To Catch a Friend
RSA - Good Hope
by Jay Alam


The following story you are about to read is a work of fiction.  It is meant for a mature audience as it contains graphic depictions of an adult nature.  So minors, if you happen to 'stumble' over this story, don't read it, delete it.

This story, although dealing with an Adult theme, namely BDSM and Bondage, is different from my other writings as this story is more 'mainstream fiction' than anything else.  In fact, 90 % of the tale is common mainstream, the same kind of read you would have when buying a published book at your local store.  The remaining 10% is the difference.  As far I know, there is no common Fiction which

SSC Information:

As the majority of this tale is 'crime' fiction, SSC doesn't rule, I'm afraid.  Most of the story is fairly romantic *grins*, but there ARE some sections where the harsh treatment edges on Sadism.

My thanks to Peter (Leviticus) for allowing me to write a plot with his first rate heroine,
Rhianna Summer, Special Agent, FBI.

Jay Alam (jlm) 1999


To Catch a Friend

Chapter 1

New York City never totally sleeps.  The docks were quiet, a light fog nestled over the Hudson.  Some people were still on the streets, the busiest of them being the garbagemen.  It was still night, hours before dawn.

In the backroom of a warehouse, a man was pacing nervously, frequently glancing at his watch.  In his business, he was known as the negotiator.  A rather pompous title, he admitted, but one which gave him free access to nearly all the crime groups operating in NYC.

Soft laughter suddenly interrupted his thoughts and he angerily faced the couple a few feet away.

"Can't you shut up?  This is serious business."

"Woohoo!  Somebody's a bit excitable!"  The black haired woman grinned, then turned her head to the man beside her. The negotiator shook his head in disgust.  Although the woman was a tasty one, good figure, splendid bust, dressed in a bra, pencil skirt, opera gloves and high heeled boots, all in black leather, he wouldn't touch her.  Her eyes, unfocused, had betrayed her.  God, he thought, she must be high as a kite.  A light shudder passed across his back.  No way would he mess with her.  Not with a junkie.  Her companion seemed sober and at ease.

He turned and pointed at the woman.  "Why did you bring the whore with you?"  The other man's face fell instantly and he stared at the negotiator with a cold face.

"Hey man, she ain't no whore.  She's my Lady.  Understand?  Call her that again and you'll regret it."

The negotiator took a nervous step backwards, waving his hands defensively.  "Okay, okay.  There's no point in becomming rude.  Now could you please tell your...lady? shut the hell up?  We..."

They were interrupted by a screeching door behind them.  The negotiator noticed the woman giggling furiously, desperately trying to control her laughter.  He turned around and froze before groaning.

This must be the bodyguard.  Built like a third rate wrestler, his suit not really tailored for him, he had sunglasses on his nose and he pushed his jaw out.  Sunglasses?  At 4:20 in the morning?  Jesus, that one must have seen too many gangster movies.

Everything seemed to be okay, the bodyguard made a motion with his hand and a second man, a small old Asian, entered the room, followed immediately by another who held a briefcase in one hand while the other one was tightly clamped around the arm of a young woman.  The old Asian looked around the room, glancing in the direction of the couple, frowned then sat on the only chair.  The woman was pushed and made to kneel beside the old one.  Her arms disappeared behind her.  When she nearly stumbled, she made a half-turn and the couple saw that her arms were harshly tied, strict and uncomfortable.  Both her mouth and eyes were taped shut.  The standing Asian gripped the woman's hair and held her motionless.  The imprisoned woman gave exhausted moans behind her gag.

"You are Mister Sullivan?"  The old one pointed to the couple, ignoring the negotiator.

"That's right"  Both he and his black haired friend approached the new arrivals.  "And you're Mr. Lee, I guess."

The old man placed a hand on his chest and bowed.  "At your service. Are you ready to trade?"

The man opened the bag he was holding and turned it over.  Stacks of bills fell onto the floor.  "Five hundred thousand bucks if my memory is correct."

Mr. Lee let his facial control slip slightly and smiled, then nodded, "Your memory is correct."

Turning around, he said something in his native tongue to the third man who nodded and opened their briefcase.  Inside were some folders, some films and a small bag of white powder.

The black haired woman raised an eyebrow and looked lovingly at her
friend who nodded.  "Well Mr. Lee, I guess this completes our deal.  But may I ask why the 'powder' and who's the girl?"

"They are gifts from me; a sign of goodwill for future business between us.  The first one is for your charming companion.  I assume she will like it for it is 100% pure.  As for the second..."
He raised a finger and traced the chin of the bound woman with his nail.  The woman began to tremble.  "She is someone who stumbled onto my operation.  May I introduce you to Miss Eva Simpson, the mayor's secretary.  I thought you would enjoy having a little fun with us when today's business is finished."

The couple looked at each other, then the man spoke again, eyeing the Asians suspiciously, "What kind of fun?"

The old man cackled and grinned at them, "Aah, well nothing is prohibited my friend.  You may do what you will, as you like.  She has no say in it, no say at all."

A crashing sound interrupted them, followed by a shout.  "New York City Police Department.  Nobody moves!"

In the doorway, one officer pointed a shotgun at the bodyguard.  Another one crouched, taking aim with his service revolver at the Asians while a third raced into the room.  Nobody seemed to be interested in the standing man who had initiated the meeting.  As he  heard the police officers, he turned and started to run towards the backdoor...but stopped short as the dark haired woman raised a gun towards his chest.  Unlike the earlier impression she gave, her eyes were narrowed now and dangerously focused.  Her left hand went slowly into her bra and came out holding a badge.

"FBI.  You're all under arrest."  She mouthed the negotiator a kiss and turned her head slightly towards the stunned old Asian, "Mr. Lee, alias Mr. Zen, born as Franky Loo, you are wanted by federal warrant for murders in several states.  I guess we can now add kidnapping, scientific espionage and drugs to the list."

Checking that the officers had the bad guys under control, she turned her head to the man beside her who was fastening his badge to his belt.  "Can you take the Miranda part, Johnson?  These heels are killing me."

The tall man chuckled, lightly shaking his head before he nodded, "Certainly, Rhianna.  Go on."  He smiled at his partner and then looked at the assembled men who were starting to be cuffed by the officers.

"Okay guys.  You have the right to remain silent.  Everything..."

Great surprise filled the room as the woman reached up and pushed the black wig from her head, freeing her own lighter hair.

-= / * \ =-

".. So please leave a message after the beep.  I'll call you back. Bye."

"Hello Rhianna.  It's Peter.  Listen, Maria has disappeared.  We can't trace her.  Could you please call me back at 555-..."

A few minutes later, the door opened and Rhianna Summer, Special Agent for the FBI came back home.  Exhaustion was written all over he.  She tossed the high heeled boots into a corner and dropped heavily into her favorite armchair.  Leaning her head back, she closed her eyes, letting both body and mind rest.  Then, collecting herself again, she stood up, undressed and took a shower.

Working for the FBI was fine.  It had been her dream since she stumbled over various smuggling and crime cases in her Coastguard days and she had been very proud when she earned her FBI badge.  And nothing had been able to shatter that dream, not even her last few assignments.

Because those missions took her to the limits of her stamina, emotions and beliefs, she had been more than glad to return to more normal cases like the one she's ended this very night.  Okay, she hadn't been thrilled to play a street whore, and she hadn't chosen this job for her acting ability.  Shadowing someone who doesn't want to be shadowed is tricky.  Catching someone involved in crime is more difficult, especially in the red light district.  She'd just finished a ten day shift with no more than an hour or two of sleep per day.  But patience paid off and, with the help of her new partner and the monitoring team, they had been able to close the case.  God, was she tired!

After a long time under a hot shower she came back into her living room, toweling her hair.  Thank God it was longer now, about shoulder length.  With a shudder, she remembered the way her head felt when she had been shaved bald.

Finally she noticed the blinking red light on her answering machine.  She pressed the play button and listened.  She frowned as she listened to Peter's message.  Her sleepy mood seemed to vanish and, not bothering to check the time, she called his number.

The phone rang just twice before Peter picked up the phone.


"Hello Peter.  This is Rhianna.  Any news yet?"

"Rhianna!"  There was genuine relief in his voice.  "Rhianna, thank you for calling back.  She's gone.  I can't find her and..."

"Hush Peter, slow down.  First take a deep breath...  And start again.  Now tell me.  What happened?"

With a strained voice, Peter began his tale, being stopped now and then by a soothing Rhianna who was slowly getting the picture.

The whole mess had started last month with a letter from  Maria's old high school friends who had organized a class reunion.  Every five years, Maria said, the whole group gathered.  That had been a promise each of them had made, back when their exams finally ended.   Maria hoped she would find a sign of Melissa there.  Peter had helped Maria plan her trip and they agreed that their daughter wouldn't go with her Mom, but would stay with her Dad.  Lisa had joyfully agreed to take care of Baby Heather, with Peter's help of course.  Thus, Maria had taken a plane and continued her journey in a rented car.

But then, six days ago Maria phoned for the last time.  She said that weather conditions were bad and she would be staying in some motel.  When she didn't make her daily call, Peter phoned the motel.  But they told him that Maria had never arrived.  Fax and radio messages to police and hospitals hadn't uncovered anything.  Peter was still mystified about what had happened to his wife.

Maria remained lost.  Now, nearly one week after her disappearance, Peter had decided to phone Rhianna.  He hoped that her FBI resources could help.

Cynthia could be forgotten as a suspect.  Peter saw her each day as she and Angel were still in Robert's custody.  While she showed some sort of genuine pleasure about Maria being away, she was becoming rather nervous and afraid as Robert's tension and anger became more and more apparent.  No, he didn't think that Cynthia was involved this time.  Both he and Robert had discussed Maria's disappearance and wondered if it could have been some sort of revenge from the past, namely an overdue revenge from Hiro Atamo.

Rhianna became cold upon hearing that hated name.  While the better part of her didn't really think he was the cause, some little devil reminded her it could still be a possibility.

She forgot her exhaustion as she threw on some clothes and returned to the office.

With the little bit of information she knew, she went to Brent Major, the head of the local FBI Information System & Services.  After entering his area, she stood in front of the civilian engineer, a contractor to the FBI who was, in full truth, a computer wizard.

Rhianna flashed him a soul-melting smile which, by the way, was lost on the engineer.

"Brent, could you please make some queries about two things for me?  One a name and one a location."

He didn't even bother to look up from his work as he continued tapping away on his keyboard.

"Do you have the regulation form E-111 in duplicate?  Both copies signed of course.  Further, as stipulated in the internal Memo 1996-5542, an additional AQ-67 form is required."

Rhianna winced inwardly.  A phone call from her boss was the normal way things happened.  He called, the query was run, the paperwork filled out, signed and given later.  Fast paced operations called for this style of work.  Even Internal Affairs worked like that.  But, as a genius, Brent was totally unable to redirect his thoughts and was strictly following the rules.

Rhianna's thoughts raced: if plan A didn't work, you switch to plan B.  She sighed and grimaced.  She didn't like what she was about to do, but couldn't help it.

With a happy smiling face, she opened the three top buttons of her blouse and pulled the sides apart, showing a little extra cleavage.  Then she pushed Brent's chair around and dropped onto his lap, one of her hands ruffling through his hair, blocking his view of the screen.

Using her sexiest voice, making it low, dark and smoky, and cooed, "Oh Brent...are you sure I need all those papers now?  Can't I give you them later?  I need this information.  And we could have so"

Another facet of Brent's genius was that he was unable to do anything coherent if a sensual element was thrown in.   Other men would have a hard-on, enjoying the privilege of having a gorgeous woman on their laps.  But Brent?  He became rigid; his whole frame, excluding his manhood, that is.  His biggest fear, and Rhianna had very unexpectedly pushed that button, was to be tried for sexual harrassment.  A totally unrealistic fear of course, but was his worst nightmare.

Rhianna felt shame for playing with him, but it couldn't be helped.  She needed information and she needed it fast.

He paled.  With a hoarse voice he whispered, "All right Agent.  We can deal with the paperwork later.  What did you say you needed?"

Still ruffling his hair, she again showed him the two pages she'd prepared.

"Well, anything unusual.  If there was any activity, problems, reports, that kind of thing."

With his dangling hand, he snatched her papers away, trying hard to forget the woman on his lap.

"I'll do it Agent, I'll do it.  Just give me some time, maybe two or three hours.  Now, would you please stand up?"

Again she shot him that smile and started straightening his tie.  His face flushed and he shivered.

Rhianna thought she'd better stop the game now.  She feared he might  have a stroke.  She stood up and straightened her skirt.

"Thank you Brent.  Could you please send the results up to the watch room?  Yes?  I'll be there.  That would be fine.  Or should I come back later to get them?"

Alarmed his head went up, his eyes widened.
"NO!  I mean, I'll send them up.  Really!  Promise!  As soon as the results are compiled and on file."

Flashing her smile one last time, she mouthed a thank you and got out. Behind her, the boss of New York's FBI-IS&S center was still shivering.  It took several minutes before he could do anything coherent.  Then he straightened his frame, turned to his workstation and started the input of the requested query, hammering his keyboard like a madman.

Out in the hallway, Rhianna stopped.  Going out, she had rapidly buttoned her blouse and was now leaning against the wall, her eyes half-closed.  God, how she hated to act like this.  Still, Maria was her friend and, although she had been the agent from the Leta case, she still needed some hard evidence to convince Agent Wilson, her boss.  If not, he would deal with it like with other common cases, giving it a low priority and assigning the local FBI staff to the affair.  No, she needed some facts if she wanted a chance to get involved.  And she would be involved.  Maria was her friend, and she didn't have that many friends.

She pushed herself up and made her way to the watch room.  The room was fully furnished with desks, armchairs, a sofa, a soda machine, a coffee machine, a communication corner and a TV.  Exhausted, she curled up on the sofa and was instantly asleep.

-= / * \ =-

Exactly one hour later, Rhianna was awakened by the stringent alarm heralding the arrival of her documents.  Looking at her watch, Rhianna could not hide a smile.  Brent must have worked like a man possessed to have something so soon.

When Rhianna got up and acknowledged the mail, a soft humming was heard as two laser printers came to life, pushing out eight pages per minute.

Rhianna waited until the printing was completed before she pulled the sheets out of the trays.  Being a fast reader, a skill learned and improved on at FBI Academy, she quickly scanned the printouts.  The 'Atamo, H.' Report showed nothing new.  In fact the last data entry was from the conclusion of the Leta case.  Rhianna smiled when she saw that the name of the source was Kenji Hasamura.  She would now be able to calm Peter's fears about revenge.

The second report made her frown.  She had given the name and location of the motel to Brent only to see if there had been any problems in the vicinity.  It had been a gut reaction, nothing else.  And at first sight, it seemed her guts had been right, but not with the vicinity --  with the motel itself.

The motel, whose name was Good Hope, had quite a list of entries.  A whole list of problems was filed.  Insurance fraud was one of them, reported problems with the owners was another, changing of ownership a third.  And the list continued.  Last in line was a section about lost (stolen?) vehicles.  A whole range of dates and figures were printed on the sheet.  Rhianna started to wonder if kidnapping would now close the list.  Gnawing on her lip, she wondered if she had enough facts to start an investigation.  Either way, she needed her supervisor's permission to continue.

With that thought, she took the phone and punched the number of the reception desk, asking if Special Agent in Charge Mike Wilson, her boss, was already in the building.  The answer was  yes and, snatching the printed pages, Rhianna went rapidly to the office of her boss. After she knocked, she heard him shout for her to enter.

Special Agent Wilson looked up from a file and acknowledged her presence with a nod.

"Agent Summer! What the hell are you doing here? I thought I made myself quite clear yesterday when I told you that you should take a few days off after closing the Red case.  I already have Johnson's preliminary case-report here.  Good job, by the way."  Rhianna managed a half-smile upon hearing the praise.

"Thank you Sir, but the Red case is not why I'm here."

"It is not?"  Wilson leaned back in his big chair, his eyes narrowing.

"No Sir.  Something happened to a friend of mine.  She's disappeared."

She showed him the printout Brent had computed.  "This was her last known location and she is overdue by a week."

"Have a local team search for her."

His voice was cold when he answered, but hers matched his equally.

"Sir, she's a friend of mine.  You know I don't have a lot of them.  She's had a hard time of it over the past few years, but now her life is good.  I want her to be happy again.  Now if you don't let me handle this case, I'll take my time off and look on my own.  But I'd rather do it with your blessing.  One way or another, I'm going to be there for her."

The temperature in the room had become positively chilly while she spoke.  His face went stone cold.

"This is blackmail, Agent Summer."

"Yes Sir, it is."

Her frank reply hung in the air for a few seconds.  Then Wilson broke into laugher as he shook his head.  "All right Rhianna.  Have it your way.  I'll sign up and make the calls.  Do you need anything else right now?"

She shook her head.  "No Sir."  But then she thought briefly and went on, "I have to change that.  Yes Sir, there is something.  I'll need an E-111 form in duplicate as well as an AQ-67."


She nodded.

"How the hell did you manage to get intel from this guy without the paperwork?"

As she opened her mouth to speak he raised his hand.

"No, please don't tell me.  I don't want to know, do I?"

She flashed him a wide grin.  "No Sir, you definitely don't want to know!"

-= / * \ =-


Chapter 2

Six hours later, Rhianna was sitting in the passenger seat of an unmarked car.  True to his word, Wilson had phoned the locals and she had been met at the plane by a small man in his mid thirties who introduced himself as Special Agent Diego Moreno.

After her meeting with Wilson, Rhianna raced to the airport to catch a plane. There had been no need to return home as she always had a fully packed suitcase in her trunk.  Another trick taught at the Academy.  The four hour flight and transfer had given her the rest she needed so badly.  She now looked more human than at the meeting with her boss.

While Moreno drove, she gave him a close look.  He was the smiley type. He didn't talk much but smiled all the way.  She wasn't sure yet if she would like him or not.  When she told him to take her to the motel, his eyes narrowed and he grunted something unintelligible.  But that had been his only reaction.  A phone call to Peter told her that there was nothing new from his end.

Before long, Moreno pointed to a large complex bordering the Interstate, situated as the only stop for miles.

"Good Hope. Sanctuary for truckers.  That's the place.  That's what it looks like."

It looked like a truck stop with a motel.  A huge parking lot was in front of a large, window-covered restaurant.  To the right, a garage like building framed both parking lot and restaurant while the motel part did the same on the left side.

"Jeez, how big is this place?"

Moreno chuckled.  "Well, they have 35 staff on their payroll.  Unofficially I would say double that.  And if you count the 'ladies' with 'special services' to offer, you must be closing in on 100 people."

Rhianna slowly shook her head.  "Amazing.  Okay.  Mind if I have a discreet look ?"

Moreno nodded and pulled into a parking space on the border between some small trees.  The foliage couldn't hide the car, but that hadn't been their intention anyway.  The first few minutes, they behaved quite normally, giving the parking lot a quick glance.  But there wasn't anything unusual.  As the whole complex was strategically placed near the interstate, it was very busy.

At first glance, Good Hope really seemed to as advertised, an average truck stop.  But the average side of the complex ended when they approached the garage-like building.  A fence was built around it and a sign indicated that it was electrified.  But luck was with Rhianna as the gate to the building was standing wide open.

