Disclaimer: The Equalizer and all its characters are property of Universal and are used here without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.

A Temporary Calm

As soon as he returned from his next mission, Mickey Kostmayer stopped by Robert McCallís apartment to apologize for his outburst about Cain. He had done as he promised the last time he was there, gone out and gotten drunk to try to forget the horror he had witnessed. But drunk as he was, Mickey couldnít stop thinking about McCall and how happy he was. He couldnít remember when McCall had been so excited about a relationship with a woman. And maybe I have had a hand in ruining it for him, he thought guiltily, God, I hope not. He knocked quietly on the door and was greeted by an enthusiastic McCall. Mickey immediately felt some of his apprehension fall away.

"Mickey! Itís good to see you. How have you been?" McCall asked as he clapped the younger man on the shoulder and led him into the living room. Mickey stuttered in surprise.

"McCall, I-uh-I came to apologize about that night when I got back from Kuwait. I should have realized Erin was following orders. I forgot Controlís role in all this. Will you tell Erin I apologized, as well?"

"Yes, donít worry, I will." McCallís voice lowered a bit. "I donít think you two need a confrontation quite at this moment. You know, Erin works very hard at keeping her company life separate from our life together. She did not appreciate having the missionís more unpleasant aspects paraded in front of me. Yes, yes, I will tell her."

"Thanks, McCall, I, uhÖshould really go. I just needed to stop by for a minute, and, and, you knowÖ" Robert smiled and put his hand on Mickeyís shoulder again.

"Take care, my friend." Mickey left quietly. Robert returned to the living room couch for a few more minutes, thinking about Mickey and the situation with Erin. Erin was in the shower at the moment, having also just arrived home from a completely different mission than Mickey. Control was keeping them apart, as well. Robert sighed and stroked his jaw as he contemplated the problem. He heard the water stop in the master bathroom and knew Erin would soon be coming out. A few minutes later she appeared, her sleek black hair combed back and a blanket wrapped around her slender frame.

"Was there someone here?" she asked as she entered the room.

"Yes, it was Mickey. He came by to apologize for his outburst a few weeks ago when you both came back from Kuwait." McCall stretched out his hands in a signal for Erin to sit with him on the couch. She dropped a few kisses along his cheek and neck as she snuggled under his arm.

"I wish he had confronted me instead of coming to you like a tattling child. Did he think he was trying to save you from me?"

"I donít know, Erin dear," Robert traced the line between the blanket and Erinís bare shoulders and brushed his lips along the edges of her ear as he spoke. "But Mickey has been protective of our friendship since I met him. I was able to have him released from prison after he had been wrongfully sentenced for the murder of his partner in the SEALS. He has kept an eye out for me since then." Erin relaxed her hold on the blanket as his explorations drifted to her chest. The weight of the blanket made it sag and slowly revealed her breasts. Robert leaned down to kiss and nuzzle the warm sensitive flesh. He pulled a nipple into his mouth and sucked gently while his hand separated the folds of the blanket and found the soft curly hair between her legs to play with. Erin arched her back and parted her legs as her excitement grew. His touch was exquisite. His hand caressed her thighs for a moment before his fingers started to explore along the edges of her pubic hair. His caresses continued between her legs until they worked their way into her vagina, seeking the warm moisture that was building as her passion grew. Robert gently finger-fucked her with two fingers as he continued nuzzling and sucking on her breasts. Presently, he kissed his way up her neck and caught her mouth in a deep passionate kiss. Erin moaned her excitement against his lips. Breaking the kiss, Robert pulled his hand from between her legs and lifted her to her feet, leaving the blanket on the couch. He pulled her tight against him, feeling her pelvis against his erection, painfully hard after days without making love. His hands stroked down her smooth back and fastened on to each one of her butt cheeks, gently squeezing and caressing them before spreading her to seek the wet cunt. He loved to hold her butt in his hands, feeling the strong muscles and stroking the lovely shape of her cheeks. She was always ready to make love, he thought, no matter how tired she was. It was as if making love to him gave her more energy. Her cunt was wet at his slightest touch. He felt her hands attempting to unbuckle his belt, her fingers brushing against his cock, the incidental contact sending tingles of excitement through his body.

"Let me," Robert murmured against her hair. She had such fine thick black hair. It was cut short in a boyish style and had a tendency to fall into her eyes. He loved the way she looked at him when he occasionally brushed the errant strands off her forehead. He felt Erinís hand softly grasped his now bared erection and begin to stroke in long lines from his scrotum to the head. She would caress his balls about every third or fourth stroke, increasing his excitement greatly.

