Angus O’Shea watched his cousin cycle through the airlock without turning back and almost pitied the poor idiots responsible for Little Angus’ current condition. Almost. Someone needed to be dismembered for trying to kill his younger cousin and he had confidence in Cousin Rory that justice would be meted out swiftly and harshly. He looked down on his cousin for a long minute before waving to the waiting Aesculapian nurse. She cycled into the room and looked expectantly up at him.
“What was your name again? I missed it in all of the rushed excitement of last night,” Angus asked politely, grateful the Aesculapians had a surgical team ready in the city. He ran a tired hand through his shoulder-length, wavy flame hair, fighting back a yawn and losing.
“Katrin Mullins,” she replied, her own exhausted turquoise eyes meeting his deep, dark blue.
Her voice sounded more Silken Dark than Aesculapian; a sultry, bedroom sort of voice. “I am going to leave a few people here for protection and there will be a Grandmaster stopping by. A Mr. Schwansteiger. He will be running the show from here on out,” he told her, his tone sounding both grave and exhausted. “Let him know if there are any problems or if you need anything. If my cousin doesn’t seem to be getting any better, call me directly. You have my number? Good. I will leave you to it, then.”
Domnall was waiting for him when he cycled back into the warehouse, amber eyes grave. His naturally hang-dog expression, unruly black hair haphazardly cut off at the neck, and pale, freckled face looked odd on a body built like a tank. Domnall stood seven feet tall with a wide, heavily muscled frame. Angus was a big man, as were all Bloody Hands, but Domnall O’Shea made just about anyone look small. He was the type of man on a twelfth century battlefield you would have handed a battle-axe, rapped him on the head a few times to make him angry, and then pointed him at the largest body of enemies.
“What news, nephew?” he asked the big man.
Domnall snorted, shaking his head. “The rats seem to all have scurried for the nearest hole. I imagine that after Rory gets done tonight they will stay there a while,” he replied contemptuously, his voice incongruously smooth and cultured. “The other Families are already licking their chops thinking about the Gambino and Genovese misfortunes.”
Angus shook his head with an irritated sigh. “That won’t do. Send runners to all of the Families and tell them that I will not tolerate any turf wars over this,” he ordered sternly. “Make it known that this was me putting them in their place after they stepped out of line and that any increased street violence will not be viewed kindly. The last thing I need is for the Chinese or the Russians thinking it would be a good time to take further advantage of the weakness in the Families.”
“Yes, my Lord. Anything else?”
“Leave a dozen men here to guard the Aesculapians, the Grandmaster (when he arrives), and Little Angus. Four outside spotting and the rest in here,” he added, his voice sounding suspicious. “I am not fully convinced this is what it appears to be. Rory will no doubt find out for us and in the meantime I don’t want us caught unawares. I’ll head home with the rest of the guys and the Kellys. Meet us there after you have everyone in place.”
Domnall made a surprised sound. “I thought you would be leaving at least Red Kelly with me,” he replied.
Angus grinned and shook his head. “Both of them are on the prowl for a mate and Little Angus is not prepared for that,” he said, his grin turning wicked. “Besides, I am told the redhead at Exposé is a Lost Silken Dark who is already gunning for him. And he apparently is not aware he feels the same. She is the only person who calls him Angus rather than Michael. The last thing the Kellys need is a furious Silken Dark on their hands. I will leave Pat with orders to oversee things here. He will arrange the defense of the warehouse until Mr. Schwansteiger arrives.”
Amused, Domnall nodded before turning around and leaving. Angus saw Murdoch lurking in the shadows and waved him forward. Where Domnall was massive, Murdoch barely looked like a Bloody Hand at all. Murdoch’s mother was a gorgeous woman of the Venusian Society and genetics always becomes a crap shoot when it involves cross-Society breeding. Aishwarya MacNiall was a statuesque beauty from a well-known Indian family with roots going back to the establishment of the Venusians on the subcontinent. Murdoch’s father was a cousin of Angus’ by marriage. The two produced a young man who stood around six and a half feet tall but probably weighed barely over two hundred pounds. He had swarthy skin barely lighter than his mother’s and a build more like Bruce Lee than Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Murdoch chose his father’s Society even though his lean, handsome looks and athletic ability would have made him fit more naturally with his mother’s Society that tended towards actors, models, and professional athletes. Murdoch was a good fighter, especially with knives and improvised weapons, but his true value to the Bloody Hands, and to Angus O’Shea in particular, was his Venusian ability to be charming. He made the perfect spy because people literally wanted to be helpful to him.
