Capo di Foia Ch. 01byMsArcher©
The voice broke her concentration; Samantha sighed and spun around in her chair, begrudgingly grateful for the reprieve. Her eyes felt strained after so much time in front of a computer screen.
"Whatsup, Kevin." She looked up to see him peering disapprovingly into her cubicle.
"You're still doing record checks?" he asked incredulously.
"No. I'm looking for leads on this RICO case." She stretched and Kevin refocused his attempt to appear unfazed as her lithe body extended before him, the buttons on her blouse straining against her swelling chest. God, her chest... Kevin forced his gaze down to the carpet, feigning boredom.
"Jo. Give it up. Let the IRS lackeys hash this one out." Samantha shook her head.
"I know there's a nexus here; I've dug up 38 counts of 1952(a). It's the 59 I'm after," she said. "If Franco keeps getting his boys to take the hit for our arrests, we're never going to pin him down."
Under long dark lashes, her emerald-green eyes glinted with determination. Kevin pursed his lips before speaking. "Look, Jo, I know you just got back, but let me remind you that you're WORKING...IN FEDERAL...GOVERNMENT. Nobody expects results!"
Samantha scowled and swiveled back to her screen. Even with her hair swept back in a sloppy bun, Kevin took in its luster – a rich mahogany - a few loose strands grazing the nape of her neck.
He swallowed in desperation and continued. "You haven't been out once since you came back. I've called you. You don't come out for happy hour. Nobody sees you at lunch anymore..." No reply. He tried again, his tone gentler. "I'm not saying I blame you after what you've been through -"
Samantha closed her eyes and fought to stem the torrent of thoughts swooping in. The boy's look of seething fury, the sweep of his overshirt and the black hollow of the barrel.
"Kevin. I'm fine. You've just got to give me some space right now."
Three pops – she learned later it was four – and the dark pool spreading rapidly over his chest. She rushed to his crumpled frame, fought to shake off the boy's screaming mother and barked at Perez to call the locals. They said it was a good kill. "Good kill", if there was such a thing. He clearly displayed intent to kill first. Hadn't he?
"- I'm cool with that. But I also think you need to loosen up and get away from the casework," Kevin admonished. "I'm going to check in with the AUSA, then I'm headed over to the Cop Shop for some new gear. They've got a clearance sell that ends this weekend."
Her hands, her clothes drenched in warm blood as she fought to revive him... She kept pumping his chest in anguish and despair while liquid crimson seeped out into the carpet. She knew it was too late.
Samantha turned. "I'm good – really," she affirmed with a limp smile. "Go get your tactical fanny pack or whatever it is you load up on. I'll catch up with you later."
Kevin regarded her for a moment then nodded, trudging back to his desk.
The field office was empty, 7 p.m. on a Friday, when she found it. A new address surfaced on one of the subpoena returns; the residence hadn't been associated with any other records thus far. This could be it, she thought to herself, a triumphant grin spreading across her cherry lips.
Franco was nothing if not immaculate. Samantha knew he would make every attempt to isolate himself from his - admittedly, untraceable - paper trail of illicit operations. In this respect, he was a new breed of Mafioso kingpin. His pristine criminal enterprise was rarely prosecuted, and continued to climb the ranks of New Jersey's tight-lipped Cosa Nostra network. Even so, she suspected his culpability in no fewer than 23 murders, countless money laundering and fraud cases, and a bevy of other yet-unknown crimes.
Samantha grabbed her keys and slipped on her coat, mechanically feeling for her creds in the left pocket and dropping her blackberry into the right. She shut off her computer and tucked the case file into her shoulder bag before heading to the door. She paused, deliberating whether or not to take a fleet vehicle out for her address check. No, she decided. It wouldn't take very long, and she would be more discreet in a cab.
Samantha peered through the taxi window, straining to see in the growing darkness, and asked the driver to slow down. They were in Alpine – one of the wealthiest suburbs of New York City. Franco must be hauling in some major cash, even by mob standards, to live here. She couldn't make out anything beyond the brick wall and the leafy oak branches. She'd have to get out on foot. It was smarter, anyway; the taxi turned out to be conspicuously malapropos for the neighborhood.
She directed the driver to a discreet spot at the end of the street and instructed him to wait for five minutes. She pulled her trench coat over her sidearm as she stepped out of the vehicle.
