Author's note:

Whoot! Guess who's back, baby? (I'll give you a hint…it's me!) Here with the new and improved Silvia Cooper. I decided to rewrite the story for several reasons

I have a better control of language since last year so I'll be able to write better

I wrote myself into so many corners it became impossible to continue

I felt like it (DEAL WITH IT!!!)

The fans of the story will be happy to know that I'm going to keep the blood and guts of the story with a few minor changes (Villains, mostly) but I think it will be same story at heart. Just a better version

If you didn't like the last story, then you probably won't like this one either. I really don't care…

DOTMW!


Chapter One: Welcome Home

"…Frequent outbursts, defiance, vandalism and multiple counts of theft have prompted this administration to take action. Silvia is a bright young lady, but seems to have trouble conforming to the standards of our institution. This adviser recommends counseling…"

Seventeen year old Silvia Marie Cooper crumpled the note from the administrator up and shoved it in a passing mailbox. Shoving her hands in her pockets, she trudged home through the brisk Parisian afternoon with a scowl on her face. Defiance? Vandalism? Who were they to suggest she was unstable? All the PhDs in France had somehow agreed that a little goofing off was a sign of deep seated emotional struggle that needed to be sorted out through arduous (Not to mention expensive) therapy

Catching her reflection in a passing shop window, she paused to fix her wind swept appearance. Brushing her dark blue locks away from her dark brown eyes, she studied the girl who looked back at her.

Her abuelo always said she was the spitting image of her mother, despite the fact she had acquired her father's general appearance, ringed tail and all. She looked like, for all the world, a female version of her father though most of the time she wore her mother's signature expression: Serious and curious at the same time. Fixing her navy blue skirt and white school blouse, she once again set off towards her three bedroom, two and half bathroom flat on the outskirts of town.

As she rounded the corner, the gleaming windows of the Paris Interpol office caught the setting sun and temporarily blinded her. Her scowl deepened as the building came in sight. Her parents, Captains Sylvester and Carmelita Cooper, held two of the most prestigious law enforcement jobs in all of Europe. That being said, they were also kept at the office for an obscenely long time. It was not uncommon for Sly and Carmelita to leave before Silvia got up and get home long after she had gone to bed. Most of the time she didn't even see her parents until the weekend.

Not that that was a bad thing: Sometimes Silvia thought she was left on her parent's porch by gypsies or something. It didn't seem possible that a juvenile derelict could be the product of two of Interpol's elite. It had never been more obvious how different she was from her parents than at the annual Interpol charity ball. Every year her mother dolled Silvia up and then proceed to spend the drive over to the banquet hall threatening, begging, bribing Silvia to not humiliate her this year. Silvia would always nod and smile and then proceed to destroy the toilets in the women's bathroom with a cache of hidden M80s or move the ice sculpture on a steam vent or, like last year, spike the punch with Viagra; which would lead to the eventual "What-have-we-done-to-deserve-such-humiliation?" tirade from Carmelita with supporting "uh-huhs" from Sly's side of the car. Her dad would always back up her mom, but he never seemed that upset. He actually laughed at the Viagra incident until he received a withering look from his wife.

Half an hour later, as Silvia rounded the corner onto her street, she noticed several things that were very very wrong.


For one, her parents 2007 Aston Martin DB9 was lying in a smoldering heap on the roof of her neighbor's house. A crowd of rubberneckers had gathered around her house as several police officers put on the "there's nothing to see here, folks" routine, despite the fact there was clearly something to see. The front porch was completely gone, torn up by what appeared to be a chainsaw. The immaculate white paneling was riddled with machine gun fire and scorch marks and all the windows now lay in fine powdery bits on the lawn.

Silvia dropped her bookbag. Whatever was going on, it wasn't going to end well. Pushing, shoving and often times elbowing her way through the crowd, she was stopped by a junior cop outside the front door.

"I'm sorry miss, I can't let you in there: crime scene."

"Crime scene? What happened?"

"That information is handed out on a need to know basis…"

"I live here! I need to know why my mailbox is in my living room!" Silvia spat.

"Wait…" Suddenly the officer's expression darkened. "You're their daughter, aren't you? Silvia, right?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Silvia anxiously hurried on. "What's going on here?"

The officer looked around nervously for a second before raising the caution tape so Silvia could enter the house.

From the copious amount of cop dramas that the Coopers liked to watch, Silvia could gather that a struggle had taken place. Tables had been overturned and thrown across the room where they were now only good for firewood. Lamps were actually embedded in the drywall and her mother's collection of antique pistols were scattered all over the floor, some appearing to have been fired. In the middle of the chaos, a tall, graying rabbit was squatting in the rubble, photographing bullet shells.