With quick steps, they went from the open space to the building, pressing themselves against the wall.  Slowly, they turned the corner, and stood in front of a big gray Cadillac parked there.  Nothing was unusual about the place where the luxury car was parked.  Nothing, apart from the electric fence.  What made the car interesting though was the fact that it bore New York tags.

Turning, Rhianna pointed to the car.  "Do you often have New Yorkers in Cadillacs stopping here?"

He eyed the car suspiciously and finally shook his head.  "Not really."

Just then, a side door from the building opened.  The two FBI Agents  only had time to retreat hastily behind the corner before two men, talking quietly, came out.  The first wore only some bleached jeans and was bare chested, the second one was clothed as expensively in his three piece suit as his car was built and polished.  Reaching inside the car, 'Suit' grabbed a briefcase and, still speaking with 'Jeans' they returned inside.

Moreno suddenly heard a sharp hiss and quickly looked up.

Rhianna's face had tensed and her eyes flashed, filled with contained anger.  Moreno made a questioning look, but Rhianna lightly shook her head, then motioned towards their car.

They retreated and took cover behind the opposite side of the car.

"Ok, Agent Summer, what's this all about?"  Moreno's face was flushed and he was tense but his voice still had a light tone in it.  Rhianna sorted through her thoughts and decided to open up to him.

"A friend of mine disappeared.  Possibly an abduction.  She was kidnapped twice in the past and the last time, that gentleman in his $800 suit was the abductor's lawyer."

Rhianna's hands clenched to fists.  She'd recognized him almost immediately although she couldn't remember his whole name.  Trent something.  Lawyer to one Cynthia Parker-Booth.  Well, Parker-Booth might be off-limits to her, but nobody had told her the same applied to her lawyer.

She didn't dare explain everything to Moreno as most of it was restricted, but she managed to give him a quick summary.  And that part was enough to get him to nod in understanding.

"So..." she concluded, "that's the story so far."

He looked past her, not letting the building out of view.  "And what do we do now?"

She grinned.  "I go in."

"But we don't have a warrant..."

"That's why I go in."

"Meaning I will be here, outside."

She nodded again.  "Please understand.  First it's my friend who might be inside.  Second, we don't have a warrant; if anything goes wrong I may lose my job.  And third, you're from here.  Someone might recognize you."

"The same goes for you if that lawyer knows you."

She started to speak, but held her tongue.  He was right of course. Trent knew her.  He had seen her previously and knew what she looked like.  A wicked smile spread on her face.  "Don't worry, I have some business clothes with me.  Maybe I could hide my hair with a scarf.  Would you watch the building while I change?"

He nodded and crouched by the side of the car, looking around while she opened the trunk and got her case.  Suddenly he heard her muttering and swearing.

"What's wrong?"

Her head appeared at his side with a pained expression.  "I brought the wrong bag!"

"Huh?"  He looked confused.

"When I came here, I brought the wrong bag!"  Rhianna explained to him about the suitcase she always kept in her car.  When she rushed to the plane, she grabbed the wrong bag, taking the one she had used for the Red case.

She sighed, "Well, I can't help it now."

Moreno had to grin more than once as he heard words and expressions more frequently heard in deep baritones than in light soprano voices.

"At least there's one positive thing about it..."  With that, the trunk slammed shut.  Carefully looking at their surroundings one last time, Moreno turned around, and was transfixed.

Rhianna was a vision in black.  Her upper body was covered with a strapless silken top.  Only an inch wide elastic band sewn in the fabric prevented the cloth from falling down.  A short shiny vinyl skirt hid her hips.  It was a VERY short skirt indeed.  Knee-high low-heeled boots completed the picture.  But to top everything, Rhianna was arranging the black wig on her head, carefully pushing single hair strands from her own scalp under the curly wig.

She flashed him a smile.

"May I?"  She reached out and took a pair of sunglasses from his breast pocket, a Ray Ban Unisex model.  Slipping them on, she looked in Moreno's direction, one hand on her hip.

"So?  What do you think?  Will anyone recognize me?"

He let himself slump against the car, eyes wide open while a low whistle escaped his lips.

"I'm calling the boss tomorrow to ask to be transferred to the New York Office."

Rhianna changed the timbre of her voice a little and laughed with a slightly smoky voice, "You do that."

He stared at her incredulously, then both of them started to laugh quietly.

"A businesswoman with a scarf hiding her hair, huh?"

Rhianna nudged him, grinned, and replied, "I didn't say what kind of business."

Before Rhianna went into the building, Moreno phoned his office, asking another Agent to come immediately to Good Hope so that one could tail the lawyer should he leave before Rhianna came back.  Rhianna and Moreno discussed their planned moves.  She would be in the building for 30 minutes.  If she did not come back after that time, Moreno would wait for an additional 10 minutes before he entered.  They shook hands, and Rhianna made her way to the garage, sneaking her way in through the open gate.

-= / * \ =-

Rhianna followed the path the two men had taken.  Once inside, the interior was a common-looking garage.  In the middle of the oil stained floor was a service groove.  Rhianna was already past the groove when something got her attention.  Looking at the groove, she saw a slightly  damaged car standing there.  Rhianna frowned.  What disturbed her about the car?  Then it came her.  The tags.  The car had tags from a car rental company.  And she knew the numbers for she had memorized them from the report she had read...  It had been those from the car Maria had rented.

She tensed.  Was her friend somewhere in the building?  Good Hope was not the quiet place it appeared.  Too many coincidences.  Should she look inside?

The decision was taken from her as the door was pushed open.  She just had enough time to sneak behind another door leading into the building, before Trent and his companion climbed out of the groove.

"'re sure about that?"

"Absolutely Sir.  Don't worry.  Nothing will happen."

"I bet.  You have our money, now earn it."

"But you said..."

Lost in their discussion, they paced near a crouched Rhianna, hidden behind the door.  Now if either turned, she would be seen.  But again luck was with her as, not noticing their surroundings, the men continued talking, following a bend in the hallway.  Rhianna waited two heartbeats before following them.  Sneaking around the corner, she saw them going through another door.  Quickly, she paced the floor and frowned when she saw the machine embedded beside the doorframe.  A glass plate with a series of dots below.  Some cursed hand scanner.  No way could she get past this guardian without having trouble.  She thought quickly and decided she could still examine Maria's car.

Retracing her steps, she went to the groove and looked inside the car. Everything looked normal.  There were no personal papers on board.  She shrugged and climbed down into the groove, looking at the tires
intensely.  Again her thoughts were disturbed by footsteps and voices. She pressed herself tightly against the wall, hoping again that nobody would look in her direction.  And again it seemed as if her luck would hold.  The voices faded and she let her breath out.  God, she must have been more tired than she thought, being that careless.  Standing in front of the wall, she scanned the underside of the car, looking for anything unusual.  Something which could have provoked an accident.  Or wasn't it an accident?  Where was Maria?

"Hey Honey.  What'cha doin' down there?"

Rhianna froze and cursed.  Caught in the act.  Slowly she looked up.  A burly man towered above the hole, looking straight at her.

She relaxed and gave the man her famous flashy smile.  "Hello Sir.  Well, I thought I lost my earrings down here.  But I guess I was wrong.  I didn't find them."

A frown appeared on his face and he gestured at her to get out of the hole.

"And you're sure you're seeing enough in here with sunglasses, honey ?"

She stopped a few feet away, showing a very relaxed attitude.  But nothing was calm inside.

"I try to, but I'll take any help I can get.  Now, since they don't seem to be here, I'll look over in the parking lot."

"Not so fast, honey."  The man placed his bulky frame in her way.  "Ya know honey, you probably noticed the fence around here.  It has a purpose.  This is not a common repair shop.  It's only for esteemed guests.  Now I don't think I've seen you in here before."

Rhianna's blood pounded in her temples.  Her plan had failed.

"You could be a burglar.  We haven't had a burglar here in ages."  The man grinned.  "Might as well do a body search."

"You're serious?  There's nowhere on me to hide anything, don't you think?"

The man's grin grew wider. "Well, there are some places I can think of."

Rhianna still smiled but felt cold inside.  Things had taken a turn she didn't like.  Flashing him an inviting smile, she extended her
arms sideways.  "Well then, do your job."

The man, now with lecherous eyes gleaming, came several steps forward, already undressing her mentally.  Concentrating totally upon the body search, he was caught unaware when Rhianna rammed her knee into his groin, hard.

Choking, the man could only grunt, his hands between his legs, while the Agent raced to the door.

Just when she thought she would make it, the cold metal of a gunbarrel was rammed against her cheek, followed immediately by a click as the gun was readied for action.

She froze instantly and her eyes followed the man who placed himself in the doorframe in front of her.  It was 'Jeans'.

-= / * \ =-

Agent Diego Moreno was facing a problem.  A big, big problem.  Rhianna had disappeared inside the building as planned.  But while she was still inside, the lawyer and the other one had reappeared.  And this time though, the lawyer had not taken anything from the car but was evidently preparing to leave.  And the backup Agent he'd ordered still wasn't there.  Should he now wait for his interim partner or should he tail the car?  A tough question.  Waiting for Agent Summer would be common sense and regulation.  If she was in trouble she would need him.  Now, on the other hand, if there was really an abduction and if the lawyer was involved, not tailing him would be a terribly missed chance.  A horrible mistake.  Perhaps the only chance they'd get.  Lot's of ifs.  But then, what should he do?

The decision was taken from him when the lawyer started the engine.  He would tail him and assign the backup Agent as Agent Summer's cover.  Besides, it should only be a matter of minutes before that other Agent arrived on scene.

Gripping the wheel, he took his radio mike and gave orders accordingly. Leaving the parking lot, his mind concentrating on the car, he didn't see 'Jeans' jerk around, reach behind him, take a gun, and press that gun a few seconds later against the cheek of Agent Rhianna Summer.

-= / * \ =-

Inside the building, Rhianna was trying to find a way to keep from making her predicament worse while trying to buy some time until Agent Moreno arrived and played cavalry.  It should only be a short time.

There was not much she could do right now.  'Jeans' had pushed her back inside the building, closing the door behind him.

"The whore is mine!" a pain-filled voice gasped from behind. The next moment, two iron fists clamped around her upper arms and jerked them painfully behind her, pressing them together at elbow level.

"Slow down, Ray.  We might need her, you know?"

"But the whore kicked me..."

"I understand, Ray.  But we gotta phone the boss.  He'll decide.  So, chica, lead the way."

Rhianna was pushed past a door and they went through a small office before entering a backroom.  Only a chair and a table filled the room. The only exit was the way they had entered.

Ray, the one she had kicked, nearly threw her through the chair and she saw his angry, pain-filled face.  She realized that she'd made herself a lethal enemy.

"Hey listen..."


Ray backhanded her and her sunglasses flew across the room.

"Hey Ray, why don't you go out and look for something to tie her up with.   Hmm?"

'Jeans' pointed to the door and Ray, reluctantly, went out, but not before he shot her a last hate-filled gaze.

Rhianna was still working her jaw where Ray had hit her.  It felt sore.

"Thank you."

'Jeans' shrugged.  "For what?  You got yourself into this mess.  You  made two dumb mistakes.  The first was entering this building.  But that error is minor compared to the second.  You see, Ray is very emotional.  I wouldn't want to be in your place if the boss decides to leave you to him."

He tossed her a roll of wide duct tape.  "Now chica, shut up and gag yourself."

"No way, Jose."

He made a slight motion with his gun, as if shrugging again.  "Chica! You can choose.  Either you gag yourself or Ray will do it.  Either way, you WILL be gagged.  I suppose though that your way would be less painful."

Rhianna thought a moment before she reached out and ripped a strip of tape off which she plastered over her lips.  Five others followed on 'Jeans' directive before he was satisfied and Ray returned, holding a handful of cable ties.  With furious gestures, he jerked her hands over the backrest and cinched them crossed, pulling the plastic band tight. A prickling sensation flashed through her fingers.  She had to do something...and quickly at that.  But she had still an ace in addition to Moreno.  And she knew that she would have to use it as soon as possible.

Ray gripped her thighs and jerked her booted feet to either side of the chair, fastening them to the back legs, pulling the bands equally tight as the wrist tie.  Finished, he fumbled with the remaining ties, sorting them by length.  Seeing that she couldn't escape, 'Jeans' pushed the gun into his belt.

"I'll phone the boss."

Ray grunted something and 'Jeans' returned to the office, closing the door behind him.

Rhianna meanwhile was already trying to reach the back seam of her skirt with her bound hands.  Embedded there near the zipper was a secret pouch she had sewn in.  Inside was a nail rasp which she had honed almost razor sharp.  Although it had only been a prod for the Red case, she had turned it into a real weapon.  To often in the past two years had she been in one or another 'binding' situation like this one without any real hope.  Well, there was still not much hope, but she surely would try to take every opportunity for an escape.

She sighed inwardly when she reached the knife-like item and was able to get it out without being seen.

Ray came to her with a longer band which he wrapped around her tummy and a wooden post from the backrest.  Again, he pulled maddenly on the strip and she had to suck her stomach in to relieve the pressure.  Just before, she had hidden the small sharp device in her fist.  Ray was much too obsessed with payback to notice anything.  Finished, he gripped her under the chin and, clamping his hand around her throat, forced her to look at his face.

"No more nice guy, whore.  You'll be a slut.  My pain slut."

Without realizing it, he had gripped her too tightly and Rhianna was suddenly choking.  She tried to thrash in her bonds, but was only feebly moving from being tied too tightly.  Her brain as well as her lungs screamed for air.

"Hold it!  Damn it, Ray, STOP!"

A hand rushed past Ray and jerked him away from the bound woman.  "The boss says to leave her alone."

It was almost to much for Ray and he howled, "But the slut hurt me!"

"I know Ray.  But killing her now will only get us in trouble with the boss.  He's coming to question her."

Both Rhianna and Ray where breathing deeply, trying to recover.  Rhianna's vision cleared slowly and she barely heard their words.

"But what about after the boss is finished?"

'Jeans' looked straight into Rhianna's eyes.  "Well, Vaya con Dios, Chica..."

-= / * \ =-

Chapter 3

The Cadillac was waiting at a red light.  Several cars behind, Special Agent Diego Moreno was still following it.  Not that it was a difficult task.  The driver obviously had no experience in being tailed; he drove like a man out for his weekly Sunday drive.

Moreno scowled.  He no longer was the smiley type Rhianna had seen earlier that day.  Some time ago, while he was giving directions via radio, there had been a sharp, painfully high pitched squeak and the radio quit.  Moreno cursed.  One of the transistors had broken again.  He knew it, it happened too often.  It only took two or three minutes to change it; he even had spares in his car.  But the transistors were mounted behind the motor and he had to stop and open the hood to make the change.  But he couldn't afford to stop right now.  Time was the only thing he didn't have.  He looked at his wristwatch.  It was more than an hour since he left Agent Summer at Good Hope.  His fervid hope was that she was laughing and joking with the young Agent he'd called as his replacement.

In front of him, the light turned green and the Cadillac switched lanes, driving on.

-= / * \ =-

Rhianna's eyes showed true despair.  Perspiration dripped from her forehead, both from the heat under the wig, and also due to her measured efforts to get free.  Blood dripped from her palm where she had hidden the sharp tool.  When Ray had started to choke her, her struggles caused her to clench her fists, thus her grip around the knife had tightened.  She nearly passed out when she pried the small metal piece back out of her flesh.  She lost hope that Moreno would help her since he wasn't here.   Something must have happened and the sharpened blade was now her only chance for freedom.  But the cutting process was a slow one.  She had to turn her hand upwards, holding the razor-like device with her finger tips and saw at the bands.  As she quietly struggled, she remembered the times when she used to beg Tonya or Maria to tie her up so she could free herself.  Those training sessions only involved rope, never plastic zip ties.   Damn!  Why hadn't she thought about this possibility before?

The whole task was even harder as she had to make sure that neither of her captors would notice anything.  She had only been alone for a short time because someone who was lost had entered the garage.  Both men had nearly raced to the entrance to reroute the man.  Most of the time, she had a little privacy as Jim, which was 'Jeans' name, had no interest in her.  But things changed when Ray was around.  He couldn't help but slap her face and her breasts each time, finishing with grabbing and pinching.  She was starting to develop a deep hatred for that man.  She longed for the moment when she could put him in jail, but at the same time was afraid to do so.  She was not sure what her reactions would be and in which condition Ray would reach the prison.

So, with flaming cheeks, a hurting chest and a throbbing pain in her hand, she continued the tedious task, sawing slowly with the hope that the plastic would be cut before the mysterious boss arrived.

-= / * \ =-

Agent Moreno was alarmed.  The car he was following had entered the city from the Interstate.  But while he was turning a corner, Moreno had to wait at a new red light.  When at last he could move, the Agent immediately noticed that he had lost him.  Beyond the corner, the street was forked.  To the left was the way to the nearby Highway while the right one went to the railroad station.  But which direction had the lawyer taken?

Moreno cursed loudly.  He activated the strobe light and accelerated towards the highway.  The next five minutes, he went past various cars, but the Cadillac was not to be seen.  Some horrible thoughts crossed his mind and, taking the next possible turn, he raced back in the direction he had come.  Driving down the right fork, he entered the railroad station at high speed and quickly stopped in front of the station.

He raced down the hall and saw a train standing ready to leave, the conductor waving a sign to the engineer.  One after another, the doors closed and the train rumbled to life, slowly gaining speed.

Moreno raced along the passenger cars and his heart dropped when he saw the second car in the last carrier was the Cadillac he had been tailing.

The Agent turned on his heels and raced back to the Stationmaster, showing his badge.  Totally out of breath he gasped
"FBI.  Where...where's this train heading?"

The Stationmaster looked at the frantic Agent.  He gazed at the train, then looked for confirmation in his file before answering.  "Trans American 105?  It's going to New York Central."


-= / * \ =-

Rhianna had to contain herself not to show her joy.  Just a second before, the iron-like tension around her wrists had ceased.  The tie was cut.  It took every inch of her strength not to relax and shake out her sore arms after they had been held stringently for such a long time.  She surrepticiously stretched and flexed her muscles and very nearly sighed.  But she recovered in time and concentrated on the next task.  With the ability to move her hands at will, it took her only a half dozen sharp jerks of her wrist to cut the waist band.  Now she was only held by the ankle ties.  But to cut those, she had to be alone or, at the very least least, have her captors looking in another direction.

-= / * \ =-

As the Cadillac rode the train to New York, Diego Moreno jogged back to his car.  He had time now, so the first thing he did was to change the dead transistor.

The squeaking and chattering from the radio told him that the device worked again.  Reaching inside the car, he took the mike in hand and called his base.

"Central, this is Moreno.  Do you copy?"

"Moreno, stand by.  Say the boss..."

"What about the boss?" Moreno interrupted.

"Well, he's been trying to contact you for nearly two hours.  Where have you been?"

"Got some problems.  The transistor died again."

"Acknowledged.  I've a message for you.  It's from the youngster."

"WHAT from the youngster?" Moreno tensed and dreaded the answer.

"He radioed in earlier.  Said he couldn't make it.  Stuck in
a car accident."


For the second time in a relatively small period, the normally cool Agent lost his temper and pounded the roof of his car with his fist. Agent Summer had been alone now for more than two hours.

"Say central, have you heard anything from Agent Summer?"

"That is a negative, Moreno.  Nothing."

Breaking the connection, he started his car and raced back to Good Hope.  His mind was filled with wishful thinking.  Surely she would be patiently sitting in the truck stop, waiting for a ride.  He prayed to God it would be so.

