A Thief’s Problem –chp21


A Thief’s Problem.

142px-US_Marshal_Badge.png

Sister Magdalena, a.k.a. Angelic DeMarco, finds evidence of more than just illegal art trade while recovering a stolen painting in the home of a known criminal. Her investigation leds to the US and a very problematic situation with the US Department of Justice.

by Snowfall and Jessie Wolf.

Dedicated to the men and women of the US Marshal Service.

Edited by my husband Paul, and AJC Snowfall.

~o~O~o~

This is a work of fiction an any persons in this work are purely fictional.


Chapter 21
Interstate 68, Garret Country, Maryland, 0430

The light gray Western Star eighteen wheeler rumbled through the cut in Big Savage Mountain at just over 100 mph. The truck was moving at a speed that was almost unheard of for big rigs in the mountains of Maryland. It was also more than fast enough to trip State Trooper Martin Elise’ radar gun. Once the big grey truck was past his position on the side of the Interstate, Martin pulled out and chased him down. As he pulled in behind the big rig, Martin spotted the truck’s plate.

When he ran the number, it came back with the Federal warning. Martin Elise had heard that there was a group of trucks that haul government loads and had license plates that tell you to back off. The warning for the one he was tailing told him to do exactly that. It told him that the driver was not to be detained. He knew that whatever the truck was hauling, he wanted no part of. Martin knew that badges meant shit when it came to such trucks. Instead of pulling the big rig over, he backed off the accelerator.

Reaching over he grabbed his auxiliary radio. The one that was used to monitor civilian radio traffic. Flipping over to the one channel that was monitored by only one station in the area he called out. “Super Star base this is Wildcard four. Come in Super Star base. Over”

“This is Super Star base, Wildcard. Send your traffic. Over”

“Super Star are you expecting a delivery? Over” Martin asked.

“That’s a roger Wildcard. Why? Over”

“Just needed confirmation Super Star. I’ll be escorting them to the Number four exit. I don’t need any trouble on my Interstate. Over” Martin snarled.

A member of the Maryland State Highway Troopers he may be, but he was also a proud Elise son of Garret County. There was no way in Hell that he was going to have a rolling firefight in his county. He knew the moment he read the truck number that this rig was one of the elusive Ghost trucks. A high security load. He also knew that it had only one destination if it was in this part of the country. There was only one extreme high security location anywhere near this section of I-68.

“No problem Wildcard. Our people will take over at sixty-eight and route forty-two. How copy? Over”

“Good copy Super Star. Wildcard out.” Martin sighed and returned the mike to its hold. “Let’s just hope that nobody fucks with this truck between here and exit four. I really don’t feel like doing a shit load of paperwork at the end of this shift.”

More than 5 miles ahead of the HP SUV, the driver of Western Star just smirked as she up-shifted. “That’s one smart smokey. I really didn’t want to put him into the ditch for trying to stop me.”

Silvia Petrescu smiled as she passed the blue/green information sign. “Just sixteen more miles. I hope those kids get a chance to use the ski slopes during the winter. Hell, I wouldn’t mind going down the slopes, once or twice. Think I’ll come back this way next season on vacation.”

As she passed exit 14, she marked on her GPS. “Sure, is some pretty country through here. Wonder what it looks like in the daylight?”

Ten miles and ten minutes later Silvia spotted her exit and started to down-shift, making the jake-brakes roar. With a smile she looked one last time in her review mirror. “Looks like Full-Grown couldn’t keep up. Too bad. I was kind of looking forward to a nice highspeed pursuit to break up the monotony.”

Even as she was pulling off the Interstate and making the turn onto route 42 south, Silvia hadn’t spotted the Trooper. It wasn’t long before she spotted the two all black Chargers that belonged to Garret County Sheriff’s department. “Looks like point X-ray got the County Mounties doing their dirty work for them now. If I didn’t know better, I would swear that the good old boys were in control of the local PDs.”

As Silvia went under the overpass the first Sheriff’s deputy pulled in front of her and flashed his lights once, while the second fell in behind. The two Deputies escorted the big rig over the roads of Garret County while Martin Elise was turning around just over the West Virginia state line. As much as Silvia wanted to open up the big engine of her tractor trailer, one of the vaunted Black-Cat Caterpillars, she couldn’t. Not on these mountainous roads that had more twists and turns than a drunken snake. The wild engine would have to stay reined in.

As the Deputies pulled to a stop on the side of the road, Silvia saw the gates to the school open. Silvia didn’t stop, just rolled on through the gate as the stacks roared from the jake-brakes slowing it down. She finally pulled to a spot in front of the main administration building. After shutting down her rig, Silvia patted the sidearm strapped to her leg before climbing down from the cab and flared the duster clear of the pistol. She was met at the rear of the trailer by two men and one woman.