"Large caliber rounds." He was saying to another CSI who was dusting for prints. ".45 or .50, I'm not sure. Teflon coated hollow point incendiary and illegal in seventeen countries."

"Captain," the officer escorting Silvia addressed the CSI who stopped taking pictures to look up at them. "This is the girl."

The captain drew himself up to his full height and looked at Silvia with the expression of an awkward teenager on his first date: uncomfortable and dreading what had to be said next.

"Silvia, I'm Captain Steele. I worked with your parents on the day shift."

Worked. The use of the past tense automatically set off alarm bells in Silvia's already buzzing head.

"I'm afraid we have some troubling news for you…"

Also not surprising. The house looked like a tornado full of hand grenades had plowed through her living room.

"How about you just tell me!"

Steele scratched the back of his head, nervously. "About half past three we got a call from your father's police radio calling for immediate backup. There were gunshots, explosions and all manner of God-knows-what going on in the background. By the time we got here, there was no one here."

Silvia felt a cold pit form in her stomach. "What are you saying?"

"Well…there's no easy way to say this so I'll just say it. We've just declared Cpts. Cooper missing in action as of four forty-five this afternoon."

Missing

That's all she heard. One word. Everything else was irrelevant because her parents had gone completely off the radar. Gone, gone, gone.

The chief was going on but Silvia heard none of it. From everything she had heard, her parents made a nigh invincible duo. Thanks to them, half the old gangs in Europe had either disbanded or packed it in and moved. How could this have happened with a full police force just half a mile away?

Who could have done this? Her parents weren't very popular in the European underworld.The Blue Vipers? No, they usually left some kind of graffiti as a calling sign. The Bowery Boys? They never operated out of Ireland. The Mafia? Silvia's parents never worked Cosa Nostra cases.

Steele's monotone speech was focusing back. "…part of your inheritance will be…"

"What inheritance?" Now she was interested.

Steele reached into his coat and procured a small, manila envelope. Silvia took it, weighing it in her hand. It was small, but surprisingly heavy.

Captain Steele put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "I'll leave you to your thoughts. Social Services will pick you up in the morning."


Silvia turned the envelope over in her hands, thoughtfully. She hadn't dared to open in yet but now that she was completely alone she dropped her hand into her drawer and withdrew a nail file. Carefully, so as not to disturb the contents inside, she tore the seal off the envelope and tipped the contents on to her bed.

A heavy, golden skeleton key with the initials SC engraved on the head dropped gently on the sheets along with a small piece of paper. Picking up the note, she read:

The Noble Fisherman

32-16-50

SBMPKPDG

The Noble Fisherman

The name rang a bell. For some reason she thought of the smell of chicken soup and the taste of foul tasting cough medicine….

When she was younger, she caught a bad case of the flu. She could distinctly remember her father staying home with her and reading…

"The Noble Fisherman." She quietly mused to herself. Picking up the key, she headed directly for her father's study and the massive case of books it contained. Scanning the shelves, she searched frantically for the familiar leather binding.

"Moby Dick…Dracula…Dickens…Ah!" her hand darted forward and plucked the book from its nest. She looked at it, expecting something t leap out and grab her as important but nothing did. She flipped through it a few times, checking the spine and shaking the pages, expecting something to fall out but all that did was dust.

Sighing in disappointment, she went to replace the book when she noticed something odd about the shelf. Behind where the book usually resided was a small metal glint. Silvia reached a hand back there, feeling along the grooves until her finger slipped inside something. A keyhole.

Well, she had a key.

Click.

The lock turned and Silvia was again disappointed when nothing leapt out at her. Then there was a small click from behind her. She turned around in time to see the covering to the thermostat fall to the floor to reveal a small dial. A tumbler with numbers around the edges. A combination lock.

Well, she had a combination.

"32…16…50." The tumbler clicked and shrank back into the wall.

"Well this is a huge waste of my time…" Silvia muttered when suddenly her dad's computer fired up. The screen cast an ethereal glow on the darkened room, blinking one word over and over again.

PASSWORD:

An eight letter password. Silvia looked down at the sheet for a third time, silently counting the letters on the sheet. Eight. Her dad was leaving a trail for her but she couldn't imagine where it would lead. Even as her fingers punched in key after key, she wasn't aware that with each passing keystroke she was heading towards her birthright, her future.

She paused before hitting the ENTER key. Something caught in her chest. She couldn't quite place the feeling. Looking back on that moment years later, she supposed the same feeling was shared by those who were about to get married, leave home or die. The feeling that in a few minutes, your life will be unexplainably changed forever.