Murdoch gracefully stalked on an intercept course, coming to match strides with the shorter man as they walked towards the side door of the warehouse. His unnaturally handsome face was blank but he ran a hand through his silken black hair. “We ... might have a problem,” he said hesitantly, his soft baritone sounding worried.
He inhaled sharply. “The Grandmaster handled, or is handling, the immediate danger to Little Angus,” he said steadily, but a furrow creased his perfect forehead. “I do, however, think something more is going on. Rory O’Shea is probably going to pick up those I would have liked to talk to, so he is sure to get the information before my less reliable and less well-placed sources will get back to me. With that in mind, I think we need to assume this was not random stupidity on the part of our Italian friends.”
Angus frowned, pushing the door open on the brisk city night. Outside sat a set of black Mercedes SUVs. Each had a driver and guard, all of whom were Bloody Hands dressed casually in jeans and t-shirts with thick black trench coats buttoned up against the chill. The O’Shea genetic stamp was rampant and all of those blue and green eyes looked fierce and eager for retribution. Angus scanned his people and saw Patrick, his nephew.
“Pat!” he called to the guard of the lead SUV. The young man, typically heavily muscled with short, curly red hair and light green eyes peering out of deep sockets in a pale, flawless face, looked up from a whispered discussion with the only female outside, his sister Maggie Malone. Pat sauntered over with an inquiring look. “Head inside and find the Kellys. They are probably in the office drooling over the security monitors again,” he ordered with a tight grin. “Tell them to get out here. We are heading home. I want you to stay here and watch over Little Angus, the Grandmaster, and the Aesculapians. Call if there is even a hint of trouble. Got it?”
“You expecting trouble, Uncle Angus?”
The older man grimaced. “I am thinking this nonsense with Little Angus is not only not over but that it is part of someone’s game or gambit,” he replied wearily. “Rory will undoubtedly shake something loose for us; but until then, I want you here and keeping the lads alert.”
“Yes, my Lord,” he said shortly, his eyes suddenly more alert. “The Kellys will be out in a sec.”
“Get Andy and Tim on the roof with their goggles and chain guns. And leave the ammo packs with them.”
Patrick’s eyes widened. “What exactly are you expecting, Uncle Angus?” he asked, shocked.
“Expecting?” he repeated with a humorless laugh. The Bloody Hand Lord shook his head. “I am not expecting a f•©kin’ thing, and that is what has me worried. And since that is Rory O’Shea’s kid in there, I am going to listen to my paranoia. You are going to make sure nothing gets near that man until he leaves under his own power.
“To that end, put Andy and Tim on the roof with the night vision goggles and their cannons,” he ordered again, more forcefully. “Keep them all on their toes and suspect anyone not one of us, the Grandmaster, or that Aesculapian nurse and doctor. Got it?”
At the curt tone of the last question, his nephew straightened and nodded sharply. “Yes, sir! The Kellys will be right out,” he replied, turning to call to his sister, “Maggie! Be a dear and unload the ammo packs. Set them inside the door. I’ll have the lads bring them in.”
Angus headed for his vehicle. “Maggie! As soon as you get those packs unloaded and the Kellys get their slinky asses out here, we are gone. Got it?”
“Sir!” the young, leanly muscled woman replied as she opened the cargo area of her SUV to reveal six hard-cased backpacks with feed ramps on them. Two others had come to help her with them.
Pat opened the door for his sister and her helpers. “Just set them down there,” he said, pointing just inside the door as two tall, sleekly muscled women with flawless alabaster skin and long, flowing hair of jet black and ruby red hues respectively strode out with sensual pouts on their gorgeous faces.
Black Kelly wore skin tight black leather from head to toe with tattoos peaking out of the wrists of her leather trench coat and the plunging neckline of her leather vest. With the tattoos and heavily pierced ears, she looked like a heavy metal groupie or a biker chick from hell and her challenging, dangerous stalk conveyed the later character.
