Redemption Song

by BlondeBard

Disclaimers: Xena and Gabrielle belong to MCA and Universal Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.

This story contains fairly graphic violence. It also contains a consensual relationship between two women. If this is not legal where you are, or you are not of age, then read another story.

The characters contained in this story are mine, and mine alone. Do not copy or distribute this story without my consent. Characters within this story bearing resemblance to persons dead or alive are unintended.

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Part 1

"Hey O'Reilly, we've got a new assignment," said John Taylor as he approached the young redhead's desk.

"Yeah? What is it this time? Transporting, seizing or protecting?" laughed the young woman as she absently brushed her reddish-blonde hair behind her ear.

"Looks like a little of everything," he responded sitting down across from her. He still wondered what brought the intelligent young woman to become a US Deputy Marshall when she could be so much more. But he always got the same response. 'I come from a long line of cops, it's in my nature.' "Well," he began, "this is pretty high profile this time. Seems we get to keep an eye on Tony 'The Blade' Ferenci until his trial against his former bosses the Ribisis'."

"How long until the trial?" she inquired.

"About four months."

"Great. So we get to baby-sit a known mob killer, get him safely to the trial and then place him in WITSEC? I really hate this part of the job. I feel as though I'm condoning one evil in order to condemn another."

"That's exactly what we are doing," John replied. "I don't like it any more than you do, but we let one go in order to get 10 or 20 others…it seems a fair trade."

"Fair for who? The ones he's killed?"

"C'mon kiddo, it's part of the job. It's not like we haven't been here before. Remember that creep Santangelo? He didn't deserve to lick the dirt off my shoes, but he helped us nab close to 40 members of the Lucia family." John hated the thought that Megan O'Reilly had become so cynical at such a young age. He knew that the job they did was not always glamorous and didn't always end with success, but he knew that the work they did was important and he hoped that she wasn't losing sight of that. "So what? We get to live off hotel food and enjoy creature comforts for 4 months…who could ask for better perks?"

"You're right. I guess I just think a criminal is a criminal, and they should have to pay for what they did." Megan knew that protecting witnesses in federal crimes was pretty much the most important part of her job. Without these people coming forward and testifying against their former bosses, they would still have entirely too many crime syndicates to deal with. Catching the little guy was pretty easy. Getting the big guys was the hard part. Some of the informants only turned when they realized that they would spend the rest of their lives in prison for the crimes they alone committed. A good portion of those placed in WITSEC, the Witness Security Program, more commonly known as the Witness Protection Program, went on to commit other crimes. It was also the job of the US Marshalls to recapture these criminals. It was just so disappointing when that eventuality arose. "When do we start?"

"Tomorrow," John told her. "We take custody of the witness in Ft. Lauderdale."

"Hmmm, old stomping ground for me," she replied. Having been raised in South Florida, the young Deputy Marshall knew the area pretty well. She hadn't been home for any extended period of time since she had left for college. Mostly she went back for holidays and family gatherings. Her family was very close and she didn't want to lose that. She kept some things to herself that she knew would make her family uncomfortable. Her younger brother Sean knew her secret, and she was pretty sure that her older sister Colleen did as well, but she wasn't ready to announce her lifestyle to her entire family in fear of alienating them all. Still, she knew it would feel good to go home again, even if she couldn't contact any of her family. And they would only know that she was on special assignment and could only be contacted through the Justice Department. Still, she would feel close to them, and she would contact them as soon as the trial was over.

Megan went home. Her small condo was comfortable and well appointed. She had all the creature comforts that she could want, and that she had time for. She called her father. "Hi Dad, how's Mom?"

"She's fine darlin', how are you?"

"Well, I just called to let you know that I'm going to be on special assignment again. You probably won't hear from me for about 4 months."


"Daddy, please don't start. You know what it's like. I can't contact anyone. I know how Mom is going to react, don't you start being like that too."

"Megan Siobhan, don't you talk to me like that."

"I'm sorry Daddy."

"You know your mother and I worry about you. I can't even imagine why you chose this career."


"Don't give me that 'it's in my blood thing'. I know your grandfather and your uncles and I were career cops, and I know your brothers followed, but you were different. You could have been a top-notch lawyer. And your sister didn't become a cop…"

"Yeah, but she married one. C'mon Dad, I don't think I can handle this lecture again. Please?"

"Okay…I won't, but you know your mother will. I just want you to be safe. I love you Megan."

"I love you too Daddy." The rest of the phone call went exactly as Megan's father predicted. Her mother tried to talk her out of going on her assignment. Tried to cajole her into following the career path that she had started on in college, mainly that of a lawyer. In the end, all that was accomplished was that Megan's mother was upset and Megan was irritated at being challenged yet again for her decisions.


John and Megan caught their flight to Ft. Lauderdale. It was uneventful and they spent the time swapping old stories. They arrived at the designated hotel and identified themselves. To their utter surprise, Tony 'The Blade' Ferenci, turned out to be amazingly gorgeous. He was in fact a she. Antonia Ferenci. They relieved their counterparts, bid them goodbye and began their duty. Their prisoner/witness was completely reticent. She didn't talk, and she hardly recognized that the guard had changed. She seemed to be content to sit in front of the TV and switch from channel to channel. They briefly introduced themselves getting merely a grunt in response.

This wasn't unusual when the witness was informing on mob or drug activity. The only witnesses that were talkative and polite were usually the ones caught in the middle of something bad. Those fairly innocent people, who didn't mean to stumble onto something awful, but had, and as a consequence, their lives were in danger. Those people who had seen something they shouldn't have, or had unknowingly participated in something illegal. But, they were all the same, in that they didn't want to be there, and they didn't really want to testify, and all were afraid for their lives and those of their loved ones.

This one, Megan thought, was unusual. She didn't seem to care one way or another. Megan wondered if she had family that might be easily threatened. That was the quickest way to get someone to change his or her testimony or not give it at all. And when she looked at this amazingly beautiful woman, she wondered what was in it for her. Yeah, sure, a new identity, no prosecution for crimes she had committed. But there seemed to be something more. This woman did not look like a killer. If she was, she must have been smooth. Her victims probably never saw it coming, probably never expected this woman to be their downfall. She wondered how many people the tall brunette had killed. Megan realized immediately that she had never been curious about her charges. But she was about this one. What made her tick? Megan wondered. How did she come to this life? What did she know about the family she was going to inform on? Was it just a bluff? It wouldn't be the first time they had been used by a criminal to get out of serving a sentence based on their own crimes. Several criminals had agreed to testify against the 'heads' of their organizations just to get out of serving time, and had condemned innocent…well not innocent, but people not guilty of the crimes they were accused, just to get a lighter sentence for themselves.

A few days passed and their charge was no more talkative than the first day. They spent each day as they usually did. One or the other of them would call in to headquarters at the Justice Department, and would report that their charge was safe. Megan tried to get her charge to talk, considering they would be spending the next four months together. Toni 'The Blade' Ferenci would give yes or no answers to most questions, but never volunteered anything about herself.