The screen beckoned. The words CONFIRM PASSWORD blinked over and over. Finally, brushing the strange feeling aside, Silvia pressed ENTER.

At first, nothing happened. For a second, it appeared as though this string of clues had lead to a dead end. Then a sound came from the bookcase. A click. Silvia looked up and as she did, another click popped from the bookcase. The sound of metal, shifting, moving, grinding came from behind the books. The leather volumes trembled on the shelf. Then, without warning, the shelves slid down like an elevator revealing a dark red door in the wall with a large golden C embedded in it.

Silvia shakily reached her hand out and grasped the handle. Taking a deep breath, she flung the door open and revealed…

An empty closet.

Silvia blinked curiously at the unadorned cabinet, no, she thought to herself as she inspected it further. On the wall was a glowing green button. Sense of curiosity dispelling her trepidation, Silvia pressed the button.

The door swung shut behind her, plunging the room into darkness. Suddenly the room shifted and she felt herself going down like an elevator (for that's exactly what it was)

Lurching to a stop, the door swung open again. Blinking in the sudden light, Silvia expected to be deposited at the ground floor of her house. What she saw was something quite different.

The room she found herself in was about the size of the garage. Along one wall was a bulletin board pinned with newspaper clippings of various heists around the world. Silvia assumed they had been cases her parents had worked on but upon closer inspection, there was no mention of her father or her mother. Valuable looking antiquities were hanging on walls or displayed in cases. On a desk was a younger picture of her father flanked a large hippo and a turtle in a wheelchair. Standing next to the turtle was a mouse with a RC remote in her hand. On the hippo's shoulder was a purple koala with a stick and a sphere in his hand. In the back was a greasy looking iguana in a dive suit and towering over the all was a massive panda with explosives strapped to his back.

"Who are these guys?" Silvia mused to herself as she turned her gaze to the rest of the room.

A portrait of her parents dancing at what appeared to be an Indian ballroom held her attention. She had always been told her parents met when they were 30 but this picture showed them no older than 23 or so.

On the far wall, in a glass case, a thick leather-bound book sat on a leather pillow. Pressing her nose to the glass, she read Thevius Raccoonus. She was about to pry open the case and have a look at it when something else caught her eye.

A heavy, wooden cane with a golden tip glinted in the artificial light. No glass separated her from the artifact so she reached out, lifted it from its cradle and…

"WARNING! WARNING! INTRUDER ALERT! INTRUDER ALERT!"

Sirens blared and lights flashed. Silvia frantically tried to replace the cane but the voice was talking again.

"STATE YOUR NAME OR PREPARE TO BE VAPORIZED! This message will repeat in Spanish, French, and Italian. Have a great day!"

"Vaporized?!?!" This was a little far to be going for a pile of junk. 'Uh…Silvia Maria Cooper!"

The siren stopped. A small computer on the desk fired up.

"Silvia?"

Her heart jumped when she heard her father's voice but looking around, she saw her father's image on the screen. He looked some years younger: it must have been

"Silvia, if you're hearing this, something has happened to your mom and I." the recording explained. "If that's the case, then you are the last surviving member of the Cooper Clan."

Silvia waited for her father to go on.

"I suppose you're wondering what all this stuff is, huh?" ("Not at all…" Silvia muttered dryly.) I, I guess I should say we, were born into the greatest line of thieves that ever lived. Since the Egyptian days, the Cooper family has made a living stealing from the worst criminals in society. I was all ready to follow in the footsteps of my father, your grandfather, when a group of criminals known as the "Fiendish Five" orphaned me at 8 and stole the book you now see before you." Silvia noticed that the book had been glued back together several times.

Sly continued, "With the help of the friends I made at the orphanage, we tracked down the pages of the Thevius Raccoonus and sent their leader, Clockwerk to a volcanic death. It was on that series of jobs when I met your mother. She'll have you believe we met at a police ball in our thirties. In fact we met as she was trying to put me away for grand larceny." Silvia gaped at the screen.

"Now you're probably wondering how a cop and a robber could fall in love and get married, right? Well many years later she tracked me to the sight of my biggest job: breaking into the Cooper vault and regaining my heritage. As I was about to be killed (Don't ask it's a long story.) I got to thinking about how much Carmelita meant to me. So, when the time came, I saved your mother from a laser blast and faked amnesia to become her Constable. My gang disbanded and the rest is history. Now that brings us back to today. I don't know what has happened to your mother and I, but I know who does. Take one of those raccoon shaped calling cards to Le Black Château night club on the 13th street. Talk to the owner, Dimitri. He should be able to help. Whether he will or not is another story… Whatever happens, stay out of harm's way. Whoever got to us is bound to know about you too. Take whatever you need from the house and then…" Sly looked down for a second. "Torch it. We have to cover our tracks."