“Gypsy Moth?” the woman asked in greeting. Silvia just nodded her head. “We were expecting you four hours ago. What happened?”

“Got held up in New York. Ended up with a few more passengers than expected.” Silvia knew that the Supervisory Deputy wasn’t going to be happy hearing this. Hell, she wasn’t happy when that Inspector added in the additional passengers at the last minute. “I had to leave half of the security detail behind. Now you want to sign for the load?”

“No problem Gypsy Moth. We were just worried when you didn’t show at your original ETA. How many more passengers are you carrying over the original number? I only need to know so I can warn our Medical team of what to expect.” The SDIC answered has she held out her hand for the clipboard.

“You got a total of thirty-eight, Deputy. Ten more than what was on the original transport order.” Silvia looked around the school’s campus as she handed over her clipboard. This wasn’t the first time she had made a run to this location, but it was her first solo run to the school. “I don’t like last minute changes to loads, Deputy. Neither does the boss.”

“Don’t worry Gypsy Moth. I’ll make sure that it is noted in my report. I’ll also make sure that you get paid for the additional passengers. Did you have any problems during the trip?” The SDIC asked as she signed then handed back the clipboard. “Need to know for my report.”

Silvia checked her paperwork smiled and walked over to the trailer doors. “Quiet as a cemetery. Not even a twitch on the weird-o-meter. Why?”

“Just some talk on the Dark net. That’s all.” The SDIC looked up as Silvia swung the trailer doors open. She smiled as the escort Deputies pushed down the steps. “Deputy Larson. Where the hell have you been?”

“How’s it going Shells? Been a long time.” Larson looked around at the school’s campus. “So, this is where the bosses parked your ass. Who else is here? Besides you and Harris.”

“Just me Larson. Harris was forced out on a medical retirement. How many you got with you?” Shells asked bluntly.

“Thirty-eight protectees, two shrinks, four nurses, and four SOG Deputies besides myself.” Larson held up his left to stop Shells before she had a chance to chew him out. “Don’t even start bitching me out Kelly. There wasn’t room for the full team with all the protectees and the medical staff.”

“Why the hell is the medical staff even escorting those protectees?” Shells wanted to know why there was a departure from SOP. “We got a perfectly good medical staff on site here.”

“Don’t ask me. I’m just following Chief Inspector Chandler’s orders. I’ll tell you now; you don’t want to cross that man. He has the full backing for his operations. He only answers to Director Rose.” Larson told her grimly then smirked. “Oh and if you ever run into him, do yourself a favor.”

“What’s that Larson?” Shells questioned him with a knowing smile. She had already had the pleasure of meeting SDI Inspector William Chandler.

“Shut the fuck up and follow his lead. He is ten kinds of scary-assed mean and doesn’t play games. I think the only Deputies I know that put him to shame are Justice, Everbright and Taugh.” Larson smiled before adding. “In that order.”

Shells just laughed as she nodded her head. “I know what you mean Larson. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the man already. You’re right about Sam, Bobby and Hunter being the only ones that are meaner.”

Looking up at the scared teenagers who were still in the module seats and looking out fearfully. Shells changed her attitude. “It’s alright kids. You’re safe here. No one here will hurt you. We’ll do everything we can to help you.”

The first teenager took a tentative step down the ramp. The boy turned shemale hooker wasn’t too sure of trusting these people. She’d been betrayed one too many times in the past. In her mind, she was positive that she’d just been sold to another pimp. Not even the ‘US Deputy Marshals’ had changed her mind on that view. When they loaded her and the others into the big truck back in New York she was sure they would never see or hear another English speaking person in their lives. This point of view was reinforced by the five heavily armed men who got into the truck with them.

Shells had seen the looks of the new students before. In fact, she had seen these very same looks of distrust nine times over the past year and a half. Each time she saw those looks, she wanted to hunt down the assholes that had hurt these children. They may be runaways, abductees, or abandoned; it didn’t matter in her mind. The predators who hurt these kids should never see the inside of a courtroom. Like all good officers of the law, Tonya Shells felt that ‘street justice’ was the only way to handle certain criminals. She believed in the Constitution and all that it stood for, but there are just some crimes that crossed the line into being unforgiveable.

Holding out her left hand to the first girl, Shells smiled. “Come on sweetheart. You’re safe here. You’re all safe here. I promise.”

Silvia looked up at the teenager and smiled. “Go on. You can trust these people. They’ll protect and take care of you all. I promise.”

The teenagers all give Silvia a final look before allowing themselves to be led off towards the medical building. Once the last of them were off her truck Silvia closed and locked the trailer doors. Turning to Shells. “You got an area where I can park for a few hours? I need to get some shut eye before I pull out and head for home.”

