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CHAPTER 5

We dressed around 5:30 and I led Marta in to her first “Mama Meal.” I’d had probably hundreds and I always gained at least two pounds by the time she let me leave the table. We began with a hot antipasto. I selected several dishes for Marta including some broiled shrimp, calamari rings, baked clams, and my favorite--crab-stuffed mushrooms. When Marta leaned over to tell me how good it was I reminded her it was only the first course.

“Uh…how many will there be?” Everyone laughed. “Four.” “Five.” Someone even suggested seven. Oh God, seven courses? I’d burst!

After the antipasto we enjoyed a delicious Italian salad or “insalata” as Mama called it.
I’m sure Marta was feeling a bit full when Mama brought out the pasta—spaghetti with homemade meatballs and hot and sweet sausage along with garlic bread. Marta balked a bit at the garlic until I reminded her I was having plenty. “You’ll need it for self defense,” I told her and we all laughed again, Marta included.

Following a huge bowl of pasta and meat, the only kind served in Mama’s house, she brought out not her usual roast beef, but my favorite—pot roast. “We having this for you, Peter. I know this you’re favorite.” Mama always speaks like this even though I know she was born in this country and graduated high school in the top half of her class, attending community college for a year before marrying an up-and-coming Anthony Pellegrini.

Foolishly, I had several helpings of pot roast with mashed potatoes. I could see Marta slowing. “Save some room for dessert. It’ll be worth the wait.” Marianne, Celia, Andrea, and Marta volunteered to clear the table while we men folk recovered. I could not imagine going through this every single week as Papa and Jimmy did. Marianne, Celia, and Andrea returned to the table, leaving Marta alone with Mama in the kitchen. I knew this was no accident. It probably meant trouble for me.

Eventually Marta returned, her arms full of a huge platter of cannoli. Some people love cannoli—I hate it. It is so sweet I can’t stand to bite into it. Mama followed Marta smiling as she carried a big Italian cheesecake. Marta walked around the table helping everyone to a cannoli but passing by me. “Mama told me none for you—have you been bad?” Again everyone laughed, much to Marta’s chagrin.

“No, Marta, Peter can’t stand cannoli—says it is too sweet. He must be sweet enough without it, eh, Peter?”

“Yes, Papa,” I agreed, “they don’t come any sweeter than me.” Again more laughter, this time including Marta. Mama patted my head as she slipped a huge slice of cheesecake in front of me. Mama placed three bottles on the table—Italian cordials. I told Marta about each. “Amaretto di Saronno is an almond based liquor. It’s sweet and tasty, too, but it has to be sipped, especially by an amateur like you. Cream Limoncello is based on lemon rinds and can be sour. The cream version is really smooth, but it’ll sneak up on you. It’s stronger than you might think once you taste it. The final bottle is Mellone, a liqueur based on a melon; this one’s cantaloupe. I would try the Limoncello. I think you’ll like it.”

“What are you having?” she asked. I shook and poured the Limoncello for both of us. We toasted and sipped. Marta grinned her approval. Later the women helped Mama again while Papa, Jimmy, and I retired to the living room. I asked Papa about calling the FBI.

“Peter, you’re a civilian—not involved in our work which is almost entirely legitimate now…but not quite. Any citizen with the information you now have would call the FBI. They’re not so bad—most of them anyway. Tell them about the life insurance policy, Cartwright’s debts—don’t worry about the Martucci’s. You won’t mention them by name, but the Fed’s will know…they’re not idiots. I expect Mr. Cartwright will not be walking anytime soon. Set up an appointment for tomorrow morning. Tell them you have armed security—they’ll be in uniform—so they’ll have to identify themselves before they’re allowed to see you and Marta. Give them a code word. I’m not worried about Cartwright—he’ll be in the hospital, but he has friends who are involved and presumably they will not want to get caught so Marta is not out of the woods yet, and neither are you. I suggest you prepare ahead of time. You know what I mean.” I nodded; I knew exactly what he meant and I’d do what needed to be done even if I had to kill each and every one of them.

I knew all about killing. My marksmanship instructors in basic training wanted me to go straight to sniper school, but the brass wanted me in OCS. I wanted no part of being an officer so I went to sniper school. I practiced so much I was able to shoot a man in the eye at 1000 yards. I’d done it any number of times, but I hadn’t told Marta. I didn’t want to scare her. If any of these guys tried for her they’d be dead.