The fourth day with their charge began the same as the other three. US Deputy Marshalls John Taylor and his partner Megan O'Reilly ordered a fairly sizable breakfast from room service. Their 'prisoner' Antonia Ferenci wanted only coffee, and lots of it. They ate and drank in silence broken only by John and Megan's idle chatter. Late morning saw Toni in the bathroom, as was her usual habit. Megan stood ready outside the door, when a knock came.

"I'm there," announced John. Megan slid inside the bathroom, her gun at the ready. Upon her entry, Toni turned off the running water.

"What's going on?" she asked grabbing a towel.

"Not sure yet," Megan answered noting that the 6' tall Italian woman was as beautiful nude as she had envisioned.

"Who's there?" she heard John ask as he looked out the peephole.

"Room service," was the response.

"We didn't order room service," John replied. Before he could speak again to send them away, the sound of automatic gunfire erupted. Megan immediately forced Toni down into the tub and dove in on top of her. She knew that John had been hit when she heard him cry out. She could only hope that it was superficial, but doubted that it was since he had been standing in front of the door. The sounds of two distinct weapons could be heard as the door to the bathroom shattered above their heads and bullets danced off the enamel tub. Then she heard the unmistakable sound of John's service revolver and a cry as he hit one of the assailants. Another burst of gunfire, and then silence.

She waited only a couple of heartbeats before the bathroom door was slowly pushed open. As far as the attacker could see, no one was in the room, as Megan had closed the curtain over the tub. The only thing visible was the bullet holes riddled into the curtain and the shattered porcelain toilet, which had emptied its contents onto the floor. As he turned to investigate further into the hotel suite, Megan pumped two shots into him…one in the chest, the other in the head. He dropped without a sound. Megan paused to listen for other sounds. The only ones she could make out were the sounds of other hotel guests opening their doors to investigate. Then she heard a woman screaming incoherently from outside of the room. She indicated for Toni to stay put and moved forward to investigate. She stepped over the attacker she had shot, checking quickly for a pulse and swung herself low into the room. The first person she saw was John. His back and legs almost unrecognizable from the hail of bullets he had taken. It was obvious that he was dead. Bile began to rise in her throat, but she choked it back knowing that she had to secure the scene. She made her way slowly to the bedroom door of the hotel suite. Like the bathroom door, it had pretty much been disintegrated. Cautiously she stepped in and found the other attacker. He was down, blood pouring from two bullet wounds to his upper chest. Keeping her gun trained on him she kicked the automatic away. She knelt down next to him to feel for a pulse and found none. Megan secured the scene quickly pulling the service cart they used into the room. She flashed her badge and identified herself as a US Deputy Marshall and ordered the milling hotel guests back to their rooms.

Megan could hear the sirens of several police cars. That was to be expected after all the noise from the gunfire. She turned to see Toni; clad only in a towel, kneeling over the body of the attacker she had shot. She was feeling for a pulse and at the same time reaching for his fallen weapon.

"Freeze! Step away from the gun!" yelled Megan as she trained her own on Toni.

"Okay, okay…don't shoot Deputy. I just got a little nervous. I don't like feeling unprotected," she said with a slight smile as she backed away from the automatic, her hands in the air. As she backed away, her movements caused the towel to slide from her still glistening body. She noted with a smile the look on Deputy O'Reilly's face at the sight of her nude form.

Megan stopped dead in her tracks and had to swallow a couple of times before she was able to speak. Toni's body was absolutely perfect. Her olive skin was still shining from the shower she had just stepped out of. Her arms, legs and abdomen were tight and extremely toned. She bore no tan lines, and her nipples stood erect, Megan assumed from the chill of the hotel air conditioning. Finally she found her voice. "Get dressed, we're going to have company soon."

"Yes ma'am," Toni replied, winking at Megan.

Megan's knees suddenly felt weak as she followed Toni into the suite's bedroom, making sure she didn't go near the other gun. She wasn't sure if she felt this way because the adrenaline had stopped coursing through her after the events of the last 15 minutes, or because the sight of this completely uninhibited, but very dangerous woman had excited her so quickly. Probably a combination of both she guessed.


The hours following the attack went very quickly. Megan gave her statement to the US Marshall in charge of the local field office. As it turned out, John Taylor should have known that the 'hotel employee' that came to the door was not legitimate, because they received room service from carefully placed Deputy Marshalls. It appeared however, that he realized his error too late. As it was, Toni Ferenci knew the identities of the two attackers. They were she said, 'two of the best hit-men on the Ribisi payroll.' Soon after, they boarded a plane and were placed in a hotel near to the Justice Department headquarters in Arlington, VA. Three other deputies were assigned to help guard their charge.

Megan knew two of them, Bob Evers and Jack Robinson. She had worked with both over the years. The third she did not know, Jane Littleton. Her record showed that she was with the Baltimore field office for the last two years. Megan wasn't sure why, but she had a sinking feeling about this particular assignment. She no longer trusted any of her fellow officers, and insisted that she be the one in the hotel bedroom while Toni Ferenci slept. She too would sleep at that time, but it was a restless, uneasy sleep, her gun ever at the ready. After nearly two weeks, Megan was feeling rather haggard, but she knew she had to keep up her guard. She oversaw everything that Toni ate or drank, making sure that it was sealed or had been delivered by a Deputy Marshall.

She was having the same nightmare, seeing John's body riddled with bullets, blood pooling around him when something caused her to awake. She quietly climbed from the bed and noted that Toni had done the same. They arranged pillows on the two beds to make them appear occupied and huddled behind the farthest one. Again, the sound that had awakened her, the dull thwack of a silenced gun, or one silenced by a pillow. As they waited, Megan felt the sweat begin to trickle down her body. She crouched low by the edge of the bed to have a good view of the door. Nearly a minute passed before the door slowly began to open. The room beyond was dark and Megan was unable to make out just who was entering. She saw the red laser pointer focus on the bed she had previously occupied and heard two rounds squeeze off. She aimed her own gun where she thought the assailant's head would be and fired four shots from her own silenced weapon. She heard a grunt and the unmistakable thud as the attacker was thrown back. Cautiously she made her way to the open doorway.

She stepped to the body feeling for a pulse and found none. She then moved as quietly as she could across the suite to find the lights, knowing that the other two deputies were likely dead. When she switched on the lights, she was somewhat shocked to find the bodies of Jane Littleton and Bob Evers. A bullet directly to the brain had killed each. The assailant that she had shot was Jack Robinson; his face had been obliterated by two of the four rounds she had fired.

Megan's suspicions were confirmed in her mind. Someone on the inside, perhaps in the Justice Department itself was trying to silence Antonia Ferenci. She turned back to the bedroom knowing that the situation was in her hands alone. Unlike the last attack, the gunfire had attracted no undue attention. She was about to instruct Toni to dress, but found her already throwing clothes on.

