A/N: Wahoo! New chapter. Thank you to my reviewers; you are so very kind. I apologize for the length of time it's taken me to post again; school really cuts into writing and now that it's over (for now, anyway) I'm working on several stories.
This chapter is more for OC development and to introduce the main baddies. Enjoy!
Thirty-Three years ago…
Nora braced herself for the agony of the bullets that would tear through her, but it never came. The assassin's blood sprayed the wall before he fell to the ground with a stunned look on his face. His guns thudded on the floor.
After a few trembling breaths, she turned to another man at the opposite end of the hallway at the top of the stairs. All black clothing, tall; six holsters were fit to the length of his torso.
She sat there, rocking the lifeless body of her child and watching the other killer. Before he turned and walked away, she was certain she saw sadness in his eyes.
She'd seen him only once again after that. A few years later he accompanied a mob soldier who had taken a bullet in the arm to her new 'work' place. Nothing of past events passed their lips by; but worlds of pain and emotion were exchanged when their eyes met.
She should have thanked him for saving her life; she knew, but instead was distracted by an unwarranted seething. The broad, tacit man hadn't made it in time to save her husband, or her son, leaving her alone in the world. She always ended up truly blaming herself though. For years after, she thought she may as well have died too.
She'd interrupted Kostya, who was in the middle of a phone conversation. He put his hand over the speaker and said he'd be back; but she'd waved him off and told him to get some sleep. She'd met Kostya in a similar situation to the brothers', but Kostya's injuries were much less severe.
While treating him, the impression that had been left on her by another assassin more than three decades ago remained: Not all killers were monsters; and she knew from the start that Kostya was not a monster. Though he would disappear from time to time for a job, it just seemed that he had never really left; she was glad of it.
Nora sat there watching the two boys sleep; she didn't know why she thought of them that way as the presence of firearms should have negated any concept of childishness. Neither of them stirred as she wondered about the lives they led and the events that had lead up to her finding them. What had they done? Did their ruthlessness outmatch that of whom she worked for? How human were they? Were they someone's sons? Someone's lovers?
"How are things around the house?"
"Pretty quiet," Kostya lied into the phone's speaker.
"How are things up North?"
There was a pause. "Good."
He could tell she was lying.
"Do you need anything?" he asked, willing to help her at a moment's notice.
"Nah, just wanted to say 'hi.'" She sounded tired. He hoped she was okay.
"Alright; you pick the strangest times to call, you know?"
"I really dunno why I called; I thought you'd be out on a run or something."
"Just getting ready to," he lied.
"I will. Bye, Angel face."
There was a tired laugh over the line.
"How many times do I have to ask you not to call me that?"
He read 'Call Ended,' on the screen of his Motorola and he stuffed back into his pocket after snapping it shut. That was an odd call even by his standards.
Nora's daughter hadn't been home in months and while she did occasionally call 'just to say hi' the call gave him an odd feeling. He found himself worrying; not an activity he usually engaged in. He didn't enjoy killing; but if anybody hurt that girl he would be satisfied with bringing death on the person who did the hurting. Nora was a strong woman but he wondered if she could endure the pain of the loss of another child.
Nora always told him not to dwell on every negative possibility; but he told her that he was merely being prudent.
She said she was okay, maybe she is; he thought and then scolded himself.
You know that's bullshit; she was lying.
He trudged to his room, deciding to sleep, knowing there was nothing much he could do anyway and that Nora had passed a great amount of strength to her progeny.
Maybe she's just having a bad day.
Elizabeth's cell phone read 8:06 a.m. She stuffed it back into her purse and stepped out of the convenience store, carrying a bag stuffed with chips, candy bars and drinks. (She hoped she'd picked out something Pops would eat.) They would probably arrive at her mother's house around one or one thirty.
She stretched as she approached the car where Pops was standing. Her body screamed, though because of the blows her body had been dealt the previous night.
"It's a gorgeous morning," she commented as she realized how infrequently she appreciated the beginning of the day.
Pops stood with his head bowed and then looked up after several seconds. He inhaled the crisp, mid-October air.
"Are you ready?"
He nodded and got into the car.
With the comforting rustle of the plastic bag, Elizabeth situated the food and drinks behind the console.
Bring on the junk food, she thought. She'd always been a nervous eater.
After about ten minutes, a Snickers and half a bag of chips, she turned on the radio, curious.