"Letís go into the bedroom, I have something to show you," Robert whispered into Erinís ear and took her under his arm to walk down the hall. Inside the bedroom, he pulled her in front of a tall dressing mirror. "Watch." Robert watched his hands lightly brush her nipples and caress her thighs. He parted thighs and sought her clit with his fingers as his other hand cupped and squeezed her breasts. There, he found that most sensitive spot, the one that made her breath hitch and her muscles tense. He reached his other hand behind her and found her vaginal opening to smear the moisture to her anus. He continued rubbing her clit while gently working a finger at a time into her ass until he had three fingers deeply encased inside her. By this time, Erin was frantic with excitement and was undulating her hips back and forth. Erinís eyes were fixed on the mirror. Her hands ran up and down his arms as the muscles in her ass contracted and squeezed the hand between her cheeks as she sought the heavenly release. Suddenly she threw her head back and moaned softly, tensing her entire body and slowing her movements to concentrate on his touch on her clit. She thrust her hips forward in a slow rhythm as wave after wave of her climax tore through her body. Robert felt his penis, wet with precum, slide along the skin of her hip. He could wait no longer. He had to be inside her. Then her hands clutched his, indicating she had had enough, and Robert removed his fingers from her warm intimate parts and bent her slightly forward to maneuver his achingly hard erection between her cheeks and against her anus. Erin spread her legs wider and grasped his penis with one hand as she slowly leaned against him. He felt her anus stretch open and the head of his cock enter her tight hot ass. She slowly leaned against him until he was entirely inside her and grabbed a nearby chair for balance. Erin began to move back and forth slowly to stretch her rectum past the point of pain. When her movements became more relaxed and picked up speed, Robert grasped her hips with each hand and pulled her against him. He pushed her slightly away and pulled her hips back against his groin, driving his cock deep, time and time again. Erin gasped and moaned with his motion, arching her back and clutching at his hands on her hips with her hands. Robert felt his excitement grow and grow until he could no longer control himself. Pulling her savagely upright against him, he crossed his arms in front of her with a hand squeezing her breast and the other across her hips to hold her tightly to him. He felt his semen explode into her ass.

"Erin, Erin," Robert moaned as he came and pulled her tighter and tighter as he emptied his seed into her. He felt his breathing slow as his muscles relaxed. Her delicious body leaned against him as she regained her calm and she reached over her shoulder to place a hand on the side of his head to pull it along side of hers. He kissed her neck and shoulders as she caressed his hair and ears.

"You are the most exciting man," Erin breathed against his hair. As Robert felt his penis slip slowly out of her and he once again gently stimulated her clitoris. His other hand reached behind her and finger-fucked her cunt as deeply as possible.

"Again?" Robert whispered. "More?" Erin laughed deeply in her throat and tipped her head back. Robert felt a thrill of desire run down his back.

"Always," she whispered hoarsely. Robert quickened his motions and brought her quickly to orgasm again. Erin writhed in front of him, exhorting him to keep going and going until her nerves were overloaded, and then she stopped him by grasping his hands and holding them still.

"Oh, I missed you," Erin said as she turned to face him. Robert grasped her around the waist as her arms went around his neck. He slid his hands down her back to grasp a butt cheek in each hand and pulled her tightly against him. He squeezed each cheek until she gasped.

"I missed you, too," he said, releasing his hold on her backside and crushing her to his chest. "I missed you very much." Robert relaxed his hold on Erin and leaned down for a long, passionate kiss. "What do you want to do for the next few hours?"

"I would like to rest a bit, if you donít mind," Erin responded softly and leaned her head against his chest. She caressed the chest hairs and hugged him closely. "I could use a few more hours of sleep. Do you want to curl up with me?"

"Yes, I would. Iíve missed having you asleep beside me." They lay down together on the bed and snuggled beneath the covers. Once settled, Robert tried to move as little as possible to allow Erin to fall asleep quickly. Before long, her breathing was deep and regular. Robert watched her as she slept, marveling in the beauty of the finely chiseled face, the soft fullness of her hair, the upturned corners of her almond-shaped eyes. How she can love me so much, he wondered. Why am I so blessed? How did I come to deserve such a deep and loving woman? Robertís eyes felt heavy and started to close. He snuggled against her and breathed in the pleasant aroma of her hair, so soft, so sleekÖ

They awakened to the phone ringing. Robert told Erin to let the machine pick it up, but when they heard the child speaking, both of them bounded naked from the bed and to the kitchen counter where the telephone and answering machine were located.