“You can park over by the school’s garage. There is a four acre empty lot there, so you don’t have to worry about turning around.” Shells told her. Then she smiled. “Or you can just pull your rig over to the far end of the faculty parking lot. As for sleeping in your rig forget about it. You can use the ready room in the squad bay. We got everything you need there. You can get a shower and crash on a real bed for a few hours or all day. The choice is yours, Gypsy.”

Silvia thought about the offer for only a few minutes. “I’ll take the shower, but I stay with my rig. Them's the rules.”

Shells and Larson both nodded their heads. With Larson adding. “Don’t worry Gypsy, me and my guys will watch over your rig while you get something to eat, cleaned up, and grab some Z’s. We owe you that much for the delay.”

Silvia didn’t think twice about it. She climbed into her rig and pulled it over to the far end of the faculty parking lot. Grabbing a fresh pair of underwear, socks, t-shirt, and jeans, along with her toiletry kit, Silvia headed inside. After showering, changing her clothes, grabbing some hot chow, Silvia was ready for some well-earned sleep.

Little did she know that the Deputies station at the school had a hidden reason for keeping her there for the twelve hours. It was no malice in their reason. They had found that the new students always felt more at easy by seeing the truck or whatever that had brought them to the school when they woke up at the school for the first time. When She did wake up, she was surprised to see a girl obviously looking for something.

Since she needed to perform a walk-around and purge her air tanks, she got out.

“Looking for something?” Gypsy asked.

The girl was holding something in her hands and walked over, still looking around then showed what she held.

“Oh.” Gypsy looked down at the gold coin with an ornate F stamped on it. “Faust.”

The girl nodded, then looked up hopefully.

“He didn’t come. Just me. I’m Gypsy Moth.” Silvia greeted her.

“ANGEL, there you are.” One of the staff came out, apparently looking for the girl. “Oh, sorry Driver.”

“It’s okay. Guess she thought Faust was with me.” Silvia explained.

The staff nodded her head. “Yes. Anytime she hears a truck, she looks for him. There had been a misunderstanding when she was found. A new therapist. He didn’t seem to understand she couldn’t stay at the hospital in California. Not sure what exactly happened, but she latched onto Faust and wouldn’t let go. Didn’t bother him, he even put her up front in the cab with him. She absolutely will not let go of that coin.”

“Yeah. He does have an effect on people. I’ve only seen one of his gold coins. The boss has one. All I know about them is, never take a silver.” Silvia remarked.

The staffer sighed. “I’ve met him twice, which is two times too many. But Angel, she always looks for him. Angel is one of those unfortunate girls that were silenced. Come on, she has to get going. Would you like her to tell him 'Hi' for you?”

Angel nodded.

“Will do. Angel, right?” Silvia confirmed.

The staffer nodded. “He'll know. He named her and told her that because she was an angel, she couldn’t go with him.”

“Right. Well, I'll tell him.” Silvia finished her walk around then climbed back into her truck and pulled out.

It struck her strange, a savage girl like that taking to Faust. Herself, Silvia wasn't a fan of his and didn't particularly like being around him. Faust exuded evil, in her opinion. The only one that unsettled her more, was Trip. Trip was like an insane driver she'd heard about in Iraq.

Section 21, Iscariot Headquarters, Vatican City, Rome

Monsignor Delacorte sat still as one of the marble statues that surrounded the Vatican. He could not believe his ears. There should have been no way for someone to kill every member of the detail at Precision Holding in Albany, New York. He knew every man that had been stationed in that office building. The most unsettling revelation in the report by his secretary was the fact that all of the security video records had been wiped. Not just erased, but totally wiped from all records. There was nothing. Not even a screen grab of what or who had killed all of his men. Like the building had dropped into a black hole then came back full of dead men.

“Father Daniel, are our people positive that nothing remains of the security feeds?” The younger priest just nodded his head yes. “I thought that all security feeds were automatically rerouted here to our main servers?”

“That’s what they’re supposed to do, Monsignor. For some reason they were never uploaded. It was as if the Precision Holding’s main servers were offline for six hours. But we know this is supposed to be impossible.” Father Daniel told him in all honesty.

“Why is it impossible for the servers to be offline? I know that we routinely take our servers offline for updates and servicing. Could it have just been rotten timing that their servers were offline during the break in?” Delacorte wanted to believe this in more ways than one. He didn’t even want to think of what it would mean if those servers went down on propose.

“Sir. As much as I would love to tell you that, I can’t. The server that controls all of the security systems is a standalone. It has to be taken offline manually. Even then, there are procedures in place for taking one of those offline. Namely another off-site server is used to cover the time that server is offline. This is done so that there is never a gap in coverage.” Daniel explained for his superior. “I’m sorry sir, but this was done on propose.”

“DAMNATION! How could this have happened Father Daniel? Do our people in America even have a clue as to who attacked our Embassy?” Delacorte demanded.

