A week later, and the home base of Liborio Fragale was history. Justin and his team had taken every bit of information they could salvage, and were working through the night to track down as many Liborio Fragale contacts as they could. It was proving a difficult task, as many of the informants had gone to ground when word of the raid hit the next morning’s news.
Anna and Steven had almost single-handedly taken down a large majority of the members of the illegal business in their attempt to rescue Shaun. The ones who were left were scattered around most of Maine, and Justin had devoted some of his team to finding those who were left.
Anna’s destruction of the hard drive had been more absolute than was necessary, rendering much of what they could have used inaccessible. Anna didn’t seem to care too much, since she had saved the lives of potentially hundreds of ninjas in and around Maine. Those ninjas had now all returned home, including Clarisse and Theresa.
Shyla was out of the hospital, and was recovering at the ninja school under the watchful eye of Maria. Clarisse had taken some time off work to assist wherever she could. Shyla was now trying to walk again, much to Maria’s chagrin. Several times already, the pretty receptionist had instructed the stubborn ninja to get back into bed, threatening everything from chains to telling the master.
Shaun had been given a clean bill of health, but his parents had still been notified of his injuries. The master had met with both Simon and Mary Dormer, and both had agreed to sign a nondisclosure concerning the whole incident. Signing the agreement was easier than dealing with any potential fallout from the ninja community.
Essie was slowly gaining weight, having been situated in the same room as Shyla at the ninja school. The other ninjas all stopped in regularly, so the two friends were never alone for long.
By the time Shyla was strong enough to walk by herself again, three weeks had passed since she had been shot. The master called a meeting, and ordered everyone involved to attend. Anna sat next to Henry, Shyla on his other side. Essie sat next to Anna, with Shaun next to her. Anthony sat next to Shyla, and had Justin next to him. Steven sat between Master Wong and Justin, completing the circle. They were all seated around a large oak table, and Justin began to explain what his team had uncovered.
Half of the police force at all levels was under investigation. Judges had been asked to resign, and the team was currently weeding out the informants within the FBI. The stronghold had been dismantled, and every bit of evidence had been searched extensively. However, nobody had managed to find Vinnie, Jordan, or Emmett.
The master rested back in his chair, folding his hands. “The search will continue?”
Justin nodded. “As of now, all three are listed as international terrorists. Authorities across the world are on alert.”
Shyla frowned, and glanced at Essie. “Any ideas where they could have gone?”
Essie knew it was a fair question. She had been there for a little over a month, and so was probably the best person to guess where they could have gone. However, she had no clue. “I didn’t see much of the four top men. I only had contact with about ten slimy guards.”
Justin looked at the pretty blonde girl. “You’re quite lucky you weren’t attacked by any of them. They’re not exactly the best in society.”
Essie shrugged. I had the feeling they were too scared of somebody to do anything to me. I saw fear more than once.”
Justin frowned. “I wonder why that is?”
Shyla shook her head. “Whatever the cause, I think Essie is lucky to make it out of there.”
Everyone nodded in agreement. And then the master broached a subject nobody had wanted to cover. “Shyla, you need to be under protection.”
Shyla scowled. “They’re not even in the country anymore.”
Justin was about to speak, when Anthony interrupted him. “Shyla, they could have given your identity to anyone. Let us protect you, and we can catch them when they come for you again.”
Shyla thought about it. The thought of needing to be protected was anathema to her, but she clearly had no choice. The details were hashed out between the others, and the meeting broke up soon after. Shyla and Henry left the building; Shyla had something important to attend to.
Shyla pushed herself slowly to her feet, dusting the grass from her shorts. She glanced around the quiet graveyard, taking in the serenity and the quiet. There were very few places a troubled ninja could go to find such peace, especially after the turmoil of the last few months. The graves of the fallen offered a place to think, to grieve.
After the death of her father, Shyla had grown to like Rutherford Family Cemetery. She was often there, talking to her father’s grave. It gave her peace to know she could do that much. She glanced down at the gravestone in front of her. Her father’s name was engraved into the grey slab, as well as a small message.
“With silence comes thought. With thought, action.”
Below the message was a symbol; a stylised dragon with a flourish in the tail. It was the mark of the ninja, and an honour to the families if it was on one’s burial site.
Shyla patted the headstone. She had just sat for the last hour telling her father everything that had happened; the kidnapping, the shooting, her own injury. The healing wound in her side ached, but Shyla knew she was far better off than what she could have been. The doctors had speculated that Steven’s reckless driving had saved her life. A few minutes later, and there was a good chance she would have died from blood loss.
She turned away from the grey stone, and smiled up at Henry. “I think it’s time to go.”
Henry nodded, and knelt down in front of the stone, bowing his head. As a sign of respect – a younger ninja to an older one – it meant the world to Shyla. Henry rose to his feet, and took Shyla’s hand. They walked slowly through the cemetery. It had just started to drizzle, as often happened in Rutherford. The ninjas were used to it, and so they ignored it to walk along in relative silence. “Do you ever miss them?” Shyla was curious.
Henry knew Shyla was referring to his parents. They had seen what had happened, and contacted Jacob to see if everybody was okay. Henry had refused to speak with them, causing some anger in the Stevens household.
He shrugged. “Not really. When I was younger, I used to fantasize about them coming back and us living together as a family.” He took a deep breath. “Now? I have a family. Master Wong taught me that family is not just who you’re born with; it’s who you choose. I don’t need those who abandoned me, because I’m content as I am.”
Shyla smiled. “And this family will never leave you, even if you wanted them to.”
Henry laughed, and the two walked back to the car together. There was more to do.