"Hello, is this the Equalizer? Hello? M-My b-b-brother needs help. Can you help me, please?"

"This is Robert McCall. How can I help you? What is your name?"

"My name is Matt Olson. My big brother Bobby is the one in trouble. He fights for a man who said if Bobby doesnít fight, heíd kill him. The doctor says Bobby shouldnít fight anymore. Heís been hit in the head too much."

"Where are you at, Matt?" Robert asked as he grabbed a pad of paper and a pen. He took down the information as the boy spoke. "Donít worry, weíll be there very shortly." Robert hung up the phone and looked at Erin. "How would you like to be my partner on this case?" he asked.

"Iíld love to," Erin said with a smile. She walked to him and caressed his cock and scrotum as they dangled between his legs and in front of the barstool on which he sat. "Partners in love and partners in adventure. What could be more perfect?"

"Youíre incorrigible," Robert laughed and reached around her to grab at her butt. She danced away before he could touch her and scampered back to the bedroom to clean up and get dressed. Robert followed suit and soon they were ready to find the location from where young Matt had called. The directions took them to the Bronx and to a free medical clinic bordered by large, battered apartment buildings. An abandoned warehouse complex was nearby. They found a parking space and went into the clinic to find the boy. He was with the receptionist when Robert and Erin came through the door.

"Matt?" Robert asked. "Are you the one that called?"

"Yeah, Iím Matt. My brother is still with the doctor. H-H-He doesnít want to stop fighting, but the doctor says if he gets hit in the head again, he might die. I-I-Iím afraid."

Robert pulled the boy to one of the chairs in the waiting room and held him in a protective embrace.

"Donít worry, Matt, we will help you. We wonít let your brother fight again."

A bedraggled teenager entered the waiting room as Robert finished his sentence.

"Matty! Whatís he talking about? What does he know about this?" He strode to McCall and pulled his younger brother away from him. "Who are you and why are you sticking your nose in my business?"

"Your brother is very worried about you, young man, and it seems rightfully so, if he has interpreted correctly what the doctor intended. You canít afford to be hit again and leave your brother to fend for himself. Youíre being very selfish, you know."

"I have to fight or Grover will kill Matty!" the boy said with a note of hysteria in his voice.

"He told me he would kill you!" Matt wailed.

McCall looked searchingly at each boy, and then at Cain to nod ascent to her silent message.

"We are prepared to help you. Obviously this Grover character is terrorizing the both of you for his own gain."

"Why should you help?" the older boy said rudely. "Why would you take the time for the likes of us?" He looked at Cain, appraising her carriage and dress. "Who are you?"

"Let it suffice to say that I have a weakness for hard-cases, such as you, and have made it my business to help where I can." McCall looked at Cain and corrected himself, "Where we can. Tell me where this man Grover is and how this all came about."

Cain half-listened as the boys filled McCall in on their situation and the organization that Grover had established. Grover recruited homeless boys and a few girls from the borough and staged "boxing" matches on a weekly basis. They were attended by all sorts from the cityís underground; dealers, pimps, thieves, pedophiles. The gambling was hot and heavy. Grover had once bragged that he cleared over a hundred thousand dollars one week when he had pitted an underdog against a popular favorite. The underdog won and brought thousands of dollars to his handler. Cainís mind wandered and she thought of all the money she had won for Dyson years ago as a child. They had these sick underground competitions for children in Laos, too. They ranged from free-for-all fights to some of the worst sexual deviations Erin ever thought she could imagine. She was a fighter, thankfully. Dyson valued her ability as a fighter too much to allow her to become part of the public sexual sport. She had fought for him because she thought he loved her. Someone had once hinted that he was her father. But after years of the sport, she convinced herself that a father would never do this type of thing to his own daughter. Broken bones, concussions, bloody mouths and noses, and terrible bruises would never be tolerated by a father who loved his daughter. It just couldnít beÖ

Cain shook her head to bring herself back to reality and catch up on what McCall was saying.

"Erin, go with the boys and check out this warehouse where they hold the fights. Weíll need the layout in order to formulate a plan. Iíll get together some manpower. I donít think we have time to bring the police in on this. There would have to be too much coordination. We only have about two hours before the fights start. Any ideas?"

Erin paused a moment and thought before she spoke. She remembered a raid on a fight right before she had told Dyson she had had enough. Someone had raided the moneybox during a diversion and the gamblers who could not collect their winnings killed the man running the show.