-= / * \ =-

Rhianna's chance came unexpectedly.  While Jim stopped Ray from becomming too harsh, he didn't intervene when Rhianna got backhanded or pinched.  She had counted about fifty slaps so far and both cheeks and breasts ached.  For some time now her eyes were tear-filled, and it took every ounce of her strength not to react to the bad treatment.  With her feet still bound, her chances would drop to zero.  Thus she took every hit and every pinch but prayed for a quick end.  She didn't know how much longer she could stand the pain without doing something against her abductors.  Already her arms jerked when Ray approached her.

"I've got to pee." Jim said.  "Don't do anything stupid, Ray.  Understand?"

The burly man grinned, hateful eyes cast upon his prisoner.  "Don't worry Ray.  This game here is far more interesting than I thought at first!"

That said, Rhianna's head jerked sideways as she received slap number fifty-one.  And, as was customary by now, his fingers closed around her erect but very sore and burning nipples, now constantly poking at her top.  She whimpered as he cruelly pressed the buds, twisting and pinching them, and real tears shot out of her eyes.  No, she couldn't stand it any longer.  As she prepared to cut him, the phone rang and, with disappointment written on his face, he went into the office, but not before her slapped her breasts one last time.

The same moment he turned his back on her, Rhianna bent over, sawing furiously, freeing one ankle.  She didn't pay attention to the contents of the phone call.  Quickly, with the fear of last hope, Rhianna cut the last bond and was already racing through the open door when Ray finished the call and turned around to go back to her.  His eyes widened and his face showed puzzlement when he saw his prisoner racing towards him.  He could only utter a "But.." before Rhianna slammed into him, trying to get past him.  He extended his hand in a grip, but with a wide slash, she cut him on the back of his hand with her knife, which flew away as she lost her grip.  But she didn't bother to stop, she just continued through the office door.  Ray was howling while he struggled to get back up.  As fast as her legs allowed, she raced down the hallway.  A shout was heard behind her and Rhianna thought it was Jim coming back from the john.

It seemed to her that she couldn't get enough air for the escape and only now was she, still on the run, yanking off the tape that was silencing her.

-= / * \ =-

Jim cursed silently at his would-be partner.  Damn, couldn't he even take care of a bound woman?  As he dashed behind the lithe form, he heard a sharp bang as the office door crashed into the wall and a howling Ray followed them.  Jim risked a look back and saw the rage on Ray's face, as well as the bloody hand he held in front of him.  Well, the boss would be angry if he found only a corpse.  Too bad.  But Jim didn't think he could restrain Ray a second time.
And he surely wouldn't risk trying it.

-= / * \ =-

The tape had been as tough as it was sticky.  But Rhianna removed it even though the skin around the mouth was now itching like hell.  The first full breath she took through her mouth was just too sweet to let her care about the itch.

When she stormed past the fence gate, Rhianna slowed just a fraction. While coming out of the building, she looked where the car had been parked.  But it wasn't there anymore.  Neither was Moreno anywhere to be seen.

Instinctively, she turned towards the filled parking lot.  The more people she could put between herself and her captors, the less they could do to her in public.

She suddenly felt the gasping breath of one of her tormentors on her neck and redoubled her efforts to get away.  But she hadn't started her dash in her best condition.  Her legs started to cramp as she had started too quickly.  Then she felt a light dizziness which she blamed on her palm wound and blood loss.  The cut throbbed all the way up her arm.

Either sixth sense or intuition guided her as Rhianna suddenly dashed sideways and the hand reaching for her grasped only air.

"HELP!  HELP ME!  PLEEEASE!"  Rhianna screamed as she heard curses behind her.  Racing around a parked cargo truck, Rhianna saw a biker standing near a big machine.

"SIR!  HE-HELP ME!"  She gathered her remaining strength and scrambled to the leather-clad figure with a head that was completely hidden under a helmet.

-= / * \ =-

The padding of the helmet absorbed not only shocks, but muffled sounds as well.  He had been about to leave when a sudden movement caught his eye.  There was this black haired beauty running towards him, excitingly dressed but with a fear-filled face, a red and swollen face he understood too well.  Then there was this half dressed man right behind her and, a few yards behind him another guy with a brutish face distorted by rage.  The rider thought it looked like a rape attempt.

-= / * \ =-

Rhianna saw the man making a motion with his gloved hand.  She followed where he pointed, running past him and taking cover behind the motorcycle.  Jim had almost caught up to her, making no sign of slowing down.  Irrationally, she asked herself if the biker couldn't be the mysterious boss and new fear crept up her spine.

The next thing she saw was Jim flying through the air, caught in mid-stride by the biker who tossed him over his shoulder.  A yell followed by a snapping sound indicated that Jim hadn't had a soft landing when his side crashed against the tire holder on a parked SUV.
Seeing Ray crashing like a bulldozer into the biker, Rhianna mounted the motorcycle and took off.  The last thing she heard and felt before racing from the parking lot was a hand on her back that tried to catch her, but it only snapped the elastic band from her top.

-= / * \ =-

The biker was pushed aside by the burly man and fell to the ground.  But his whole outfit was padded and he really didn't have any pain. Seeing the other extending his hands towards the woman, he rolled around and scissored the other's legs.  The man's grip slipped and a scream escaped the woman before the second rapist went down.  The biker cursed as the woman quickly rode away.

"That's what happens when you help women in peril." he thought.

A glance showed him that the two would be rapists were still on the ground.

-= / * \ =-

Ray shook his head to clear the fog.  Damn, that biker had hit him like a concrete wall.  But where was he anyway?  As he turned around to get even, he was surprised to see that he and Jim where alone on the pavement.

-= / * \ =-

Rhianna yelled when the ruptured elastic band whipped against her back. Instinctively she pressed her upper arms against her torso, trying to clamp the material to her body.  She was riding a big machine, a Harley, and it was not easy to both drive the bike AND clamp the thin material.  Thus it was only a few minutes before she lost her covering. Trying to drive fast and safely in a region totally unknown to her, she had to concentrate.  Thus, as she took a sharp turn in the road, her elbow was moved by normal gravity and the top went flying.

Her face already reddened by the many slaps, it was difficult to notice the blush which now covered the Agent's face.  But driving topless was necessary.  She almost caused an accident as the drivers from the opposite lane craned their heads to get a better look.

Cursing through clenched teeth, Rhianna took the next exit from the Interstate and speeded up, taking the first narrow hill road there.  She would have to hide somewhere, at least until dusk.

-= / * \ =-

With squealing tires, Agent Moreno turned into the parking lot, then immediately slowed down.  Too many innocents here, no need to involve them.  He toured the parking lot slowly, heading in the direction of the garage.  That's when he saw it: an ambulance.  His throat went dry as he parked near the rescue team.  Two paramedics were bandaging the hand of a big man who had some scratches on his face and who was sitting on the ground, rubbing now and then between his legs.

Looking inside the ambulance, he saw someone lying on a litter and a rescue doctor bent over him.  On closer look, he recognized the man.  It was 'Jeans'.

"Excuse me Sir.  Please let the people work."  He turned around and saw a paramedic behind him.  He flashed his badge.

"Hi.  What happened?"

"Hello Agent.  Seems there was some type of altercation here.  The big one there has some bruises where he fell and a very nasty cut over the back of his hand.  Oh yeah, and someone had some fun with his balls.  They're a real mess."

"And in there?"  The Special Agent motioned inside the ambulance.  The paramedic followed the finger and shrugged.

"Well, the other one was not so lucky.  Crashed against a tire holder. Has multiple fractures on his arm and ribcage.  He will have a rather long hospitalization."

"Anyone else?"

The man shrugged anew.  "Probably.  But he's not here.  Say, I've got to run.  For further questions, you can work with the Sheriff's office. They're handling the case."

"Sure.  Will do.  Thanks."

The man nodded then climbed into the ambulance which soon sped off.  The other man, the one with the bandaged hand, had already retreated into the fenced building.

Moreno felt partly relieved.  Whatever had happened here, Agent Summer seemed not to be hurt.  Or was she?  He had to get a report from the Sheriff's Office.  Pacing the ground, he went from where the ambulance had been parked to the fence.  He was looking for something but didn't know exactly what.  Then, while he was gazing the building behind the fence, he suddenly noticed a red spot on the gate.  On closer inspection he froze.  Blood.  Looking at the ground, he noticed a trail of red dots leaving the building and going a few feet away from the place where he had parked his car.  The place where that altercation must have been.

Sure, it could have been everybody's blood, but he was  100% sure no blood trail had been there when Agent Summer started her journey. And she was still missing.  Ergo, something told him it could be the Agent's blood.  Reaching inside his vest, he took a little plastic evidence bag and scraped up some dried blood.  He would send the sample to the FBI Lab.  Hopefully, the result would prove him wrong, as it could also belong to the big man.

-= / * \ =-

Rhianna's tension was fading.  For the first time in hours, she felt better, more relaxed.  But that feeling didn't last.  As she was about to stop the motorcycle, a red van emerged in front of her and was past her before she could react.  She would not have paid attention to it,  but then she heard pained wheels as it braked and took a sharp turn to follow her.  She immediately speeded up again and raced up a narrow path, the van following her, gaining on her all the while.

A couple of narrow turns held her whole concentration and the next time she gazed at the side mirror, the van filled the glass.  There was a  flash from the driver's side of the van and she sensed more than felt a bullet singing past her head at high velocity.

Wrenching the throttle, Rhianna increased her speed.  Suddenly the mirror shattered.  The tiny pieces of glass flew in every direction.  Rhianna felt few sharp stings as the glass pieces flew into her arm, throat and bare chest.

The van was gaining on her.  She momentarily let go of the handlebars when the van bashed into her from behind, making her jerk forward.  Between driving the bike, escaping bullets and evading the bumper car, she lost her concentration and didn't see the tree roots that jutted up from the road surface.

While going too fast for this narrow lane, the bike's front wheel slammed into the roots and the bike took off on its own, with Rhianna unable to control the wild bike anymore.  Squealing brakes could be heard when the van stopped abruptly alongside the roots.

The handlebars vibrated maddenly and suddenly her wheels were in the air.  Both bike and driver made a somersault worthy of the best stunt drivers.  Not wanting to get trapped under a pile of crushed metal that was several times heavier than herself, Rhianna threw herself away from the bike.

Human and machine crashed to earth almost simultaneously.  Branches snapped, foliage broke.  Rhianna rolled numerous times, losing count and direction, hitting dirt and stones, slamming into trees and roots. When the mad roll finally stopped, she heard herself whimpering softly. She had an excruciating headache.  Her whole body was a painful mass and when she opened her eyes, her vision seemed to come from inside a small black tunnel.

If she stayed perfectly still, she almost felt okay, but as she tried to move, pain waves made her feel nauseated.  For some time, she drifted in and out of consciousness, but then she heard the snapping and panting that identified an animal approaching her.  Through her unfocused vision, she saw a movement as the leaves were pushed away.  A nose appeared.  Two rows of big fangs and, above them, fiery eyes.  With her last strength and whimpering from pain and fear, she tried to take a stone and throw it at the beast.  Her strength faded and she didn't know if she had hit it.  Her mind registered footsteps approaching, but her pain-filled body shut down.  Her eyes closed when a couple of booted feet appeared beside her head.  She fainted and felt...nothing.

-= / * \ =-

Chapter 4

Special Agent Diego Moreno had just settled behind his desk when his boss stormed past him to his own, glass-covered cubicle.


The boss was known to be very hot tempered. From the look of it, the other Agents knew Moreno was in deep shit. The boss' face was fiery red and his neck muscles stood out like steel cables. With a growing lump in his stomach, the Agent followed his boss into the cubicle.


Some Agents looked up from their work as his voice carried throughout the whole floor. The boss saw their looks and slammed the door in response.

For the next ten minutes, the other agents watched their boss pounding his desk, the glass vibrating and Moreno wincing as he received the full force of the boss' wrath. A few took pity on him. The boss was known for his fierce temper. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to Moreno, the boss showed him out, pointing to the Agent's desk with his finger.


He stormed back into his office, slamming the door behind him.

The Agents heaved a collective sigh when the boss' head bent back over some papers on his desk.

-= / * \ =-

Like all big organizations, the FBI has some services running twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The FBI Lab in the Hoover Building is one of those services.

The blood sample Agent Moreno sent to them was tested and analyzed. It proved to be AB negative, the rarest of the blood types. As an additional request, Agent Moreno had asked for a DNA match, as he suspected the blood to be from the missing Agent. This remark about the blood possibly being from an undercover Agent got their immediate attention. Things went into high gear and every test was made as quickly as possible. After the preliminary trials, a DNA test was performed, and a query was made against the medical data of every FBI Agent. It took three hours but finally the mainframe beeped. It had a match.

-= / * \ =-

Sitting behind his desk, Agent Moreno was outwardly very calm. Only the rhythmic tapping of his fingers on the desk blotter belied his calm image.

When the call came, he jerked but took the receiver after the first ring. "Special Agent Moreno."

"Agent Moreno? This is Dr. Hup from D.C. We have a match and the results are being faxed to you right now. Your intuition was right. The sample you sent us is blood from a federal Agent, a Special Agent Rhianna H. Summer."

Moreno sighed and nodded. "Thank you Sir. I really appreciate the fast work you've done. I only hope I can repay you someday."

"You got it."

There was a click and the connection was cut. Moreno made a second call and several minutes later, one of the guys from communications brought him the just-arrived fax.

The Special Agent scanned the results and burned the phone number from Rhianna's boss into his memory. For a quarter of an hour, Moreno pondered his options. An irrational hope that the phone would ring and that it would be Rhianna wandered through his mind. But the phone remained silent. Finally, he lifted the receiver and punched in the number he now knew by heart.

-= / * \ =-

Assistant Director James Vessor had finally finished his day. His secretary had already locked the files away. The computer was shut down and he was walking to the door, raincoat over his arm when the phone rang. He sat down and answered the call.
A few minutes later, he knocked on the door and went into the office of his underling, Mike Wilson. Vessor motioned Wilson to continue his work and seated himself in one of the side chairs. He knew how undisturbed work could enhance the outcome of a case. Thus he had installed the unwritten rule not to interrupt each other's work. Wilson finished the call and made some notes in a file.
About two minutes later, the scribbling of his pen stopped and the Agent closed the file. He knew how his boss expected them to work and was grateful to be able to complete one small task without interruption.

"Good evening, Sir"

"Hello Wilson. You're working late."

"Just finishing a case. You know, the Red one."

Vessor nodded. "The one where Agents Summer and Johnson were baits? Yes, I've read Johnson's report. It was good and fast work. But speaking about Agent Summer, where is she?"

Wilson explained to him about the missing woman, the report Brent Major had computed and that she had asked him to let her go to the last known location of her friend.

"Do you know the name of her missing friend?"

Wilson shuffled his papers and scanned a copy of the Major Report.
"Yes, here it is...Brown, Maria."

"Maria?" The AD scowled and was lightly tapping his thumb against the side of his nose. "Maria! I wonder..."

He took his cell phone and pushed a speed key. The number was dialed and he waited.

"Offline. Damn."

Taking his notebook out from his vest, he gazed at the pages, searching for a special number and then dialed it. When the connection was made, he punched a second number in and broke the connection.

"May I ask why you're asking these questions?"

Vessor nodded gravely and sighed loudly. "Some twenty minutes ago, I received a phone call from an Agent Moreno who was assigned as backup for Summer. He told me that Agent Summer was in the truck stop, but due to a string of coincidences, he lost her. When he was able to return, he found a blood trail. Hers!"

Wilson's eyes snapped wide open. "No error possible?"

Vessor shook his head. "No. It has been analyzed by the lab guys from Hoover. They..."

His cell phone chirped.

"Yes, Vessor...Hello Joseph...yes, that's right. Say, your Maria was married recently, right? What's her name now...Brown. Yes, I thought as much. Hmm, could you do me a favor? Could you phone her husband and ask if everything's alright? No, nothing definite, only a feeling. Yes. Yes, thanks. Bye"

He put the phone away and turned to Wilson again. "Now where were we? Ah, yes. It was a total match."

He shook his head again, this time in amazement. "Damn, I'm getting old. Back when I started this job, we would have been glad to have some fingerprints. And today? Today, we're working with DNA. Amazing!"

He let his thoughts wander a while longer before he looked at Wilson again. The cold, hard stare the AD shot Rhianna's team leader was proof enough for the latter that something unpleasant would follow. And he knew already what it would be. After all, if he was in Vessor's place, he would feel the same way.

"Damn it Mike. You've been an Agent for what? Fifteen, sixteen years? Something like that. Hell, you know how the system works. Didn't you think when you agreed to let Rhianna going looking for her friend? A FRIEND! Jesus, Wilson! There's a reason WHY federal agencies don't let cops take cases where friends or relatives are involved."

Vessor stood up, eyes still blazing. "You've got the job you have, because you are a law abiding man; someone who smells the law, who thinks the law, someone who enforces the law. But Team Leader or not, if, because of this error in judgement of yours, Agent Summer is threatened or worse, it will be the last error you make under my wing. Your last error as Team Leader because I WILL break your career."
He sighed, cranked down a notch and rubbed his eyes.

"Contact Don Redding at the HRT. I guess we'll need one of his teams for a Hostage Rescue."

-= / * \ =-

Some shapes. A beast. A shade. Darkness. Patterns of
grey. Patterns of white. A boat. Asians. Water. Women. Bald.
Screams. Water. Women. Screams. Whipping. A shot. Exhibition.
Race. Women. Screams. A baby. A wedding. Kids. Blood. A man. A
smile. Darkness. Brightness. A shop. A frown. A woman. Laugher.
Orgasm. A race. A garage. A name. Two men. Hurt. One man.
Happiness. Nude. Slaps. Screams. Bonds. A knife. Blood. Bike.
Shots. Glass. Van.

She felt something cold and damp on her cheek. Her eyes opened, her vision was blurred. She felt weak. Slowly, her vision began to clear as she focused on the wooden beam above her. She tried to shake her head, but that hurt too much. She sighed. Again something cold nudged her cheek and she slowly turned her head. She felt something furry brush past her face. When her vision adjusted, she snapped her eyes wide open and a whimper of fear escaped her.

She was looking into the intelligent eyes of a wolf. Her arms jerked, but were restrained. She tried to look at herself, but everything was hidden by a blanket. She tried to call, but found her mouth dry. Working her jaw, she gathered enough saliva to moisten her mouth and throat. Again, she tried to call softly, to not frighten the animal.
"Hello? Hello! Anyone here?"

She heard the squeaking of a chair and footsteps approaching her. Then a hand was placed over her eyes.


"Hush, Flip. I'm glad to see you're better."

Some soft pads were placed upon her closed eyes and an elastic band snapped around her head. A sleeping mask.

"Why? Why are you doing this?"

The voice spoke soothingly in a low tone and she felt something brushing her hair. A hand?

"It's for your own protection. I'm not exactly good-looking and should it become known that you've seen me, you could be in danger. Take it as a safety measure. Now tell me Flip, who are you?"

My name is not Flip!"

She could imagine a grin as he chuckled "I know it's not. For I made that up. It's a nickname I created. So, tell me. What's your name?"

"I name is..." She had to think hard for a moment, then everything from the past days rushed into her mind. "Rhianna. Rhianna Summer. That's my name."