The wind was blowing; a racing gust swept her hair across her face. She brushed it back and looked up. The walls had to be at least 12 feet high; her only chance of seeing anything would be at the gated entrance. She looked behind her to see the taxi idling, lights off, and strode toward the property's main gate. Not two minutes later, she saw two dark figures in long coats emerge, rounding the corner of the block. Samantha's pulse quickened, but she forced herself to keep walking, lest she raise any suspicion. She never did active surveillance alone, and she never intended this to be anything more than a quick drive-by.
Somewhere in the neighborhood, she could hear a dog barking over the whirling wind. The men continued to advance. Samantha tried her best to appear indifferent as she sized them up; one was nearly 6-foot, the other at least 6'4", dark hair – likely Italian. She pegged them both to be between 30-35. She hoped she might pass as a trophy wife out for an evening stroll, but the two men in black overcoats looked ominous as hell at best. Act calm; think rationally, she admonished herself. They were only 20 yards away now, watching her as they approached; Samantha removed her hands from her pockets, her right hand intuitively inching closer toward her hip.
She felt a surge of relief as she heard a vehicle approaching from behind. The cab driver was coming for her! She turned to make a sudden escape as the car screeched to a halt next to the curb.
Samantha froze in her tracks. It wasn't the taxi, but a large black suburban with tinted windows. Frantic, she looked back to her drop-off point and saw her cab had disappeared.
Samantha drew her Sig Sauer but the two men peeling out of the vehicle already had their weapons trained on her. She heard the unmistakable sound of a pistol being cocked behind her – twice – and realized the men in overcoats were on her six o'clock. She was surrounded and outgunned.
The bald man in front of her, his square jaw fixed in a menacing grimace, spoke. "Drop it and we won't kill you." Samantha knew she was outmanned. Tunnel-vision. That's what they called it. Even in the dark, Samantha could make out scratches on his gold ring. Within microseconds, her mind raced through every possible option and outcome – none of them bode well for her survival.
Before she could pull the trigger, she felt a force knock against her head and she lost sight; simultaneously she felt her firearm stripped from her hands. They'd grabbed her from behind. Instinctively, she kicked backwards at the shin of one of her assailants.
"Fucking CUNT!" she heard him cry out, but his vice-grip held tighter. Samantha put all her might into stomping his foot as she thrust her elbow back. Her foot made contact; the elbow did not. She tried throwing her head back, but the muscled arms kept it firmly in place. Another pair of hands was already wrapping up her feet. She felt hands wrap over her mouth, too – muffling her scream – as they easily hoisted her into the suburban.
Inside, bands were swiftly, expertly tied around her hands, eyes, mouth and feet.
"She has no fucking clue," she heard one say.
Samantha struggled to think clearly in the overwhelming enormity of despair. She choked back tears at her stupidity – how could she be so reckless to venture out in the field alone?
The majority of the drive was silent – she tried to count seconds or make sense of their route, but quickly lost track in her state of panic. In a glimmer of hope she thought to press her arms over her blackberry pocket – perhaps it might dial out - but the men on either side kept her rigidly in place.
"Do you think he'll fuck her or kill her?" a voice from the front seat asked.
"Likely both," the man to her left answered; the quiet smack of his chewing gum overtook the silence.
Samantha made no attempt to speak, pleading silent prayers to a god she'd never believed in. When she could pray no more, she made anxious entreaties to logic: it was only a matter of time – minutes, hours – before she'd be reported missing. She was a fed, after all. Every LEO in a 100-mile radius would soon be on the search, she reasoned. She knew she was lying to herself, but it was a lie she desperately wanted to believe.
Behind the blindfold, her rattled brain tried and failed to block out pictures, law enforcement bulletins she'd seen of gruesome killings and assassinations. In her line of work, there was no shortage of people who wanted to do her harm; she never thought she'd be at their mercy. They were Mafia; that much was clear. Franco paid men like these top-dollar to do his dirty work. She was trembling, and hated herself for it.
They may have driven 20 minutes or over an hour; all she could tell was they were moving very, very fast. After a time, the car slowed to a momentary stop before proceeding; Samantha gathered they were entering a facility or compound. When the car came to a full stop and was turned off, she heard all four doors open, and felt the men on her right and left sides deploy from the vehicle. Now she felt hands on her ankles, dragging her toward the door. She let herself go limp. Any one of the men could sling her over their shoulder like a sack of flour, she knew. But anything she could do to impede their progress might buy her time.