"We could either try a Ďwinner takes allí match, or find a way to steal the houseís money and let the gamblers take care of Grover when they find out they canít collect. Or, maybe a combination of the two. I can pass as a teenager. And, if what the boys say is accurate, itís a no holds barred match. If I canít take out the other kid, I can at least hold my own until you or the others can get ahold of the money."

Robert looked worriedly at Erin for a moment and opened his mouth to say something, but changed his mind abruptly and nodded. Erin could see he was concerned that she would be hurt and her heart surged with love for him. Robert was so different than Dyson. Dyson could have cared less at any time, whether it was during her younger years fighting and delivering the occasional message for him, or later when he trained her as an assassin. Either way, if she had gotten hurt, or killed, he would have thrown up his hands and started again with someone else. It didnít matter whom. It was obvious she was expendable. Sometimes it seemed Dyson deliberately put her in situations that a person with less talent and less will to live would not have survived.

"Iíll meet you on the north side of the warehouse at eight oíclock," Robert said to the group. He watched them leave the building and trot across the street toward the warehouse. She would resent it terribly if I tried to protect her, he thought. She would tell me that she sees worse action on every mission. Why would I think she was incapable of handling a simple situation like this, she would say. Iíve asked her to be my partner. I canít keep a leash on her and expect her to tolerate it just because of my possessiveness. Robert shook his head as he left the building and headed for the car. There he started making the phone calls that would bring the necessary help they needed.

At eight oíclock, Robert, Mickey, Jimmy, Sterno, and Ginger arrived at the warehouse and looked for Erin and the boys. They saw a group of three come around the corner of the building and head toward them. Robert did not recognize them at first, but then realized Erin had swapped clothing with one or more of the other boys to accumulate a costume that would fit in. Robert, himself, had prepared a costume that he hoped would fit in with the seedy underground gamblers. Erin, reaching the group, motioned them toward the ground and scratched a map in the dirt.

"The entire first floor is cleared and they have the ring in the center. The children are held downstairs unless theyíre like Bobby, who can be maneuvered with threats to someone close to them. They say there is only one guard on the only entrance to the bottom floor. The stairway is here. Here is the office in which they take the bets and guard the money while the matches are going on. They donít pay off every match, only at the end of the night. There are two guards inside and one outside. But Matt says there is a high window on this side of the office, although painted over, has no bars protecting it from the outside. Someone could probably get through the window with little trouble if something could overcome the guards, like smoke or gas."

"When McCall described the situation, I thought it might be a good idea to bring a couple of pepper gas grenades, just in case," Mickey said with a feral grin on his face. "I think theyíll do the job. Weíve got gas masks, too."

"What do they hold the money in?" McCall pressed.

"Matt says itís an old safe with a key. Grover has the only one and he personally does the payoffs. The other guys just stand guard. The one outside has a tendency to leave the door and get closer to watch the action. Itís a long-standing argument between him and Grover. Theyíre all pretty heavily armed. Grover also has a personal bodyguard of six men. They carry Uziís or something similar. Bobby says these guys occasionally take their turns downstairs with the children. Rape is a part of everyday life down there."

"Alright," McCall said, his voice heavy with disgust. "This is what weíre going to do. Erin and I will approach Grover and make an offer for a Ďwinner takes allí match. Mickey, you and Ginger take the office. Jimmy and Sterno, you head downstairs when the match gets started and take out the guard. Bring the children up to the top of the stairs and wait until the crowd starts going after Grover for their winnings. Then bring them outside. I have Sister Ellen from St. Peterís waiting to take them to safety. Bobby, you and Matt stay close to Jimmy and Sterno. Bring them into the building like theyíre prospective gamblers and show them around. Then head for the bottom floor when the match starts." Each of the group nodded as they were addressed, and suddenly it was time to go. McCall shook each of their hands and sent them on their way. He looked at Erin.

"Well, partner, itís time. Give me a hug before I have to get into character." They embraced quickly and turned for the building. Inside the smoke filled room, hundreds of people milled around a single roped-off platform that held two youngsters flailing at each other. The smaller one suddenly burst into tears and huddled on the floor. The larger one looked hesitantly at Grover. Seeing a nod of approval, he began kicking the child on the floor in the head and ribs. The smaller one wailed his pain and terror until the referee stepped between and stopped the fight. He held up the boyís hand to indicate the winner. Robert shuddered as the bloodied loser was dragged from the mat. Another man lifted the winner to his shoulder and carried him downstairs. Seeing the opening, Robert took hold of Erinís collar and dragged her toward Grover. Erin resisted enough to make it look real, seemingly looking about for a chance to escape.