"We need to get out of here," she instructed her charge.

"I'll say. This situation is getting to be too close for comfort," Toni replied as Megan grabbed the keys to the car she knew was in the hotel parking garage.

"We need to get to someplace safe so I can figure out what the hell is going on," Megan instructed. She led Toni down towards the parking garage using the stairs instead of the elevator. They used the exit by the pool instead of the main lobby and made their way towards the waiting car. Toni was somewhat surprised when Megan gave her the car keys and instructed her to drive. She realized that it was so that the attractive young Deputy could have both her hands free to draw her weapon.

Not knowing who to trust anymore, Megan gave Toni directions to her own condo, just outside the city limits. She knew that they would have some small amount of time before the situation was known. Once there she directed Toni into the bathroom. She then indicated that she was going to cuff Toni to the sink fixture. She would have access to water and to the facilities while Megan was gone. She then cleared the bathroom of all of its contents. Everything from shampoo, medicine, soaps and even towels.

"Deputy O'Reilly, what exactly do you think I'm going to be up to while you are gone? Despite the fact that people are trying to kill me, I don't have a death wish. I very much want to live through this. Why would I have turned myself in otherwise?"

"I don't know," Megan admitted. "But I'm not taking any chances."


On her way to the Justice Department headquarters, Megan pondered the situation. It was true what Toni Ferenci said. She had turned herself in. And although they had been trying, there was no evidence to connect her with any of the murders or other activities that had garnered her this fierce reputation. They called her Toni 'The Blade' because it was known that it was her preferred method of killing her rivals or others that had crossed her. But it was also true, that had she not turned herself in, they would not currently have a witness willing to bring down the Ribisi family. It was also glaringly apparent that the Justice Department had someone on the inside. She wasn't sure if it ended with Jack Robinson. It made her angry and ill at the thought of having worked so closely with someone that was corrupt, or at least easily bought. Although Jack hadn't been with her on the first assignment, it was still possible that he could have had access to where they were first holed up. On the other hand, it was still possible that Jack was newly bought and that there was someone else behind the scenes pulling strings. She knew that she had to trust someone, and she decided that that someone would be her boss Frank Tate. Although she had only been with the department five years, he had been the one to interview and hire her. His record showed that he had been with the Justice Department, and specifically the US Marshalls for the better part of 20 years.

But, length of service was nothing to go on, since Jack Robinson had been with the Marshalls for over 12 years, she knew she had to confide in someone. It was her sworn duty to get this witness to trial in little over three months, and she would be damned if she didn't try her hardest to accomplish this. She had lost only one witness in her five years. She and John Taylor were escorting their witness into the courthouse in Pennsylvania to testify against local drug kingpins, when one Sergio Alvarez opened fire killing two reporters and their witness. He was subdued and in exchange for his own testimony against his former bosses was given a new identity and a new life. Megan had been hit that time, but luckily for her, she was wearing her armored vest. The impact however had knocked her off her feet and left her gasping for breath, unable to move. She had spent four days in the hospital and still bore a small scar just above her right breast from the blow.

She reflected over the past two weeks. Toni Ferenci had finally started speaking to her in more than monosyllabic grunts. A couple of days after they had been moved, as they were preparing for bed, Toni offered her sympathies on the loss of Megan's partner. Megan had been extremely upset and the offhand remark had made her angry.

"What do you care?" she snapped. "You're still alive aren't you?"

"Look, no matter what you may think, I do care. I don't want to see anybody else hurt because of me. I'm trying to do something right for once in my life…okay?"

Something in Megan softened. The voice she heard held not only genuine sympathy, but also an undercurrent that begged forgiveness. "I'm….I'm sorry. John was very special to me. I still have nightmares about it."

"I know. I hear you at night Megan." This had been the first time that she had heard Toni call her by her given name instead of Deputy, and it sent chills down her spine. It sounded so right coming from the former mobster; she nearly sank to her knees and sobbed at her partner's loss. Instead she sat heavily down on the bed and put her face in her hands. It was the first time she had cried since John had been killed. A few seconds later she was wrapped in strong arms as she let some of the pain go.

"It's okay...I know. I know. Let it go. I've got you." As simple as that, Megan had never felt so protected. She knew that Toni's sympathy was real and that she wanted nothing more than to feel those arms around her forever. She was still not sure how long she sat there quietly crying, but when she was spent, Toni had eased her back onto her bed and tucked her in, giving her a light kiss on the forehead, and then climbed into her own bed and the moment was past.

Over the next week and a half they had gotten to know each other a little better. Megan already knew as much about Toni as her profile allowed. Raised in Brooklyn by Antonio and Carlotta Ferenci, she was an only child. Carlotta had died of colon cancer when Toni was 14. Antonio had died three years ago in what appeared to be a mob-related hit. Toni had graduated Valedictorian of her high school class. She maintained a 4.0 GPA, was in the Honor Society, and played softball, volleyball, and basketball, lettering in all three sports. She applied and was accepted to the University of Syracuse, and was majoring in Liberal Arts. She received her Bachelors Degree in 1990 and continued to take courses until the fall of 1992.

Toni revealed to her that when she was in her sophomore year that she became immersed in her father's business. That of bookmaking specifically. She began to sell football cards around campus. It gave her a bit of income and provided what she considered a service to the student body, particularly the fraternity boys. It wasn't a big deal until a couple of the students reneged on their bets, thinking they had nothing to fear from a woman. Her father's boss sent a couple of 'the boys' to relay a proper message to their bettors. After that, it was easy income.

Megan was worried. 'Hell, that's the understatement of the century,' she thought. She still wasn't sure what she was going to tell Frank Tate. She wondered if she should tell him that others had taken Toni Ferenci who were in on the plan with Jack, and just hide Toni herself. She knew that plan wasn't feasible. She couldn't very well keep Toni cuffed to her bathroom sink, especially if they decided to send her off on another assignment. She just had to hope that Frank wasn't a part of this whole mess. Besides, despite her better judgment, she really liked Toni Ferenci. Not only was she gorgeous and sexy, but she believed that the former mobster had a genuinely good heart. Since John's death, she had awoken several times from nightmares to find Toni holding and soothing her until she had calmed. By far, being held in Toni's arms had been the best feeling she had ever experienced in her life.


'Great,' thought Toni, 'I'm chained to a sink. How low can you go?' She hoped that Megan wouldn't take to long. She was uncomfortable, but knew she would live. She ran her mind over the course of events that had led her to this place in her life. It had all seemed so harmless at first.

It wasn't long before the Ribisi family wanted to know how Antonio Ferenci had nearly tripled his income. He finally revealed that his daughter was following in his footsteps and that the income was coming from the University students. The Ribisis were intrigued. They made an offer to Antonio Ferenci's daughter that she could hardly refuse. She was to continue her part in the gambling efforts of the students and she would be compensated appropriately. She realized then that she would make a lot more money with this business venture than she could pursuing her dream, to become a writer.