Father Daniel was dreading that question. Swallowing hard Daniel removed a printed photo from the report file. “The only clue left behind was this, Monsignor.”

When Delacorte saw the photo, he wanted to shit his pants. As it was, he would still need to change his underwear from the piss that leaked out. There, before him in 1080 HD was all the proof he needed to confirm the legend of the Vatican’s Unholy Wraith. Placed in the center of the reception desk was a white rose and two silver half-dollars. Though the rose may have not been a true Hemlock Rose and the coins may not be pure silver; the meaning was clear as daylight. The Hemlock Rose had returned from the mists of time to seek revenge for the Capizeo dead. And this was just the first strike.

“Daniel, send word to all of our installations. They are to double, no; triple, their standing guards on all shifts. Each shift is to have K-9 support, issued H & K MP5s and VP9 tactical pistols. Full tactical loadout for all security forces is authorized. Understood?” Delacorte ordered. He knew that these measures wouldn’t be enough in the long run. Not when it came to dealing with the Hemlock Rose.

Daniel just wrote out Delacorte’s orders on his ever-present notepad. All while nodding his head. He wasn’t about to tell the Monsignor that all of these measures were already in place. He had sent out these orders already when he ordered the upgrade in security at Precision Holding. Unlike Delacorte, Father Daniel knew and believed in the legends surrounding the Hemlock Rose and the Iscariot Division. Daniel also had no desire to face those deadly assassins one dark and lonely night.

“Daniel, I want full restitution paid out to our peoples' families. If they don’t have any, then make a donation in their name to the nearest Homeless Shelter. I don’t care how you do it but put some kind of positive spin on that screw up in Albany. Make sure that you keep the local PD from investigating. I know that we can’t keep those assholes in the FBI out, but we can curtail their investigations. I don’t want them anywhere near the servers and security safe. If our people have to let the FBI near those, then they are ordered to blow the building. They can blame the FBI for violating our Embassy’s security by attempting to open an extreme high security vault.” Delacorte was grinning as he thought about several FBI agents dying while opening the vault at Precision Holding.

“Sir, is that wise? I mean it could cause blowback for the Church. We know that the Americans don’t take kindly to their Federal Police being killed.” Daniel felt he should point out the big problem with Delacorte’s plan.

“It will be their fault for violating the Vienna Conventions.” Delacorte chuckled. “They’ll be the ones to cause the International Incident, not us.”

“I hope you’re right sir. Because if this doesn’t go as you plan, it’ll be us that faces the Hague.” As Daniel turned to leave Delacorte’s office he stopped at the door. “And sir. I’ve heard that the Archbishop isn’t too happy right now. From what I understand he’s talking about someone’s ass being staked out to dry in the noon-day sun.”

Delacorte sat there fuming. As much as he want to take Daniel to task for daring to speak to him that way, he couldn’t. He knew that everything he had done over two decades was coming apart at the seams. And it was all his fault. He knew that he should never have gotten involved with Anders. The problem was he needed the man’s connections. Especially the ones that he used for the money laundering of his less than legal activities. More than a few of those were drying up fast.

“Damn! Why couldn’t those damned Capizeo bastards just die off.” Picking the photo of the rose and coins up one more time Delacorte felt a shiver run down his back. “After all this time, their Wraith is finally coming for me. I wonder. Will it just be me or will the Hemlock Rose finally destroy the Iscariot Division once and for all.”

Out in Father Daniel’s office, the young priest sat quietly at his desk contemplating his loyalties. Where did they truly lay? That was the real question facing him. Was it to the Holy Roman Church that raised him from a babe? Was it to the Order that first showed an interest in his desire to become a priest? Was it to the Iscariot Division who took him in after they saved him from being murdered in the Congo?

Reaching into the file that held the report from Albany, Daniel took out the copy of the photo. Like most orphans who grew up in the Church run orphanages he knew the legends of the Wraith. Only unlike the rest, Daniel knew that the legends were true. He had grown up on the island of Sicily, in the Saint Michael’s Orphanage. He had heard the legends told of the Hemlock Rose over and over again, as he sat at the knee of the groundskeeper. Here, before him, as all the proof he needed to know that the legends were true.

“When the Faithful fall from Grace, the Wraith shall rise up and deliver them unto the Hosts of Hell.” As Daniel quoted the words, he had heard so many times as a young boy, a shiver of ice cold fear ran down his back. Even now he as he questioned his faith. He wondered if he should go to the Archbishop. But he had always been a loyal member of the Iscariot Division and his training stressed loyalty to his superiors second only to God. Yet where does his loyal lie; with first the Monsignor or the Archbishop? There must be a way out of this situation for him.