"You, you there! Youíre the one running this show, right? I have a proposition for you!" Grover looked surprised as he saw a man walking toward him pulling a ragged waif behind him. "You have a decent enterprise going on here, but I would like to see if I canít give you some real competition. My boy here can take on anyone twice his size and put him down in sixty seconds. Winner takes all!" McCall had coarsened his voice and affected a Brooklyn accent.

"Ridiculous," Grover said as he turned away. "That brat only weighs a hundred pounds. Thereís no way he can take my champion. Ernesto goes a good one eighty. Youíre looking to get your brat killed."

"Are you afraid your champion is not what he seems to be?" McCall sneered. Grover rounded on his heel and brought his face inches away from McCallís. McCall pulled his hands out of his pockets, filled with money, and held them high over his head. "Winner takes all!" He looked expectantly back at Grover and stuffed the money back into his pockets. A crowd of onlookers pressed closer.

"Iím not afraid of anything. You want your match, you got it. Get your brat in the ring," Grover spat at him. The crowd surged around the ring and the men taking bets. McCall looked to find Erin and saw her crouched miserably by the ring supports. He remembered her telling him she was claustrophobic in crowds. He had seen evidence of that one evening when a group of high school students, celebrating a football victory, had surged around the entrance of OíPhelans. If it hadnít been for the hold he had on Erin, she would have broken away and searched for open space. He remembered her shivers of panic. McCall pushed his way through the crowd and bodily threw Cain into the ring. Erin gave him a grateful glance before she slunk into the center of the ring. McCall glanced around the room and saw the Olson boys leading Jimmy and Sterno to the lower floor. His glance also caught Mickey Kostmayer leaning indolently against a wall with a cigarette, keeping an eye on the action. Good, he thought, everything is set.

"Last call on bets, last call on bets," Grover called through a megaphone from his platform near the ring. A moment later, the crowd parted to admit Groverís fighting champion. He was a short, squat boy of eighteen, or so. His face was bruised and scarred and his hair hung in his eyes.

"For your viewing pleasure," the referee called through Groverís megaphone, "a single round in sixty seconds of no holds barred fighting. The challenger is in the blue corner, and in the red corner, the champion, Ernesto Gomez!" The crowd cheered noisily. The champion entered the ring and bounced around like a prizefighter, shadowboxing and dancing. Erin sized up her opponent. He moved clumsily, she decided, and was flat on his feet. His facial scars indicated he got hit in the face a lot. He probably outlasted his challengers from sheer cussedness and a hard head. Well, she thought, hard heads are nothing facing a good kick to the groin or a side kick to the knee. The referee motioned for both fighters to come to the center of the ring.

"Put on a good show, boyos, or Mister Grover will have your hide. Nothing to kill each other, because Mr. Grover doesnít like to deal with that, either." Gomez glowered at Cain and flexed his bare chest muscles. He pointed silently at her, hoping to intimidate. Erin had kept on her ragged flannel shirt for obvious reasons. She hoped it wouldnít get torn from her. The referee held up his hands and chopped one between them to indicate the start of the fight. Gomez charged Cain, arms wide in an attempt to capture and wrestle her to the ground. Cain ducked under his left arm and delivered a side kick to his left knee. The boy howled and limped around to face her. Putting his right side forward, he jabbed furiously at Cain, advancing clumsily. She weaved and ducked under his haymakers. Erin circled and thrust her right foot into his solar plexus. The boy doubled over and Erin followed with a left inward crescent kick to the right side of his head. The boy spun around from the momentum of the kick and sprawled against the ropes. People from behind pushed him back to the center where he stood, wavering and staring with dazed eyes at Cain. McCall saw the professional reveal itself on Erinís face as she prepared to finish off her opponent. McCall shivered in anticipation. He heard a small commotion from the office just as Erin lashed a kick out toward Gomezí midsection once again, but changed targets in mid-delivery and landed it squarely in Gomezí floating ribs. Another kick took him in the groin and Gomez doubled over in misery. She swept his right leg with her right foot and drove a right back heel kick into the side of Gomezí head as he fell into a wide legged sprawl. Gomez staggered to his feet, holding his damaged scrotum and pulled groin muscles as he bent forward. Cain danced all the way around him, to the delight of the crowd, before leaping into the air and smashing Gomez to the floor with a downward heel strike to the back of his head. The boy attempted to rise once, but crashed back down to the floor. The crowd cheered wildly and surged toward Grover to collect their winnings. Grover stood without moving on his platform, staring at his champion lying senseless on the canvas floor. Groverís face was aghast as he tried to believe what his eyes were telling him. A dirty hand grabbed his sleeve.