The Ribisis took quite an interest in young Toni Ferenci. They insisted she become aquatinted with firearms and other methods of self-defense. She took it all in stride and learned from them. Finally there came a time when they decided that she had to prove her loyalties. A very promising young basketball player was in debt to them for nearly $5000. They quietly grabbed him coming home from class one evening. They insisted Toni be present for the 'ultimatum'. He had two choices at this point, being unable to pay off the debt. He could forfeit his kneecaps, or forfeit the next game. At the time, Syracuse was a shoe in for the Final Four. The young man opted for throwing the game. Syracuse did not make the Final Four, but the Ribisis made a killing. It was the first, but not the last time Toni would be witness to such an event. The next time it happened was a senior fullback. He decided to call their bluff, thinking that no one would hurt him considering he was very well known. They insisted that Toni do the honors. Reluctantly she took a sledgehammer to his knees. They doused him with beer and alcohol and put him into a car, which they ran into an embankment, making it look as though he had been in a drunk driving accident. Despite the young man's protests no one was able to prove that he had been harmed otherwise.

Toni continued for the next several years doing as she was bid. She neither questioned it nor did she really care. She didn't like being a part of the violence, but she saw where it was necessary to maintain discipline. No one was going to take you seriously unless you backed up your threats. And if one person got away with it, then others would think they could too. Toni began to realize that she could not continue pursuing academics while carrying on her 'business affairs'. So she dropped out of college in the fall of 1992.

For nearly four years she continued her 'career'. Until her father was killed. The Family assured her it was a hit from a rival syndicate, the Baldaccis, but she wasn't convinced. She however, kept this suspicion to herself. For the last three years she towed the Family line. If they said jump, she asked how high? If they asked her to take care of a threat, she did. The Ribisis were pleased, and thought that they had in their possession the perfect weapon against their rivals, one cunning and dangerous woman, that they assumed was motivated by vengeance against her father. All the while, she was compiling evidence against her current employers. She was sure that a rival family had not murdered her father, and that he was actually murdered for some other reason. So she stayed, and listened, and after getting one of the 'made men' drunk one night with promises to keep him occupied until morning, she heard a nearly incoherent confession from the man. The Ribisis suspected her father of skimming off the top. She knew this not to be true. She and her father were very close, they talked about everything, and considering she had gone into the 'Family business', had he been stealing from the Ribisis, he would have told her.

About a month ago, she was called in front of Leonardo Ribisi himself. He informed her that they had a spy in their midst. Her heart had stopped. She was sure they had her figured out. He surprised her by telling her that he was impressed by her loyalty. That she didn't abandon the family after her father's murder by the Baldaccis. And that they had found the spy. Again, her heart stopped beating. She had no idea what to say to defend herself, so kept quiet. Leonardo Ribisi surprised her by saying it was Salvatore Mancuso, and that he desired her to carry out the hit. Her heart caught in her throat. Sal was one of her best friends, if she ever really had any. To think that he was a spy was nearly ludicrous. He was so loyal to the family that even she didn't dare speak her mind to the one person she was really close to. Of course she agreed wholeheartedly. No one could be allowed to darken the Ribisi name, and if it were her duty, she would carry it out. Her guts had roiled inside, and she was sure she was going to lose it, but she choked it back, knowing that if she didn't get out alive, they would get away with everything, and she would not have her own vengeance.

The next day she was escorted to a warehouse commonly used by the Family. Inside Sal was tied up tighter than a Christmas goose. He had obviously been beaten pretty severely, but was clearly still alive. Her escorts were the two men who had come after her during the first attack. She told them to leave, that she would get the information out of the traitor on her own. Reluctantly they did so, after she assured them that they would get to witness his death. After they had moved far enough away that they could not hear their conversation, Toni began.

"Sal…why?" she pleaded.

"I didn't…T..Toni…I…I would never…" he gasped. It was hard for him to speak with his swollen mouth and broken teeth impeding him.

"I swear I won't tell," she told him, gently holding his broken body. "Who did you inform?"

"No…no one…I swear it on my mother's grave," his speech slurred.

"Then why?"

"I don't know. They're paranoid. So…so sure that someone will catch up…" he stopped and began coughing, she held him until it passed. "So sure that someone will tell their secrets."

"Tell me Sal…tell me what I should do."

"Release me Toni," he rasped as his coughing began again. "Do it. I'd rather, rather you did it than one of them." They both knew that pleading for his life would do neither of them any good. But Toni hated what she was being asked to do. Sal wanted her to end his life, to end his suffering. She eased his battered face up and gently looked him in the eyes. The resolution she saw helped her make her decision. She had to help him, and the only way was death. And she had to get out. She had enough information at this point to at least bring down some of the Family.

"I love you Sal, know that. Your death won't be in vain. I promise." She kissed him lightly on the cheek and then stepped back. She motioned for the goons to step forward.

"He didn't tell me anything. He maintains that he did not tell anyone about the Family. Are you sure that we have the right guy?" she asked, trying one last time to spare her friend.

"We're sure. That's what the boss said. Are you questioning him?" This came from the larger of the two, Carlo San Angelo.

"No," Toni replied, not missing a beat. "But I thought he would want some information before we capped him. For someone who is about to die, he is pretty sure that he gave nothing away. The fear of death usually makes the weak cry out. And he isn't saying a word. Only wondering why he was pointed at."

"It was that whore of his," replied the smaller of the two, Juan Alberto. "She talked a mile a minute about what he was up to, when you gave her a few bucks."

Probably, Toni reflected, after you had beaten her half to death. She knew Rosita. And despite the fact that she was indeed a prostitute, she seemed to keep exclusive company with Sal when he had started seeing her. And it wasn't like he had tons of money to keep her off the streets, but Toni had noticed that she no longer saw Rosita on her usual corner after Sal started coming around. Rosita was a sweet girl, who had succumbed to her circumstances. She had to get by somehow, but it seemed that she genuinely cared for Sal. Toni was sure that if she tried to find Rosita now, she would find that the girl had suddenly disappeared or had conveniently turned up dead.

"Rosita…" Sal mumbled. Carlo stepped up and swung his arm back to hit him in the face, when his hand was stopped in mid air.

"He's mine," said Toni firmly as she held his arm. He glared at her but backed down immediately. "Sal, one last chance," she intoned as she turned his face up to hers. "Who did you talk to?"

"No one, no one, I swear it!" She knew he spoke the truth, but there was nothing more she could do. She looked him directly in the eyes and placed her blade against his neck. "Vengeance is mine," she said to him and winked. Then she took his life.

Sitting chained to Megan O'Reilly's bathroom sink, Toni found that her eyes were filled with tears and the pain made her chest hurt. "I'm doing this for you Sal, and you too Pop," she said to no one.