“What troubles you Father?” Looking up at the young nun who entered his office Daniel was surprised that he hadn’t heard her enter. “You look as if you’re pondering one of the great riddles of Faith.”

Daniel chuckled at Sister Mary’s statement. “No Sister, just wondering how to answer a question of loyalty.”

“A question of loyalty, Father? Why in the world would you have such a problem? Our loyalty is to the Heavenly Father first, then to our Lord and Savior, The Holy Ghost, the Pope, down through the Cardinals, to the Bishops, and finally to our immediate superior. This is the way it has always been Father.” Sister Mary smiled at her answer. “Does that help Father?”

Father Daniel looked the young nun in the eyes and smiled. “Thank you, Sister Mary. Your insight has been of a great help. Can I help you with something in return? Maybe that paperwork in your hand?”

The young nun chuckled then handed over the file. “The Miami office’s field report sir. It came in the overnight Diplomatic pouch.”

“The Diplomatic pouch? Why on earth would they use a Diplomatic Courier?” Daniel questioned the young nun only to get a shrug of the shoulders. Opening the file folder Father Daniel thought the world had come to an end. “Have you seen the contents of this file, Sister?”

“No sir. I was handed that this morning and told to bring it to you.” Mary leaned in close. “Sir, I was ordered to give it to you and only you.”

“Understood Sister Mary. You can leave now. I would suggest that when you get back to your Section ask for a leave of absence for the next two months.” No sooner had the words left his mouth than Daniel reached into his desk. After pulling out a form he filled it out then signed and stamped it. Once done he handed the form to the young nun. “Forget going back to your Section. Just return to your cell and pack. Then head for the airport. This will take care of your tickets and clear you through all Customs agents worldwide.”

“Father, what is going on? Why are you sending me out of the country?” the young nun was worried now. She wasn’t prepared for this kind of business.

“You must do as I have instructed you, Sister Mary. You will find refuge on the island of Grand Bahama in the city of Freeport. Ask for Father Clancy. He is well known on the island so you shouldn’t have any problems finding him. Now get going and whatever happens in the next two months. DO NOT COME BACK. I don’t care who orders you to return. DO NOT COME BACK UNTIL YOU HEAR FROM ME OR THE ARCHBISHOP.” After stressing his last orders to Sister Mary, Daniel gently but firmly, pushed her from his office and locked the door behind her.

Returning to his desk Daniel picked up the file once more. There in front of him, in living color, was his worst nightmare. “How can this girl still be alive after all this time? Where the hell could she have hidden from our spies? We know that the whole family was killed in Toledo. There was confirmation of all of them. Even that bastard Joey Capizeo died on the courthouse steps in front of the whole world on national television.”

The photo showed a young woman in her early thirties. She had all the markings of a Capizeo. Her size, her hair, her eyes, even her mouth. All of it screamed to the world that this woman was the daughter of Marko and Mary Capizeo. Between the photo from the Albany office and this photo from the Miami office, Father Daniel had all the proof he needed. The legends concerning the Capizeo family and the Hemlock Rose were true.

Daniel stood there for ten minutes doing nothing, but thinking over his next move. Then with a clarity that he rarely felt, Daniel made his decision to act. Grabbing the satellite phone out of the top drawer in his desk, he left his office for the day. He took both files with him as he walked out of Section 21’s offices. Once outside, he headed for a small out of the way bistro that he often went to for lunch.

Once there he contacted the Field Operative in Miami. “Markus, it’s me, Daniel. We got a problem. This is a Code Judas.”

“Shit are you sure Daniel? I won’t burn one of my own without cause.”

“I’m sure brother. Now listen closely because I need to know who sent that report with the picture of the Capizeo woman.” Daniel demanded.

“What do mean? Nobody from my office took or sent in any photos of a Capizeo.”

“It came by Diplomatic pouch and carrier Markus. Now who took that picture and sent it to my office?”

“Fuck! That stupid little shit! I knew I shouldn’t have trusted that little rat fucker, Hamilton. How deep in the shit are we, Daniel?”

“Do you remember the stories that old man Giuseppe used to tell us as children?” Daniel asked. Then he clarified for his old friend from his days as an orphan. “The ones about the Hemlock Rose and the Capizeo’s?”

“Oh shit! Please tell that they are just stories brother?”

“I wish that I could. But I can’t. Giuseppe’s stories are true. The Wraith has come once more for our fallen brothers and sisters.” As Daniel told his oldest and closest friend the news, he pulled back the sleeve of left arm. Looking down at the tattoo of the rose there on the inside of his arm he knew that Markus was doing the same. “Did you hear me brother?”

“I heard you. The question is do we keep our vow? They have never come to us. They have always stayed away from the Rose Society. We don’t owe them anything after all.”