"Rhianna? That's a pretty name. I like it. A pretty name for a pretty woman."

Rhianna's headache had almost completely faded and she made a motion with her arm, which still was restrained.

"Why am I bound?" Something inside her broke: again bound, again restrained. Why did she always end up like this? She started to cry, her body shaken by the heavy sobs.

"Hey, it's okay. Nobody will hurt you. Hear me?"

She felt the bonds loosen then fall away and she was taken into his arms, weeping against the shoulder of an unknown man. After a little while her sobs ceased and she started to compose herself, resting against the man, letting his comforting gestures work.

Only when she started to move for the blindfold did a hand gently but firmly grip her wrist.

"Don't. Remember what I told you. Now for the restraints. They are the same as the ones you find in hospitals. So you wouldn't hurt yourself. Or hurt my pet. You've seen my pet?"

Rhianna nodded wordlessly.

"She's my friend, my companion since...years. But...anyway. Tell me your story!"

The tone of his voice had changed and Rhianna thought she'd heard something dreadful that happened in the past. Too weak and not knowing what else she could do, Rhianna decided to trust the stranger. She started to tell him about her job, Maria's disappearance, the truck stop, the backroom in the garage and about her two captors. Lastly, she told him about the biker, his intervention and her escape. The van, the shooting, the pursuit. As she closed her tale with the accident, she heard him chuckle softly. A little upset, she asked him if he didn't believe her.

"Oh no Rhianna. I believe you. For I was there."

She tensed instantly, but he calmed her down, placing a hand on her arm.

"It's okay. It was my bike you took. Or, more exactly, the bike I had already borrowed."

"You'd stolen it?" She was alarmed. A low laugher answered her.

"Well, some would say so, yes. But I placed quite a pile of bills in its place."

"Also borrowed?"

"No. My money. I was in a hurry. But that can wait. Now lay down. I have to treat your wounds."

Rhianna did as he wished. Her fingers felt for her wounded palm and she noticed something soft covering the cut. Gauze? She felt him rub some lotion over her bare shoulders and on her head. There was some light, sharp pain. Then it was over. Feeling her head, she found another bandage.

"We can speak later. Promise me only that you will leave the blindfold alone. Okay? Promise me!"


She almost sensed his grin. "That's good. Now, it would be better if you slept. Healing is faster with lots of rest."

Rhianna was sleepy, but a question entered her mind. "How long have I been here anyway?"

"You've had nightmares for the past two days. Now, Beautiful, sleep."
She felt sleepy, but the answer was surprising.

"TWO DAYS. God, I've to call my boss. He's surely organizing a search for me."

"Probably. But it won't do you any good if you're trying to get back to work in your present condition."

Rhianna knew he was right. Exhaustion had taken over and her mind was already shutting down. Sleepily, she turned her blindfolded head to him and asked. "One last question, Sir.."

"Go on."

"Sir, why did you name me Flip?"

"Well, the first time I saw you, you were half nude, running towards me. Now you're safe with me. What better name than Flip for 'Formerly Lady in Peril'?"

"Aah!" She managed only a dreamy half-smile. "Sir?"

"Yes, Beautiful?"

How should I address you?"

"Call me 'Eltee'. Now sleep, Beautiful. And remember, don't touch the blindfold."

"Yes Eltee. Goodnight...Eltee"

-= / * \ =-

Special Agent Moreno felt totally ashamed. Since Agent Summer's disappearance, he had worked nearly nonstop. He was tense, bad humored, nervous. He longed for a smoke, but having quit a few years ago, he dreaded the first drag, and that kept him smoke free.
His boss had given him strict but simple instructions: work with Rhianna's colleagues. He would be glad if he didn't lose his job. Now some specialists from NYC had arrived as well as Agent Summer's boss. He was to work with them, but his ears burned each time Agent Wilson looked at him with hard eyes.

-= / * \ =-

When Rhianna awoke, she felt refreshed. The tension had faded and she didn't have her earlier headache. Instinctively, she reached for the eye covering. But her hand hovered over the cloth, unable to rip the mask off. If she did so, she would feel like a traitor. She had given her word to Eltee. Still, she was a federal agent and hadn't Eltee admitted to having stolen the bike?

As her hand gripped the mask, she heard his voice again. "Now you're disappointing me, Rhianna. I'd hoped you would honor the promises you made. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised since you work for the FBI."

Rhianna shrieked, totally surprised. She hadn't heard him move. "How long have you been here?"

"Watching you? The whole night. You had nightmares again, but not as strong as the other nights. I thought I'd watch you. You know, you look beautiful when you sleep. Calm and relaxed. Sad that you have to work for the Feds. Without that, I guess, I would have liked you more. Now you will please give me your wrists."

"WHAT FOR? Why do you have a hatred against the Bureau?"

"To tie you up, Beautiful, because you can't be trusted. And that is exactly what disturbs me with your employer. They've already ruined my family."

Rhianna did as he asked, crossing her wrists in front of her, but she couldn't help having a bitter tone in her voice when she spoke anew.
"Say, is this some common fantasy for you guys? Is having a female bound and dominated a dream every man has?"

Eltee didn't answer at first, tying some soft rope around Rhianna's wrists. Only after having cinched the final knot did he reply. "I don't know about others. I can only speak for me. I don't know if it's common. And I don't think I'm into hard-core bondage even while seeing you like this. The only reason why I'm doing this now is because of the fake promise you made. I'm only looking to protect both me and you."

A sharp tug told her he had finished tying her and she heard him leave. Silently, tears wet the mask and before long they were running down her cheeks. Bound again. No freedom. She tensed when she was nudged and a cold raw tongue licked her cheek and took her tears away. The wolf made a sound that was a soothing whimper. But that was just her imagination, wasn't it? Then she heard the wolf softly pad away, following her master.

Her hands had been bound together in front of her and then fastened to the headboard. But when she tugged at the rope, she noticed that the tie was not as strict as others she'd experienced. Tied up and with covered eyes, there wasn't much she could do but rest. Her thoughts calmed and sometime later, she drifted off to sleep.

-= / * \ =-

The next time she awoke, Rhianna was surprised to find herself totally unfettered. Even the blindfold was gone. Instead she found some fresh cut roses on the stool used as nightstand. A note was slipped in between the stems.

For the first time was she able to get a look at her location. It seemed to be a wooden cabin or blockhouse. Although everything seemed to be crudely made, it was a neat place, carefully arranged. A big, heavy looking wooden door was closed and a wide, glassless window brought in light. A large mirror leaned against the wall. Looking at her reflection, Rhianna found that she was pale. A large array of small dot-like wounds covered her shoulder. Impacts from the broken mirror? Her hand was bandaged and a wide gauze pad had been plastered onto the left side of her forehead. She wasn't surprised to see that the wig was gone.

To look around, Rhianna had to sit up. Now she opened the twice-folded
note that was written in neat handwriting.
"Good Morning Beautiful,

I overreacted when I bound you. It was unnecessary and cruel on my part. You had an accident and it was quite normal for you to want to look around. 
Please accept my apologies.

You surely have to go to the bathroom, want to wash and eat. Well, you can't do that tied up now can you?

I have not shown you my best side. Again, excuse me and it won't happen again. Feel free to  look around inside the house. I admonish though not to leave the vicinity. Traps have been installed. Not for you, but they are there.

Please grant me one minor request or favor. 
When I return I will knock three times and wait for a little while. Please, take the blindfold then and blindfold yourself again. 

I told you no lies when I told you I was life threatening."

The letter was not signed, but that didn't matter. Rhianna had to smile because she recognized the writing and the manners of a well-educated man.

Who was Eltee?

-= / * \ =-

In the local FBI Office, Mike Wilson was speaking with Don Redding about possible courses of action when a knock disturbed them and Agent Moreno came in.

"Excuse me Sirs. But we just received a reply from the the County Sheriff about something unusual. The Sheriff received a report from the Highway Patrol. Three days ago, some drivers spotted a half-nude woman on a heavy bike. From the description, black haired, glossy miniskirt and boots, I would say it was Agent Summer."

Both specialists from NYC looked at the other and, like well trained partners, nodded in silent understanding. "Okay, we'll concentrate our search along that road. Could you gather as much information as possible about this 'apparition' and put the data together? Perhaps we have a chance after all."

Special Agent Moreno immediately understood that they had built him a bridge. Although he hadn't slept much the past days, he felt his exhaustion wash away as renewed energy flooded him.

"Yes Sir. Will do Sir." The smiley type was still not back, but a spark had ignited in his dull eyes.

-= / * \ =-

When the knock came, Rhianna obediently placed the mask over her eyes. She'd used her free time to take a bath in a big wooden tub, or more exactly a hollowed, burned out and polished tree stump. She had not been surprised to find herself nude. After all, Eltee had treated all her wounds. By chance, every wound seemed to be minor, most being scratches from the accident and on those, he had rubbed ointment.

She had been outside, and was impressed. Her trained eyes spotted some of the traps around the house, but those had been turned outward, obviously to make it difficult to reach the hideaway.

The house itself was a model of ingenuity, made out of trees, rocks, earth and foliage. Several yards away, one would not recognize the place as habitable. A mastery of stealth. Also outside, Rhianna stumbled over the secret of Eltee's electricity. The house had some electrical devices like a fridge, but no TV, no radio or lights. Behind the house, halfway embedded in the mountainside, a creek trickled down. The rocks behind it indicated more water, but it really was a very small stream. Her curiosity aroused, Rhianna climbed several feet up and had seen the dam Eltee had made, filling a small pond with water. His reservoir.
A man-made waterfall dashed down, animating a wheel that activated a dynamo-like device hidden in the house's back room. A second redirected stream was the water supply. The backroom also held the fridge that seemed to have been removed from a camper. The place was neatly self-contained. For cold weather, Eltee had been equally clever as the whole floor had a running system of pipes. A pond in the floor of the backroom was filled with water and, when the winter days came, he had only to heat that hole. She saw, but didn't understand, the system used. Steam and hot water would run through the pipes, heating the whole floor, exactly as the Romans had done it two thousand years before.

Her breakfast also proved Eltee to be a good cook as both bread and jam were homemade. As Rhianna saw it, Eltee could retire to this place, and easily be forgotten by the outer world. Was that perhaps his intention?

When the doorknob turned, Rhianna turned her blind face in that general direction, not sure if she should smile or not.

A low growl came and next thing, her face was again licked by the raw tongue and she felt the wolf's tail brushing her thighs. She couldn't suppress a smile. This wolf really behaved like a dog.

"Hello Beautiful. I wondered if you had everything. Drink, eat and...uhh...that is new. Does that have some special significance?"

At first, Rhianna didn't know what he meant, then it occurred to her that she had, without thinking about it, placed herself in a slave pose. Kneeling, sitting on her heels, her legs widely spread exposing her labia. Arms folded behind her, her hands clutching the opposite elbows, offering her chest.

A dark blush crept across her face and ran down her shoulders to the swell of her bosom.

"I'm...err...sorry. I guessed I should sit like this while blind, out of habit."

Low laugher answered her. But it was good natured. She felt his hand touching her shoulder, guiding her to sit more normally. She did as he wished, but was relieved at the same time.

"There is no need for that. Could it be that you are into something kinky?"

"Well, those are old behaviors left over from previous assignments I had."

Comforted by the gentle voice, the friendly attention, but perhaps also because of the unknown face and the urge to tell someone, Rhianna felt a warm feeling running through her. Her FBI-trained senses told her it was a fault but her instinct said the opposite. She knew she could trust him. He'd had some misadventures of his own. That much she knew. Perhaps he would understand her.

She began her tale starting with the day she had been sent to some sort of BDSM Kennel in NYC because of an abduction discovery. She told him about her missing partner, her abduction, her time on the boat, the whipping and her escape. How she had been assigned to another mission to incriminate a smuggler. How she had learned to like him. How she had betrayed him. The child murderer case. Discovering the monster killing youth. Her feelings, her fears, everything. She talked about the nightmares she had and her rippling inner feelings both for and against the scene. She even talked about her beliefs.

He was a quiet and patient listener. That was good because her story was a long one. She didn't know how long she spoke. It could have lasted an hour. Alone in her darkness, she had no idea how fast or slow time passed. Two or three times, she had shed some tears without realizing she was weeping. One of these times, Eltee's furry friend had come and laid its head on her lap. Also she had started to scratch behind the wolf's ears, like with her dog when she was young. Was the wolf comforting her also?

She ended her tale with the part he already knew about how she had been captured and escaped, also thanks to him. After she finished, there was silence for a long time. Seconds turned into minutes.

"Beautiful, you seem to have had more mishaps than I. Is it a sign? We could be soul-mates." His voice was raw when he spoke and she felt his hand gripping her forearm for a moment.

"Will you tell me?"

His reply sounded far, far away, his thoughts turned on his own painful moments.

"Sometime. Perhaps. I don't know."

Realizing he wouldn't say more, she changed the subject and held out her hands pleadingly.

"So what will you do with me? Are you going to hold me here? Am I your prisoner?"

"Is that what you think you are? A prisoner? Don't you like it here?"

His voice had changed again, bearing now a slightly amused undertone.

Rhianna was surprised to hear such bitterness in her own words.

"It's a nice place to stay. And you have been most kind to me. Both of you."

She rubbed the wolf's head before continuing.

"But you are detaining me. Oh, it is a golden cage. But neverless a prison."

Again, some time passed before he answered. It was as if he was weighing his words. "You really consider yourself a prisoner? That was never my intention. You are free to leave at will. Just tell me when and I will take you back to the road. You understand I can't let you walk the whole way. For now, this place is secret, and I wish it to remain so."

Rhianna nodded. His words made sense looking at the house setup. And she was glad his words had proved her wrong. "I can leave when I want? Now?"

"Yes, you can leave whenever. Even now. I just hid you here so you could recover a little. You seemed worn out and not in your best condition. But I'd rather you leave tomorrow as it is late already. I hoped I could enjoy your company for one night. It has been a long time since I had the pleasure of dining with another person. A very long time."

A little fear crept through Rhianna. What would he do? Really only dine? Or had he other ideas? But then, if his intention had been to rape her, he'd already been given many opportunities to do it, hadn't he? She decided to go along and give him his chance. Her lips showed a half-smile. "I don't know if I'll be good company naked and blindfolded, but I'll try."

"Oh, I didn't think you would be naked. In fact, I washed and cleaned your clothes -- what was left ot them, that is. They are in the lidded box beside the bed. I'm afraid I don't own a bra or something more feminine. I can only offer you a shirt or T-shirt. Oh, and about the blindfold. How could I enjoy a nice meal robbed of those pretty eyes? It has been a long time since I last prepared a diner for two with a female companion. "

His voice trailed off. Rhianna heard a lump in his throat. Then his feet shuffled away.

"Would you then accept?"

Rhianna barely breathed a low 'yes'.

"That will be very nice. I am most grateful. Please knock on the door when you are ready."

When the bedroom door closed, Rhianna waited for a few seconds but didn't hear a sound. She then lifted the sleeping mask and blinked a few times. Although dusk had settled, it wasn't dark in the room. Eltee had some candles burning, and their light made a curious play on the walls. And in the middle of the room, facing her was the wolf.

"You don't know what he wants to do?" The animal cocked her head to one side, not letting her out of sight. "No? Liar!" Rhianna smiled and the animal closed its eyes, seeming to be instantly asleep. Rhianna wondered about the wolf again. It behaved exactly like a trained housepet and not at all like a wild animal.

With a sigh, she opened the box and found it filled with clothes. On top were her own items, panties, skirt and boots. The skirt as well as the panties seemed okay while the boots had taken some damage, their surface heavily scratched. But Eltee had polished them. She quickly dressed in her own clothes and kneeled then, bare breasted, in front of the box, looking through Eltee's things to try to find something to cover her upper body.

-= / * \ =-

When the knock came, Eltee retreated into a shadowy corner before he told her to enter. The door opened and Rhianna took some hesitant steps. She looked around, trying to find him in the semi-darkness, and was able to spot his shadowy figure against the darkness behind him. So much time had passed since he last was alone with a woman. Greedily he drank in every second, soaking himself with the vision, impregnating his senses.

To cover her bare chest, Rhianna had found a plain black T-shirt that was far too long and far too wide for her. To make it comfortable but also to enhance her chest, she had knotted the cloth in front, right below her breasts, displaying her navel and her abs. Also, she must have passed the better part of the hour since he had given his invitation in brushing her hair. It was gleaming and shimmering in the candle light.

-= / * \ =-

Eltee's Living room was almost filled with the candlelight. He had used broken mirror pieces to enhance, but also to reflect the light, making one part of the room bright while the other part was darker. A dark, curtain-like cloth was hanging over the table, splitting it in two. The table was set. Rhianna discovered fresh cut flowers near the place where she was to sit. Candles surrounded it, so it was difficult to miss. A chilled white wine was already waiting for her. Flashing the shadow a beaming smile, she seated herself at her assigned place.

While there wasn't any romantic music playing in the background, the dinner had special charm of its own. Eltee tried his best to be a memorable host. And he succeeded. Rhianna was amazed at the variety of mushrooms and berries he had used in cooking. Flavors and scents mixed delightfully. Eltee took care to remain behind the cloth and, blinded by candles, reflectors and the cloth, Rhianna never saw anything more than a shadowy figure.

All the while they laughed and talked like old friends. They spoke about the weather, politics, the countryside, the house, her job, everything. But mostly, they talked about her. Rhianna was still not sure WHY she trusted this strange, unknown man whose face she had never seen. She couldn't help it for in his presence she felt safe. And it was a most enjoyable feeling.

The wolf was also there, lying a few feet away, eyes closed but ears twitching with each sound. After the meal was over, Rhianna had, at Eltee's suggestion, put the plates on a sideboard. They remained sitting at the table, idly chatting, enjoying each other's company.

"Tell me about the wolf. How come he's here with you? He's almost like a normal house pet."

"She was as lost and alone without family as I was back then. There were some weekend hunters and they evidentially killed her mother. She was a newborn back then. Only two or three days old. The bastards found her and hung her above the camp by her back legs. Below her, a campfire had been prepared but not yet lit. I suppose they thought they'd have some fun upon returning that evening. Anyway, I stumbled into the empty camp more by accident than anything else. The poor thing was totally exhausted, couldn't even growl or whimper anymore. I promised myself I would bring her back to health. So I took her with me...and left some nasty surprises for those creeps. I sometimes wonder if they worked."

He seemed to be recalling the images from back then, took a sip and continued,

"So I took her with me. I cured her leg wounds as best as I could. Gave her milk when she was little, later I had to feed her with raw meat." He made a rough laugh. "Believe me, feeding mouth to mouth with raw meat isn't easily done. Anyway, I helped her find her way although I didn't intend to intervene in the ways of nature."

He shook his head slowly. "I'm still not sure if I've succeeded."

"Well, I guess as she's always in the house, your plan failed somehow."

He was silent a moment before he replied, shaking his head lightly. "Hmm, no. That's not exactly correct. She is only inside because she has chosen so. I have not encouraged her, nor did I force her. Normally she lives outside and has a life of her own, only visiting me now and then."

Rhianna gazed the wolf. "Jealousy?"

Now Eltee's voice was filled with laughter.

"Jealous? No. You're a part of her pack now. She's adopted you."

"Adopted? Me?"

Rhianna stared incredulously at her shadowy host whose voice shook with laugher.