We left around eight and before we did Papa called a friend in the city about notifying Marta’s parents; I could see how relieved she was. Marta wanted to stay, but I told her I had a lot to do. On the way home I told her how I was so jealous of Jimmy when I was a kid. His dad would come home one day with a mink coat for his mom and I remembered one time they got three color TV’s. Then I saw Mr. Pellegrini’s picture in the newspaper, saying he was some kind of gangster. I never mentioned it to anyone, certainly not to Jimmy or anyone in his family. All I knew was that he was my friend and that his family was nicer to me than my own. I was in high school when it became an open secret. By then Papa was well up the ladder—all the way to Capo, or lieutenant. Papa had helped me many times along the way, even with my college expenses without ever asking anything in return. In fact, I told her, he absolutely forbade me getting involved in any type of criminal activity. He was even upset one time in junior high when I covered for Jimmy, pointing the police in a different direction. It was the kind of thing any friend would do for another, but Papa was furious. I never crossed the line again.

I waved to our guards, now in full APS uniforms, the APS standing for Anthony Pellegrini Security. They all carried shotguns or semi-automatic rifles. I went straight to my arms closet, removing my long rifle and scopes. I lowered the folding attic stairs and carried the rifle and scopes up before returning for two full boxes of ammunition and several clips. I set everything up on a low table by a gabled window that would open if needed. It was from here that I shot over the burglars’ heads. I’d be shooting at their heads this time and I wouldn’t be missing.

CHAPTER 6

I told Marta I’d explain everything after the phone calls. Until then she’d have to trust me. She nodded and sat quietly on the couch. Using the phone book I called the FBI. “FBI, Special Agent Ross speaking.”

“My name is Peter Manning.” I gave my address and phone number. “I have information about the alleged death of Marta Vanek. I say alleged because Marta is sitting here next to me. I rescued her from the sinking boat. I also have a photocopy of a million dollar life insurance policy Cartwright took out on her life without her knowledge or approval. Also, he deliberately gave you the wrong location of the boat; I know exactly where it is. I can share all that and more with you.

“I’d like some representatives of the Bureau to meet with me at my home tomorrow morning at ten. But you need to be careful. I have armed security agents here and they have instructions to shoot if necessary. I suggest you come in a marked police vehicle. They will stop you and demand identification before allowing you to pass. I’ve been told to give you a code word—Andrea.”

“Why would David Cartwright do all this? He has a good job from what I understand.”

“Yeah, but he owes more than $260,000 from some gambling debts at weekly interest.”

“Oh…the sharks are into him. Is that what you’re saying? Where are you getting all this information?

“I can’t say, but I can tell you my security is from APS.

“Pellegrini…how do you know him?”

“His son and I are lifelong friends—best friends. Listen, I have to go. I have to call my boss about taking the day off tomorrow. See you at ten.” I hung up.

I called my principal who was none too happy to hear that I wasn’t going to work tomorrow until I told him why. “How’d you get involved in that mess, Peter?”

“I went fishing Saturday morning and rescued her from the sinking boat. This is all about attempted murder of an innocent young woman. I’ll bring her to school after we’re done with the police.” I hung up and turned to Marta. “I know this is all confusing and frustrating. David isn’t in any position right now to hurt anything. If Papa is right he has no kneecaps. They’ve either been shot or broken with a baseball bat or golf club, probably the latter—it’s much more painful. What Papa and I are concerned about is his friends. They’re in this as deeply as he is, except that they’re still able to walk and we don’t know who they are. You know the news media—once they find out where you are I expect they’ll tell the world.

“I told you I was a specialist in the Marines, but I didn’t tell you what kind. I was a sniper. I wish I had my service rifle right now, but they cost thousands and they’re considered top secret. The one you saw me put upstairs is from World War II. It’s old, but it still works perfectly. I’ve shot it dozens of times. When they come it will be from the rear of the house. I’ll be ready for them. You can trust me. You’re safe now and you’ll be safer once they’re taken care of.”

We went to bed fairly early, skipping sex for the first night since we had met. I was almost asleep when I heard Marta crying. I reached around her naked body clutching her just below her breasts. “What’s the matter, Marta? Why are you crying?”

“Oh, Peter you probably wish you had never saved me. I’m nothing but trouble for you.”

“No, Marta I don’t feel that way at all. I’m very happy you’re here with me…no, that’s not right. I’m… thrilled you’re here with me. Don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t, but I think I’m falling in love with you.”

Marta rolled over and stroked my face. “Do you remember when I was alone in the kitchen with Mama?” I nodded. “She told me it was obvious from the way we looked at each other and touched each other that we were in love. I told her we had only known each other for two days and she laughed. ‘So what?’ she said, ‘how long do you think it takes to learn that you don’t like someone? Why should it take forever to fall in love?’”

