Sihn's Empire
02 Signals
by Olivia

Set ten years after the ending of Signs (although this series is going to be a little more adventure and less angst than Signs)

Sequel to: 01 Signs

A suburb of Chicago

The figure melting in the shadows grinned. It was not a grin that in anyway signaled his amusement, but rather that of a predator watching his prey. His gaze flickered over the silent room, lingering for a moment on the moonlight that broke through the window. He checked his watch. Right on schedule. He figured he had fifteen minutes before the security guards caught on that the picture they were watching wasn't of a live scene, but rather the repeated image of earlier in the evening that was continuously through the closed circuit system courtesy of a "borrowed" satellite and JD's natural affinity for all things technical. The security system was neutralized, now all he had to do was hope that no one found the bodies of the hired men he had left behind him. He checked his watch again. Time to stop thinking and start acting if he wanted this job, this assignment, over with.

He was surprised by how badly he wanted this one over with. He was tired, there was none of the adrenaline, none of the excitement that usually came with an assignment- just a sense of weariness. Of exhaustion. He sighed. Maybe it was time to take that vacation that JD had been pushing him to take. Someplace warm where the locals wouldn't ask too many questions and the room service was a step above. Bali maybe. Or Hong Kong. He shook his head. Better to stay away from Hong Kong for JD's sake. The kid seemed to be doing okay but he knew better than anyone what effect location could have on your equilibrium. There was after all a reason that he hadn't been south of the Mason-Dixon line in the last five years.

He shook his head to clear and to stop his thoughts from going in THAT direction and turned his attention back to the man lying asleep in the bed. The man he had been paid and paid well to kill.

Dominic Gulvani. 57. Pudgy. Balding. The second man from the top in one of the East Coast's most ruthless and brutal mob families. A man who tortured, maimed, raped, and dismembered without a second thought. And that was only the way he treated his family members. What he did to his enemies.... Ezra loaded his silencer with a bullet that, like the others he had used on his previous assignments, was untraceable.

Then he turned on the light and watched his victim wake up.

"What the fuck? Who in the hell are you?" Dominic Gulvani scrambled backwards against the head board.

Ezra shook his head with a sad sigh. "Please watch your language. There are after all ladies present." He turned to the other side of the bed. "Even if they are dead."

"What the hell....." Dominic stared in horror at the body of the dead woman next to him in bed. "What did you do to my wife? What kind of sick game are you playing?"

"No game." Ezra shrugged. "It's simple. I'm here to kill you."

Dominic felt his heart racing as he struggled to understand what was happening. "Where is my wife?" He looked again at the corpse lying next to him. "That isn't my wife."

"How astute of you to notice. But then I suppose the differences are clear. No broken arm. No bruises or cuts on her face. No cigar burns on her torso."

"Where is my wife?"

"Someplace you won't find her. Someplace where she can sleep tonight without wondering if she'll survive the beating you'll give her in the morning." Ezra paused. "And your daughter? She's somewhere where she can actually sleep tonight instead of huddling in the closet trying to hide herself from her sick perverted father."

"You bastard you have no right...."

"I have every right. In fact you might even say I have an obligation to kill you. A client who would not be happy if I was to fail to accomplish my objective, especially as he's already paid me."

"Whatever he's offered you I'll double it. Hell I'll triple it. Just let me go okay."

"I'm afraid I can't do that." A pause. "Okay that was a lie. I won't do it. You see I went to quite a lot of trouble to establish this scenario. If it helps, I am quite sure that the murder of you and your family while you sleep will be the kind of crime that garners headlines across the nation."

"My family?"

"I know, quite heartless of me, isn't it? One single bullet to each of your heads, simple, kind of Zen like I believe. And then a fire. A seemingly desperate attempt to cover up the evidence on my part."

"They won't believe it."

"Of course they will. They will find the bodies of you and your wife in bed together and your daughter slain in her bed just across the hall."

"They'll ID the bodies and.....

"Find a complete match of dental records which, by the time the fire department receives the alarm, will be all this left of any of you. As far as the world is concerned Dominic Gulvani and his family will be dead."

"Your crazy."

"Probably." Ezra raised the gun until it pointed at his forehead.

"Just tell me who the bastard is that wants me dead."

"You mean besides me?"

"Who hired you? How much did they pay you? I can pay you more to kill them for me."

"Oh but I already killed them." Ezra's gaze flickered to the corpse.

Dominic's eyes widened as realization hit him. "That bitch. I'll kill her."

The single bullet hit him dead center in the forehead.

"Didn't your mother ever teach you never to call a lady names?" Ezra asked mockingly as he begin to set fire to the bedroom with deadly precision.