"Yes. Sure. Why not? She found you. You were injured. Helpless. Just the same as she was when I found her. Now I'm not a specialist about animals or wild life, but I would bet that she sees it like that."

"What makes you so sure?"

"Those two days you were unconscious, she never left you. She spent all her time near you. When you screamed because of your nightmares, she nudged and licked you. All that together would be proof enough for me. But there's also something else."


"Has she ever growled at you? I mean, the angry kind. Showed you her teeth? Made attacking signs or motions? No? See! That's all the answer you will need or get!"

Rhianna thought a little about it.

"It would seem you are the knight in shining armor. Always there when you need him. Rescuing the damsels in distress, both animal and human."

Rhianna had said this in a cheerful tone. It had been a fun evening until then. Warm and rich in laugher. But even while she spoke, Rhianna somehow knew it had been a mistake. The temperature in the room seemed to drop a few degrees and Eltee became rigid. Even the wolf seemed to notice something as she half-opened her eyes and raised her head, gazing at Eltee.

His reply was barely audible, yet his tone was so painfilled and cold, Rhianna shuddered and wondered what had happened. "No, I have not always been there. I wish every day I had...But I wasn't...No, I'm not a knight. I'm a loser, even if destiny grants me a choice sometime. Like now."

He slowly stood up, still hidden behind the curtain and she saw him pointing towards her room. "Thank you for granting me this memorable evening. It has been such a long time that I nearly forgot how magical life can be. This dinner will hold a special place in me, and I will cherish it. Again, thank you so much. Now, tomorrow I will take you back to civilization. So, if you have no objection, I would suggest you return to your room and get some sleep."

Rhianna was about to argue. But his voice held so much sorrow and pain, something blocked her throat and she only nodded wordlessly. She went back to her room, but turned in the door and breathed "Good Night Eltee."

He didn't answer, having already turned his back. But he raised his arm and made a single wave with his hand.

-= / * \ =-

For a long time, Rhianna tried to get some rest, but sleep wouldn't come. Eltee's voice and reaction tumbled around in her mind. What terrible thing had happened to give such grief and sorrow to this man, making him so lonely and bitter?

Muffled sounds disturbed her thoughts and she silently stood up, leaning her head against the door to hear better. They were sobs. Eltee was weeping. For minutes, Rhianna was unable to move, hearing the pain escaping from the man's soul. Then a resolution filled her.

-= / * \ =-

He didn't hear the door open. It had been too much to bear. When he had helped her, she had been a victim. While she had been injured, he had treated her wounds. Everything had helped. Helped him to forget, at least for a couple of days. But as the time came for a farewell, his powerful memories stormed back. Unknowingly she had pushed the gates wide open. Not that he could blame her. She didn't know. She was too young to know.

"Eltee?" Although her voice was soft, it was too much for him. He spun around.

"Damn, woman. Can't you give me a moment of peace..."

He trailed off, too stunned by the vision in front of him to say anything else.

Rhianna stood naked in the doorway. She had placed the blindfold back over her eyes and was now extending her hands in his general direction. She had cinched her hands together in front of her. And she was now offering him the remaining cord as a lead.



She took a few tentative steps, guided by his voice, and placed a finger across his lips.

"How long has it been since you last slept with a woman?"

"But I.."

"How long?"

He swallowed hard and almost whispered in a raspy tone.


He looked at the woman in front of him. True, he had seen her nude before. But that had only been in the interest of her well being. He'd undressed her to treat her wounds. But now she stood there and was offering him the only thing she had available. The warmth and tenderness of her very own body.

"I didn't intend...I mean I never expected..." Eltee was at loss for words. His hesitation didn't stop Rhianna as she showed him a soft smile and carefully, with her bound hands, she pushed him back until he was lying on the ground. With slow gestures, she felt his clothes and started to unbutton his shirt. When he gripped her hands to stop her, she bent her head and started kissing his hand, licking and sucking every finger but effectively evading his attempts to block her. When she was done with the buttons, her teeth clamped around the hem, pulling the sides apart, starting to undress him while her fingers fumbled with the clasp of his belt, unhooking it. Slowly, nudging her nose over his bare shoulders, she kissed him lightly on his shoulder bone, then descended to his nipples which she started nibbling and sucking. Her medium length hair brushed his skin and slowly, he reacted to this treatment. Perspiration soon covered his skin. She felt the moisture under her tongue and she started to lick it away, increasing his tension. Her hands unhooked his belt and opened his pants. Her face darted slowly lower, kissing his flat stomach, nudging his abdomen until she reached his manhood. While her hands slowly pushed his pants to his ankles, her mouth closed around his starting erection. Her tongue started to play and she heard his breath coming more forcefully now. This didn't stop her though, her mouth sucking and licking, going from his shaft to his balls and back. To get him nude, her blind face followed the muscles of his thighs, never stopping. At last, her mouth closed around his toes, sucking each of them as she had done to his fingers. Her hands meanwhile had started stroking him until she heard him breathing with a whistling sound.

Both bodies were now covered in sweat and Eltee had long since forgotten his attempts to stop her.

Giving him a full kiss on the mouth, she knealt above him and, gently, guiding him inside her with her bound hands, she seated herself on top.

For an onlooker, it would have seemed like everything stopped. But Eltee would have said the opposite had he been able. For Rhianna was now milking him, gripping and releasing him with her labia. Slowly at first, then the milking became tighter and faster.

Moans escaped, bodies started to rock. Faster, tighter, higher, the entwined bodies sang the song of ecstasy until Eltee screamed, the love dance ending in a frenzied symphony of sexual release.

-= / * \ =-

After his climax, the blind and bound woman laid herself near Eltee and caressed his chest hair. Neither spoke, there was no need.

Rhianna's mind was totally focused on something she had felt during her play. Eltee's skin had not been smooth and soft, but hard and rugged. She had felt that kind of skin before, but never in such a never-ending maze fashion. His whole body was covered with scar tissue. For the first time, she was glad for the blindfold. It hid her teary eyes and she didn't want him to see her pity. She was sure it would hurt him.

When he recovered, his breath almost returning to normal, Rhianna felt Eltee turning her onto her back.

"Eltee, what are.."

A single finger was placed upon her lips. He repeated her gestures. She felt a tug on her still-bound hands and the rope was loosened. Free of bonds but still blindfolded, Rhianna made no attempt to get her sight back. His voice was low but broken when he softly started kneading the flesh of her thighs.

"You have given me a wonderful present, Beautiful. I never expected this to happen. I never would have asked, believe me. This was the most special gift. A gift each man should be grateful to receive. I am proud, Rhianna, that you have chosen me. You have shown me that I am still a man...capable of feeling...and love. And that is the greatest gift you have given me tonight. This alone would have guaranteed that I don't forget you. Let me pay a little of my gift back."

Rhianna didn't know what she should say and so she remained silent. His fingers became more active now, caressing every inch of her heated flesh. Although he admitted to many years of abstinance, he knew exactly which buttons to press. Kneading, licking, sucking and kissing, he gradually made her tremble from lust. Sweat poured out of her pores. The sweet agony of waiting for fulfillment teased her. Breathing became harsher, moans turned into low screams. Then his member penetrated her. She tried to jump him, but he took hold of her shoulder and pushed her back, pinning her flat on the ground. Slowly, almost graciously, he dictated the pace with his strokes. His slow, almost non-existant rocking back and forth motions turned her crazy. Guttural sounds escaped her throat, every inch of her flesh was a painful mass of tensed tight muscles, waiting to be released. He increased the pace and suddenly Rhianna forgot where and who she was. Nothing was important. Nothing but the moment.

The black and dark world in which she was trapped behind her blindfold cleared up. Millions of colors swirled, becoming brighter with every stroke he made. Becoming stroboscopic until the colored dots exploded in myriads of stars, lighting in unison with her releasing scream.

-= / * \ =-

Sitting on a rock, Agent Moreno was enjoying a lit cigarette. Damn smoke, damn health. Shit, it was his health wasn't it? He looked at the HRT Team who scrambled through the ravine. The wrecked pile of metal at the bottom was only a shadow of the powerful bike it once had been. The leader of the team, the OPCOM (Operations Commander) Don Redding, was speaking with one of the Sheriff's Deputies and with Agent Wilson. Their meeting finished, both the Deputy and Wilson came up the narrow trail while Redding gathered his team. As they passed him, Moreno jumped up from his rock.

"Sir? Excuse me. What happens now?"

Rhianna's direct supervisor motioned the deputy to continue and looked past Moreno towards the wrecked bike.

"We stop for today. Night is falling early here and it won't help if Redding's guys trip in the dark and break a leg or something else."

"Tomorrow then?"

Mike Wilson looked into the other's face. Weariness and fatigue had imprinted their marks. He gave the younger man a friendly slap on his shoulder.

"Tomorrow Moreno. Now go and sleep. You look awful."

-= / * \ =-

Chapter 5

Sunlight dancing in the room awakened Rhianna. Dazed, she didn't remember at first what had happened. With a start, she sat up in the bed. Eltee must have carried her in when she fell asleep. Her hand went to her face, but the sleeping mask was not there. Looking around, she saw it, lying on the bed beside her. A pleasant aroma caught her attention. Standing up, she followed the aroma to the bedroom door. She knocked on the door but heard no reply. Opening it, she saw the dining area empty except for the well-stocked table. Fresh cut roses and a note awaited her.
"Good Morning Beautiful.

I've prepared a nourishing breakfast for you. It hurts me a little to see you leave. But I do understand.
I'll be back shortly and for the last time, I must ask you to wear your blindfold.

Thank you so much for the gift you gave me."

Breakfast was cut from a large berry pie with tasty, lightly heated honey. And coffee. Lots of strong black java.

Her thoughts, while enjoying her fourth cup, revolved around this mysterious man again. Who was Eltee? What had happened in his past? For a long time, Rhianna's thoughts swirled around her questions, but came back with nothing. She didn't have enough information to start one of the bureau's famous profiles. His letters were well written. The house was a mastery of construction. His friendship with a wild animal was extraordinary. Riddles and questions abounded.


His voice outside the house brought her out of her daydreams. Quickly she rushed into her bedroom. What was driving her? Why did she do as he wanted? She could have peeked through the window easily. But she didn't want to lose his affection. Some part of her mind screamed that she was a sex-craved female. But that couldn't be true. Or could it?

"Just a moment. Be right back." She thought she sounded like a teenager on her first date. Rapidly, she dressed like the day before. She knew what she would do when she returned to the outer room. "Coming." Slipping the mask over her eyes, she left the bedroom. Now that the moment neared for her leaving, she found herself shaking a little at the thought. The week, for it had surely been a week, had been very relaxing for her, even if she still couldn't appreciate the idea of being bound and blindfolded. Nevertheless. she was glad that she hadn't been gagged the whole time. A hand closed lightly on her arm and she felt Eltee turning her around. She expected to be kissed on the mouth, but that didn't happen. Instead, she felt him brushing her hair, and a finger traced the outline of her lips.

"Good Morning, Beautiful. Everything okay? You've had breakfast, I see."

She nodded. A lump had formed in her throat.

"Ready to leave?"

She couldn't help it, she felt miserable. A nod was her reply as well as a tightening of her grip on his arm. A whimper could be heard and something nudged her boot. Reaching down, she grabbed softly into wolf's fur, ruffling it. "Will you miss me?" She had spoken almost inaudibly, but the wolf had heard her...and surely understood, for she licked her hand.

Eltee's hand glided into her own, and he softly tugged. She felt him guiding her silently outside. Eltee appeared to have lost the ability to speak. Their feelings matched perfectly.

The fresh air felt good even if it was a little cold. Taking twists and turns, Rhianna almost immediately lost directions. She supposed Eltee was doing this on purpose.

Her mental clock told her they had been outside for almost ten minutes before she heard him open a car door and she was ushered into the vehicle. The ride seemed to go on forever, blinded as she was.

"I'll drive you to a place near the Interstate, a few miles away from Good Hope. You do understand that I can't show up in the parking lot with this car."

Rhianna had to smile. "Also borrowed?"

"Hey, what did you expect? You were the one who left with my bike."


He laughed. "True. But if the Sheriff spots me, I'm in for a few problems."

Her tone matched his smile. "You seem to 'borrow' quite often!"

"Only if there is a need."

Both grinned and Rhianna felt the animal's nose resting on her lap. After a short ride (the trip on the bike had seemed longer) she
tensed up when Eltee stopped the car and let the engine idle.

"Here it is. I can't drive much farther. The road is just a half mile away... Although I wasn't the best host the whole time, I hope that you will have a few good memories of me."

"Eltee, I..."

"Hush, Beautiful. It's the truth. Promise me that you won't tell anyone about me, about my hideaway. If asked about the time you have been missing, tell them you had some sort of problems or something like that. Can you promise me that?"

The woman remained silent, but eventually shook her head. "No Eltee. That's something I can't promise. When I made my choice of work, when I gave my oath to the law, I also vowed to tell the truth. Please, PLEASE, don't ask me to break my oath. It's something I can't do."

As he remained silent, she went on. "I've been wearing this mask as you asked. I don't know what you look like. I can't be a threat to you. I don't even know the way to your hideaway."

A deep sigh answered her. "You're right of course. May I ask you for one last favor though? Before I release you to the world of the living? May I have one last kiss? As a way to say..."

He couldn't finish as Rhianna pressed her lips to his. Tongues melted together. The wolf also seemed to know a good-bye was in order as she rubbed her head against her. Rhianna heard the door open and stepped out. She turned her back to the car and, without a word, reached up and removed the mask, handing it back behind her. Her hand was pressed a last time and she heard the door slam before the car drove away. Looking over her shoulder, she saw the back of the car as Eltee drove out of her life.

"Good bye Eltee." She whispered as a single tear rolled down her cheek. After a few moments, she turned away and headed in the direction of the Interstate.

-= / * \ =-

>From a distance it looked like a gathering of a hunters. Only these hunters were not clad in greens, but wore black and each of them had a vest with big bright yellow letters on it: HRT - FBI. Everyone had a rifle in hand and all of them were listening to the last instructions of OPCOM Redding, their leader. Agent Moreno felt out of place. And not only because of the clothing change, trading his business suit for black denims. He was very aware that the other guys looked at him as someone who, although working in the same company, was not in their league. He was a peasant to them, a pawn. Well, he would show them. He wasn't just a good 'ole country boy.

One of the Sheriff's people came over and briefly spoke with Wilson and Redding. Moreno thought Redding would speak next, but was proven wrong as Wilson stood in front of the guys. "Okay all have pictures of Agent Summer. You all know what she looks like. We don't know where she is or what happened to her. Last time she was seen, and I hope you all have read the report, she was on a bike. The same one we found yesterday. So we think she has to be in this vicinity. We don't know her condition. If she was alright she would have found a way to contact us, wouldn't she?"

Wilson looked around at the faces. "Now the Sheriff's Office just told us something else. There have been reports of a hermit living up here on the mountain. He earns his living with daytime jobs. The rumors say he is living with a wolf. No, don't laugh. We can't be sure he is involved in this, but the facts are that he lives here and Agent Summer vanished here. Both Don Redding and I agree that there may be a link between them. The hermit could be the key. Now, as a plan of action, our goal will be to find either the hermit or his home. If we find him, we may be able to find our Agent."

He looked to the mountain, then to the gathering and nodded. "That will be all. Good luck and...lets find her and bring Agent Summer home."

While the HRT Teams split up and merged with the county police, Wilson turned and paced towards Moreno. "Anything new about the bike?" Moreno nodded and took a folded paper out of the back pocket of his jeans.

"Yes Sir. There is. The Sheriff sent the registration number out as no one had filed a stolen bike report after the Good Hope fight. Well, the surprise is, the bike had been declared stolen, but that was three years ago in Bakersfield, California."

Wilson looked astounded at Moreno.

"Furthermore, the owner declared that he found five thousand dollars in bills in the place where his bike had been parked. Oh, and Sir? The money was clean."

Rhianna's boss frowned. "A thief who pays. That is odd." He shrugged. "Moreno, you will be with Redding and me."

Then, in a loud voice, Wilson shouted, "Let's go!"

Some of the teams had already departed, following their local guides. Wilson and Moreno turned to Redding and the three men started walking.

-= / * \ =-

Rhianna followed the trail that was used as a small road. Wilderness all around, it seemed to be rarely used. She hoped the Interstate would appear soon. She could hear the traffic as she walked. A sudden flash of light caught her eye. Turning around, she saw a vehicle parked not far away. A van. She froze as she recognized it. It was the van whose driver had shot at her. Cold rage flooded her, but she knew she didn't have much of a chance unarmed. Still, it would be interesting to know who the driver was and why he'd shot at her. Crouching low, Rhianna made a slow but steady approach. She heard loud cursing mixed with metallic clinking sounds. Sneaking through the bushes, Rhianna rounded the van and saw a man working on one of the wheels. Almost immediately after she spotted him, the man finished his work. He sighed, put his tools away and grabbed a bottle of beer from inside the van.

While he rested against a tree, sipping at the beer, she stealthily approached the van. The man appeared to be absorbed by his drink, so she reached inside the driver's window and scanned the papers attached to the visor.

"Find anything interesting?"

Rhianna jerked around and looked into the face of a woman. But that was the last thing she saw. The next thing she felt was a current of electricity as the other woman pressed a stun gun against her.

-= / * \ =-

"OPCOM. Leader Five. Sir, there's something here in area 48-12. Looks like a narrow winding footpath. The place itself looks like a vehicle was standing here not long ago. Our local man says it's unusual. We will follow the footpath to see where it goes. Leader Five. Out."

"Five. OPCOM. Roger and out."

-= / * \ =-

A few miles away from the place where he'd left her, Eltee braked, bringing the car to a stop. He looked at the empty seat where she had been. Wolf looked up with intelligent, inquiring eyes.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Let's see if we can find her. Maybe I'm wrong, but I've got a strange feeling that our Rhianna is in trouble."

-= / * \ =-

"Vessor...Hello Joseph...Yes, I've heard already. Hmm, you're right...great news indeed...No, nothing new. We're still looking. Maybe we have a trail. We're following it...Yes, thank you for the concern...Yes, we will do that. Yes...Bye!"

-= / * \ =-

Eltee looked up and down the trail. She was nowhere to be seen. "Seems we're too late. Maybe it's only my imagination. Maybe she's already reached the Interstate and found a ride."

He lifted the field glasses and scanned the country. Nothing. But wait. There. A van. Hadn't she said a van driver had shot at her? He pushed a tiny button and a little motor stirred soundlessly, adjusting the binoculars.


The wolf looked sharply at his friend whose voice was very tense now.
"SHIT, we're too late."

Throwing the glasses onto the passenger seat, Eltee shoved the car in gear and started to chase after the van.

-= / * \ =-

When Rhianna regained consciousness, she found herself in a very bad position. She was sitting on the van's floor, hands behind her, pinned in the small of her back with a chain that also had been fastened around her waist before being anchored to a ring in the floor. Another short link had been wrapped around her ankles and was binding them to another ring on the opposite van wall. Her mouth tasted awful. A rag of some sort had been stuffed in and was locked in place with a third set of chains, the links biting into the corner of her mouth. Helplessly, Rhianna jerked in her bonds as the van sped around turns.
After awhile the van stopped and she heard a gate closing and snippets of a conversation. For a moment everything was quiet, the discussion over. Then the van's door was pushed open and Rhianna blinked in the sudden daylight.