Silvia's eyes widened in surprise. Her own father had just told her to burn down a house she had lived in since she was four (of course there wasn't much left after whoever had come had been there). While she was mulling this over, her father was saying something else.

"I…never wanted this life for you." Sly was looking down, averting his gaze from the camera lens. "When I married your mother, I dropped off the map. I thought any enemies I had made as a thief would leave me alone if they thought I was dead. It looks like I was wrong."

The message fizzled and died. Though her father had vanished from the screen, she continued to stare at the blank screen. A small part of her was hoping that her parents and the entire Paris police force would jump out from behind the TV, say it was only a joke and everything could go back to normal. But as the minutes slowly ticked by she, dull reality seeped every barrier she could throw against it like a cold sun that slunk over the horizons and extinguished the night. As impossible as it sounded, it was the truth.

Her thoughts turned back to the staff. It felt much heavier now; as if her father's words had caused it to grow in size. She absently traced the crescent curve of the head, pondering her next move.

CRASH!

The cane flew from her hand and collided with the glass containing the book, shattering it into a million pieces. The cane bounced off the frame and slid across the floor to come to a rest by her feet. It came back…

What were her options? Foster care? Her mom had family but that was in Spain and while it was nice, she didn't know a lick of Spanish. But what was her other choice? Take some stick and book to a shady nightclub owner who was probably an underworld boss and see if he could help? Help with what?

The book lay on the pad, taunting her while beckoning her at the same time. What would she do?

She made quick sweep of the room, looking for anything that could be rendered remotely useful. She grabbed a red pack off the wall and began haphazardly stuffing important looking things into it: packs of smoke bombs, lockpicks, fake id's, blank passports and no doubt fraudulent credit cards. Finally she tucked the book between the laptop and a can of something called Acid-X ("Dissolves any metal!" ) and slipped the cane into a small hook on the side and made the trek back up to her bedroom.

She looked haplessly around at her collection of belongings. What was worth saving from the fire she was to ignite? Silva mulled over her trophies and trinkets before shoving a couple pairs of jeans, shirts, sweatshirts and shoes into the red knapsack along with the other items.

All that was left was to destroy the house.


Neighbors later reported that the house was racked with several explosions as flames consumed the propane tank in the basement and the cans of gas in the garage, adding to the conflagration already in progress. As most good rubbernecking neighbors do, they all gathered around while the firefighters watched the house burn (there was little point in stopping it now. They were pretty much there to stop the fire from spreading to other houses).

What the Parisians suburbanites couldn't understand (and what proved to be juicy conversation in the coming days) was what had happened to the girl who lived there. Top captains disappear and then their daughter goes missing as their house burns? Nothing like this had ever happened in anyone's recollection since the days of the money laundering enterprise infected the town in the early nineties and needless to say a chill crept up many a spine despite the fact that the inferno still burned white hot.

The only one who knew crouched behind a car around the block and watched her house burn, cloaking the street in a dark plume of smoke. The stars were out but the fire out shone most of them and the smoke veiled the rest, plunging most of the street into darkness while a small corner blazed. Silvia hid in the darkness. It was darker, colder and less confident than the corner of the road where all her neighbors gathered but that world was now alien to her as much as if it had been a different world. Resentment brewed in the pit of her stomach for the name, her name, that had forced her into the darkness, to always walk with one eye on the prize and one eye over her shoulder, to shun sun for the cold embrace of the shadows. As she brooded in her own misery, silent tears clouded her vision. All children cry when they are born: so too when they are born again.

And so, as ashes from her childhood home began to rain down like ghostly snowflakes, Silvia turned from the fire into the night, never again to bathe in their warmth. The darkness was uncertain, but she would learn how to tolerate it, embrace it and one day, many years later, she would learn to love the night and the dark and the cold, harsh shadow world her father had left her as her only inheritance.

A lone nightingale sang. To you and I it would be a song, nothing more. To Silvia, the message was as clear as full moon casting its pale gaze on the sky. At first there was only one but soon another and another and another joined. The owls hooted softly and the nighthawks keened, high and fierce like trumpets welcoming royalty home from war. The locusts hummed, the wolves howled and the beasts of darkness had a message for the girl running from car to car, lest someone see her.

Welcome Home, they said. Welcome Home.