“That is where you’re wrong my brother. I’ve done some digging the over the last few days. Our orphanage is not sponsored by the Church. We owe our very lives to the Capizeo family. As does our old home. Do you understand brother?” Daniel demanded of the man that was as close to a brother than anyone else.

“I’ll clear my end brother. You take care of your end. I’ll make sure that there are no references to the Capizeo family anywhere in my office records.”

“There should only be a photo and report copy on your end at most Markus. But the Priest that took that picture needs to be dealt with.” Daniel ordered.

“He is no Priest Daniel. The man is a contracted informant over at the airport. Is the photo in color or black and white?”

“Color. Why?” Daniel asked.

“Son of bitch! The little rat fucker is using an illegal pin-cam. That’s why. If he gets caught using something like that my whole operation can get blown to Hell in a tissue paper basket.”

“Markus this is worse than I expected. Make that man go away. No trace. Understood? Or do I need to make that an order?” Daniel asked with real worry in his voice. He didn’t like using contract informants. “Why would he even be taking pictures of people if we’re not looking for them?”

“DO you have the report with that photo with you?”

Daniel open the file and flipped to the report. As he read the report his ass cheeks puckered. “Oh FUCK! This stupid shit sent in a report about US Deputies Marshals coming and going from the private terminal, Markus. There are more pictures in this file.”

“Aw fuck! This just keeps getting better and better.”

Daniel had been flipping through the photos while his friend bitched. After seeing the photos of the two men and two teenage girls he came to a dead stop. “Oh shit! Sweet mother of God. Fuck me, sideways. This whole mess just went fucking nuclear on our asses.”

“What? Who did that shithead take pictures of Daniel?” Markus demanded.

“Whoever that fuckhead is; kill him. Do it in public, and make it bloody. That is a motherfucking order Father Markus.” Daniel was done playing.

“It shall be as you ordered, sir. May I know who the man had the stupidity of photographing to earn such a sentence?”

“Maria and Annette DeMarco. That’s who! The other five pictures can only be Donna Maria’s adopted daughter, her sons-in-law, and her two granddaughters. Do you have any idea of the Hell that woman would bring down on our Order if she found out that we were spying on her and her family? My God! We would be facing a Holy war against the most feared Guild of assassins in history.” Daniel couldn’t believe the situation that this man Hamilton had put the Iscariot Division, let alone the Church.

“Aw fuck! I'll take care of this myself Daniel. Destroy that damned file now. We don’t need anyone else finding about it or those photos. I don’t care if there is a naked photo of the last Capizeo in there. Just destroy that file.”

“Consider it done brother. I’ll send you a bottle of wine for the trouble.” Daniel chuckled.

“Don’t bother, I’m the one who owes you the bottle. You saved my ass before things got dicey. I really didn’t want to burn another office so soon after what happened in Albany. A whole team wiped out with no witnesses, and nothing to go on for who attacked. This is not good brother.”

“We know who attacked Precision Holding, Markus. They signed their work.” Daniel lowered his voice to just above a whisper. “They left a white rose and two silver half-dollars on the reception desk.”

The other end of the call remained silent for a few minutes before Markus finally said something. “They have truly returned from the mists of time. We have wondered how long it would be before the Hemlock Rose came for their revenge. Does the Monsignor know of their return yet?”

“Yes, and he is going to run brother. I can tell by the way he is acting. The man has no honor. He’ll leave our brothers and sisters in the Iscariot Division to face the Rose’s bloody wrath and not care.” Daniel laid out his thoughts to the one man he knew he could trust. “Brother, this is one time that I feel I should go to the Archbishop. I have records on all of the Monsignor’s illegal activities.”

Markus didn’t even think twice. “Go! Monsignor Delacorte does not deserve our loyalty. He has betrayed our trust one too many times brother. You know this, sure as I know you will do the right thing.”

“I guess it is time for the Iscariot Division to pay for our past sins. All of them. Starting with the sins against the Capizeo family.” Daniel sighed.

“Go with God, my brother.” Markus intoned.

“And peace be unto you, my brother.” Daniel answered back before hanging up.

Daniel ordered a sandwich and tea as he planned his next move. While he waited Daniel studied the photo that started his journey of reflection. The woman was petite and beautiful in an extremely exotic way. He could see that she had the body of a Ballet dancer. One that had spent decades at the barre. The most striking feature about the woman was her eyes. There was a harshness and unrelenting dedication hidden behind layers of sorrow to those eyes.

“This woman has to be the child of Mary and Marko Capizeo. God help us, if she has come for the Iscariots seeking vengeance.” Daniel sighed. “Because if she has; then not even the Good Lord Almighty can stop her.”

Miami International Airport, Miami, Florida

Father Markus Coleman knew that he had to handle the problem of John Hamilton today. After the phone call with his oldest friend, and boss, he knew that Hamilton had to go. Or it would be his head on the chopping block. The driver of the van was one of his most trusted agents. Two agents in the back of van manned a very unusual and deadly firearm. The sheer firepower of the weapon insured that Hamilton’s death would be both bloody and public.