Red Kelly was almost her exact opposite. She wore white silk slacks tucked into over-the-knee white leather boots. A pearly off-white silk blouse clung to her curvaceous body under a white wool trench coat. Her red hair had slightly more wave to it than Black Kelly’s silky straight hair, making it writhe around her as she moved with a feline grace. Style and hair color aside, the two women had familial resemblance. They had heart-shaped faces with straight, graceful noses, full lips, and firm cheekbones and jaws. Both women were also packing twin 10mm Berettas barely noticeable under their coats.
“Let’s go, ladies!” Angus roared before climbing into his SUV. He added, “Remember what I said, Patrick. If there is trouble, call,” as he closed his door. Maggie and the Kellys darted to the lead vehicle and they were zipping away. Patrick watched them go with foreboding. His uncle was not prone to needless worrying or paranoia. Green eyes scanned the street nervously before opening the door and plunging into the darkness within.
The interior was only lit by four dim red lights concentrated on the plastic chamber sitting in the middle of the warehouse’s interior storage space. The rest of the dank space was dark, although reflected red light showed the bulk of a large truck near the loading dock door. Various beeps from the machines monitoring his cousin’s health echoed in the vast emptiness. He could see Nurse Mullins sitting next to the instrument-enveloped bed containing the unconscious Angus FitzKiern. If the stories about how the Grandmaster found him were true, Little Angus was definitely his father’s son.
He saw Domnall heading towards him in the darkness. “I set the watches in buildings along the front street. They should be out of sight from most casual observers,” the hulking man told Pat. “Our Lord ordered me to meet him at home, so I leave this to you.” With that, Domnall walked out of the building and his growling Harley could be heard coming to life in the narrow alley behind the warehouse.
Patrick headed to the office where the majority of those remaining would be lounging. They must have been watching something on the television because the only light showing through the cracks around the door were flickering blue and green. A muffled groan leaked through the door and he knew what they were watching; it was the group stage season in the UEFA Champion’s League. Irish teams never had much of a chance in any UEFA tournament and so most of his kin (and Bloody Hands in general) rooted for German teams, usually Borussia Dortmund or Bayern München. He counted himself among the latter’s fans. He was also a Juventus and closet Chelsea fan. His Uncle Angus would string him from the Brooklyn Bridge if it got out he like an English team.
Surprised faces greeted him upon opening the door, quickly followed by irritated chagrin. “Boss left you behind?” Andy asked from the couch facing the widescreen TV. There were two well-padded chairs, a desk chair, and a crowd of folding chairs surrounding the leather sofa, each with a burly man dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt or leather jacket against the cool air in the warehouse.
“Shit! He left something for us to do, didn’t he?” Fearghus said after twisting around in his padded chair to look at him,
Pat shrugged apologetically to the older man, easily the oldest left at the warehouse at a well-preserved seventy-six. Fearghus looked like a middle-aged biker in his leathers and long, graying black hair and beard. “I need you and Jack to go wake up the spotters Domnall left. Move them if you don’t like where the Hulk put them. Uncle Angus is getting that feeling and his major concern is making sure Little Angus leaves here on the mend and under his own power,” he told Feaghus shortly. “When you are done, you and Jack find somewhere out of sight to watch the approaches. If you have to break into one of the other buildings to find cover with a view, do so. Andy, Tim, grab your cannons and head to the roof. The lads will bring up the ammo packs the boss left for them. Bring your goggles and keep your eyes open. Focus on the ends of the street out front. The back alley is too congested to bring a large contingent up it. The rest of you, go grab an ammo pack, get it up to the roof, and then arm up and take your stations. Turn your comms on and be ready for the sound check when I call out. The packs are by the smaller, front left door. Anyone approaching that isn’t us, the Grandmaster and his people, or the Aesculapian doctor you shoot. Sound off if you see any movement. Understand? Get to it!”
The game was turned off and the warehouse was suddenly alive with activity. The Aesculapian nurse looked out of her plastic bubble with worried curiosity, checked her patient quickly, and cycled out. “Is there trouble?” she asked in her soft, sultry voice, her face struggling to stay calm.