"Well I'll be...Hello painslut. Hey, you've changed your hair color. This one suits you better than black. You can't imagine how glad I am to see you again."

Rhianna's heart nearly stopped at those words. Looking up, she saw the big man who was standing in the middle of the open van doors. Rubbing a still-red scar on the back of his hand, he smiled a nasty grin. Ray was gazing at her with a hateful stare.

-= / * \ =-

"Leader Five this is OPCOM. What is your position?"

Waiting for an answer that didn't come, Redding pushed the button of his radio again.

"OPCOM to Leader Five. What is your position? I repeat: what is your status?"

Only static filled the walkie talkie. Don Redding was about to call again when the awaited answer rushed in.

"Five to OPCOM, five to OPCOM. It's an ambush. A trap!" The man's voice was tense. As surprising as it seemed for a trained Agent, it sounded panic-filled. Background noises arrived muffled, but screams and curses could be heard. Redding blanched white while he looked into the faces of the other OPCOM team members, Wilson, Moreno and a Deputy Sheriff. He keyed his mike again and tried to calm the team leader.

"Okay, son. Be calm and give me your report. What trap?"

"Sir, we stumbled over a AARRRGGGGGG!!!"

The connection broke again and static took over the radio. Silence reigned from Leader Five.

Scanning his map, Redding read the quadrants of his other teams.
"Teams Four and Seven. This is OPCOM. Do you copy?"

"Team Seven. Five by, OPCOM."

"Team Four. Three by, OPCOM."

"Teams Four and Seven. Please be advised. We have lost contact with Team Five. Last location known was A5-H9 on your map. Attention new Orders: Abort and resume search in these quadrants. Scout and report, I repeat, scout and report. Acknowledge?"

"OPCOM, Four. Acknowledged Sir."

"OPCOM, Seven. Same here leader."

Wilson rubbed his chin while Moreno lit a new cigarette. He looked at the Deputy who pointed at a spot on the Map while giving explanations to Redding.

"..And then there's that ravine, I can't possibly understand what has happened." He shook his head, lifting the cap he was wearing.

"My guys know the area. I have no idea what could have gone wrong."

Don Redding closed his eyes. Team Five was now the second team that didn't answer anymore. The first one had been Team Two. He still waited for an answer from Leader Three whose team had been dispatched there for a Search And Rescue, to find out what had happened. Two teams lost. Three teams now looking for them. Was everything going wrong?

-= / * \ =-

Eltee scratched absently behind the wolf's ears. Again, he scanned the countryside with his field glasses. He'd followed the van, although it was difficult. It wasn't that he didn't know the country. He knew it, but was avoiding being spotted. Just now, he was standing a half mile away from where the van had disappeared. It hadn't alarmed him overly. Moments ago, a picture filled his mind. Looking at the country and the direction the van was heading, he had guessed the place where he would find them again; for he had used that same location years before, back when he had been on the run and his hideout wasn't even built.

On official maps, the place didn't exist. On federal plans it had only a number: C-352. The place was an ex-military facility. A training compound from the sixties that was used as boot camp for Special Forces. The Vietnam War finished, there was no need to maintain all the bases that had spread like mushrooms, and C-352 had been one of those that was closed.

Nature had taken over. Roofs had collased. The concrete was broken and grass and weeds grew everywhere. The old fence was broken down, a sign was on the ground, rusty and battered. Its words where barely visible: 'C-352', then ' US Governm..' and below, 'Access to this area re...'

At first sight, the place looked as deserted and abandoned as Eltee recalled. But looking closely, he was able to notice some small, faint signs of life. A new fence was erected around a couple of barracks. Some dead animals were on the ground, indicating that the fence was electrified. Tire marks criss-crossed the muddy ground. Although he hadn't spotted them yet, Eltee was fairly sure there were guards least one. Lowering the glasses, he looked at his furry friend.

"Guess we have to help our new friend, don't you think?" The wolf made a low growl and her fangs appeared. Eltee nodded. "So we only need to sneak up on their guard, disarm him and rescue our Rhianna. Sounds simple, huh?"

The wolf nudged him and pointed her nose towards the door. Without another word, Eltee opened the car and Wolf got out, instantly disappearing into the brush.

"Good luck my friend," whispered Eltee, as the animal vanished.

-= / * \ =-

Rhianna was in a world of pain. After their arrival and the discovery of Ray, the woman had released her chains and she had been pulled out of the van. Immediately Ray twisted her hands hard behind her and she felt the woman placing handcuffs on her wrists.

Rhianna was then forced down a small hallway leading through a room where a machine of some sort was partially hidden behind some linen. A man was kneeling behind the machine and she heard him working on it. She was unable to scan her surroundings further as Ray had already resumed his favorite sport, pinning her elbows with one arm while his other hand pinched her nipples repeatedly. He was helped this time by the woman. And this time, Jim wasn't around to stop them. Rhianna couldn't even scream as the gag remained stuffed in her mouth.

Arriving in a second room, Rhianna just had enough time to see some boxes stacked in a corner. Then, her world went black again as a blindfold was fastened over her eyes. Her hands were unfastened from behind, but only to be recuffed in front. She heard the woman whispering something to Ray who started to laugh. And then she yelped into her gag as she was jerked from her feet as she was hoisted up into the air.

For some time she simply hung there, pain shooting from her extended arms as her feet lost touch with the ground. One of her captors, she didn't know who, pushed her and her trapped body started swinging. Rhianna clenched her teeth. For now the situation was bearable. But everything changed when she felt the whip. Not one of those SM whips you bought at adult stores. It felt more like a belt. A big, large belt that lashed against her body.

"Say painslut, you can't even imagine how glad I am over my good fortune of seeing you again."


"You sliced me up good."


"The doc even thinks I might lose the ability to use two fingers."


"That wasn't a nice thing to do."


"No, that really wasn't a nice thing to do."


Rhianna gulped breath through her nose. One belt lashed her front while a second one worked on her back. She quickly lost count of the lashes as pain overtook her. Fire branded through her, tears formed, but stubbornly she bit hard on the gag, refusing to scream. And just as suddenly as it had begun, the whipping ceased. Rhianna was glad for the respite.

"Say Ray, you don't seem to be in love with this cunt."

"I'm not."

The woman made a low chuckle. "Trust a woman to know what is painful for another one."

Rhianna chilled at these words and her head, which had hung limply,jerked up. A hand grasped her hair and she felt her gag being released. She had to cough when the sodden rag finally left her mouth. The hand in her hair held her in a hard grip, holding her head immobile while an arm went around her waist.


She tensed and didn't utter a word as something cold brushed her lips, drying her throat instantly. The woman laughed again and Rhianna made a hiss when sharp fingernails trapped a nipple through her T-shirt and pulled her breast taut. Then the woman released the bud and while the globe jerked back a ripping sound went through the fabric as scissors cut a hole, exposing nipple and aureole.

"Hmm, you like that painslut! You seem...excited."

The woman laughed again as Rhianna tensed more, the tips of the scissors toying with her erect bud. Soft whimpers escaped her when the blades traced the tip and made a second hole, exposing the other one. She felt Ray working at her back, tying a knot in the shirt fabric, stretching the cloth tight.

As Ray pulled on the back of her shirt, the woman attached biting clamps to Rhianna's nipples. The pain shot through her before it almost settled into a dull throbbing.

And then the whippings resumed. Lashes over lashes falling on her poor, exposed breasts. Inflaming the red buds. Tears running down her cheeks, she twisted in her bonds, trying to escape the fiery bites of leather. Eventually, the game began to bore her tormentors and both captors stopped, removed the clamps, and let Rhianna sob out her pain.

-= / * \ =-

"OPCOM, this is Three. Do you copy?"

Don Redding was instantly at the microphone. "Three for OPCOM. Five by. What the Devil's happening out there?"

The Agent in charge of Team Three looked around and shook his head, his fellow team members securing the area.

"OPCOM. Three. Sir, this place is a mess!!"

One of the agents from Team Two was hanging upside down, one ankle trapped in wire. From Leader Three's assessment, the Agent had been pulled across the clearing before he was hoisted up in the air, on the way banging his head against a small rock, dutifully placed there. The Agent was not dead, but unconscious and would wake with a terrible headache and a serious although non-life threatening cut across his head.

A second Agent, also unconscious, was more severely wounded. Both of  his legs were broken. A tree branch had been bowed back and, after the poor soul had tripped a hidden release, had slammed high speed against his legs, shattering the bones in the process.

A third Agent was hanging from a wrist tie over a ravine. He was pale and fully aware of his surroundings. It happened to be the Leader from Team Two and he had lost his grip on the radio when he had been jerked up. The last member from the four member team was one of the Sheriff's Deputies. She was crouched in an eight or nine foot deep hole. She was covered with scratches and had sprained her left ankle while going down, but seemed okay apart from a killing anger in her belly.

Redding's hand clamped hard around the mike, his knuckles white, while he listened to the Agent's report. Wilson shook his head and looked at Moreno.

"God! What's happening here?"

Moreno could only shrug and exchange a helpless look with the Sheriff's Dispatch Officer in the Command Team.

"Sir, I don't know any more than you. Normally it's very quiet here."

Wilson turned to Redding. "Anything yet from the other missing teams?"

Redding, having cut the connection with Leader Three, shook his head.

"Nothing. But our guys should arrive at their last known location anytime now."

Turning to the remaining people, all the teams he had been able to reach, he shouted.

"Prepare to leave. We'll join teams two and three."

-= / * \ =-

Finally, the mysterious boss had shown up. Not that Rhianna had seen him, still trapped in her own, dark world behind the blindfold. With him came a change of attitude towards her. And the questioning started.

A hand cupped her breast, tracing the hole cut in the fabric. "So, you are that spirited woman who disturbs my business all the time? I must say, I am most grateful for this diversion."

"What do you mean? Release me at once. You have.."

Her nipple was instantly pinched. Hard. She heard him laughing loudly and then a new sound was heard. Rhianna thought she recognized the sound of a chair being moved close to her.

"Dear Lady, you have no say in this matter. No say at all. Now I wonder what a pretty gal like you was doing twice near my business? True, security is lax, I admit, and I thank you for pointing that out. Still, my thanks cannot wash away your unwanted intrusion."

His tone of voice changed immediately, going from the friendly chat to a hard edged, unfriendly timbre.

"So now, please tell me. Who are you? Who do you work for? DEA? NSA? Or are you FBI? And what were you looking for in my place?"

Rhianna was still sorting her thoughts, framing her reply in her mind when the first blow came. A lash across her chest, hurting her exposed tips. Caught by surprise, she was unable to stifle the scream that tore from her.

-= / * \ =-

Chapter 6

By nature, wolves have, a far better sense of hearing than humans. Thus, the wolf heard danger long before humans would have noticed.

The wolf heard the soft hum of the electrified fence, and the soft crunch of gravel under the guard's feet while he made his rounds. When necessary, the wolf rushed away, crouched down or played dead while slowly circling the camp, closing the distance to her missing pack member.

-= / * \ =-

Rhianna was weeping softly. The boss had finished his questioning, for now. Duty had called and he had given her over to the expert hands of the woman...and Ray.

What disturbed her most was the way the boss emphasized the idea that she might possibly be an FBI Agent. Not DEA. Not NSA. FBI. Just as if he already knew.

While Ray immobilized her, this time standing behind her, his thick fingers clamping around her and trapping her exposed nipples, pressing her hanging body hard against his chest, the woman elevated one of Rhianna's leg's and had started slapping her inner thighs, and then rubbing her Venus mound.

Shortly though, it was boring her again and, with the help of the scissors, she cut a hole in the panty fabric and was now pinching Rhianna's soft flesh with her fingernails.

-= / * \ =-

Slowly, the HRT Members regrouped and pulled together a picture of their situation. Every small trail they followed had either been a dead end or a trap, for every missing team had been found in almost the same condition as Team Two.

Advance on the hillside was very, very slow as every bush, branch and rock had to be inspected. Nobody had thought of a dog squad and ordering one of them to the place would take the better part of the day. Redding had then, with Wilson's approval, decided to get on with the search, without waiting for the dogs.

About a dozen different traps had been found in different places, the biggest of them being a cage-like device resembling an African lion's trap that, when activated, would drag it's 'prisoner' into the cold mountain streams nearby.

One fact was becoming crystal clear. Each trap Redding and his guys found was built to immobilize or restrain someone. Nothing found so far was lethal. Being the head of the FBI's HRT division for some time, Don Redding had seen a lot of traps. Mostly bobby-traps, but something like this? Never. This was new. They were now in a new man's land.

-= / * \ =-

Eltee had also been busy the past few hours. Going in the opposite direction of the wolf, he had slowly rounded the compound, making his progress slowly so he wouldn't trip an alarm system, silent or otherwise.

His search for traps had also paid off. To the left of the compound entrance, a small nylon wire, almost invisible, had been stretched across a small footpath. If he would have tripped the wire, a net overhead would have been released, dumping grapefruit-sized iron balls over him. The traps installed here were far more deadly than the ones he had used to secure his place.

With a mischievous grin, he unhooked the wire, taking care to hold the wire stretched, and placed it the other way, making the trap one of his own. This was now one place he wouldn't have to worry about anymore.

-= / * \ =-

The sun had passed its zenith when the HRT stumbled over the house. And stumbled was exactly what had happened. One of the first Agents entering the clearing fell onto his back and was only able to spot one of the house's windows because of that. His frantic gestures stilled the joking grins around him, and the other members fanned out, scanning the place with drawn weapons. The search was wearing on them.

No danger in sight, the leading Agent waved the OPCOM Team in. Redding, Wilson, Moreno and the Police Officer approached the clearing cautiously, ready to fight if needed. But everything remained silent as the team started its search.

Looking for evidence is something drummed into each Agent while in the Academy, that skill was needed to get the Federal Badge. The group of Agents made a quick and thorough search.

There was nobody there and the place was not locked up, relying entirely on its traps and stealth. It was neat and clean. While Wilson tried to create a profile of the people living here, one of the Agents came to Redding, showing him some blood-soaked bandaging.

Again Moreno felt bad when he saw the tainted cloth. What ordeal was Agent Summer going through because of him?

Redding dispatched one of his Agents to the bike wreck where a chopper >from the State police was waiting. She carried out a bag containing the bloody bandages for forensics.

"I suggest we stop the search now and start fresh tomorrow. Whoever was here is gone, and I don't think we will find him or them in the dark."

"You don't happen to have night search equipment with you?" Wilson asked Redding who shook his head.

"We have some night equipment. Meaning night visors for the snipers, infra-red glasses and the like. But not a full search kit. And not enough for all of us. Hmm, as I see it, Agent Summer and her companions have left the place. And it's not sure they will come back soon. Maybe or maybe not, we just don't know."

Redding sighed and shrugged. "Best thing to do now is, as you said, to break for the night. We'll camp here or in the vicinity and, if nothing happens during the night, continue tomorrow."

Sentries were placed around the area while the major part of the Rescue Team prepared to rest. Dusk quickly changed into evening, all light gone.

Moreno and Wilson quietly talked about Agent Summer while Don Redding placed a call, wanting to know the condition of his injured Agents. Quickly though, everything went silent as the group settled down.

-= / * \ =-

Rhianna had also been prepared for the night. The woman had done the procedures while Ray nastily laughed. She had tried to resist, then she had tried to buy time by giving them part of the truth. She told them about her missing friend and about how the car at Good Hope was Maria's rental.

It hadn't helped her though and it didn't give her rest. They didn't believe her. On one thing though Rhianna had been stubbornly silent: the fact about being an FBI Agent. Somehow, Rhianna had the dark feeling that admitting that would mean her immediate death.

So the questioning stopped, the beatings stopped, the whippings stopped. Even the blindfold had been taken off. What remained was unrelenting pain.

She wasn't hanging from her wrists, but that had only been a minor relief. Her muscles had screamed upon release and her arms proved to be pretty useless. She'd been suspended by her arms for too long to use them to free herself.

Ray then jerked her arms behind her. They were tied at wrists and elbows, her elbows touching, putting great pressure upon her shoulder blades. Her legs had been bent and her ankles were tied to her thighs, with her legs parted. She was solely resting on her bent knees, a small but strong cable connecting her parted ankles to the wrist tie and then to her elbows, going up from there to a beam.

A wire had then been wound around her chest. Not compressing her breasts but only framing them, working more like an open bra, offering her twin globes and displaying her uncovered aureoles and red, sore nipples.

Again she was gagged. Ray did it when Rhianna started to scream as the woman made her final night preparations. The gag was a wooden rod placed between her jaws. Wire had circled both head and wood to pin it there. Only a muffled sound was now possible.

As a final preparation, the woman had taken a small metal pole that she clamped between the ground and Rhianna's labia, pressing tightly against her clit. Next clothespins had been clamped onto her inner lips, a string fastened from them to the floor, stretching those lips. At this time, Rhianna nearly passed out. But the friendly embrace of darkness came only when the woman placed onto Rhianna the two last items she had in store for her.

It occurred her suddenly why the blindfold had been taken off: so she could see all the preparations. And why did they take the time to frame her breasts like this? To make them easy targets. For the last two items the woman showed her were mousetraps.

Ray laughed like a madman and the woman chuckled when Rhianna desperately tried to evade the grip of the diabolical devices. When the first trap clamped its metallic/wooden grip around a nipple, Rhianna yelled loudly into the gag. When the second one was released, her nerves reacted and she fell into darkness, her merciful escape into unconsciousness.

-= / * \ =-

After changing several traps, Eltee was sure they would have a nasty impact on their prior owners. His years-long, chosen lifestyle had sharpened his senses and he avoided the guards. The fact that he knew the place gave him an upper hand. When he had circled the compound without stumbling over his furry friend, he started to break in.

With a closed gate and an electric fence with an alarm, Eltee had carefully chosen his entry point, a tree with a branch thick enough to take his weight. Unfortunately, the branch didn't point over the fence but grew sideways along it. Eltee gritted his teeth but it couldn't be helped. It was the only location where he might manage a break in.

He started the climb, positioned himself on the branch, trying to find the best position to hurl his frame over the fence. He was about to launch, having counted to three, when a man appeared near his intended landing point. Eltee had just enough time to grip an overhanging smaller branch. Foliage broke, the guard looked around, even in his direction, but didn't seem overly alarmed. Then he shrugged, seeing or hearing nothing new, and started to smoke.

Eltee was standing on his branch, waiting for his moment. Patience was something he had learned the hard way years ago. Still, he found it hard to do so now. But doing anything rash would ruin the small chance he had to rescue his new friend.

-= / * \ =-

Rhianna was in agony. The slightest movement she made meant pain. She fully understood how devilishly the woman had bound her. She was to torture herself.

The cable that held her upright permitted her only the smallest possible movement, straightening her back or letting it rest a little. But if she remained straight, she put tension on her labia, stretched by the stringed clothespins. If she let her back rest, the tension from the stretch would fade but the metallic pole would crush her clit.

Thus, with tear-filled eyes, she realized rest was not possible. And every small movement like breathing would start the mousetraps swinging, hurting her sore nipples.

-= / * \ =-

Eltee was still on his branch when darkness came. After his smoke, the guard went over and peed against a barrack wall. Then another man came. Eltee recognized him as the burly one Rhianna had called Ray. They chatted. Hearing their words, Eltee clutched his fists and then he paled when he heard the faint screams from the open building door. Rhianna! He would have to start his rescue soon or it would be to late.