"Go grab her arms" the man at her feet said, and she felt one appear at her side. Once she was halfway out of the car, Samantha suddenly drew her knees up and kicked out. The force of the blow against his abdomen caused the man at her feet to stumble backwards, and Samantha went with him, her head slamming onto the edge of the car as she fell. She cried out at the shattering pain, felt hands catch and grip her painfully before she could hit the floor.
The man's profanity-laden groan awoke her from the immediate, staggering dizziness. Her mind stopped swimming and registered the cold floor beneath her for only a second before lightning-fast concrete– a train? A sledgehammer? – cracked her cheek. As the force of the blow ebbed, and a swelling ache surged to replace it, Samantha realized he'd hit her. Somewhere, she tasted blood. And remembered nothing more.
Samantha awoke to a crippling pain throbbing at the back of her head. Her eyes blinked open and it took a moment to register that she was staring down at her own breasts. She tried to move her hands, but they held fast, bound tightly behind her chair. She was dressed, though her shirt was half-unbuttoned. She wondered idly if she'd been strip-searched - or worse. Turning her head, she tried to take in the room around her and stilled, feeling the colossal ache at the side of her face, extending down her jaw.
She was in a dim-lit office, a towering bookcase and dark green armchair to her right. Her gaze swept over a 1920s art deco-style desk lamp... And there he was.
On numerous occasions, Samantha had come face-to-face with her subject – it was always a surreal, unsettling experience to see the same visage in mugshots and surveillance footage staring you in the eye. Gabriele Franco was no exception. His gaze was dark, cold – an unnerving compliment to his easy posture in the tall leather chair. Like a king on his throne, Samantha thought, realizing the parallel wasn't far off.
He watched her, his index finger perched against the cupid's bow of his lips, as he sat motionless. He looked much older than his mugshot, but then he was only 19 at the time. He was handsome, Samantha acknowledged; in his tailor-made grey suit and plum silk tie he was the embodiment of power. This would be her dark angel of death.
"How long have you been after me?" he finally spoke. His words came out in a somber, casual tone. There was a trace of a Brooklyn accent.
Samantha swallowed. "A long time," she lied.
"This case file doesn't do any favors for your investigative prowess, Agent Brier." She looked down to see the manila file laid bare on his desk. Shit. "Is this all you have on me?"
"We're working on it," Samantha answered wryly. "The kidnapping and assault charges will help," she deadpanned.
Franco wasn't amused. He spoke again in his contemplative, deliberative manner. "Do you know what we do to people who try to take us on?"
Samantha forced herself to hold his steady gaze.
"Typically, they're pistol whipped unconscious and thrown in an incinerator," he answered despondently. "But then, we both know you're no stranger to killing."
Silence. Samantha burned with fury and shame, but couldn't find the means to speak. A scarlet blush colored her cheeks.
"Not many people watch us without me knowing," he continued. "I may know more about you, Ms. Brier, than you know of me."
As Samantha took in his measured glare, she realized she believed him. It chilled her to the core.
After a long pause, Franco sat up in his chair and watched her carefully. "You're lucky you're very beautiful," he stated with finality, his dark eyes appraising her lips, long neck and panting chest with cool disinterest.
He's not going to kill me, Samantha breathed. Deference might get her somewhere after all.
Franco looked up and gestured with the slightest wave of his hand. Suddenly, Samantha was flanked on either side and dragged to her feet. These men were not the ones who took her earlier, she noted, surveying their muscle-bound black shirts and slacks. Franco had no shortage of henchmen.
He stood and strolled with languorous ease around the desk toward her. He stopped, less than a foot in front of her. His proximity carried the subtle musk of cologne and a hint of spearmint; she felt enveloped by his presence. Her green eyes looked up, frantic and pleading as his blackest gaze took her in.
"They'll come after me," she promised.
"No they won't," he answered calmly, matter-of-factly.
"Killing a federal officer is a capital offense," she asserted, her adrenaline pooling.
She felt his long fingers grab her chin, holding it in place. His jawline grazed against her cheek and she felt heat whisper against her ear.
"I may not kill you, but you will scream," he murmured, almost inaudibly.
He turned, and Samantha felt the men drag her away like plunder.