Patrick smiled absently at her on his way to make sure everyone was where they needed to be before joining Andy and Tim on the roof. “Lord O’Shea is merely exercising caution in the face of things that don’t completely add up to his satisfaction,” he told her curtly. When her calm mask shattered into anxiety, he stopped. “If you hear gunfire, then there will be trouble. At that point, I will probably join you here in case anyone gets through us. Do you know how to shoot?”
Nurse Mullins spastically shook her head. “I’ve never held a gun in my life,” she replied, her unease ratcheting up.
Pat pulled a small gun from his ankle and waved her down from the stairs to the air lock. He handed her the pistol. “This is a 9mm Glock 43. There are six bullets in the clip and one in the chamber. This is the safety. Flick that like this and point and shoot. Stay by Little Angus. I am giving you this so you can defend yourself and him as a last resort. Here is an extra clip. You pop the spent one out like this and then jack the new one in like this. Any questions?”
She looked at him with wide eyes as he pulled another, bigger gun from behind his back. “Is this really necessary?” she asked, her tone hoping he would say, “No.”
Instead, he shrugged with a rueful smile. “Uncle Angus doesn’t really do paranoia without being right about someone being out to get him. I’m giving you the gun as a last resort sort of thing. Try not to shoot us, yourself, or Little Angus.”
That last earned him a glare, which he responded to with a grin and moved to check his people. Turning on his comm, he started his status check. “Fearghus, Jack, you in place?” he asked tensely.
“Yeah. The lads are awake as well,” the older man replied grumpily. “Jack and I broke into the offices at each end of the street. I also moved Connor to keep watch on the back alley. His side of the street was covered well enough to spare him and someone might be stupid enough to try to sneak something by us down there.”
“Good call, Fearghus,” Patrick replied. “Sound check time. Sound off.” He went through his people and got good sound on all of them. “Call out if you see anything the least bit suspicious.” After making sure everyone was in place to his satisfaction, he headed for the roof. It had the best vantage from which to adjust tactics if necessary.
The night was chill. Colder than last night when things got so lively. Pat still couldn’t fathom what the Gambinos and Genovese were using for brains. Exposé had long been neutral territory for the Five Families, even more so since Little Angus started working there. Having a shootout there should have been as close to anathema as things got, even with this generation’s lack of discipline. The more he thought about it, the more he was beginning to think Big Angus was right about Little Angus being used for something nefarious.
Andy and Tim had their chain guns at opposite ends of the long warehouse overlooking the main road passing the front of the building. Each wore a backpack full of ammo, the bottom right side of each spewing the belt of bullets that fed the massive guns. Two more packs sat behind each man.
Both men heard him come out onto the roof and glanced over their shoulders before returning watchful gazes enhanced by night vision goggles back to the road below. Pat walked down to stand by Andy, patting his shoulder. “All quiet?” he asked, more for something to say than expecting a negative answer, and received a curt nod in reply. All of them knew the stakes if they let anything happen to Rory O’Shea’s kid. With that being the case, all of the spotters would report a suspicious-looking rat approaching their position.
He was about to start pacing a triangular route around the roof when his cell rang. “Yeah, boss?”
Angus sighed at Pat’s relaxed tone. “Good. Nothing amiss there?” he asked, far less intently than he would have before hearing his nephew’s voice.
“No, sir,” Pat replied, surprise in his voice. “You hear from Rory, sir?”
“He had one of his people ambushed while they were picking up Italians to question,” he answered tensely. “Janie says Angelo Fortescu earned amnesty from Rory for telling him that more than Italian idiocy is at work. Someone put Fat Frankie Cantiar up to the shootout at Exposé. If someone had enough clout or money or other enticement to get Fat Frankie to stick his neck out this far, they may have other things in the works. I would send you more men, but I am getting the feeling we, the O’Shea Bloody Hands, were the target of this nonsense. I am heading to the Beekman and putting our people at the Gold Coast compound on alert.
“I hate to leave Little Angus, and you guys, so exposed, but we may need the resources more. Rory’s Janie has promised me an update from the O’Neill himself after he talks to their guests,” Angus informed him, his tone a mix of worry and grimness. “I know you are not exactly overflowing with resources there, but we also kept that site secret. Keep your people alert but hidden and you should be fine. If anything comes up and you think you are in trouble, sing out and I will send some of the lads at Gold Coast to you. Got it?”
