Ginny Aiken.

Married To The Mob






Married to the Mob

Ginny Aiken


Daniel answered, O king, live forever!

My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.

Daniel 6:21, 22

This book is dedicated to the caring and talented

physical therapists at Lancaster General Hospitals

Columbia Medical Center, without whose

help this book wouldnt have been written.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

ONE

Somewhere in New Jersey

What part of The mobs got a contract on you do you not understand?

Dans whispered question didnt faze the stunning blonde at his side. She shrugged. I understand youre trying to do your job, Mr. FBI Special Agent Maddox, but you should remember Ive lived with these people all my life.

He went to press his point, but she cut him off.

Do you really think they dont know where to find me? She tossed her tawny mane. They have more arms into more places, people and things than a family of octopusesoctopi?

Dan looked around at the innocent bystanders, busy pretending not to listen. Why did he always get the nutcases? How about this, Carlotta

Hold it right there! Your memorys not so hot, is it? Ive asked you and asked you not to call me that. Carliethats what you want to call me. Its not so hard, is it? Try it, you might like it.

Her wink nearly sent his patience over the edge. Do you ever take anything seriously?

Yes, she said, her eyes intent, her voice warm and vibrant. I take God seriously. And then I leave the rest to Him.

Dan had heard this kind of crazy illogic before. David Latham, one of his closest friends and a fellow agent in the Philadelphia Organized Crime Unit, was a gung ho religion sellout. Then, after a recent case, his partner, J.Z. Prophet, went and married another one. To really throw him for a loop, J.Z. succumbed to the lure of false confidence in the same philosophical game of mirrors, and was now one of them.

You go ahead and do that, Dan said, in a low voice. But while youre in the Witness Protection Program, you better leave the driving to meso to speak.

She rolled her large brown eyes. Speaking of driving

Would you please lower your voice? People are staring, and we dont want to draw attention to you.

CarlottaCarlielaughed.

Here he was, trying to keep the crazy woman alive, and she laughed.

He tried again. Dont laugh like that. Keep it quiet. I just told you we dont want to draw attention

Just lookat where, she gasped between laughs, we are. Then you tell me whos causing the commotion.

Dan pressed his forehead against the aggressively pink door frame. I know, I know, I know. But thats the whole point. Why did you feel the need to come

Simple, she said. I love nice nails, and mine looked like fence posts after a dust storm. So where did you want me to go? A drive-in lube shop?

From the corner of his eye, Dan caught the fascinated stares of the nail techs, noses and mouths covered with baby-blue dust masks, and the dozen or so women in various stages of acquiring lethal prongs on the tips of their killer claws.

He took a deep breath. Okay. Lets go. Weve overstayed our questionable welcome.

But Im not done yet.

Oh, yes you are. Dan grasped her upper arm and urged her toward thewhat else?pink door. And I dont mean the paint on the nails either.

But I have no color

Believe me, you dont lack in that department. He glanced at the talons on her hands. Even when your nails look like the glow-in-the-dark fake ones kids wear.

How dare you? These are the finest acrylic

You want to die for plastic nails?

That finally made her pause. Well, no. Of course I dont. She took a step toward the bubble-gum-colored front door. But Im not willing to live a shadow life either.

Dan took advantage of her forward motion and took hold of her hand. Carlie confounded him when she called out over her shoulder, Bye, Dianna. Take care of little Davey, Sarah. Shonna, remember to tell your mom to try the echinacea for that cold. And Trish? Dump the jerk. Hes not worth it

What are you doing? He turned to stare at her. Who are all those women? How do you know them all?

Im saying goodbye. Dont you do that when you leave?

Why did you come to a place where youve been before? Dont you realize thats the quickest way for your brothers pals to get you?

I didnt come back to where anyone knew me. This is the first time Ive been here.

Why me? So how do you know about the mothers cold or the other ones jerk?

I dont know. I said hi, and we got to talking. Its not just about the nails, you know.

But you still risked your life for them.

I told you I dont want to die for my nails.