Part of him was wondering how many people were inside. From what he had spotted, a second building behind the first one could be a dorm of some sort. Many men had entered it, but almost none of them had reappeared so far. Would he be able to help her? Alone? Okay, but just two if he counted the wolf. But he hadn't seen his furry friend for some time now.

Ray finally disappeared into the building when a low ring chimed in the darkness. The guard reached behind him and took out his cellphone. He started to laugh and was quickly involved in a conversation. He chatted and gestured and Eltee closed his eyes throwing out a silent prayer as impatience grew in him. When he opened his eyes again though he almost sighed. Either his prayer had been heard, or his patience had paid off. Eltee saw the guard going away, not taking the cell phone from his ear. When the guard had disappeared behind the barracks, Eltee waited for a whole minute. Eltee then launched himself over the fence.

His jump was good, but the landing was ill-positioned. He almost touched the fence with his roll and had to jerk to the side to avoid contact. A yell of surprise almost escaped his lips though as something sharp entered his side. Reaching underneath with trembling fingers, his hand came back with a bloody piece of broken glass. His blood. He had landed on a broken beer bottle.

A muffled sigh escaped him and he threw the glass away. Taking a deep breath, he stretched his frame and scanned the area quickly. Apparently no one had noticed or heard the noise he had made. A smile appeared quickly, but turned into a pain-laced grin. Silently he moved along the wall and peeked around the corner.

The guard was still talking on his phone, laughing and chatting. Eltee's impatience grew, one hand impatiently tapping against his thigh while the other pressed against his injured side.

Suddenly he heard the man laughing louder a last time before he broke the connection. Eltee counted to two and then his hand slammed around the corner like a released spring, the edge of his hand crashing against the guard's throat. The man's eyes nearly flew out of their sockets. He made a gurgling sound before he dropped to the earth.

Eltee shook his hand. He definitely was too old for this kind of game. His gaze rested on the cellphone the man had still in his hand. Considering his aching hand and side, Eltee evaluated his chances to get Rhianna out of danger.

"Well, you can't have something if you aren't willing to take chances."

His mind made up, he dialed and asked the operator for the local FBI Office number, a number he then immediately dialed.

"FBI. Agent Seaver. How may I help you?"

"Agent. I'm calling you because of your search for missing Agent Rhianna Summer. I know where she is and would advise you to dispatch help here as quickly as possible. She is in great danger right now. She needs every help available. We are in a abandoned military compound called C-352, at Mountain Hill. About forty five miles out of ..."

-= / * \ =-

When the caller mentioned the name of Agent Summer, Special Agent Seaver pressed the panic button. An action plan had been drafted and, almost the same time both Wilson's and Redding's pagers went off while Moreno's cellphone chirped.

Moreno answered and was able to follow the phone exchange while Wilson and Redding looked on. The place named, the unknown caller refused to answer any more questions although he didn't break the connection. Little did the FBI know that Eltee hid the still-connected cellphone in the compound.

"This is Agent Moreno. Are we sure about the location that guy gave us?"

"Positive. There's a long-forgotten military installation on Mountain Hill. And we just got confirmation from the NSA guys. They traced the call and a triangulation track pinned the phone call INSIDE the base area."

"And he didn't say anything about Rhianna's condition?"

Agent Wilson's face was pale but became ashen when Moreno repeated what the caller had said.

"Damn, National Geographic has better topographic maps than we have."
Redding was muttering.

"I know the place, Sirs. My dad used it as a bad weather cabin when we went hunting." A young officer from the Sheriff's Office had approached and had heard the whole exchange.

"It's not too far from here. Say twenty minutes by car and a dozen more on foot."

"Okay." Redding pointed at the young man, "You'll be our guide!"

"Hopefully we won't be too late." Wilson muttered.

-= / * \ =-

Chapter 7

To forget her pain, Rhianna desperately tried to redirect her thoughts to the noise coming from the machine in the other room. But it was hard for her. The bondage she had been put in was the strictest and most painful she could recall.

Even her slave time while on the Leta case was not comparable. The suspension, whipping and clamping had been bad, but nothing had prepared her for the continuous pain she now felt.

In an effort to calm the helplessness she felt, she concentrated on her surroundings. The first thing she noticed was the rhythmic sound of a machine. She knew the sound, she had heard it before but was unable to pin it down. So great was her pain that she was unable to make a coherent analysis.

Then there were the seven by five foot rolls stacked in the room with her. Two times already, people came in and took one of the rolls away. Those rolls also gave her a feeling of deja-vue, but again she couldn't concentrate enough to put the pieces together.

Tears, partly pain, partly frustration, rolled down her cheeks. God, would she ever get out of this mess?

-= / * \ =-

Leaving only two men to guard the well-hidden home, the remaining HRT members scrambled down to the place where their cars were waiting. After dropping their equipment into the trunks, they started their engines and the small convoy took off, racing towards the compound. In the lead car, Agent Moreno was driving following directions from the Deputy sitting beside him. In the back seat, Redding was in constant communication with the other cars, following their route with a finger on his map, already designing their assault plan.

Wilson, the fourth man in the car, was the only one not busy. Absently, he started gnawing on his thumb, totally lost in thought.

Since Vessor told him about Rhianna's blood, his worry and fear had climbed steadily. He didn't like losing Agents. And Rhianna? She was a good field operative and undercover Agent. He'd only ever lost one Agent before, and that had been Rhianna's partner. He had promised himself that nothing like that would ever happen again under his command. He was sure about it. He would do everything to free this one. Everything.

His stomach started to rumble so he stuffed two antacid drops into his mouth. No, he had to make sure that Agent Summer came back alive.

-= / * \ =-

Peeking around the corner, Eltee saw two men arranging pallets of boxes in a van. Somewhere inside the building a machine was running.

He evaluated the distance to the next door, but found it too far to reach without being spotted. He could go back or stay but otherwise was stuck as the corridor dead-ended. If only the wolf was here.

-= / * \ =-

The wolf had taken almost the same way in as her human friend. In a corner of the compound was a stack of empty wooden pallets and crates. Jumping from a tree stump on a rock, the wolf had first crouched, then leaped over the fence, landing on the boxes.

Unfortunately her tail brushed the wire upon landing and she yelped as she received an electrical shock. Dazed, she crouched between the boxes.

-= / * \ =-

The electrical discharge and the animal's yelp was heard and one of the men shook his head, muttering something about cursed animals not letting him do his work. With slow steps, he went to the fence and looked around. Nothing. Stepping along the fence, he eventually came to the stack of boxes and saw some burned hairs on the wire. Looking a last time around and seeing nothing, he shrugged and returned inside. Whatever had touched the fence was gone now. No need to stay here.

-= / * \ =-

The two men had finished loading the van. While one was closing the doors, the other one headed for the driver's seat. Eltee saw his chance and silently crossed the room, rushing through the opposite door.

The huming and hissing of the machine was much louder now. But between the rhythmic noises, another, faint, sound emerged. At first, Eltee missed it. But then, while he listened for footsteps, Eltee was able to locate it coming from the next door.

A quick peek told him there was no immediate danger so he sneaked inside, taking cover behind the piles of rolls. His eyes went wide when he saw the source of the moans. Cold anger as well as a deadly resolution filled him and his hands turned to fists, his knuckles white against his tanned skin. His intention to free Rhianna immediately was postponed when he heard footsteps and laugher approaching.

A couple entered the room. He was openly laughing while she only grinned. The woman was unknown to Eltee, but again he recognized Ray. Murderous thoughts filled Eltee as he quietly followed their moves.

The couple stopped in front of the bound and tortured Agent whose head hung limply. Eltee saw the woman's grin growing wider when she noticed Rhianna wince and squirm from her light touch on the mousetraps.

"Say painslut, do you like your accommodations here?"

Ray had an arm around the woman's back and was boldly cupping a breast.

"We thought we would give you a good night kiss."

"A poisonous kiss!" The woman laughed, while Ray showed the bound woman the leather belt he had in hand.

Eltee's teeth gritted. No, he couldn't wait anymore. He couldn't let this horror take place. With a low growl, he jerked up from behind his hiding place and crashed into burly Ray like a fullback. The woman gasped in surprise while Ray yelled, both from surprise and pain.

The woman shot Eltee an angry stare, but she paled when she saw his face. Her mouth opened for a scream, but already he was backhanding her, sending her flying across the room. It was the first time in his life that Eltee had made a violent move against a female, but he was in a murderous mood right now.

Turning around, he looked for the cable release which held Rhianna upright. But before he could trigger the handle, an iron fist clamped around his ankle, jerking him to the floor. A second hand tried to grab him between his shoulders, but Eltee made a quick roll and the grip loosened.

Ray was kneeling and rubbed his hand over his bloody nose. "You will pay for this."

Eltee didn't waste his breath with an answer, but instead slammed a punch into the other's kidneys. An uppercut along his temple finished the work. Ray, eyes wide in astonishment, fell like a cut tree, face first to the ground.

The crashing sound of the body released the woman's vocal cords and a loud scream for help echoed while she hurried away. Eltee turned around to stop her but she was already fleeing out the door.

Jerking around, he activated the handle and Rhianna made an exhausted painful yell into her gag. Slamming his arm around her, he looked down and immediately understood the diabolical setup.

"I'll be..."

His face reddened by anger, he made a powerful motion with his free hand, sending the metal pole flying. With trembling fingers, he unclipped the clothespins and Rhianna moaned, nearly toppling over as a small wave of relief washed over her.

"God, Rhianna. I'm sorry. I'm so terribly sorry." With a shaking hand, Eltee opened the wire clamp of the mousetraps. A high pitched, still muffled scream escaped the bound and gagged Agent as she almost passed out.

-= / * \ =-

With tears in her eyes, Rhianna looked into the face of her liberator. The one who still held her. The one whose voice she had instantly recognized. The one who had treated her wounds. Finally the one with whom she had slept the previous night without seeing his face. Eltee.

She couldn't help her shrieks. Different kinds of scars disfigured him. There were clean cuts made with a sharp blade. One of these started under his ear and went to the corner of his mouth, turning his lip upward, almost like a perpetual half-smile. There also was a ragged scar that looked like it was made with a broken piece of glass. The most awful scar was certainly the one that started under his scalp, went over his forehead, eye lid and cheekbone to his chin, almost dividing his face in half. Last were what appeared to be burn scars. Speckles over his whole face, but also on his hands. Acid?

Rhianna drooled as she couldn't swallow. Eltee had been right. He was really a hideous sight. But although she had tensed up upon seeing him, and she knew he had noticed it, he still had her in a light embrace, speaking soothing words while his fingers fumbled at her back.

"Hey Beautiful, I'll get you out. Promise. Together we'll escape from the bad guys. Understand?... And then we..."

Shouts and running steps were heard outside. Laying Rhianna gently onto one side, Eltee jumped to the doorway. Just when he reached it, a couple of hands with a gun appeared. With all his weight he pressed himself against the door and it crashed closed. A scream was heard from outside when the metal door and frame clamped sharply into the man's wrists. The man's injured hands dropped the gun and he stumbled backwards. Eltee was quick to grab the gun and he fired several shots blindly into the hallway, extinguishing the overhead lights at the same time.

-= / * \ =-

The pain was still vivid in her memory when Rhianna tried to move. Although her ankles were still bound to her thighs, closing her legs was heavenly. Her freed nipples, labia, and clit throbbed in relief.

Moving her arms, she realized that Eltee had tried to release her elbows but couldn't finish. It helped that he'd increased the distance between her elbows, even if the tie still wouldn't slip off. Lying on the floor, she saw him kneeling near the door, exchanging shots with someone. Suddenly there was an audible *click*, then a second *click*, followed by silence.

"He's out of bullets!"

Again footsteps pounded in the hall and then curses flew when Eltee started wrestling the man. Rhianna crouched in a fetal position and screamed into her gag when shots flew all around in the room.

An inhuman cry was heard from somewhere. Quickly more shouts joined the first one and suddenly Rhianna saw a big dark shadow leap through the doorway, and two rows of sharp fangs bit into the upper arm of Eltee's assailant. The man howled in pain as blood poured from his arm.

-= / * \ =-

Small puffs appeared every time one of the men exhaled. Mike Wilson gasped, his shirt flecked with perspiration. Beside him, Agent Moreno's forehead beaded in sweat. Redding, walking silently on the other side, looked fresh. Hell, even the black denims he wore looked like they just came straight from the laundry.

Agent Wilson used his handkerchief to sop up the drops running down his cheeks. He hadn't realized he was so out of shape. He would have to start training soon, or else he wouldn't have the slightest chance of passing the medical and physical exam each Agent had to pass once a year in order to remain a field operative.

On a hand signal from Redding, all the men crouched. Wilson panted, glad for the short stop. All around him, baseball caps with three letters faced away, cold eyes scanning the darkness.

Don Redding placed the map on his knee and motioned his Team Leaders to him. Using a flashlight, he pointed to the outlined base on the map.

"All right. The snipers will move first. We will post them here..."

"Agent Redding. Sir." The petite police officer moved towards the leading group.

"Message from the scouts, Sir. They report shots fired inside the target."

"GODDAMNIT!" Redding started to swear. "Is nothing in this cursed operation going as planned?"

Wilson tensed again and maintained silence. But his lips were a tight thin line while he loaded his service revolver.

-= / * \ =-

With desperation, Rhianna jerked in her bonds. While still stringently bound, moving abruptly had helped to further loosen the elbow band. She almost toppled when the restraint slipped past her elbows. Tears of relief flooded her cheeks. For the first time in hours, her elbows were free.

But the relief was only short lived. Deafening noise surrounded her: shots, shouts, and the growling of the wolf mixed with painfilled screams. A flash of light caught her eye and she jerked her head away. Then she felt something brush past her bound forearm and she screamed into her gag. She was unable to see what had happened, but from the pain she assumed she had been grazed by a bullet.

Eltee was standing near an upright roll, wrestling a knife out of the hand of one opponent. The wolf moved like a dervish, biting here, scratching there, all the while growling dangerously.

A movement near her made Rhianna turn her head, and her eyes widened. Ray was recovering from the blow he'd received. Shaking his head, he was already sitting up. Rhianna recognized the danger immediately, as Eltee's back was to them, covering the entrance with his body. Ray, in the middle between Eltee and Rhianna, could easily take him from behind. Rhianna saw him drew a pistol. With renewed power, the bound Agent tried to wrestle herself free, shouting, crying, yelling into her gag. But the noise level was too loud and Eltee was too fixed on his fight to notice what was happening behind him.

But her muffled screams were heard. The wolf's ears pricked up and flicked. Then she turned her head.

From that moment on, Rhianna seemed to see everything through a slow motion camera. The wolf growled then her legs tensed and she leaped >from her position. Using the back of a crouched enemy as a springboard, her furry body sailed through the air. Eltee's head went a little sideways but couldn't finish his movement as his rival refused to go down.

The wolf, jaws opened wide, landed on Ray's chest, closing upon his extended wrist just as Ray pulled the trigger. The additional weight jerked his arm down and the bullet went into the floor.

Ray started to yell from the new hand injury. His screams became more high pitched when the wolf, in an effort to evade Ray's other hand, started to scratch Ray's face. His opponent finally down, Eltee turned and assessed the situation immediately. With a shout, he started to dash towards his furry friend.

Ray made an error by extending his free hand in order to gather enough power for a brutish blow. For the extended limb was now in reach of the bound Agent.

Without thinking, Rhianna did the only thing she could do in her present condition. She parted her legs and clamped Ray's hand between her knees. True, she didn't have enough strength to hold him pinned there. But she hoped that her actions would give Eltee enough time to reach them.

Ray pinched and scratched her flesh to get his release, and was able to retract his hand. But during the time it took to achieve this, Eltee arrived and kicked him on his rump.

With one hand still trapped between wolfen fangs and his vision blurred >from the blood running across his face, Ray was unable to block Eltee's blows and yelled his companions for help.

Two people appeared in the doorway and both of them where already pointing their guns in Ray's direction. Rhianna saw a gun flash twice and howled into her gag.

The wolf released Ray's hand and looked at Rhianna's face. Was it the woman's terrorized expression or the sound the two men made? When the first shot came, the wolf had already launched.

The terrifying sound only a wounded animal can make pierced the air as the wolf was caught in mid-flight, blocking with her body the deadly bullet aimed at the bound and helpless Agent. Rhianna felt two impacts on her body. First the animal slammed hard into her, followed immediately by a sharp pain in the thick of her thigh.

Tears shot from her eyes, but not from physical pain. Her tortured body had long since shut down to physical pain. No, it was the pain one feels when a friend passes away. And Rhianna was not the only one feeling it.

An inhuman yell disturbed the silence after the two shots. The dropping animal had caught everyone's attention and no one paid heed to Eltee who had seen the two men arrive and his friends getting wounded.

He was racing back to the door when the animal was hit. Seeing that, rational thinking in Eltee shut down and something more primal took over.

Eltee really sailed through the air, his feet punching the man on the left while his upper body crashed against the chest of the other one. All three of them went down, but Eltee was the first to recover. He spun around and gripped one of the guns lying on the floor. In rapid motion, he emptied the chambers at both men.

Shouts could be heard from outside and when that sound finally reached Eltee's mind, he jerked around, pointing into the hallway as his finger pulled the trigger. He pulled the trigger three times before he realized nobody was nearing and nothing was coming out of the muzzle.

With an angry scream, he threw the empty gun on the floor and almost raced to the place where his friends, the human and the animal, were lying. But he seemed to have forgotten the presence of the female Agent.

His trembling hands gently touched the bloody fur and Rhianna silently wept, seeing the intense pain creased in Eltee's face. Countless tears were running down his cheeks. With a slow, loving movement, Eltee took the animal into his arms and stood up. Oblivious to any danger, he went out of the room, leaving Rhianna alone with her pain.

-= / * \ =-

The shooting had compromised every plan the HRT had considered. They only had one goal now: to reach the compound as fast as possible. There was no time to place Agents or snipers around the perimeter so they just stormed in.

It was like stepping into an ant hill, people running everywhere. Most of them were armed and, after the initial shouted FBI identification which most of them didn't even hear, they returned fire.

Quickly the HRT took control. Yells and screams were heard and one car even got away. The Agents responsible for that sector would later take the wrath of Don Redding.

In front of the first building, the crooks seemed to be caught in the crossfire and were the first to surrender to the law officers. In short time, the Agents marked the second building as the stronghold of the enemy.

Don Redding's radio crackled like a machine gun, but the leader of the Hostage Rescue Team stood motionless. He was the calm at the center of the storm.

That couldn't be said about Mike Wilson. Every yell, every shot, every scream made him pale a bit more. Already he was imagining Agent Summer being transported to the coroner. Slowly the fighting ebbed. Sporadic shots fell, but eventually faded and suddenly there was silence. A tense silence.

Special Agents rushed around the place. Everyone seemed to know what to do apart from Agents Wilson and Moreno. Both had to wait Redding's approval to enter the high risk location. Standard procedure. This kind of operation was the HRT speciality.

When Redding finally motioned to them, Wilson was beside Redding in two steps and both of them marched into the ex-military base. Moreno waited though. His bloodless face was not leaving the compound out of his sight. He knew they'd been too late. His hands turned to fists. There was no way Agent Summer could still be alive. Not after the shooting had started.

His head slumped to his chest. His fault. This mess had all been his fault. If only...but no! He hadn't. He let out a deep sigh. His
decision was made. Back at the office, he would resign.