“No worries, boss,” Pat said confidently. “We have this covered.”
“Stay safe. Your mother would strangle me if I got you killed for our cousin,” Angus joked before hanging up.
Angus put his head back on the head rest, massaging his temples. He liked peace and quiet and arranged New York City to be generally peaceful and quiet when he became the Bloody Hand Lord of the city in the early 1990’s at the death of his father. September 11, 2001 notwithstanding, he had not really had to flex his will or grip on the city in a while and 9/11 had been beyond his control. This irritation, however, was straining his patience. And giving him a headache.
The ugly brick base of the generally beautiful Beekman Tower came into view. The convoy of black SUVs pulled up at the residents’ entrance, the doorman used to letting his people exit on their own. Two large men wearing suits exited the lobby, their hard, strong features alert and their blue eyes searching the night for threats. The two men were so alike they could have been twins but for their hair color, one being a wavy-haired redhead and the other with long locks the color of raven’s feathers lightly streaked with mud.
“Boss, Inigo called from the compound. The gunships are fueled and everyone is on standby,” Kevin, the black-haired elder of the two cousins, said gravely in Gaelic as Angus stepped out of the vehicle. “He was wondering where you would want him.”
The Bloody Hand Lord saw the doorman watching them with unusual curiosity and shook his head. There were also two unfamiliar faces sitting in the lobby and a couple he was sure lived on the forty-sixth floor all gazing intently at them from the glass-enclosed entrance. “Let’s go up to the flat and I will sort everyone out. There are too many busy eyes and ears down here,” he replied curtly, also in Gaelic, turning to Maggie. “Mags, get three of the lads to help you bring up the cases. We may need them.”
Angus led the rest of his people into the building and straight to the elevators. Unbeknownst to the rest of New York City, the Bloody Hand Sub-Clan of O’Shea put a fair amount of money and muscle into getting the Beekman built. There were a number of city factions that did not want the tower project approved and that was part of the reason there was a school on the bottom floors of the tower. It was a concession to the city fathers opposed to the deal. Two other esoterica Societies, the Midasi and the Tinkers, were among those trying to stop the tower due to their own desires for the space. The owners had to give up ownership of an entire floor and leases on two others to secure O’Shea Clan backing, which is how Angus O’Shea wound up with his Manhattan headquarters on the 69th floor of the Beekman Tower. It was also how he had gotten a few secret add-ons to the design that made the 69th a veritable fortress in the sky.
As soon as Angus got off the elevator on their floor he started barking orders. “I want two guards on each elevator,” he commanded as he headed for his office. “As soon as Maggie gets up here with those cases, lock the 69th out of the elevator call loop and pass key the floor. Open up the armory and arm up. Assume we are about to be hit by another Bloody Hand Clan and choose accordingly. Put the screens on all of the doors and windows.
“Wake up Sean and tell him I want him to man his radar. He is to sing out if air traffic patterns look the least bit odd. The moment he has something he is to call Inigo and then me. If someone airlifts people in, we will need Inigo and his boys ASAP. Put spotters in the stairwells and send Deirdre into the security room to help Thomas keep watch on the cameras. And call back Inigo and tell him just to be ready. I won’t know where I need him until I need him. We left Pat pretty well armed and I doubt that whoever this is or whatever is going on that they will throw enough at us to take us and still have enough left over to get through Pat and his boys,” Angus told them curtly, turning around to face his people at the door to his office to find only Kevin and his cousin Jack the Red and the Kellys, Kevin having sent the rest off to implement his orders as they were given. He smiled a pleased smile at Kevin. “Efficient, as always. You take the north side; Jack, you take the south; Red Kelly, east; Black Kelly, west. Keep everyone awake but don’t, do not, amp yourselves up yet. We can’t afford for anyone to be caught between being amped up and blissed out because we were too eager to get our rage on. Got it? Go to it then.”