Fifteen minutes later
Three blocks away

JD Dunne checked his watch again. Ezra was late. He switched on the two-way radio built into his watch and pushed the button that would scramble the feed if anyone else tried to pick it up. "Ezra? You there Ezra? Come on damn it...."

"What have I told you about your language Mr. Dunne?" JD grinned as the familiar drawl answered and a dark figure cut across the street and opened the door to the Explorer. Ezra barely had time to remove his black hood and jacket before JD had the SUV moving.

"Everything go okay?" JD asked as he handed Ezra a bottle of water.

"Like clockwork." Ezra drank greedily for a second. "Our friend is .....taken care of."

"Oh thank God." The fervent whisper from the back seat almost made Ezra smile despite the ugliness of what he had just done.

"I do not believe God had anything to do with it but you may thank whoever you want." Ezra's voice was clipped, his exhaustion seeping through enough that JD gave him a sharp look.

Beatrice Gulvani ran a hand through her newly shortened and colored hair even as she used the other to pull her small daughter closer to her side, smiling as she watched her daughter sleep. "If you do not think it was God that arranged for you and I to meet my dear sir, than how do you explain it?"

"I was hired to kill your husband ma'am. I kidnapped you and your child to get to him."

"Nonsense. That wasn't kidnapping. That was rescuing." Her voice shook a little as Beatrice continued. "If you and your friend hadn't helped us tonight....." She lowered her voice.... "I would have had to resort to desperate measures.....I could not let him hurt Michelle anymore. I would have done anything..... Anything to save my daughter."

"Of course you would have." Ezra didn't bother to hide the bitterness in his own voice. "A mother should always protect her child from being hurt." A silence fell over them.

Beatrice nodded. "Are we truly safe?"

"The authorities will find the bodies of you and your daughter when they sift through the debris from the fire. They'll run a routine identification using dental records and when those match the world, including your husband's friends and enemies, will believe that you perished in the fire alongside your husband."

"But dental records..... Those bodies you left..... How did you manage?"

"Let's just say we had some help." JD spoke up.

"Reluctant help, but help." Ezra half-smiled.

"I do not know how to thank you."

"No thanks are needed madam. We were quite adequately paid for our efforts." JD grinned at the thought of the 3.5 million dollars that had been deposited in a Swiss bank account waiting for him to retrieve it. He wondered if Ezra had told Gulvani the truth about who had hired him. Wondered if the man had known that his boss, the man he had spent the better part of his life protecting had ordered his execution. The mob boss had contacted them in the usual way and JD had been all set to turn down the assignment despite the temptation of the large pay off, when Ezra had come across a police report the wife had filed ten years earlier claiming her husband had pushed her down the stairs while she was pregnant. The investigation had been hushed with the usual combination of bribes and blackmail, but just the possibility had been enough for Ezra to let him know that they were accepting the assignment. The $3.5 was just a bonus. The fact that the world would believe that Ezra had not only taken out the target, but the man's family would only add to the reputation Ezra had built as a cold-hearted and ruthless assassin over the last few years. A reputation that JD knew from experience was well deserved......

"I still thank you. I know it will be tough for Michelle and I but at least we will be safe...."

"The sisters at St. Catherine's will take good care of you. You can stay with them long enough for your arm to heal and for all of this to blow over." Ezra smiled. "The sisters are good people, some of the best I know."

"You and Mr. Dunne are the best I know." Beatrice Gulvani blinked back tears. "Michelle and I will be just fine. I was not always a Mafia princess. I know something about work and starting over."

"I know you do but just in case..... JD?"

The younger man reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a handful of bankbooks, rifling through them, before pulling one out and handing it to Beatrice. "Here. Wait a few weeks and then visit this bank in Fort Worth. Show them that bank book and that code. They'll give you the money in that account. It's not much....just a little under $300,000 but it should be enough to get you and Michelle wherever you want to go. Personally I'd suggest someplace warm for the winter. The Caribbean. Mexico."

Beatrice stared at the bank book. "I...I don't know what to say."

Ezra's voice was low and somber. "Just promise me that you'll take care of your daughter- no matter what."

"I will, Signor. Always." Her eyes noted the pain in his. "I am sorry that no one was there to protect you."

Ezra closed his eyes and leaned back against the leather seats. "I wouldn't say that." He murmured quietly as his eyes darkened with remembrance. "I wouldn't say that at all."

"Damn it!" FBI Agent Chris Larabee threw the paper down on the conference table as he stared angrily at his men. He'd been in charge of this little task force for the last eighteen months and this was the first time any of the men in the room could remember him losing his cool.

Buck Wilmington, who'd been his friend since they'd gone through the police academy together, picked up the paper and stared at the headline. "Mob Family Executed While Sleeping." Buck whistled softly as he read out loud the details of the killing that took place near Chicago the night before. "You don't think it's our boy?"