A woman's voice came through the speakers:
"Late last night the bodies of two men were found shot to death in a South Boston alleyway. Though authorities are not releasing information, the killings bring to mind the brutal executions done by The Saints several years ago…"
She switched off the radio, a thoughtful expression on her face.
"Ya know, I just feel so justified in having offed that guy, it hadn't occurred to me that we'd be vilified."
"That seems te be de cost o' tings," Pops said distantly.
She nodded in understanding, but Elizabeth suddenly felt sadness and anger. Would it ever be known that the two that they killed were themselves a far worse breed of killer? The kind that tortured and maimed. (This is what she sensed of them.) She knew the penile system was way overcrowded and as a result more and more criminals were being set free. She just didn't understand how punishments were doled out.
Someone could steel a car and do five to ten years and some pervert could molest a little girl and spend maybe six months in prison for it; probably less.
Her foot pressed down on the accelerator harder, a sour expression crossing her face.
"It's just not right." She muttered, tightening her grip on the steering wheel.
"No," he said. "'Tis not."
Kostya drew the curtains in his bedroom, dousing the light. He stripped to the waist before sitting down on his bed and flicking on the stereo that sat on the nightstand. He'd always needed some noise in the background so that he could sleep, but what he heard didn't help him to drift off.
"In a Pittsburgh home, no less than sixteen men were executed. Authorities are not releasing the names of the victims and little other information; but it has been rumored that a teenaged girl survived the vicious attack and has been taken into police custody. The home belongs to Giorgio Leonetti. Sources say…"
Kostya had thrown a shirt on and fastened a few of the buttons, albeit in the wrong slits, and charged downstairs and into the infirmary.
"Nora!" he said, keeping his voice in a stunned, but excited whisper.
She turned around, brow creased.
"What is it?"
"You should watch or listen to the news."
"Leonetti is most likely dead and fifteen others with him. That's what happened."
When Kostya got nervous, his accent tended to get thicker but the implication of his words was no less clear. Leonetti was big time.
What was that about a girl surviving? Kostya's mind raced, remembering something he'd heard.
Rumor had it that Leonetti was trying to get his hand into smuggling more than just weapons and drugs in and out of the country. This had bothered Kostya but he'd been to both of Leonetti's estates –the one in New York and the one in Pittsburgh which was apparently now a slaughterhouse –and had neither seen nor heard any proof of this. Kostya waited for Nora's reaction.
In a motion that was most likely deliberate, she looked at the sleeping twins and back at Kostya with an expression he could not interpret.
"Now, I wonder who would have done that," she said.
"Will they come here looking for them?" Kostya asked.
"I don't think so, but…" she sighed, "you never know."
Kostya nodded, taking it in.
"What are these guys, anyway?" That did not at all strike him as the mob type.
"I don't know, but they're…something."
Tomasso Franchetti had heard.
The perhaps too-early glass of bourbon he'd been enjoying shattered against a bedroom wall of his New York penthouse when the news came over his plasma screen TV. The hooker in his bed woke up and wrapped the golden, satin sheets around her chest, cringing at his outburst.
He muttered some curses in Italian, threw a cotton robe on and stormed out the door, shouting for a maid. He hastily punched the buttons on his phone, dialing one of his associate's numbers.
"Yes," Alexander Caputo said over the line in a grave tone.
"Get everyone together; we'll meet at Giselle's at nine tonight and I wanna know who we've got on the inside." Giselle's was one of Franchetti's smaller establishments.
"No, it's not very fucking good! Someone's on to us!" He was yelling now and the paunch that had been consistently growing since his fortieth birthday jiggled a little bit.
"I'll see you at nine, Tomasso." Caputo said before hanging up.
Tomasso heard the dial tone and let his breath rush out through his nostrils as he began counting to ten and placing the phone back on its cradle. There were things to be done.
"You know we have to help them, right?" Nora asked Kostya who was sat with his chin in his palms.
"No matter what," she pressed.
"We don't know what they're about or who might have hired them, Nora."
"Kostya…" she started, not knowing where exactly she was going. "Have you ever seen anyone here react the way Conner did to someone almost dying?"
"No," he said with a shrug, "but they're brothers."
"We work for a man who killed his own brother. These are good men and I think you know that; we can't just throw them to the dogs."
"So what do you suggest we do?" He asked, "Because I can't help but notice a conflict of interest here."
