Ten

Erika stood there stunned. She couldn't believe that her opponent had fled. Later, when she reflected on it, it did make sense. Miho must have known that her hired thugs were no match for Piro and Kimiko. She must have figured that the four men who were guarding the two prison buildings were dead or incapacitated. That left only about eight unsuspecting men against two well-armed, highly trained solders. She must have quickly analyzed her situation and decided it was best to cut her losses and run. Erika realized that she made a very disciplined and correct decision.

Piro and Kimiko quickly overcame the remaining guards. Once the survivors were locked up, Kimiko came looking for Largo and Erika, while Piro guarded their prisoners and used one of their cell phones to call for help. After Kimiko found Erika, Erika explained what happened with Miho. Kimiko quickly warned Piro that Miho was on the loose, then she returned to watch the other building while Erika tended to Largo.

Erika was worried about Largo. The whole time she had been in the room with him, he never said a word. Until Kimiko came back she hadn't been able to give him any attention for fear that Miho would return, but now he had her undivided attention. As she cut his bonds, he never even looked up at her. When she finished, she spoke to him in the gentlest voice she could muster, "It's over Largo. We're free. You're free."

When Largo still didn't respond or even look up, she knelt down in front of him and lifted his head with her hand. When she looked at his face she almost dropped his head in shock. There were no marks on him, no welts or bruises of any kind; he looked well fed and healthy, but he didn't look like Largo at all. Her throat tightened and her mouth became dry as she looked into his dead eyes. Where did he go? Where's my partner? she thought, as she searched his face for a trace of him.

A wave of emotions crashed into her as she tried to think of something to say. She was furious that Miho would do this to him, she was distraught over the thought that he would never be the same again, she was hopeful that the damage could be repaired and she was happy that they were free and alive. The powerful and conflicting emotions were wreaking havoc on her normally stoic demeanor. When she spoke again, her voice was so full of emotion that even Kimiko turned and gawked at her. "Largo," she said, "what happened to you?"

The whole time she had been looking at him, his eyes had been dead and unfocused. After she asked him what happened his eyes finally focused on her. The pain in his eyes was so intense that it gave her chills, but she refused to look away. When he spoke, his voice was frail and pained as he said, "She… she broke me. She broke me."

After speaking, his eyes unfocused, and that dead look returned. It must be some kind of a defense mechanism, she thought. For a minute she just looked at him, not knowing what to do. Then, almost instinctively, she stood up and pulled him up into an embrace. It wasn't an embrace friendship or love. It was more primal than that. It was an embrace that simply said, "I will support you. I will be there for you."

Silent tears flowed down her face as she held his listless body in her arms. She wondered how long it would take, or even if it was possible to get back the Largo that she knew. She didn't know how long they stood like that, but it seemed like an eternity before Largo made any sort of movement. When he did, she held her breath not knowing what to expect. As he put his arms around her she felt her heart fill with hope. She could hear the distant sounds of helicopters as she stood there holding him and smiling.



***********

Author's Note

Thank you for reading I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and thanks to everyone who took the time to comment. Please feel free to leave any comments or criticisms you have, I'd love to hear them.

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