"Pay off, Grover, pay off!" Several filthy men advanced on him and Grover felt fear course through his body and down his legs. Where were his bodyguards? He fumbled for the key to the office as he leaped from the platform and made for the door. The single guard there was attempting to keep the crowd from breaking down the door.

"Back off, back off!" Grover barked as he made his way to the door. The bodyguard shot in the air to scare the crowd away. He was successful only to a small extent. McCall watched their struggles and motioned Erin to follow as he ran toward the stairway where Jimmy and Sterno waited with the children. Seeing six of Groverís thugs approaching with weapons ready, McCall yelled at Jimmy to wait and motioned for Erin to split away. The pursuing thugs split as well and three followed each of them. McCall ran back behind the ring to crouch and draw his pistol. He saw Grover open the door of the office and find his guards lying inert on the floor. The door of the safe stood open. Angry men surged into the office and started beating Grover, who pulled a pistol and shot anyone in his way. Suddenly automatic gunfire zinged over McCallís head. As the first burst ended, McCall sprang erect and took the first man between the eyes before ducking down again. The second and third men sprayed bullets across the ring. The crowd following Grover fled. McCall crouched under the ring and from underneath saw his pursuers suddenly hit the floor. He peeked around the corner of the ring to see Mickey and Ginger running toward him, weapons in their hands. McCall waved his hand toward Jimmy and Sterno, who led the children to the nearest exit. McCall joined Mickey and Ginger at the exit.

"Whereís Erin?"

"I donít know, McCall," Mickey answered as he craned his neck to look all about the gigantic room. "She headed that way." He indicated away from the stairwell where a warren of boxes and trash was stacked against the far wall. The crowd has cleared sufficiently for them to see two bodies lying beside a stack of boxes. As they reached the other side of the room, they saw Cain dash along the wall with a man behind her. Kostmayer sprinted after them and cried out her name. Erin paused to look back, but that second was enough for the man to tackle her and bring her to the floor. They struggled wildly as Mickey reached them, but suddenly fell together through the rotting boards of the floor and disappeared below. Mickey paused a moment and dropped through the hole after them.

"Quickly!" McCall yelled Jimmy and Ginger as he sprinted for the stairway. They reached the bottom floor and searched through the gloom. Grunts of pain led to the back of the room where the children had been imprisoned and McCall saw Kostmayer deliver the final blow that sent the attacker crashing head first into the stone wall beside them. He fell senseless to the grimy floor. Cain staggered into sight, holding her head and looking a bit dazed.

"Erin, are you alright!" McCall rushed forward and pulled her into a great bear hug. "Letís get out of here! Can you make it up the stairs?"

"Yes, Iím alright, thanks to Mickey. Iíll be right with you. Go, there might still be someone upstairs." McCall nodded as he and the others cautiously went back up the stairs. Cain followed slowly. They didnít see anyone around on their arrival on the first floor and the group gathered to make sure everyone was okay. Sister Ellen had already taken the children and Sterno soon joined the group.

"We better get out of here before the p-police show up," Sterno said excitedly. McCall nodded and the group started off toward the nearest exit. Erin paused to look back at the ring. Different, she thought, from the dirt ring in which I fought when I was a child, but then, not so different. There was still all the terror, the indifference, and the abuse here, just like there was in Laos. McCall hadnít realized that Erin had strayed from his side. When she wasnít there to take his hand, he turned back. Erin was staring silently at the ring. The boyís unconscious body still lay in the center. Suddenly, Grover rushed from behind the ring toward Cain and swung wildly at her with a wickedly long knife. Erin jumped back to dodge the blade and poised herself for the next attack with an evil smile on her face. McCall felt his heart jump into his throat and a strangled cry erupted from him.

"Erin, my God, watch out!" Groverís next strike was a backhand sweep across the midsection again. Cain saw it coming and leaped inside the arc of knife to parry it with her right wrist. As she pivoted to turn her back toward Grover, she grabbed the wrist of his knife hand with her left hand and sunk her right elbow into his left kidney. The kidney shot caused Grover to slump slightly and Erin stomped on the back of his right knee with her left foot to drive him to his knees. She pivoted away from Grover to tear the knife out of the now loosened fingers with her right hand and delivered an outward to inward slash of the blade across his throat. A reversing slash immediately followed and blood spouted from the wound. Cain changed the grip on the knife and sank it deeply into Groverís eye. The body slumped slowly to the floor. Cain backed away a few steps to stare at the body in its pool of blood for a few seconds. Her deep breaths from the intense action turned into deep sobs before she turn dejectedly to face McCall.

