As with other online businesses, the site promised convenience and efficiency.
With a few clicks of the mouse, one could hire a professional hit man ready to kill "at a moment's notice." On the "employment" section of the site, would-be assassins could upload resumes for consideration.
"Thanks to the Internet, ordering a hit has never been easier," read the site HitmanForHire.net, in a chipper, infomercial-like tone.
Most thought it was a joke, including the Web designer in Florida commissioned to create the site.
FBI Agent Ingerd Sotelo, who had investigated perhaps half a dozen hit-man cases in her 12-year career, probably wouldn't have taken it seriously if she came across it Web-surfing.
Except there was a terrified 23-year-old woman sitting in front of her, pale with genuine fear, saying someone had used the site to put a $37,000 hit on her.
The man behind HitmanForHire.net showed up at Woodland Hills mortgage broker Anne Lauren Royston's office one Saturday morning in 2006, wearing head-to-toe black and driving a yellow Corvette.
He was middle-aged and tan, with a thick mustache and a heavy accent, and brought along a woman with cigarette breath he called his wife. He carried a black folder holding numerous photos of Royston and an e-mail message: "I want her done by a shot to the head." The message was from her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend.
His client, the man said, had deposited $17,000 for the job.
The hit man calmly told Royston she reminded him of his daughter. Then he made her an offer: Pay him the balance on the contract, and he would let her live. She had three days.
Sotelo, who other agents in the violent crime squad knew as the "prison girl" for the number of federal lockup cases she's investigated, now sat in the same conference room with Royston. It was Tuesday, the deadline the man had given.
Royston easily picked him out in a photo lineup. In either a sophomoric gaffe or a sign of brazen confidence, he had given Royston his real name.
Essam Ahmed Eid of Las Vegas seemed an unlikely killer -- or at least one who hid it incredibly well. The Egyptian-born man was 51, had a heart condition, and worked as a poker dealer at the Bellagio. He lived in a four-bedroom tract home in North Las Vegas with his family, including a daughter in college.
Sotelo recorded a series of calls to Royston in which Eid and the woman purported to be his wife repeated their demands for money. At the agent's direction, Royston asked for more time to come up with the cash. But a couple of weeks later, the man seemed to disappear.
Following her instincts, the agent pulled up a database of entry and exit records into and out of the United States. Sure enough, Eid, along with a woman named Teresa Engle, had left the country.
But the couple hadn't flown to Eid's native Egypt, or some remote tropical paradise with no extradition treaties with the United States.
Eid, it appeared, was in western Ireland.
Around the same time, detectives in the quaint riverbank town of Ennis -- billed on an Irish travel site as "the most endearing town" -- were scratching their heads over a similar situation.
It had started with a cut-and-dry burglary case: Two laptops were stolen from the office of wealthy businessman P.J. Howard. The next day, a man contacted one of Howard's two sons and told him someone wanted their father and both sons dead, for 130,000 euros. But for a discounted sum on the balance of the contract -- 100,000 euros -- he would let them live.
The Irish police -- Gardai, as they are known -- swiftly arrested the man. Their suspect was Eid.