Megan entered the headquarters of the US Marshalls. Her ID was given a thorough check before she was allowed to pass. She went quickly to the tiny office she had shared with John. Immediately her eyes filled up, and tears ran unchecked down her face. Just the thought of John made her feel hollow and guilty. It was survivor's guilt she realized. He had died, and she had survived, and no matter how often she told herself that it wasn't her fault, she knew that some small part of her would always carry this shame. She absently wiped the tears from her face and picked up her secure line and dialed her boss, Frank Tate. He picked up after only two rings.

"Tate here," he answered. His voice was heavy with sleep.

"Frank, it's Megan O'Reilly. We've had another situation."

"I'll be there in ten minutes," he responded hanging up the phone.

Megan reached across her desk to John's and picked up the picture he kept there. It was a family photo with John, his wife Emily, and their twin daughters Laura and Kelly. The girls were the pride of John's life. Both had recently graduated from George Washington University and had both been accepted to John's Hopkins University. They wanted to be doctors, and they never seemed to want to be apart from each other. She had attended their graduation with John and his wife. John had been like a surrogate father for her. Although she had friends in the department, she had really only been close to John. She had often attended back yard barbecues at John and Emily's invitation. Suddenly she became angry. She had been unable to attend John's funeral because of her duties. She had sent flowers and a long, hand-written note to Emily apologizing for not being there. She hoped someday that she would be able to sit down with Emily and talk about John. There was so much she wanted to say about him, and she hoped that Emily would forgive her this slight. She started to put the picture down, then decided that she wanted to keep it. It would help her feel close to John.

Megan was startled out of her thoughts when Frank Tate entered the room.

"What happened?" he asked.

Megan pointed to her ear and then looked around the room. Frank understood the signal.

"Let's go," he acknowledged and led her down the long corridor to his office. He quietly picked up the scanner that would allow him to check his office for listening devices. After several minutes he was satisfied that his office was clear and motioned for Megan to sit.

"You are going to want to send a team over to the hotel," she started. She explained the events as completely and clearly as she could remember them and Frank listened patiently to her account. When she finished, he finally spoke.

"This is not good. It appears that we have an informer in our midst."

"That's pretty much what I was thinking," Megan replied.

"Where is Toni Ferenci now?"

"I have her stashed at another hotel," Megan lied as she reached for a pad and pen from Frank's desk. Quickly she wrote her charge's whereabouts. Frank nodded his agreement at her tactics. He took the pad from her hand and wrote while he spoke.

"And you left Antonia Ferenci alone?"

"Yes, but I have her handcuffed to the bed."

"I'm taking you off this case Megan and reassigning you." He handed her back the note pad, which stated just the opposite. Megan swallowed hard before she was able to read what he wrote. She smiled at his trust in her. He indicated for her to give him back the pad and began to write again.

"I understand sir. I'm sorry if I let you down."

"Not at all O'Reilly, things are just getting out of hand. I'm going to assign some more seasoned Marshalls to the case. But don't worry, your record will still be exemplary. You go home and get some rest. I will let you know your new assignment tomorrow." With this he handed her the notepad with her new instructions on it. "Where is our charge?"

"At the Holiday Inn downtown. Room 144," she lied.

"Okay, I'm going to put some men on it immediately. You're dismissed," he said, but indicated that she remain in her seat. He walked across the room and made a display of loudly opening and closing the door. Satisfied he admonished her to remain silent as he went back to his desk. He logged onto his console and set his plan in motion. He dispatched a team to the Marriott to clean up the mess Jack Robinson had left behind. Then he dispatched another to room 144 of the Holiday Inn. A few more transactions and he was set. Once he was done, he indicated that Megan should follow him. He left the office, locking the door behind him. When they were halfway down the corridor, Frank stopped Megan and whispered for her to leave before him, but wait in the parking garage.

Megan did as she was instructed. She signed out and headed for her car, still clutching the notepad, and John's picture. She read and reread the note he had given her, and she beamed with pride. The protection of Toni Ferenci would now be in her hands alone. Just as she began to get nervous, Frank appeared. He handed her a large manila envelope.

"Instructions are inside. Good luck Megan," he added sincerely.

"Thank you sir. I won't let you down." She climbed behind the wheel and headed back to her home. She kept a careful watch in her rearview mirror, and took several detours instead of a straight route. Satisfied that she wasn't being followed, she headed home.


Upon returning, Megan discovered Toni asleep. She made some noise as she dropped her keys so that she wouldn't startle her by approaching too quickly. Toni jerked her head up at the noise.

"It's about time," she said gently, not really angry with the young Deputy.

"Sorry," Megan replied as she bent to unlock the handcuffs. "It took longer than I expected."

"So, what's the verdict? Where do I get stashed next?"

"Not sure yet," Megan told her, as she took the key from around her neck. Toni had wondered what it was for, when Megan opened the hall closet door and removed a small metal box. She used the key to open it, and put her cuffs and her service revolver inside and then locked it, replacing the key around her neck.

"I wondered what that was for," Toni stated, her blue eyes twinkling.

"Just habit. I have several nieces and nephews who get to visit on occasion, plus my dad used to keep his gun locked up as well," she shrugged.

"Are you sure you will be safe here alone with me Deputy?" Toni teased.

Megan looked at Toni, noting the amusement in her smile. "Well, I guess since both our futures depend on it, it looks as though I'm going to have to learn to trust you," she smiled back.

"Touché," Toni laughed lightly. "I guess that's why you decided to unfetter me? And here I was beginning to think you were going to keep me locked up as your sex slave," she naughtily added as she watched Megan blush.

'Don't think I hadn't thought of that,' Megan mused to herself, delighted at the easy banter that Toni was sharing with her. "Unfortunately, this year's supply of whips and chains were cut from the budget," she responded seriously and then grinned when Toni blushed at her comment.

"Are you hungry?" Megan asked, quickly changing the subject before she lost control.

"Sure, what have you got?"

"Well," Megan replied moving towards the refrigerator, I'm sure there are some frozen dinners in here. I don't usually eat at home much, and I'm not really a very good cook," she admitted. Toni eyed her choices and selected a turkey and gravy dinner, while Megan pulled out frozen lasagna.

"That stuff will kill ya, you know," Toni said indicating the lasagna. "I'll have to make you a real lasagna sometime," she remarked. Megan was immediately delighted at the idea that Toni wanted to cook for her and her response was genuine.

"I'd really like that Toni," she said as she peeled back the appropriate pieces of cellophane over Toni's entrée and slipped it into the microwave. She then sat down at her kitchen table and opened the envelope that her boss had given her. She pulled out a hand-written sheet and began to read. It contained her instructions. She was to keep her charge on the move until January 17th, which was the trial date. She had been given full discretion as to their whereabouts. She was to keep her boss Frank informed of their continuing good health by placing ads in the Miami Herald personals once a week under the heading of 'Looking for Love'. If she felt they were in immediate danger, she was instructed to call Frank at home, and if unable to reach him, to leave a message saying that she was his niece Lucy and needed his help, leaving a number where she could be reached. The envelope also contained 10 credit cards, and 10 drivers licenses bearing Megan's photo, and three more bearing Toni's likeness. She sat staring at the materials in front of her when the beeping of the microwave suddenly startled her. Jumping up, and scooping the ID's back into the envelope, Megan realized that Toni was no longer within her sight. She quickly looked around and found Toni studying her CD collection.