"I-I shouldnít have killed him. Iím so sorry. I just reacted. I had told myself when this all started that this is not Laos. Iím so very sorry, Robert." Tears spilled from her eyes and she stumbled forward, filled with shame. McCall caught her by the shoulders and held her erect. He looked down at the shirt she was wearing and put a finger into the new slice through the threadbare cloth. His finger followed a thin red line of the slash along her bare ribs.

"He came this close to killing you," McCall said, his voice faltering at first, then continued more strongly, "Donít ever apologize for defending yourself, in any situation. Never! Do you understand?" Erin looked up at him and saw his savage pride in her revealed in his eyes and face. McCall pulled her quickly into his arms and held her tightly as he surveyed the people standing about them. He saw approval and pride in their faces. After a quick moment, McCall let Erin go and gave her a fleeting kiss on her forehead. He pulled her under his protective arm and said, "Come on, letís go." Erin gratefully put her arm around his waist and leaned her head against his chest as they walked.

"Iíve never seen anyone disarm a knife attack like that before, Erin. Will you show me some day?" Mickey asked as they left the building.

"Anytime," Erin replied as she looked up at Robert. "Count on it." Robert looked down at her and smiled. He knew her antagonism with Kostmayer was over.

Later, the group sat together in McCallís living room and shared a celebratory drink together. Mickey had mixed drinks while Robert and Erin had quickly showered off the grime of their disguises. Now they sat together on the couch with Erin snuggled in Robertís possessive embrace.

"That had to be a ten to fifteen foot fall through the floor with that guy on top of you, Erin. How did you survive?" Ginger asked after a few minutes of light conversation.

"I was lucky. Mickey jumped down after us and pulled the guy off me. I wouldnít be here now if it wasnít for him. Mickey punched the guy a few times and sent him into a header against the wall. The poor guy didnít feel like doing much after that." The group laughed and smirked knowingly at each other. McCall hugged Erin closer.

"Allís well that ends well," McCall chuckled as he separated himself from Erin and stood. From his pocket he extracted envelopes that held the usual fee for each of his associates when they assisted him on a case. Robert passed them out and shook the hand of each person. "Thank you, one and all, for your assistance. I sincerely appreciate your help. Sister Ellen called a few moments ago and told me they were well on their way to finding temporary shelter for the children Grover had so disgustingly abused. I hope theyíll be alright."

"Theyíll be fine, Robert, thanks to you. The money from the Groverís office stash will go a long way in finding decent care for them." Ginger stood and gave McCall a quick hug. "I have to be going. Many things to do tomorrow."

"Thank you, Ginger," McCall said as he returned the hug, "take care." Sterno and Jimmy also stood and expressed their thanks and goodbyes before leaving. Only Mickey remained. He stood self-consciously for a quick moment before sitting down beside Erin. He turned a troubled face toward her and looked down at the couch cushions as he spoke.

"Erin, you know, I -I didnít really mean to cause trouble between you and McCall. I donít know what I was thinking that night. I just wanted you to know Iím sorry." McCall looked on in surprise.

"I understand, Mickey." Erin said softly and Mickey looked up to gaze at her searchingly as she continued. "Donít worry. Robert and I both value your friendship too much to let a misunderstanding stay long between us. Iím happy to have you for a friend." She leaned forward to place a kiss on his cheek. "Weíre going to be fine." Mickey grinned self-consciously and looked up McCall, who had stepped behind the couch and put a hand on Erinís and Mickeyís shoulders.

"Yes, weíll be just fine." He gripped their shoulders tightly. "Weíll be fine. Now, young man, if you donít mind, I would like to sit with this lovely lady and finish my drink." McCall smiled affectionately at Mickey, who rose from the couch and stepped away, spreading his hands to indicate McCall should take his seat.

"Your throne, my lord," Mickey said with laughter in his voice and bowed low. Erin laughed with them as McCall returned the bow and dramatically took his seat. "And now, itís time for me to leave. No, stay seated. I know my way out. You two have a good night and Iíll see you soon." Mickey grabbed his jacket and left with a wave.

They sat together for a while in silence, holding each other close, before Erin raised her head from Robertís shoulder and spoke, "Iím happy that things worked out with Mickey. There was a time when I wasnít sure they would." McCall cradled her head to his chest and fondled her hair as he silently nodded his agreement. Erin looked up and smiled at Robertís beaming face. He pulled her lips to his for a long, satisfying kiss.