But what was that? His head jerked up as his eyes fixed onto a moving shadow, almost invisible in the darkness. A quick look around told him that the HRT Agents had secured the base and he was one of the last on this side of the fence. He raised his gun and shouted.

"FBI. Freeze"

The shadow didn't react, still moving farther away from him. Moreno decided not to fire a warning shot. Too many shots had already been fired and if this shadow didn't react, he had to be a bad guy. It occurred now to Moreno that the shadow seemed to be carrying something. Something...or someone?

"FBI. This is my last warning. DON'T MOVE FURTHER."

As the shadow almost reached the woods, the Special Agent fired. His aim had not been good. And for a short moment he wasn't sure if he had hit or missed. But then he saw the shadow stumble and drop what he had been carrying before he fell.

Moreno went to the place cautiously, but rapidly. What if it had been Agent Summer's corpse? Trying to eliminate the evidence! With heaving chest, he reached the two motionless bodies. The first, the one he had supposed to be Rhianna Summer turned out to be a big dog. And the other one? It was a man. From the blood already soaking his shirt, Moreno guessed he'd shot him in the throat.

With a tight smile, Moreno pushed his gun back into his holster. The HRT hadn't used dogs in this operation. That would mean he had killed a bad guy. Okay, that would mean one less crook on the earth. He started to kneel, to check for a pulse when a shout came from the compound.

"Agent Moreno. She's safe. Agent Summer is safe."

Moreno's head jerked up. Safe? She was safe?

"I'm coming. God, I'm COMING."

In a relieved rush, the FBI Agent darted into the compound.

-= / * \ =-

Slowly the shots faded and stopped. Rhianna cried into her gag. The wolf? Gone. Eltee? Gone. The crooks? Some were lying around her, unconscious or dead. Both an arm and a leg hurt. Her muscles cramped. Ray was lying some feet away, both face and hand a bloody mess. His low moans the only sound apart from her own muffled sobs.

A man suddenly jumped into the room, rolling sideways, his two hands clamped tightly around his revolver. In the doorway, two other muzzles appeared, sweeping the room.

"All clear."

"All clear."

The shout was relayed a few more times.

Several officers stormed the room, each of them wearing vests with FBI in wide letters. The last one to enter was her boss, Mike Wilson, whose eyes went wide when he saw her.

"Good God, Rhianna! A MEDIC! I WANT A MEDIC HERE!"

His voice thundered through the room while he rushed to her, along with another Agent.

"Oh my God. Oh my God. Rhianna? Rhianna? Can you hear me?"

Her vision was blurred from tears. Her mouth dry when the gag was pushed out and she made a low yelp when her bonds were released. She'd been in that cramped position for way too long.

New sobs shuddered through her body as Wilson took his Agent in his arms, hugging her tightly. Another Agent crouched beside her, on his arm a small yellow reflecting band. He was the medic of the Rescue Team, a full medical doctor, and he immediately started to inspect the bullet wound in Rhianna's leg.

"Agent Summer?"

Diego Moreno stumbled through the door, stopping when he saw the doctor working on her leg. She was clinging tightly to Agent Wilson, her tear -stained and swollen face resting on her supervisor's shoulder.

Moreno took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, regaining his composure.

"Agent Summer, thank God, you're alive."

Don Redding stepped through the door and cast the young Agent a stern glance while speaking with a low voice to one of his men. Then he turned around and nodded to Rhianna. "Agent Summer! Glad to have you back."

To Wilson he said, "We have all of them, I think. But a car escaped. My hunch is that it held their boss. They often escape. You have to see what they have been cooking here. No wonder the place was guarded like Fort Knox."

Moreno showed a self-satisfied smile. "I got one of them. He tried to sneak away when the fight was over. Must have been a guard. He had that big dog with him so I..."

He stopped when he saw Rhianna's eyes widen and focus on him.

"Was he carrying a dog?"

He looked astonished at her and she repeated,

"Was he carrying a dog?"

Moreno grinned and nodded.


The name came like a breeze. Then angry tears flooded her eyes and she looked wildly at Moreno.

"That man saved my life. Two times he saved my life."

She started to thrash in Wilson's arms and his grip became stronger until the medic gave her a sedative.

"You shot a good guy. You understand? A GOOD GUY!"

Her shout trailed off as the sedative started to work and she became limp in Wilson's embrace. She couldn't see Moreno as his face drained of blood.

-= / * \ =-


[One week later, NYC]

" to see. Imagine that. Here I was explaining the use of the
monitoring systems to the Mayor when that old tart opened her coat and showed us her naked body."

Don Redding's voice shook with laugher and a small smile appeared on Rhianna's lips. But Agent Wilson, who was leaning with crossed arms against the wall of the hospital room, noticed that her heart wasn't laughing. His eyes scrutinized his Agent as she packed the last of her belongings. The doctors had given approval and she was being discharged >from the hospital.

She'd lost a lot of weight. The bullet graze on her arm had been a minor injury, only a flesh wound. A gauze bandage covered it now. The leg shot had been more serious. She had been lucky no arteries or bones were hit, the bent muscle had taken all the damage. But the orthopedics report had been positive. There would be nothing permanent other than the entry hole. And even that could be removed with a little cosmetic surgery. With a little training, Rhianna could even forget the cane she had to use now and for the following few weeks.

For the umpteenth time, Mike Wilson asked himself how much time had to pass to ease the pain inside her? Or if it was even possible.

Redding took the case with Rhianna's belongings while Rhianna was wheeled out. Together they left the hopital, going to the NYC FBI Main Office for the long awaited debriefing of Agent Summer.

-= / * \ =-

"And are you sure about it??"

"One hundred percent, Sir."

"Hmm, curious. Well thank you. Would you please tell Brent Major to come here? Thank you".

Assistant Director James Vessor frowned and motioned the Agent away. He was sitting in one of the small conference rooms, the table in front of him covered with reports, statistics and analysis from the Good Hope case. The only missing piece now, before he could close the case, was Agent Summer's report.

Without letting it show, James Vessor was very satisfied. Damn, that girl had made a fabulous case, even if it had been pure luck. She would receive a pat on the back for her good work, Wilson would receive a little blame because no proper back up had been provided for his Agent. Yes, a small imperceptible smile spread on his face - the only one gaining advantage from the whole mess would be him, James Vessor. Lord, what a glorious day!

A knock on the door erased the smile, his face moved into his common stern look as he barked, "Come in."

The door opened and Rhianna Summer limped in, immediately followed by Mark Wilson. Vessor looked at his Agent thoroughly. He thought he found her changed. She was more tense, paler. He winced inwardly. He had followed her recovery on file, not making the time to visit her in the hospital. But the difference between paper reports and a living person can be monumental. And he didn't like what he saw in front of him.

After everyone was seated, Vessor asked her politely about her health. Surprisingly, the fact that he even slipped in a small joke about her running the FBI mini-marathon fell on deaf ears. Nobody seemed to notice and he immediately recovered, changing back to his cold attitude as he asked her to tell them her story. She began, stopping now and then to recall some thoughts. During one of her pauses, she suddenly realized that Vessor had made a joke. Well... Totally atypical of Vessor. Had he also changed?

When she started to recount her attempted release by Eltee, her eyes started to tear up again, but she managed not to cry through sheer force of will.

All through her tale, the AD nodded and sometimes made quick notes, but never interrupted her. For him, the whole case was airtight. When she reached the end of her tale, Vessor nodded firmly and closed the binder in front of him.

"So you didn't see that machine you described hearing?"

"No Sir. As I said, either I was blindfolded, or I had to concentrate on...other things. And in the back room, there wasn't much to be seen."

Rhianna looked expectantly at the Head of New York's FBI Office. She wanted to know exactly what she'd stumbled upon. Vessor made a sign to Wilson who cleared his throat.

"Well, Agent Summer, when you stumbled upon Good Hope, you opened a can of worms. The truck stop itself was what it seemed to be, a nice place where road cowboys can take a rest. Even the special services some of the ladies offered were registered."

Rhianna looked wide-eyed at her boss who winked.

"The IRS showed us a report. Now where it gets interesting is in that garage behind that fence. The current owners of the location swear they didn't know anything illegal went on back there."

Wilson immediately stilled a bursting Rhianna, waving her down with his hands. "I know, I know it's hard to believe. But they swear every oath and are ready to take the case in front of the Grand Jury. And we
have no evidence."

"What about the Parker-Booth Lawyer?"

Vessor grinned. "Trent? Well, he is the attorney of a corporation that holds 40% of the company that owns Good Hope. When he was there, it was only to have a look at his clients' investment."

"Ridiculous!" Rhianna fumed.

"Prove the contrary!" Vessor shoot back.

Wilson shrugged.

"Word is this. Two mechanics rented that building, officially to work hand in hand with insurance companies. You see, accident fraud is a major problem for those companies. Someone fakes an accident, and that someone earns a new car. That would, in the owner's eyes, also explain the fence. So nobody could touch, steal or modify the evidence. That was also the reason why your friend's wrecked rental car was there."

Rhianna's head snapped around and with a high pitched voice she boldly interrupted her supervisor's report. "Do you know anything more about Maria Brown's disappearance?"

It was the AD who answered that one.

"Mrs. Brown is safe and at home. The very day you vanished, I received word from Mr. Booth. She had a car accident due to a hit and run driver. The county police are still looking for the guilty driver. Now, a day after that accident, a farmer showed up at a nearby hospital, telling them he'd found a woman in his barn. Without identification, she was admitted as 'Jane Doe'. She had head injuries due to hitting her head against the head rest, the side window, and head rest again. When she awoke, she couldn't remember where and who she was. As the doctors say, amnesia can be a common side effect with that kind of injury. Anyway, she didn't know who she was but the crash trauma faded off after a few days and she remembered. Her husband was called and he took her home a few days ago."

On cue, Wilson took over.

"That kind of business cover was not chosen on a lark, you know. It was done with a purpose. You stumbled onto the laundry department of a terrorist group. Their plan was a simple one. In that ex-military installation was a printing press, that was what you heard. The big rolls stacked in the room where you were held were the paper. They were printing counterfit money. Treasury, who by the way sends its thanks, estimates they had the potential to print several millions of US Dollars.

Now, what was done with these dollars? A fair exchange in their eyes. They printed the money, sent it to their suppliers who paid with arms. The plan was to flood the country with counterfit money, causing chaos, and then to take power with armed force. The arms were assembled in the military compound then trucked to Good Hope where the mechanics hid them in the wrecked cars. Those wrecks were then shipped all over the country to scrap merchants, members of the group. If stopped, they could show plenty of official papers, saying everything was legal."

James Vessor picked up the story with a tight smile on his lips.

"At their final destination, the arms were taken out of the cars. The wrecks got shredded and the arms distributed to the members. A perfect disguise for a terrorist group."

"But things went awry when you showed up." Wilson said. "Their boss, who is still on the loose, suspected you could have been more than you looked like."

Both Rhianna and Vessor looked up at that, the AD with his stern glance and Rhianna with a blush.

"It seems they had something like an unofficial warning telling them an undercover agent would show up. They increased the pace, trying to print as much money as possible. The paper, you see, was part of a shipment that was stolen earlier this year. They scrambled the major part of their local members to the compound, where they acted as a surveillance and security force. He kept you alive in hopes that you would give him the name of your information source."

Vessor leaned forward and looked straight into Wilson's eyes. This was a conclusion he hadn't heard before.

"You mean that we have a mole in the Bureau?"

Wilson nodded gravely. "It would seem so, Sir. Yes, I think it has to be."

The AD let the reply sink in, but when he opened his mouth to speak, a knock was heard and Brent Major came in.

Seeing the computer specialist, Vessor turned to Rhianna. "One last thing. About that mysterious friend of yours..."

Rhianna sat up straight in her chair. She supposed her boss would now make his apology for an action error, but nothing prepared her for the news that was to come.

"Freeing you was the first and only order of the day. Nobody knew about your friend, so you can't blame Agent Moreno. Even if I'd like to hammer some Service Rules straight into his thick skull. Only after you were safe did Redding and his team start recovering the bodies and analyzing their findings. Your friend, Agent Summer, was not recovered."

He waited for his words to sink in before he went on. Rhianna was now sitting painfully straight and didn't let him out of her sight.

"He simply wasn't there anymore. I told Mr. Major to join us."

He motioned the computer wiz to approach. The consultant did so, nodding at each person in the room. He didn't recognize the Agent who, boldly, had gotten information from him. She simply wasn't interesting enough, his mind already focused on the information he'd uncovered.

Seating himself near the end of the table where the controls for the projector were located, Brent Major started his report.

"From what Agent Summer here told our sketch artists, and from the blood samples that were taken, we were able to identify the man Agent Summer called 'Eltee'."

He pressed a button and a projector hummed to life, casting an image onto the wall.

It was Eltee's face, Rhianna noted, but he was much younger and without scars back then.

"No, it can't be."

Rhianna almost didn't hear the whispered denial by James Vessor. Jerking her head around, she had the rare satisfaction of seeing the Assistant Director's face pale and look perplexed. It was as if he had seen a ghost.

"It's not possible... He's dead."

Beside her, Mike Wilson gasped, his face also white as a sheet.

"The Livorno case." was all he could say.

-= / * \ =-

The file was color-coded with a green, a red and a black stripe. The green said it was a file from 'Internal Affairs', the red said it was highly classified and the black meant the subject was dead.

The front cover of the folder was labeled with a case number and a name: 'Peter V(incent) Livorno'.

After their initial surprise, Wilson was the first to recover. On Vessor's behalf, he had ordered the Livorno files to be delivered to the conference room. Wilson also took time to explain that case to Rhianna and Major.

"Peter Livorno was an Attorney General back then, based in New Orleans. He was a powerful man, uncompromising but fair. He had a bright future ahead. But then, sixteen years ago, he disappeared. Naturally we suspected a homicide. But we had no evidence, no corpse."

He rubbed his eyes and went on.

"I was a green Agent then, fresh from the Academy. We looked in every corner, turned every rock and stone. Quickly, we became suspicious of a local gang leader. But we couldn't prove anything. Until...until that man showed up. Lester Terence Halifax. I remember that case as if it happened yesterday.

Rhianna was rigid, but something warm wiggled through her. The mysterious man was not so mysterious anymore. He now had a name.

Lester Terence,

"Halifax was a fairly average guy. He owned a small camping park and was a good craftsman, endowed with skillful hands. He told us about a group who had rented one of his cabins. The cabin was searched and, three feet under the cabin floor, we discovered the mortal remains of James D. Livorno. The man who had rented the cabin was the gang leader.

Naturally Halifax became our star witness and was embedded into the witness protection program. The gang leader was taken into custody and it's then that things started to turn sour."

Vessor, who had remained silent until then gulped down the straight scotch he had taken from a cabinet and started to speak in a low voice.

"I was in Internal Affairs at that time. I am one of those who signed the report you see there. The leader's family claimed innocence. Nobody took care. Everyone claimed their innocence, but somebody went farther."

Vessor looked pained then leaned back in his chair.

"Halifax started to receive menacing letters, threatening him and his family. And that even though he was already in the witness program.

Someone burned the new name and IA started an inquiry. But things speeded up when the gang leader was murdered in his cell. The family went mad and screamed vengeance. In a hurry, Halifax, his wife, his sister and his three kids were given new names and a new home. But the secret held for less than a year. Then again everyone got burned. The kids got the quickest death. The car they used to take with their protecting Agent was blown up one morning. In the house we found both Halifax's wife and sister. The coroner's report said he could have written 'Amnesty International's Yearbook of Torture' from the bodies."

The AD went silent again, absently turning the empty glass in his fingers. Wilson sighed and closed the tale.

"Halifax's body could not be found. And the leader's family went into hiding. A few months later, we got one of the former Lieutenants from the band. He started to sang like a canary. He said they forced the man to watch the whole show, cutting and burning him as they tortured and killed his wife and sister. Around the same time, we recovered another corpse with similar burns, signs and scars. We believed the corpse to be Halifax and the case was closed."

For a moment, everyone was silent, then Rhianna turned to Vessor and asked, "What about the leader's source?"

Vessor turned in his armchair, indicating the meeting was over.

"We never found the mole in our house."

-= / * \ =-

Wilson had insisted on driving Rhianna home. It was a silent drive, both of them lost in their own thoughts.

No wonder Eltee - Rhianna couldn't think of him as Halifax - had lost confidence in the FBI. Being under their protection and yet seeing his family being tortured to death was unbearable. Tears rolled down her cheeks. No, that was something she wouldn't even wish on an enemy.

Arriving at Rhianna's address, Wilson helped her out of the car and she slowly made her way to the elevator but was stopped by Tom, the old security man and janitor of the building.

"Excuse me Miss Summer. I have something here for you."

He handed her a large parcel, held together only by a small ribbon. With indifference, Rhianna pushed the ribbon aside and opened the package. Her behavior changed though when she spotted the contents. Inside were some flowers, already starting to wilt, and an envelope.

Eagerly she tore the envelope open and read the note, silently weeping as she recognized the neat handwriting.
'Love at first sight,' some say, misnaming
Discovery of twinned helplessness
Against the huge tug of procreation.

But friendship at first sight? This also
Catches fiercely at the surprised heart
So that the cheek blanches and then blushes.

These words from Robert Graves are the mirror of my feelings for you. I know we can't be a couple, for I couldn't endure losing for a second time someone I love.
We have been lovers, and that is a sacred gift.
I hope we can remain friends. For friends are so very important in life.

Take care, Beautiful. Because if you don't, nobody will.

Again there was no signature and Rhianna abruptly turned to Tom who had been surprised by her reaction.

"Who brought this?"

The old man was unsure. "Is it bad news, Miss Summer?"

Wilson grasped the old man's arm. "Speak, man!"

"Well, there was this man, three days ago. Said he didn't have time to wait for you and asked if I could give this present to you when you returned from the hospital. He even gave me a generous tip. But even without a tip, I'd remember him."

"How so?"

"Well I've never seen a face so badly disfigured before."

Wilson and Summer looked at each other. "Anything else, Tom?"

The man scratched his balding head. "Funny, now that you mention it Miss Summer. There was this big gray dog with him, her rump covered by a gauze bandage. Just for a moment I thought it was a wolf."

The old man laughed.

"My eyes are starting to play tricks on me. A wolf. Have you ever heard about a wolf running in New York City?

-= / * \ =-

In the mountains on a hillside, a lonely man was standing. Not far away from him, two unconscious police officers were hanging upside down from a thick branch. They were the only guards he had spotted.

Thick clouds of smoke went up into the sky as the flames engulfed his hideout, his home for the past twelve years. The man looked at the fire for a moment more, then turned downhill.

He opened the door of the pickup he had borrowed and softly whistled. Seconds later, a big furry shadow emerged from the bushes and sat back on her haunches, looking through the door at the man.

Eltee looked into the intelligent eyes and said,

"Wolf, I have to find another hideaway. What do you think? Will you go with me?"

The wolf looked around, up to where the thick smoke was clearly seen behind the trees. Then she stared at Eltee. Finally she jumped up and took her place in the passenger seat.

Eltee rubbed the animal's neck and the wolf thanked him with a nudge.

"Well then, off we go."

He closed the door, started the truck and drove away.

End of 'To Catch a Friend'

RSA 'Good Hope': A Rhianna Summer Adventure

(c) 1999 by Jay Alam (jlm)