“Mama’s a smart woman,” I replied, “and in this case she’s at least half right. I never thought I could feel about a woman the way I feel about you. I never want you to go home…never.”

“Well, Peter I’d have to say Mama was completely and totally on target. I feel the same way about you.” She lifted her face to me, wrapped her arms around me and said the words that would bind us together—“I love you.” I repeated those words and we fell asleep in each other’s arms.

I was up early the following morning, taking a big pot of coffee down to the guards. I was surprised to see Marco was one of them. I told them the code word—they’d never forget Jimmy’s wife’s name. I returned to Marta. She joined me in the shower. I had just grabbed the soap when she kneeled in front of me. In a second my cock was in her mouth where it grew instantly. Marta pushed me against the tiled wall as she sucked hard on my cock. He tongue was wrapped around my shaft, washing my cock with her saliva until I was rabid with desire. I pulled her up, bent her over and plunged my cock deep into her cunt as Marta moaned with rapture. I pumped her pussy hard as she gripped my knees for support. I reached between her legs finding her clit rock hard. I squeezed and pinched it harder with each thrust until we shuddered together and came in a mutual explosion. We collapsed together under the running shower. “Now that’s how we should start every day,” Marta gasped, her breath not fully regained. I couldn’t speak—I just nodded my agreement.

We struggled to stand and eventually managed to wash each other. Once we were dry we dressed and made breakfast. We ate leisurely—toast, juice, and fruit. We were still recovering from Mama’s feast last night. I took out my .30-.30, loaded it, and checked around the house. I knew Papa’s security would cover the front. I’d handle the rest if needed. As it all turned out nothing was needed. The FBI agents used the code word and had perfect ID. All the same two guards accompanied them into the house.

Our conversation lasted for more than an hour when they asked me to show them the boat. We went in convoy to the harbor where we boarded the Suffolk County Police’s 35-foot cruiser. There were two officers and two divers waiting for us. I gave the driver the latitude and longitude and off we went. Siren blaring we ignored the 12 mph limit. It took us about ten minutes to reach the wreck site. The divers went over the side and returned in another fifteen minutes, verifying everything we had told them.

The agent used his satellite phone to confirm everything to the Manhattan office. A warrant was ordered for David Cartwright; we were asked if we would participate in a press conference the following evening. I agreed immediately. When they left I called a local lumber yard and ordered twenty sheets of 7/8’s inch plywood, six tubes of Liquid Nails and a gross of two-inch nails. Then I explained to Marta what I was going to do. We had a late, but light, lunch and drove to my school. I wasn’t dressed for teaching, but that wouldn’t matter. I walked into the main office and introduced Marta to the secretaries and my principal. We chatted for a while and returned home. I was pleased to find the plywood had been delivered.

I cut the sheets into a manageable size and carried them up into the attic. I was creating a strong area—walls and floor which would protect us if—no, when—we were attacked. When I was done I had an area made of 2.5 inches of plywood, even including an extra door I could drop over the folding attic stairs once I had secured them in place. This would stop virtually any bullet. I put the scope onto the rifle, checked the flash suppressor, and loaded the clips. I would be ready in seconds. Marta and I could survive up here for days if necessary once I locked the attic door in place. I had a case of bottled water and cans of nuts and other energy foods installed.

I went to work the following day and, of course, the students asked where I had been. I told them only that there would be a press conference with the FBI that evening. I was sure it would be on the news, in fact I was praying for it. The event was held at the local Suffolk County Police Station. I mentioned saving Marta and that she was staying with me for a few days. I said nothing about having security. I was issuing my invitation—one I was more than ninety percent sure would be accepted. Papa phoned me right after as we drove home. “Are you sure you’re not one of us, Peter? You sounded as though you were praying his friends would hear you. Nicely done.” I thanked Papa, telling him I was anxious to put this behind us. I also asked his help moving Marta’s things out to my house. Papa owned a moving and storage company. Just think about how handy that could be in moving or hiding stolen goods. Papa told me he could have it done by the weekend. I stopped by Home Depot on the way, picking up some special equipment I wanted to install.

David Cartwright was in Bellevue Hospital with casts on both legs and his ankle cuffed to the bed frame. I asked the FBI Special Agent to let me know when some friends his age visited. Sure enough three young men spent the evening after the press conference with him. I was told they whispered back and forth for more than an hour. I needed to work fast.