"Iím about ready for a happy ending to a dreadful day, arenít you, partner?" McCall asked as he plied light kisses to her hair. His hand caressed the mound of her breast.

"Oh yes, partner," Erin replied with a wink and a laugh as she reached to feel Robertís rising erection. "Letís pick up where we left off." She quickly loosened his belt and the fastenings of his trousers to pull his penis from the folds of cloth. Robert pushed the clothing away from his groin, closed his eyes, and put his hands in her hair as Erin began her caresses. He felt her tongue lick around the head of his cock and push the tip of it into the glans before flicking her tongue back and forth across it. She took his cock into her warm wet mouth and he felt her teeth drag around the edge of the head. Thrills ran down into his scrotum and he had to take a deep breath. Erin cupped his testicles in one hand and held his cock steady with the other as she moved her head rhythmically up and down the shaft, taking him into her throat as far as possible. After a few minutes, Robert felt Erin pull his penis from her mouth and her tongue lick the length of it, up and down several times. She took the loose skin of his scrotum between her teeth and pulled at it gently. Robertís breath became ragged as he felt his leg muscles quiver. She took a testicle into her mouth and gently sucked on it.

"Oh, Erin, my Erin, you do such wonderful things to me. I love you so much. OhhÖ" Erin released the testicle and took the other into her mouth. Her hand continued to caress up and down the length of his cock. Presently she released his scrotum and he felt her mouth kissing the insides of his thighs as she pulled his clothing from his legs and his shoes and socks from his feet. Her tongue licked swirls up and down each thigh as one hand continued to caress his testicles and the other his cock. Robert leaned back and moaned.

"Stand up," Erin whispered against his skin. Robert opened his eyes and complied with her command. Erin stayed on her knees in front of him and pulled his cock into her mouth. Robert rocked his pelvis back and forth, fucking her mouth and face. His cock pushed into her throat as far as she would let it and occasionally she would move her head so that his penis rubbed across her cheeks and chin. Robert watched, totally drawn into the sight of his cock going in and out of her mouth. She would grasp him to caress her face with the saliva- and pre-cum-wet head and then take him back into her mouth. Her teeth caused tingles as they rasped along the shaft. Oh, God, I have never been this excited he thought as he felt his cum surge from his testicles, through the glans, and spurt into her mouth. He pulled his cock out of her mouth and watched the cum spurt over her cheeks, lips, and chin.

"Oh, my darling, my darling," he crooned and cradled her head against his thigh. As he sat down, temporarily exhausted from the excitement, Erin pulled her shirt over her head and wiped away the stickiness on her face. Robert leaned down and kissed her, tasting the bitter taste of his ecstasy in her mouth. Erin stood and slowly removed her clothing. Robert watched her breasts sway as she moved and reached out to caress them. His hands followed the descent of her clothing as she pulled it off and he caressed her buttocks, thighs and legs as they were revealed. When she was completely undressed, Robert lay back on the couch and pulled a pillow underneath his head. He guided Erinís leg over him so she was astride his face, her left knee on the couch and her right foot on the floor. Erin held the back of the couch for balance. Robert positioned his face closely to her pussy and began licking through the dark folds, searching for her clitoris and thrusting his tongue into her vaginal opening. He tasted her juices as she slowly rubbed her pussy against his face. Robert put one hand on her pubic bone to guide her motion and worked two fingers of the other into her cunt. He heard Erin moan and call his name.

"Robert, Robert, my darling, oh, you are so exciting. I love this, I love this. Yes, oh yesÖ"

He found her clitoris and sucked on it gently while finger-fucking her more vigorously. Erinís movements became rougher and more excited as she rubbed her pussy against his mouth. He felt her muscles clenching and trembling as her passion grew. Her hands grasped his hair as she climaxed, carefully trying not to be too rough, but somehow not quite able to control all her movements. Presently she ceased her breathless motion and stepped off the couch to find her shirt and wipe Robertís face. He sat up and pulled her close beside him, his arms around her shoulders as her head nestled against his chest. Putting a hand under her chin, he turned her face up to gaze deeply into her eyes.

"I am so blessed," he said before kissing her. He crushed her against his chest and buried his face in her hair. When he released his hold, Erin looked up at him with tears sparkling in her eyes. Robert brushed the teardrops away with his fingertips and said, "Donít cry, please. I just want you to know how much I love you."

"Tears of happiness," Erin whispered through a tight throat. "I love you more than anything else in the world, Robert, more than life." Robert rose and picked her up from the couch. Erin put her arms around his neck and buried her face against him. He carried her to the bedroom and gently laid her on the pillow.