"Let's just make sure they're all right."
Nora knew Kostya was waiting for an 'and then' followed by a plan that would solve their problem but she really didn't know what to do. Chances were they wouldn't want to stay too long anyway.
They lapsed into an uneasy silence for a while and listened to the clock tick. She was afraid; she couldn't deny that. She was afraid for her daughter, for Kostya and even for the unconscious brothers that could very well bring her world crashing down around her. She wasn't about to admitted it, though.
She found Conner's coat and rummaged through the pockets until she found keys. She tossed them to Kostya.
"Can you move their car into the garage and see what you can do about the blood?" It wouldn't hurt do give Kostya something to do to occupy his mind.
"Yeah," he said, accepting the keys to the Buick.
Elizabeth sighed heavily.
"About an hour," she said, drumming her fingers on the dashboard, waiting for the traffic light to turn green, "maybe more in this traffic."
She wasn't looking forward to arriving at their destination, where she would spill her guts to her mother; the city traffic was like the equivalent of Purgatory. The light turned green and the SAAB ahead of her didn't move.
"Get moving, you stupid douche-bag!" She yelled at the driver whom, she imagined was on a cell phone.
As if spurred on by her words, the car moved. She'd since put on her sunglasses. It was one of those October days when the sun was horrendously bright and hot; but the warmth would be immediately banished by a swift, chilly wind that would make your nose and eyes water.
"You think so?" She didn't snipe; she said it with a nervous chuckle.
Conner stirred. He took in the astringent scent, the beeping monitor and everything hit him; Murphy nearly dying, being helped by Nora. He lay flat on his back, blinking his eyes. Turning his head slowly, he saw Murphy in the same position he had been in hours ago. Nora hovered over him.
"Hey," she said with a tired smile. "I was wondering when you'd wake up."
He tried to sit up, but found it difficult.
"Just rest," she suggested. "I think you'll be here for a little while."
He tried to sit up again and succeeded, but felt, through the disorientation, the stitches in his shoulder pull. He winced.
"Or not," Nora said.
Conner looked at the clock on the wall; it read 12:36. Was that afternoon or night? How long had he been asleep? He realized that, down in that room, he hadn't seen daylight in almost an entire day; maybe more. He looked at Murph and then back at Nora questioningly.
"He's fine," she assured him. "How are you feeling?"
He shrugged (and regretted it). "I'm a' right."
"Do you need anything?" The woman was damn persistent in her hospitality, Conner decided.
"No, thank ye," he said, dragging his legs over the side of the cot and setting his feet on the floor. He needed Murphy to be awake and making some joke and being okay; that's what he needed.
"Is there anyone you need to call?" Nora asked.
"No," Conner didn't know how to contact his father and he was unsure of how to feel about that. He and Murph had taken care of each other their entire lives; they didn't need anybody but now that they were together, would their father care that they were injured and that Murphy was nearly killed?
Snap the fuck out o' it, man, he scolded himself. Ye know Da'd be 'ere in a split second if he knew what happened.
Maybe it was time for the Saints to invest in cell phones.
The small bar of Giselle's was illuminated by candles but the occupants didn't really seem to notice. Five men in well-tailored suits sipped one sort of liquor or the other. They regarded each other with brief glances and nods, all knowing that there was a position of power to be filled.
Alexander Caputo sat quietly in a corner, watching others watch him. He knew they were looking to him to start dealings but he would not. He wanted as little as possible to do with this new problem. He wanted out, but getting out now would look…well, bad.
He was not surprised when Tomasso Franchetti was the first to speak up. Alexander had known him since Tomasso was a teenager; he had never doubted that the power-hungry younger man would rise to a position of higher standing within the mob and now that more of that clout was within his reach, he would undoubtedly grasp it.
"Gentlemen," Tomasso began. "Thank you for joining me here at such short notice. As you're all aware by now Giorgio Leonetti and others were killed and I don't think I'm alone in the sentiment that something must be done about it."
There were nods of approval around the room and Tomasso smiled ever so slightly, clearly enjoying the pull he had.
"We would be risking far too much by allowing those who perpetrated this crime to go unpunished." More nods. "I'd like to ask for your approval to go to Pennsylvania and tie up any loose ends. I think you, Alexander and Marty, should stay here in New York and see to affairs and that you, Vince and Eddie, should come with me to Pennsylvania."
