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Mack Bolan stood with Pol and Toni Blancanales, watching the sleek Lear jet taxi toward them through lowering dusk. He had been in St. Paul for less than twenty-four hours, but it had the feel of a long, grueling lifetime.

"You could use a rest," he said to both of them, including brother and sister in the sweep of his eyes. "Why don't you come back with me to the farm for a few days?"

Toni answered for them both.

"Thanks, maybe later," she said. "Right now, I really need to be alone and put the pieces back together."

Pol looked worried at that, but she laid a soft hand on his shoulder and smiled.

"I'm sorry, Rosario. There are some things a big brother just can't do for a girl."

The Politician lowered hurt eyes, nodding solemnly.

"Besides," Toni added, her voice suddenly upbeat, more animated than Bolan could remember hearing it that day, "I have to be around for the counseling sessions that Fran arranged before her transfer."

Pol and Bolan exchanged glances of pleasant surprise.

"They have a whole rape rehabilitation program here," the kid sister continued, sounding almost cheerful. Almost, but not quite.

"If the lady law is in charge, it sounds like a winner," Bolan said warmly.

Toni nodded. "You'll notice I can say it now. I was raped. So there. I have to come to terms with it before anybody else can, right?"

Bolan turned to Pol. "That's a hell of a lady you've got there," he said softly.

The Politician beamed. "Don't I know it."

"You're going to make it, Toni," Bolan said, holding her eyes with his own. "You've got the marks of a winner."

"Not the same played-out loser from this morning, eh?"

Her smile was infectious, and Bolan answered with one of his own.

Behind them, the engines of the Lear were winding up, the sleek fuselage catching the last rays of sun and reflecting them brilliantly.

The Executioner said his goodbyes, shaking hands warmly with Pol Blancanales. When he turned to Toni, she stepped into his arms willingly, holding him tightly for several seconds and kissing his cheek before she disengaged.

"Thanks, friend," she whispered in his ear.

Bolan held her eyes with his for a long moment, then nodded silently and put that place behind him.

It was over, yeah, in St. Paul.

And it was, the Executioner suspected, both an end and a beginning.

* * * | The Violent Streets |