I came home immediately after school Thursday. I installed the high intensity spotlights I had purchased, placing one directly under the window. I wired the circuit to the electrical panel and tested it—perfect. I also checked out the portable PA system I had borrowed from my school. I went inside and removed the suppressor. The flash wouldn’t be seen right over the bright light and I wanted the noise, figuring that it would scare the hell out of the amateur assassins.

CHAPTER 7

Like many alarm systems mine had a portable hand set. It could be configured either to beep or to vibrate just like a cell phone. Each night I set it to vibrate and put it under my pillow. I was sure this would be a Saturday job. All these men worked for a living so they would have limited time to plan and conduct surveillance. I didn’t think they would do either—they’d show up and kill us then walk away. Yeah, right!

Marta was spooning with me, facing the rear of the house when my pillow began to vibrate. It was 3:00 Sunday morning. My Marine training kicked in immediately. I was awake in a second. I put my hand over Marta’s mouth. “It’s happening. Get dressed quickly and quietly—no bathroom and no lights. I’ll call Jimmy and our guards as soon as we’re upstairs.” To her credit she was dressed—shorts and a top—in less than twenty seconds and up the stairs five later. I followed her and pulled the stairs up, dropping my trap door once they were locked in place. I called Jimmy, “It’s happening; I think there are four of them from the reactions of my sensors. I’ll call our guards and let them know.” I hung up with Jimmy and called Marco. “They’re here, Marco. Put two men at each side of the house, but let me handle everything until I ask for help. Make sure you have some restraints.”

I turned back to the rear yard which was almost three hundred yards deep. I used it for running and sprints as part of my exercise regimen. Using night vision goggles I could see them exit the woods at the rear of the property. They walked slowly and unsteadily toward the house. I suspected they had drunk up enough courage to do this—they were either drunk or damned close. This would be too easy. I motioned Marta to sit with her back to the wall about four feet to my right. I had padded the area for her. I opened the window and waited.

I hit the lights when they were about two hundred yards out. The lights served two purposes—to illuminate the yard and to blind the assailants. The effect was exactly as I expected. I picked up the mike for the PA system. “STOP RIGHT THERE. DROP YOUR WEAPONS ON THE GROUND. YOU’RE COVERED AND I WILL SHOOT ANYONE WHO RESISTS.”

Of course, one of them raised his rifle. I had a shot in his upper arm before the weapon reached horizontal. “THAT’S ONE. ANYBODY ELSE STUPID ENOUGH TO TRY? HERE’S A SHOT JUST TO LET YOU KNOW WHAT I CAN DO.” I aimed and shot the weapon out of one guy’s hands. The rifle boomed in the night. If I were down there I’d be scared shitless. “MAYBE I SHOULD MENTION THAT I WAS A MARINE SNIPER IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ. I CAN TAKE OUT YOUR TOES ONE AT A TIME IF I WANT TO. NOW DROP YOUR WEAPONS.” In spite of everything I had done not to kill anybody the first guy pulled a pistol with his off hand. When he raised it toward me I had no other choice—I put one in his head. Two men reacted as I hoped and dropped their weapons before raising their hands; the other was slow, either from drink of just plain stupidity. I put a shot through his right bicep.

“MARCO, PLEASE GET OUT THERE AND CUFF THESE IDIOTS. I HAVE YOU COVERED.” Marco and his men ran from their places, dropped the two men to their knees and secured their wrists together with what appeared to be long wire ties, but are actually strong plastic handcuffs. I phoned the police, requesting an ambulance for the wounded man and a coroner for the one I was forced to kill.

I turned to Marta. She rushed into my arms, “It’s over, darling. We can get down to good old boring life.”

“Life with you will never be boring, Peter. I love you so much and I feel so safe with you.” The cops arrived about five minutes later. I was surprised to see Marco still engaged in conversation with one of the captives; he was listening closely to what the man was saying. I explained what had happened and surrendered my weapon after unloading it. The cops were giving me a pretty hard time until Papa arrived with his lawyer. Shortly afterward Special Agent Ross showed up. The cops left satisfied that I had acted in self defense. I was surprised when Agent Ross greeted Papa with a handshake, and even more surprised when Papa returned it.

“That’s quite a rifle you have there, Peter,” Agent Ross said, “Where’d you learn to shoot?”

“Marine Sniper School, sir,” I replied, “Of course, I used something much more modern in Afghanistan and Iraq, but that rifle survived World War II and it’s a beauty--a Winchester Model 1903. I tried to convince them to give up, but one refused and the other was just plain slow. He may have been drunk, but I wasn’t taking any chances—not with Marta’s life on the line. I had no choice but to shoot. I just wish I didn’t have to kill anyone.”