"Dinner's ready," Megan informed her, pulling her turkey dinner out and inserting her own. She retrieved a fork, knife and napkin and sat it down at the kitchen table. Toni sat down at the table and began to eat. "Did you want to hear some music?" Megan offered.

"Sure, but I'm apparently not up on the latest offerings," Toni told her.

"I'll pick something," Megan said as she headed for her entertainment center. She realized then that she was really nervous. It wasn't the kind of nervousness she felt when she found herself in a bad situation, not even the edgy nervousness she felt when she had become sure that this assignment was in danger, it was more like the nervousness one felt when on a first date. She wanted to impress Toni, but she wasn't entirely sure why. She chose her favorite Cranberries CD making sure the volume wasn't up too high, then returned to the kitchen table. She watched as Toni gingerly ate her frozen dinner, and was suddenly embarrassed when she realized that it was probably the worst meal that Toni had ever eaten. And they spoke at the same time.

"She has a beautiful voice…"

"I'm sorry about the food…" They looked at each other for a moment and began to laugh.

"You first," prompted Toni.

"I'm sorry about dinner," Megan began. "I usually eat out."

"Don't worry about it. I've had a lot worse, believe me."

"I guess I just thought…"

"What? That I dined at five star restaurants every night?"

"Yeah, something like that."

"C'mon, you went to college didn't you? Think student commissary." Megan reflected for a moment and they both began to laugh again as the microwave announced that her dinner was now ready. Megan started on her meal and then began to wonder what real lasagna tasted like. Not the kind you got from a restaurant, actually she admitted to herself, she wondered what Toni's lasagna tasted like, and realized that the one she was eating was sorely lacking. To top it off, this had been one of her favorite microwave meals up until this moment. They continued eating in silence for a few minutes.

"So, where do we go from here?" Toni asked.

"It seems that it is up to me," Megan informed her. "The boss apparently agrees with me, that there might be a further leak in the department, and he has handed me the task of keeping you safe until the trial. He's going to arrange it so that it appears I'm on another assignment. I'm not really sure how he is going to explain your disappearance though. He does have options. He can say that you were taken following the last attempt. My guess is that that is what he is probably going to do. Well, that's what I would do anyway."

"Are we staying here?"

"No. I'm not sure that it will be safe beyond tonight. Once the events are revealed, if there is still someone on the inside, I'm sure they will come sniffing around here. Hopefully, whatever Frank set up for me will work to distract them. After that, I get to choose where we go. My only instructions were to basically keep you on the move."

Toni smiled. "It sounds like quite an adventure."

"Hopefully, one with a happy ending," Megan smiled shyly back. Toni rose to dispose of her plate.

"Where's the garbage can?" she asked.

"Under the sink," Megan replied before realizing that her 'guest' was cleaning up after herself. She jumped up and took control. "I'll get this." Megan took the empty container from Toni and their hands brushed together. She suddenly felt that weak-kneed thing again and hoped it didn't show on her face. Megan threw her own half-eaten dinner out and quickly washed the utensils and placed them in the drainer. Toni opened her refrigerator, obviously looking for something to drink. Inside she found several bottles of Pepsi, a couple bottles of water, a dozen bottles of Molson Ice and a couple of bottles of an orange drink with green lizards on them. She hesitated for a moment and then selected a beer.

"Any good?" she asked, then suddenly realized that Megan wouldn't have a twelve pack in the refrigerator if she didn't think they were good.

"Yeah, it's my 'at home' choice. Here," Megan said as she handed her a bottle opener.

"You want one?"

"Sure…please." Toni opened two bottles and handed one to Megan. Just before they sat down, Megan realized that the CD had ended. She crossed the room and hesitated, before choosing another. She didn't want to overwhelm Toni with her penchant for Irish tunes, so she settled on a Concrete Blonde CD. She returned to the kitchen table where Toni was sitting, sipping her beer.

"Not bad," allowed Toni. She preferred Corona, but had never had this particular brand. "So, do you have a destination in mind?" she asked.

"Yeah, but I'd like it to be a surprise," she stated shyly.

"Okay," Toni agreed. She listened for a few moments at the song coming from the stereo, taking in the chorus.

I got the ways and means to New Orleans,

I'm going down by the river where it's warm and green,

I'm going to have a drink and walk around,

I got a lot to think about, oh yeah…oh yeah…

"A vampire song huh? Reminds of that movie, Interview With The Vampire."

"Yeah, I was pretty pissed when the movie came out. I thought for sure that they would use this song for the opening or at least the closing track, but they didn't. It was so perfect for that film."

"You're right. Now that I've heard it, I see what you mean. Are you an Anne Rice fan?"

"Kind of. I didn't like Interview With The Vampire, but I did like the next one, The Vampire Lestat. And I really liked The Mummy."

"My favorites have to be the Sleeping Beauty series," said Toni. Megan blushed deeply. She had been thinking the same thing, but hadn't wanted to say it out loud. "You too, huh?" Toni laughed.

"Yeah," Megan replied unwilling to meet Toni's eyes. She was terribly afraid that the thoughts she had been having lately about the woman sitting across from her were in no way reciprocated, and that if their eyes met, Toni would know just exactly what she had been thinking. "What about you?" she asked. "What do you like to read?"

"Pretty much, everything. Except romance novels. I abhor them. That unrealistic treacle gets on my nerves. It irks me that Danielle Steel can pump out ten novels a year, and people flock around them. I don't understand what the attraction is. Her characters are so one dimensional, yet she is on the best seller list every time she writes something. I used to love Stephen King. But lately I've been somewhat disillusioned. His stuff used to scare and shock me, now it is just as predictable as anyone else's stories. Same thing with Michael Crighton. His stuff had the impact of something that could be completely possible, and then he got a little too commercial." Toni stopped talking. She realized that she had totally gone off into her own little private rant, and was suddenly embarrassed. Megan seemed to be rapt by her ramblings, but she was sure that she was just being polite. "And you? What do you read?" she asked trying to take the spotlight off of herself.

"Well, one of my favorites has always been Jean Auel's series. You know, Clan of the Cave Bear, Valley of Horses…" she paused thinking that Toni had no idea just what books she was talking about. "I have forever loved The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and all of its sequels. Every time I read them, I laugh out loud. People think I'm a lunatic, so I've taken to reading them only at home," she chuckled.

Toni noticed that they had both finished their beers. It was nearly 5am and she was tired and unable to stifle a yawn. Megan realized this at the same time.

"We should get some sleep," she told Toni, "we are going to have a pretty busy day ahead of us."

