs shook his body. Mickey moved toward him, but Control reached to hold him back.
"Let him have his privacy with her for a few more minutes," Control said, emotion tightening his voice. Mickey nodded slowly and turned to organize his team for departure with their prisoner. In the distance, he saw an ambulance approach. McCall raised his head and stood to wave the ambulance down. During the short space of time it took to load Cainís body, Robert stood staring at the blood on the ground. Control came up from behind him and spoke.
"Robert, Iíll see you after you get her taken care of. Call me, please." Control placed his hand on his friendís shoulder for a moment and slowly turned away. McCall stood for a moment, staring as before, and then turned back to see Control walking away.
"Control!" he called. Control turned immediately and hurried back to McCall. "I completely understand if you have to do something about all this. I meant it when I said I didnít care if I went to prison. You just do what you have to do." Control nodded and turned away once again. He looked back to see McCall climb into the ambulance with the attendants to accompany Erin to the morgue. Control pulled his tie loose and swore silently to himself before getting into his car. He called a second ambulance for Romanov and instructed his own driver to take the long way back to the office.
The morning after Erinís funeral, Robert McCall lay motionless in bed, praying God would just take his life, and knowing he did not have the courage to do it himself. Control had managed to cover up the circumstances of Romanovís death and discreetly disposed of the body. Romanovís accomplice was shipped back to Russia, with instructions to contacts there, that he be imprisoned in a gulag of some sort for the rest of his life. The possibility of punishment and imprisonment for McCall was no longer an issue. Getting through daily life again was the problem that plagued McCall. He had dealt with the grief of her death once before and thought he had come through it well, but to have to face such overwhelming grief again was beyond his comprehension. He did not know how he was going to be able to get through the day. Robert attempted to clear his mind and let his body relax, but tears flowed without his conscious restraint and images of Erinís beaten body besieged his mind. Just get up, McCall demanded of himself. Deal with it! He levered himself out of bed and walked to the dresser where Erinís clothes were stored. As before, he would box them up and put them into storage until a later time, God knows when, that he could go through her things without sorrow overwhelming him. He pulled open one of the drawers and discovered an envelope marked with his name. Robert tore open the envelope and pulled out the single sheet of paper within. He wandered back to the bed and sat down as he read.
ĎMy Darling Robert,
If you are reading this letter, it means I have not survived for some reason. I hope the reason is honorable and justifiable. But I wanted to remind you that I have been only a part of your life, certainly not all of it. You are too valuable of a person to hold yourself away from the rest of the world because of your grief for me. Please remember my time with you as happy and loving, but when it ended, it ended. Pick up and start again, please. Hold Scott, Control and Mickey close to you. They are your very good friends.
Be good to yourself and try to remember only our happy times together. Memories of the painful times will fade a lot faster than those of the happy times; trust me, Iíve been there many times. I love you, Robert, and always will.
Robert slowly refolded the letter and placed it back into the drawer. Suddenly he felt confined, like he needed to get out and away. I havenít seen Scott much in this last week, he thought to himself. Thatís what Iíll do; Iíll go see Scott. Maybe weíll take a trip together somewhere; get away from it all. With renewed energy, Robert started collecting the items he needed to dress for the day and showered quickly. As he prepared, by thought over a list of places he and Scott would enjoy visiting together. By the time he was dressed, Robert was humming to himself and brimming with anticipation of the enjoyable time he was going to have with his son. As he left the bedroom, Robert stopped to pick up Erinís blanket. He refolded it carefully and stood stroking it for a moment. But the day beckoned, and Robert gently laid the blanket on the pillow.