Everything broke up around five, just as the sun was rising. I made coffee for everyone and we chatted in the kitchen and living room for almost an hour. As I carried some empty cups to the sink I noticed Marco’s revolver on the counter. I don’t like loaded guns lying around so I removed the shells, placing them in my pocket. Something about Marco was bothering me; I removed my Beretta, a small 9mm handgun but still lethal, especially at close range. I tucked it into the waistband at the back of my shorts, making sure the safety was engaged and that there was no cartridge in the chamber. I didn’t need to shoot my butt off.

Papa and his attorney left, followed shortly thereafter by Agent Ross. I thanked him for his help and shook his hand. Marta hugged the man, thanking him as well. Papa had taken two of his men with him, leaving only Tony and Marco. Tony was out at the car, still on duty, but Marco was pacing up and down the patio seemingly having an argument with himself. Marta wanted to go back to bed, but I held her close to me on the couch. “It’s not quite over yet,” I told her just as Marco returned to the kitchen for his weapon.

I dialed Jimmy on my cell and, before he had a chance to speak, I told him, “Listen--don’t speak.” I put the phone on the end table. Marco walked in a moment later, revolver in his hand. “Make up your mind, Marco? It looked like quite a conversation you were having first with Cartwright’s friend and then with yourself.”

“Yeah,” he responded, “I made up my mind. Sorry, but you have to go. It’s nothing personal—there’s a lot of money involved.”

“What’s the matter, Marco? Doesn’t Don Pellegrini pay you enough?”

“You know how much I made last year? A crummy hundred K and I had to pay taxes on all of it. That sucks. I can make a big score by knocking you two out…three million—tax free.”

“Yeah, Marco, but think first. How much does the typical high school dropout earn? Not a hundred thousand, that’s for sure. And you’ll have to take care of Tony, too. And don’t forget Jimmy and Papa—they never forget, do they?”

“Ah, by the time they find out I’ll be gone…long gone.” He raised his weapon, pointing it as us.

“Question, Marco—what’s the difference between your gun and mine?” I pulled mine from the waistband, flipped off the safety and racked the slide. “Of course, yours is a revolver and mine is an automatic, but what’s the important difference? Don’t know? Well…mine actually has bullets in it. Yours are in my pocket.” I leveled the pistol, aiming at his eye. “So far as Papa and Jimmy finding out, they already know, right Jimmy?”

“Oh, yeah I know all right. So does Tony; I just got off the other phone with him. He’ll be there in a second to take care of you.” That was Tony’s cue. He walked in and he was pissed. He clubbed Marco with a sap, knocking him unconscious to the floor. “Sorry, Pete. Sorry, Marta. This should never have happened. Why don’t you go to bed while I package this mook for travel?” He pulled out a roll of duct tape and wrapped it around Marcos wrists, before securing his ankles and mouth.

I pulled a terrified Marta to her feet and steered her to the bedroom. “What will happen to him, Peter? I kind of liked Marco before this. How did you know?”

“Yeah, I liked him, too. His problem was that he had no imagination. Jimmy told me he was extremely limited in what he could be trusted to do--other than security…basically nothing. Now he has a big problem—you don’t cross the Don, or anyone in the organization. We’ll never see Marco again and I doubt if anyone will. My guess is that they’ll take him for a boat ride into the Atlantic and drop him overboard. How did I know? You don’t just practice shooting in sniper school. I was taught a lot about people’s behavior. When you have twenty or thirty potential targets in the street it’s important to pick the right ones. I saw him in a long conversation with one of our attackers—that should never have happened. Then he was pacing back and forth on the patio—like arguing with himself. When I saw his pistol in the kitchen I took the natural precaution of unloading it. Marco was never brilliant and in the end it was his stupidity that did him in.”

Just then I heard a commotion in the living room—Marco was being removed. Seconds later Tony called in to let us know he was leaving. He wished us well and thanked me—I may have saved his life, too. I walked up to Marta, hugged her—she was still shaking—and removed her clothing. I stripped out of mine and pulled her to the bed. I pulled the blanket over us. “Just remember—I love you…I’ll always be here for you…and I’ll always protect you. Oh, yeah—if we can get some sleep now we may be able to go fishing later in the afternoon.” That was all the encouragement she needed. She kissed me, closed her eyes and we went back to a blissful sleep.
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