Not turning to face the gun, Markus asked. “You understand your orders?”

“Yes sir. John Hamilton dies today. We just need a clear field of fire.” The gunner answered quickly. “Though why are we eliminating such a valuable asset, sir? Especially one that has been so useful in the past.”

Markus sighed. He knew that he had to give his agents a reasonable excuse for killing Hamilton. “As much as I want to keep the man around and continue to use him, we can’t. Hamilton has been compromised.”

“What the hell? How did that happen? He’s always followed protocol sir. Even his last report was by the numbers. Sealed envelope and all. He’s never once gone outside of procedures.” The gunner told Markus.

“The fool went around official channels with his last report, James. He broke with protocols and now he’s exposed. And if we don’t clean up his mess today, we’ll be exposed right along with him.” Markus turned to face the two men. “And we all know the standing orders for burned agents of the Iscariots.”

“No offence boss, but where is this little rat fucker?” The second man asked harshly. “I don’t know about James and David, but I really have no desire to spend the rest of my life on the run. Especially with a price on my head.”

“It’ll be ten times worse than that this time, Peter. We’ll have an International Death Warrant on our heads because of the fool.” Markus lied.

“HOLY MOTHER OF GOD! What did he do? Expose the Archbishop?!” Peter exclaimed.

“Worse. The stupid fool took pictures of Donna Maria DeMarco and her family then sent them to Section twenty-one.” Markus explained honestly while watching the employee exit of the airport. “I don’t know about you fools, but I have no desire to face that woman or her family. Even in broad daylight. That doesn’t even take into account the sheer number of Hitters that woman can draw on.”

“What does that have to do with anything? It’s not like the woman can command an army of professional Hitters.” Peter chuckled.

This time Markus sighed at his men’s ignorance. “Will you fools use your heads for once! That woman is owed more favors by Hitters than any other Don or Donna in the world. And those that don’t owe her, she can hire with just a word. That doesn’t even take in account the ones that would flock to her for just the chance to work for her. Just doing a job for Donna DeMarco would make any Hitter’s name in the world. So, the answer is yes; she can raise an army of Hitters. And it wouldn’t take her any effort at all.”

None of his agents said anything after that. They just concentrated on their jobs. They had all heard of Donna Maria ‘the Dove’ DeMarco. The most feared assassin in all the Organized Crime Families. None of them wanted that woman or the forces she could bring to bear hunting them down. If they had to turn one man into a bloody past to insure their survival, then so be it. John H. Hamilton had put them all in danger. The only way to remove that threat was with the man’s death. James double-checked the sights of the M-134 Minigun. Peter made sure that the ammo feed was clear of obstructions. And David made sure that he had a clear path to their target’s car.

Markus was the first to spot Hamilton as he exiting the employee parking lot. “Shit, change of plans people. Our target is already in his car and driving away. Damn it!”

David started the engine and pulled out into traffic. “Don’t worry boss. This just makes things easier. We get ahead of him, then Peter and James can blast his ass on the move. We just open the rear doors and they fire out the back, on the move. It’s perfect. Best of all, no innocent bystanders or collateral damage. We get the job done; nice and neat. Best of all it’ll still be bloody and public.”

Markus was many things, but dumb wasn’t one of them. David’s plan would work, and it removed a great number of outside factors. “Peter, James, get that gun turned around. David get us in front of that traitor as fast as you can.”

His agents did as ordered. They knew their jobs and had more than enough reasons to follow orders. None of them wanted to spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders. The idea of being burned by the Iscariot Division wasn’t something that any operator want to face. All four men had heard stories of fellow operators who had been burned. And what they had to face on the outside world. No money, no home, no country, no name, no friends and above all, little to no prospects of changing that.

As they followed Hamilton out onto I-75, known to the locals as Alligator Alley, Markus smiled for the first time since talking to Daniel. It didn’t take long for David to get in front of their target once they were on the Interstate. As David pulled in front of Hamilton’s Jeep Wrangler Peter threw open the rear cargo doors of their van. The gunner for the M-134, James, wasted no time in opening fire. At over 4000 rounds a minute John J. Hamilton never knew what hit him. The massive rate of fire turned both him and his Jeep into a holed, burning and bloody mess in under ten seconds.

As the van sped away into the early morning, Markus pulled out his sat-phone. He dialed the number from memory. The other end was answered on the second rang. “Talk to me.”

“Hamilton is dead, Daniel. Public and bloody just like you wanted. We square?” Markus told his old friend.