She took their empty bottles and put them in the garbage. Toni was not really sure where she should go. The condo had only one bedroom as far as she could tell. "You take the bedroom," Megan suggested. "I've got the couch."

"Okay," Toni responded. As she approached the bedroom, she saw that it was taken up by a king-sized bed. Upon entering Toni felt suddenly lonely. "I really hate to put you out," she offered, "I could sleep on the couch."

"Don't worry about it," Megan replied, "I fall asleep out here a lot."

"What I mean to say…well this bed is huge…and I would feel more comfortable if you slept in the same room." She hadn't meant for it to sound like a come on, and hoped that it hadn't. But over the last couple of weeks she had become used to the sound of Megan's light snoring, and somehow that had been soothing. She knew that someone was nearby, and it made going to sleep a lot easier. She stripped down to her bra and panties, as she usually did, hoping that Megan would say something, and soon. She was nearly startled when Megan walked into the room.

"Are you okay?" she asked, her voice genuine.

"I'm sorry," Toni admitted. "I guess I just got used to knowing that you were nearby."

"Oh," Megan conceded. "Well, the bed is big enough for both of us," she paused. "Are you really sure you want me to stay?"

"Yes," she responded, hoping it didn't sound as eager as it had come out.

"Okay," Megan said. She began to take off her jeans and shirt. She took off her bra, her back to the bed as she reached into her drawer for her nightshirt, a large Harvard jersey. She pulled it on over her head, never noticing that Toni's bright blue eyes never left her. She quickly climbed into the vacant side of the bed although she preferred the other side. "Goodnight Toni."

"Goodnight Megan."


Megan had her nightmare. Only this time when she crouched over John's body he opened his eyes and spoke. "Where were you kiddo? You left me behind." Megan had tried to back away from him but his icy hands gripped her. The harder she pulled away the tighter his hold became. Emily and the twins stepped through the doorway. "Come by Saturday for a barbecue Megan," Emily said. "No Mom!" the twins cried in unison. "She's the reason Daddy is dead," they continued pointing at her. "She let me die and she didn't come to my funeral," John said sadly. Megan began to plead at this point. "No please, I didn't mean to leave you. Please forgive me. I couldn't go. They wouldn't let me. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," she sobbed. "It's all your fault!" they accused. "No, please, no, I didn't mean for this to happen. I'm sorry." "It's too late now Megan. You should have been with me, I've come back to get you," he said as the scene melted and changed. John was laying in a coffin covered in blood, Megan still firmly in his grip. He began to pull her in with him. "Noooo!" she howled, then awoke sobbing, shaking, drenched in sweat, in Toni's strong arms.

"It's okay, Megan, it was only a dream," she said gently stroking the younger woman's hair.

Megan was trying to shake the horrifying nightmare from her mind, but succeeded only sobbing harder. Toni held her, rocking her gently and whispering soothing words until the smaller woman began to calm.

"I'm sorry…"

"About what?" Toni asked unwilling to release her hold. She liked holding the pretty young Deputy in her arms.

"You should have let me sleep on the couch," Megan chuckled trying to lighten the mood. "At least you might have gotten some sleep."

"I'm fine. What about you? Are you okay?" she asked

"I guess I'm just…I mean…I guess I'm embarrassed," she haltingly admitted.

"You shouldn't be. Everyone has nightmares Megan."

"Do you?"

"Sure, on occasion. Sometimes it helps if you talk about it," she suggested.

Megan was thoughtful for a moment. Then she decided that if Toni was willing to offer her comfort every time she awoke like this, then at least she should tell her about the dreams that had been troubling her. "It's about John. Sometimes we're back in the hotel and I shoot our attackers before they kill John, but when I turn my back, they pop up again and empty their weapons into him. And I can't do anything because my gun is jammed or out of bullets," she stated quietly. Megan finally began to relax a bit. Her head was cradled on Toni's shoulder and she noted that Toni had not stopped stroking her hair. She wasn't sure what to do with her free arm and she was getting a little stiff in the one position, so she lightly laid it across Toni's bare abdomen, careful not to make the gesture seem forward. "Tonight it was different," she continued slowly. "John was in his coffin, and he told me that I should have died with him," she stopped as fresh tears began to stream down her face.

"Sshhh, it's okay, I've got you," Toni assured her gently brushing the tears away. "What happened then?" she asked prompting Megan to continue.

"He…he tried to pull me into the coffin with him," she finished.

'No wonder she wakes up screaming,' Toni thought. "Megan, you know that John's death wasn't your fault, don't you?"

"Yeah, I know."

"But you still blame yourself anyway, huh?"

"Yeah. I miss him so much. He didn't deserve to die."

"You're right, he didn't. And if anyone should share in the blame for his death it should be me, not you. After all, you two were protecting me."

"Don't say that Toni. I knew something was wrong. I should have stayed with John."

"Then you and I would probably be dead as well, and these bastards would have won."

"I don't intend to let that happen," Megan replied stifling a yawn.

"Why don't you try to get some sleep," Toni suggested.

"I don't know if I can," Megan told her.

"Maybe if I hold you, you won't have any nightmares."

"Would you?" Megan asked shyly.

"No problem. Close your eyes and Megan?"


"Sweet dreams, okay."

"Okay," Megan smiled as she closed her eyes and slowly drifted back to sleep.


Toni had been right. Megan awoke several hours later feeling more refreshed than any night she had spent since John's death. She noted that Toni was still asleep and she didn't want to wake her. Although she didn't really want to, Megan slowly eased out of Toni's embrace. She went to the bathroom and brushed her teeth. Quietly she went back into the bedroom and traded her nightshirt for a sports bra and shorts. Back in the living room she retrieved an exercise mat and began her morning workout.

Toni awakened as Megan slid out of the bed. She pretended to remain asleep so she could secretly watch the beautiful young Deputy. She felt guilty about intruding on her privacy, but she simply couldn't help herself. She was intrigued and wanted to know what Megan was like when she was uninhibited. She waited and listened. She heard the toilet flush and the sound of running water. When Megan emerged, Toni was somewhat surprised when she quietly came back into the bedroom and shucked her nightshirt, replacing it with a sports bra and shorts. After a while she heard the unmistakable rhythmic breathing of Megan exercising. Quietly she slid from the bed and watched fascinated from the doorway. Megan was facing away from the bedroom, so didn't see her. Toni counted nearly twenty pushups, and not the kind most women do, from the knees, but from her toes. Megan then turned over and began a series of stomach crunches. She lost count after 50. 'No wonder she has such flawless abs,' Toni thought. 'I'm sure I would never be able to keep up with her.' Finally her guilt got the better of her and she stepped back into the room and made noise as though she was just rising.

"Morning," she said stepping through the door. "Did you sleep okay?"

"Yeah, I did. Like a baby," she added shyly. "Thanks."

"You're welcome. Umm, if you don't mind, I'm going to grab a shower okay?"