"Damn right I do. Our sources say there was a contract put out on Gulvani. A huge one. Just the kind of job that our friend usually does. Besides I called the Chicago field office and got the preliminary forensics. The bullet was from a silencer of some kind but there were no markings on the bullet. None. Just like the other jobs. No fingerprints. No witnesses. Nothing. It's like he's some kind of bloody ghost or something." Chris scowled in frustration. "That's what the boys in the lab are beginning to call him. A ghost. Leaves no trace but you know he was there."

"I don't know...." Josiah Sanchez shook his head. "He's never set a fire to cover his tracks before."

"He's never killed a child before." Chris snapped. "God, I want this bastard. How many does this make?"

"Ten that we know of." Buck took a pin and pushed it into Chicago on their map.

"And how many people has he killed that we don't know about?"

"He's not exactly killing innocent people..." Josiah began only to be cut off by a furious team leader.

"And that makes it okay? The man's an assassin not some bloody modern day Robin Hood. He kills for money. And he'll keep killing until we stop him." Chris's heated gaze landed on every agent in the room. "This man is dangerous. He's set himself up as judge, jury, and executioner and it has to be stopped. He has to be stopped. And I don't care what we have to do to get him. I want copies of every bit of forensics they picked up in Chicago. Josiah, I want a complete profile of the victim. Who might have wanted him dead. Who might have hired our friend. Buck I want you on the phone with the Chicago field office. What they know, I want us to know as soon as they know it. Hell, forget the phone and get on the next plane to Chicago yourself."

After barking out his orders, Chris headed towards his office, slamming the door behind him.

Buck looked at Josiah for a long moment before heading after his friend and boss.

Buck opened the door and shut it carefully behind him.

"Chris?" He stepped further into the room, his eyes noting with concern the slump in Chris's shoulder as he sat at his desk and the darkness of the room since there were no lights turned on. "You okay pardner?" Buck came closer. "It ain't like you to get so worked up over this....ghost. We'll catch him. We're the best team the bureau has and despite what rumors might say to the contrary the man's only human. He's going to slip up sooner or later and we'll catch him."

Chris sighed softly. "I know."

"Then you want to tell me what that little display of temper was about out there, cause you know none of those people deserved that taste of the...."

"I know." Chris ran a hand through his short blond hair. "I know and I'll apologize later. Right now I just want to be left alone."

Buck shook his head. "Nope. I did that once and....well we both know what happened." Buck pulled up a chair. "So you might as well tell me what's on your mind cowboy because I ain't leaving this office until you do."

Chris half grinned. "Anybody ever tell you you are one stubborn cuss Wilmington."

"I do believe they have once or twice...." Buck leaned back. "So spill."

Chris's slight grin disappeared. "You remember Vin?"

"Wasn't he the kid that Sarah all but adopted?" Buck searched his memory. "Tall, silent type. Lived with Sarah's father on the reservation if I remember correctly. He and Sarah were close."

"Like brother and sister. Vin was.....different. Hated the city, even a small town like Four Corners made him feel boxed in. Spent most of his time on the reservation helping Sarah's dad or with the Indians. He visited a time or two, but the only person he would really talk to was Sarah. When he came to visit us, the two of them would go off riding together and I wouldn't see them for days. Never worried about them though. Vin knew more about survival in the wilderness after his years at the reservation than other men learn in a lifetime. Sarah...she adored Vin. He was the little brother she never had and he pretty much worshipped the ground she walked on."

Buck hesitated. "He must have taken what happened pretty hard."

"Almost as hard as I did." Chris's voice was bleak. "He didn't understand. Accused me of abandoning her. Of not loving her." Chris's voice shook. " Aw hell Buck....Sarah was my life. I didn't have any choice. I had to...."

Whatever Chris had been about to say was lost as his door opened and a beautiful blonde stood in the doorway.

"Mary?" Chris glanced at his clock. "I thought we were meeting for dinner."

"I know." Mary Travis smiled at Buck as he quickly exited the small office as she moved in front of Chris's desk. "But my meeting with my editor got out early so I was hoping I could talk you into an early lunch."

"I don't know..." Chris hesitated. "I have a lot to do and...." He stopped as Mary reached over, grabbed his tie lightly, and smiled provocatively.

"Would it help if I said pretty please?" Her husky voice lowered into a whisper.

Just then a harsh voice interrupted and a soft Texan drawl filled the room.

"I was told that I could find you working Larabee." Blue eyes drilled into Chris and for a moment he fought the urge to lower his own in shame. "I didn't mean to invade your privacy."

Staring at the man who had once been closer to him than a brother, Vin let all his anger and hostility show in his voice and in his eyes before turning and walking out.

Please send feedback to Olivia
Story posted to A Gambler's Lust, The Magnificent Two