“We’re square, Markus. Now, close down your operations in Miami. Clean sweep of everything. Get you and your people out of town. Full slash and burn. There’s a cargo ship called the Flower of the South docked in Port Everglades. The captain will get you and your people out of the country no questions asked. The ship sails in five hours.” Daniel paused before continuing. “And Markus, lay low for the foreseeable future. Six to eight months. Head for Freeport in the Bahama’s. Ask for Father Clancy. Don’t worry, everybody knows the good Father. He’ll keep you safe. Understood?”

“Understood, Daniel. Peace of the Lord be with you.” Markus intoned and hung up. “Okay people. Time to clear out. We have four hours for a sweep and clear of the office then our quarters.”

“Damn boss. Where we going to go now? Are we burned?” Peter asked.

“We’re not burned Peter. You can thank a good friend of mine for that small favor. We just need to lay low for six to eight months.” Markus chuckled. “How do you all feel about rum drinks, ice cold beer and suntan lotion?”

Gatsby room, Gorman Rod & Gun Club: 10:30

As the MCV Flower of the South was exiting Port Everglades. Maria sat quietly waiting for the man she knew wasn’t going to be meeting her. She was just there to provide an alibi for her team. Kristine had sent her a text that her plan had gone off without a hitch. Even now Sam and Angelic were transporting Andrews to the old abandoned farm twenty miles from the Gorman.

When Andrews’ main security guard showed up in the Gatsby room alone. Maria smiled to herself. Everything was happening just as she had foreseen. Picking up her teacup Maria took a drink as the man approached her. After placing the cup back on the table, Maria looked up at the goon.

“Where is your employer, sir? I don’t have all day?” Maria snapped.

“Um… ma’am, I know this is going to sound crazy, but I was hoping you could tell me that.” At Maria’s glaring eyes, Dale Spiecer swallowed. “Ma’am; please understand that he left his rooms over forty-five minutes ago. He should have been here already.”

Maria looked over at her watch. “I will give your employer another fifteen minutes. After that, any chances at a deal; will be gone. I suggest that you quit wasting my time and go find him. Now! Before my patience runs out.”

Spiecer nodded his head and left Maria to her tea. Maria chuckled as the man practically ran from the room. “Once a thug, always a thug.”

As she sat there Hunter, Bobby and the girls joined her.

Bobby was the first to say anything. “Sam and Angelic have secured our bunny, mom.”

“Any chance the snatch was recorded girls?” Maria asked her granddaughters with a sly smile.

“None, grandma. Mamma Sam and Aunt Angelic are ghosts in the machine. All traces of them have been wiped from the hotel security server.” Kasey explained smiling then turned thoughtful. “Nonnina, how did you know about the basement exit? It’s not on the blue prints.”

“Simple, logic dear. I noticed that the elevator had a button for the basement. That meant there had to be a basement entrance of some kind. Just so that the hotel stays within Fire Codes. Which for the State of New York means there is also two emergency exits by code.” Maria explained. “Knowing this; all it would take is five, maybe ten, minutes between your mother and aunt to find the regular entrance and those emergency exits.”

“What I want to know is where mamma Sam learned all those fancy strikes and kicks?” Kristine asked Maria.

Maria chuckled. “Kristine you and Kasey both need to understand one thing. In the hands of your mother Samantha any object becomes as lethal as she needs it be. Between what you saw last night and this morning you’re just now seeing your mother Samantha in her true element.”

Hunter coughed into his hand. “Excuse me, mom, but what do you mean?”

“Samantha, no let me correct that, Stephany has embraced her heritage. She is the Hemlock Rose, last Mistress of the Sleep of the Beautiful Death.” Maria sighed then took another drink of her tea. “As all of you have now seen with your own eyes. Stephany is just as deadly with her bare hands as she is with her family blades.”

“Will she ever train us to follow in her footsteps Nonnina?” Kristine asked quietly.

Maria took a drink of her tea before answering her granddaughter. She could see the hope in both of their eyes. “Maybe in time. Though I fear that time is not too far in the future.”

“Why do you say that mom?” Bobby asked fearing the answer.

“Because your daughters have already mastered the Way of the Dancing Blade. They have outstripped everything that could ever hope to teach them.” Maria answered honestly. “The only thing that is holding your daughters back is I refuse to push any dancer beyond their skill level. Ever”

“So, the only thing standing in our way of learning the Sleep of the Beautiful Death is mamma Sam?” Kasey asked Maria.

“You have hit upon the rub dear child. I fear that unless your mother Samantha returns from Rome. That you will be left to discover your heritage on your own. Just as she has. I pray that your mother Samantha will be able to rip the needed information from Andrews’ sorry hide.” Maria told them all.

“Do you think she can do it Nonnina?” Kristine want to know.

“I believe that she will, Kristine.” Maria hid her smile in her teacup’s rim. “I believe that she will. In more ways than one.”

-----tbc-----

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