"Help yourself," Megan said. "Clean towels are in the hall closet. I'm just going to finish up here."

"Do you do this every morning?" Toni inquired.

"Usually," she replied. "It helps me wake up and kind of energizes me." She saw that Toni was still only clad in her sports bra and underwear and marveled at how she could be so open in front of someone she hardly knew, and then she realized she too was wearing very little and blushed at the thought. Toni excused herself and went into the bathroom.

When Toni was finished Megan took her turn in the shower. She turned the water as cold as she could stand it. She felt extremely overheated and was sure that her workout hadn't been the entire cause. She dressed after her shower in her favorite tan khakis and a dark olive green button up shirt that she had stolen from her brother Sean. It was a little big on her and she had to cuff the sleeves a couple of times to keep them from swallowing her hands, but it was still her favorite. She found Toni sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee. She had on stone-washed jeans and a black T-shirt. She looked casual, but amazingly stunning in the simple outfit. As she passed through the living room, she stopped dead in her tracks. The picture she had brought with her from the office of John and his family was now sitting on her mantel. She simply stared at it stunned, wondering how it had gotten there.

"I'm sorry," she heard Toni say. "I saw it sitting on the entry table and thought maybe you might want it there. I didn't mean to upset you," she explained approaching Megan.

Megan's mind had been reeling. When she first saw the photo on the mantel, she imagined that maybe John's ghost was real, and that he had placed it there to remind her. Toni's words slowly started to sink in as she felt what was quickly becoming familiar and very welcome hands on her shoulders.

"I'm really sorry. It was thoughtless of me. I should have asked you if that was what you wanted. I really didn't mean to upset you Megan. I'm sorry," she finished. Megan's hands went to her face and she tried to choke back the sob, but couldn't. Toni stepped in front of Megan and embraced her. She was relieved when Megan returned the embrace.

"No…it's perfect. That's where I wanted it. I was just shocked at first. I'm sorry…here I am blubbering like an idiot again." 'And you always seem to know how to make it better,' Megan mentally added.

"You're pretty cute when you blubber," Toni stated with a smile. It had the desired effect. Megan began to lightly chuckle. After a few moments, Megan started to pull herself out of the arms she had absolutely no desire to leave.

"Thanks," she said with a sweet smile. "Is that coffee I smell?" she added hoping that the somewhat awkward moment would pass.

"Sure is," Toni smiled leading her to the table, her arm still around Megan's shoulder. "Sit, I'll get it. Two sugars and a splash of milk right?"

"Yeah, thanks," was all Megan could muster for the moment.

Megan spent a few minutes trying to compose herself. "So, is there anyplace in particular you would like to go?" she asked Toni.

"I've never really been anywhere outside of New York and Jersey until now. I wouldn't know where to begin," she admitted.

"Not going to make this easy on me huh?" Megan asked with a smile.

"I trust you," Toni added sweetly. "Why don't you pick."

"You've really never been outside New York?" Megan asked her curiously.

"Nope, never really had any reason to."

Megan was suddenly overcome with a desire to show Toni places that had meant something to her over the years. "I've only been to New York once," she offered. "When I was 14 one of my best friends, Louise and her parents moved back there. Her dad and mine were partners, and when Joe retired, he decided to move back. I spent four weeks there visiting during the summer. Her aunt Marietta took us all over the place. We went to Macy's, the World Trade Center, a little off-Broadway show, the Statue of Liberty, and even the Empire State Building. When we got to the top of the Empire State Building, they actually had this guy running around in a gorilla outfit. Needless to say I had to have my picture taken with him. It was the funniest thing. And as we were leaving and all these tourists were crammed so tight into the elevator that we were all standing kind of tilted, the damn thing stopped and all the lights went off, except the tiny emergency light. All of the sudden I feel Aunt Marietta's fingernails digging into my arm. I had never been in an elevator before that went more than four floors up, so I was a little bit scared, but I realized that she was much more scared than I was and I just kept telling her that everything would be alright. I mean, we were in the Empire State Building. Surely they knew that one of their elevators had gotten stuck and would have it running any minute. I just kept saying this over and over until the thing started running again. I'm sure it was only a couple of minutes but it felt more like 15. After the doors opened and everyone poured out all these people started coming up to me and thanking me. I had no idea what they were talking about until one of them said that what I said about them knowing we were there and were working to get us out kept them calm. It was kind of freaky, but nice." Suddenly Megan stopped. She realized that she had been rambling and that Toni was probably not interested in her journey to New York when she was 14.

"Why did you stop?" Toni asked. She had been completely amused by the tale and had wanted to hear more, but the young redhead had stopped her story, and was currently blushing very beautifully.

"I'm sure you don't really want to hear about my trip to New York," Megan said, embarrassed.

"Actually, I was really enjoying it. You know, I've lived in New York my whole life and I've never been to the top of the Empire State Building?"

"Really?" Megan asked astounded. "That's like growing up in Florida and never going to Disney World."

"Never been there either, but I guess that would follow since I've never been to Florida except for our little visit." She realized then that the hotel in Florida was where John was killed and immediately regretted her comment.

"Hey Toni," Megan said quickly noting her friend's distress. "You don't have to dance around it. I miss him, but I don't want to just forget about him. Not even that," she added meaning his death.

"Sorry, I just didn't want to upset you, and that shot out of my mouth before I realized what I was saying."

"C'mon Toni," Megan said gently placing her hand over Toni's. "I'm supposed to be the one protecting you, remember?" They sat for a couple of minutes just enjoying the contact.

"Hey, I've got it!" Megan exclaimed enthusiastically.

"What?" Toni asked, startled out her reverie by the sudden loss of contact.

"I know where we should go," Megan told her. She quickly outlined her plan to Toni explaining that they would have to drive. Otherwise she would have to reveal herself as a Deputy Marshall in order to carry her firearm, and that would hardly do if they were supposed to remain hidden.


Frank Tate was chagrined. Two days after posting four of his most trusted Marshalls to room 144 of the Holiday Inn, another 'incident' occurred. His Marshalls were found inside the suite, completely asleep having been slipped some sort of drug during the morning. The room had been ransacked, obviously someone was looking for something. He was very glad that there was no loss of life this time, and eliminated those four from his list. Had their charge been in the room, he might suspect one of them of purposefully taking the knockout drug to throw suspicion. But since they knew they weren't really guarding anyone, they would have to know that nothing of use could be found in the suite. So his suspicion narrowed somewhat. There were still close to forty Deputies and Marshalls that knew of their case. Even more if they really suspected that the offices were bugged, but they scanned every couple of hours just to make sure. He set it up so that O'Reilly's orders showed her leaving for France to help with an Interpol extradition. A passenger was sent on the plane with what appeared to be O'Reilly's passport and weapon to make it look legitimate. He eagerly scanned the Miami Herald for Megan's first post and hoped that she and her charge were safe.

Continued in Part 2.

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