When all was quiet a few hours later, he was glad he gave that last order. It had been a long night for all of them but Bloody Hands tend to be night owls anyway. If someone wanted to attack them at the most opportune time in order to catch them exhausted and wrung out with stress from waiting, the attack would come a little after noon when most sensible Bloody Hands were in bed still. Unfortunately for whoever was planning whatever they were planning, there were still the sapiens to consider. Taking them into account, the ideal time to attack was before dawn began waking them up and speeding up alertness of law enforcement and political leaders with phone numbers to feds.
Angus had relaxed enough to pull out paperwork due to the city that he had been putting off. He was just getting to the supplemental permit information requested by the zoning commission on a new office tower that was in the planning stage when his private cell phone rang.
“Speak to me,” he growled at the interruption.
“Cousin, we are on our way to you,” Rory growled back, his voice sharp and fast with his rage. “Make sure the doorman passes us through and the elevators work.”
Angus straightened reflexively at the command, irritated that he did that at Rory’s orders even though he was now a Lord as well. Nothing but his cousin’s death would cure him of that, which was one reason he had been so harsh in negotiating The O’Neill Bloody Hand’s stay in his city. He quashed his ire in favor of finding out what Rory had discovered from the Italians.
“Hello, Rory,” he answered sardonically. “I take it you found something.”
“Does a seven-foot tall, skinny Turk named Gamal ring any bells with you?”
“Shit!” Angus whispered fervently. “All this is about that mess?”
“So you do remember your father and me exiling him and his family from the Bloody Hands? Well, apparently Gamal is a believer of the old ways,” Rory’s clipped voice growled. “He is particularly fond of the old sayings, ‘An eye for an eye,’ and ‘the sins of the father shall be visited upon the son.’ My son and your father’s son, in this case. Gamal convinced Fat Frankie Cantiar to be his cat’s paw in exchange for Fat Frankie becoming the Boss of New York. This included the deaths of all the heads of the Five Families after everything was over. The Genovese and Gambino lieutenants I picked up were promised their own Families under Cantiar. In exchange for all of this, all the Italians had to do was kill Little Angus and you.
“Now, I am guessing about this part, but I imagine Gamal thought I was farther away than the Catskills, given how badly things went in Boston when I left,” he said with gallows humor. “The rumors that I was either in Mexico or the Ukraine probably helped that belief. I think the plan was to slaughter all of our people in the city and have Cantiar in place so that when I got to town I would be easier to take care of as well.
“All indications I have are that Gamal is alone on this except his sapien stooges, which means they will hire thugs and street toughs to bolster their relatively small numbers of skilled people,” Rory continued sharply. Then there was a pause. “Can I assume you put all your people on alert and have both that tower and my son well enough guarded that you can repel a serious attack?”
Angus snorted derisively. “Of course. Your son is looked after and I left Pat with my two best men with their chain guns and lots of ammo at the warehouse,” he assured his cousin. “The Beekman has decent security and I had the builders turn this floor into a fortress. I always keep enough people here to defend it, whether I am here or not. I also have two gunships on standby out on the Gold Coast compound.”
Rory grunted. “I only hope it is enough,” he replied with a certain amount of dubiousness. “Gamal would not have pushed Fat Frankie this far if he was not sure of his plans. We are pulling up now. Make sure they clear us up.”
“Done,” Angus said to a dead connection. He picked up his desk phone and dialed the lobby desk. “This is Angus O’Shea. I have some relatives here from out-of-town that I want to make sure can access the elevator. No. They should be pulling up outside right now. Yes. Yes. Thank you.”
Angus stood and loosened his neck with a pop before hitting the entire floor’s intercom. “Listen up, ladies and gents. Rory O’Shea is on his way up. According to what he dug up for us, the Bloody Hand Exile Gamal is on his way or will be soon enough to make Rory rush over here with his people. I want-”
“Boss, this is Sean,” a young, surprisingly alto voice interrupted urgently. “We got something fairly big coming at us. I think it has to be one hell of a big-assed chopper!”
“Get Inigo’s boys in the air now! Everyone else, get ready!” he barked. “As soon as Rory and his people clear the elevators, lock them completely down. Kevin, grab three people and lock down the roof access. They will get through anyway but it will let us know when to expect them.” He cut the intercom off, grabbed his body armor, M-4, and ammo bandolier, and ran to greet his cousin at the elevators.