Vince raised his glass of amber liquid. "I second that motion." He said, with a half-witted grin.
No one saw Alexander roll his eyes. Vincent Biagio was a play boy but his financial connections kept him in good with men who wielded their power with more force. Alexander expected that Tomasso wanted to keep Vince close to ensure that he wouldn't try anything stupid.
Tomasso had selected Edward Rossini to keep him close as well but for an entirely different reason. Edward was shrewd and very capable of assuming power. Alexander had seen them tap dance around each other for as long as he could remember.
Though Alexander had come to loathe Tomasso over the years, he felt an odd sense of pride as the emerging leader delegated orders. Alexander was, after all, Tomasso's godfather (a fact which he never failed to see the cinematic irony in).
Plans were made; drinks were drained. Vince pinched the pretty cocktail waitress's ass when she served them another round of drinks. Her lips smiled but Alexander could see the look of disgust in her eyes.
After the others had left, Alexander and Tomasso remained. Tomasso was barely concealing the excitement he was so obviously feeling. Tomasso allowed himself to slouch in his seat and sigh.
"That went well, I think." Alexander stated.
"Yeah," Tomasso said, nodding his head giddily, to the point his dark hair became disheveled. "Me too."
Moments in silence passed before Alexander spoke up again. "Is there anyone you want to hire?" he asked.
Tomasso sobered up considerably.
"Kostya should be close to where you're going, maybe he could…" Alexander's suggestion was cut short.
"No," Tomasso said as he stared into his glass as though it were a crystal ball that would grant him unparalleled wisdom. "Get me The Lady."
The West Coast…
No one would have ever guessed that the name her parents had given her was Helen. Though stunningly gorgeous, she looked little or nothing like the classic Greek beauty was described to be. Her hair was as black as a crow's feather and her eyes, which few felt comfortable looking into for more than a split second, were a shade of blue so pale and cold that they looked like tropical waters that had been frozen over.
Wearing a silver outfit that revealed more than a bikini, the woman called The Grey Lady was grinding her body against the man she'd been hired to kill. She moved gracefully, balanced on her black pumps and was bothered little by the platinum blond wig she wore; her contacts made her eyes a warm shade of brown.
She could not have asked for a better environment in which to carry out her job. The strobe lights of Chez Noir made everybody's movements appear jilted and more importantly, distorted. No one would have taken notice to her unwinding the thin wire from around her torso and wrapping it around her mark's throat as she swayed her breasts a fraction of an inch from his face; no one would have realized that his air supply was being cut off or that when he slumped to the floor, he was dead. Certainly, nobody would have noticed her slink into the bathroom to discard the ruse of an exotic dancer and then slip out a back door in jeans and knee-length leather jacket.
The syndicate that had hired her wanted it to be a public death and that was fine; she'd done jobs that were riskier and far bloodier than the one she just pulled off. A quarter of a mile away, she unlocked and got into her black BMW that she had parked by a row apartment buildings; and shut the door and sat for a few minutes. She'd decided that she would indulge herself in a glass of whine after a hot shower, when she saw something move about a hundred feet ahead of her. Switching her attention to the present, she saw a man get out of his car and move to the back seat where he pulled out a bundle; a bundle with a distinctly child-like shape. The man was wary as he slunk into one of the houses.
Fastening a knife sheath around each of her thighs, she followed.
She didn't know this man; but she knew that the wounds inflicted by those like him were not healable. He would pay and pay dearly.
The Grey Lady sat curled in her leather recliner with a glass of Lambrusco combing over the details of her latest two kills in her sharp, but broken mind; very clean on both accounts, she thought as she took a sip of wine. She'd seen to it that the child (who was unconscious and would not have seen her) would be recovered safely. If she'd needed any proof of what the man was, the photos of naked children that lined his walls would have been more than sufficient. She thought of killing those perverts as charity work.
She'd dispatched him in a way that would draw attention to his perversion and that made her feel some small twinge of contentment. She didn't doubt that the scene would cause responding authorities to loose their meals.
On the end table beside the recliner, her cell phone rang.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed the new chapter. I'm working on the new one so let me know what you think; feedback seems to spur my imagination…hint, hint. Oh, and on a somewhat related note (I just feel the need to tell you how excited I am!): I think I'm getting Charlie Bronson's Death Wish movies for Christmas!!!
And on that note, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!