He led them out of the shop and to his Bureau-issue car. Im glad youre not ready to die for plastic. And that shadow life you mentioned isnt a forever thing. All we need is a conviction on your husbands killers.

Carlie yanked her hand from his and stuck her fists on her slender hips. And you really think that after my brother Tony, Joey-O, Larry Gemmelli and my dad are behind bars Ill be free to roam wherever I want?

Pretty much. At least, thats when my job ends, as far as youre concerned.

Think again, Cop Boy. Larrys got more family than Giant Stadium has seats. And they wont be too happy with methey arent already. Then there are all of good old Dads zillion business associates. Think theyll like visiting Dad at the pokey? Not hardly.

What makes you think we wont get them all?

Thats the dumbest thing youve said

A loud, appreciative wolf whistle cut her off and jerked him back to reality. Come on. Get in the car. Before the next obnoxious idiot shoots a bullet instead of a whistle out his window.

She didnt budge. Umtheres just one teeny, tiny, teensy-weensy problem here.

Yeah, her. Whats the problem now?

Thats your assigned car, not mine. Do you figure youll telepathetically drive mine back to the apartment?

This was pathetic, all right. Woman, you could drive a man right into a loony bin. He ran a hand through his hair. No, I cant drive both cars back, nor can I come back by myself later. Go ahead. Drive yourself.

He looked around for his cars clone, but didnt see it anywhere. So whatd you do with it?

I parked it out back, in the salons lot. Whatd you want me to do with it? Stick it in my pocket?

Nothing fit in the pocket of her slim linen pants. All right, Carlie. Ill walk you back to the car.

They began the trudge back toward Nail It. Dan looked up at the marquee, and shook his head. How much more ridiculous could a place get than to advertise its work with a gargantuan neon fingernail decorated with a hammer andyes, of coursea nail, the pointed steel kind?

While were at it, Carlie said as they reached the parking lot, how about a better set of wheels? I mean, really. It barely moves. Do I look like I want to be a moving target in a poky-slow car?

Against his better judgment, Dan looked at his gorgeous charge. From the top of her fabulous lionesss mane, to the satiny cream skin over models features, to a curvy, feminine figure encased in the latest light green silk and old-gold linen, and all the way down to the feet in strappy, high-heeled green leather sandalstoenails coated with chipped polishCarlotta Papparelli, mobsters widow, looked nothing like any target hed ever seen.

And yet, at the same time, beautiful as she was, she was a target.

Get real, he said. A peacock car would be like waving a red cape at an angry bull. You need to blend in. Thats the reason for the plain agency car, since theres not a lot we can do about youunless youre ready for plastic surgery and a hair makeover.

She rolled her eyesagain. She was quite proficient at it, too. Get over it, Danny Boy. Im a blonde, not a boring bland, bland, bland, like the car.

Thats for sure, that trouble-making corner of his head retorted. Lets get something straight. Youre no boring bland but a bottle blonde

Ouch! Thats not nice

Neither are the guys after you. Would she ever get it? He went on as if she hadnt interrupted him. And in the second place, no one calls me Danny Boy and lives.

Wow! I never thought Id ever see itdidnt know you even had it. A sense of humor, that is. Is it an FBI requirement to be grim, gloomy and glumeeeeek!

She couldve busted a windowmaybe she did, but Dan didnt bother to check. He grabbed the shaking woman and shielded her body with his. Thats how he approached the beige car.

He realized this might be Carlies wake-up call. The formerly boring midsize model now sported a particularly realistic portrait of a massive rodent, and in case the observer didnt quite get the message, under the critter, it read RAT.

Dan pulled out his gun, held it in front as he approached the graffitied vehicle then gestured for Carlie to stay where she stood. When he circled the car, he noted an even more grisly message across the back window. The artist had detailed a skull and crossbones severed from a stick-figure skeleton. Again, the creative creep had titled his work RAT.

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! Gross!

Dan turned and saw Carlies face glued to the passenger side windowthe woman didnt listen worth a dime. Before he could yell at heragainshe resumed her wail.

Yuck! Theres a big, fat, repulsive rat in the front seat. Oh, would you look at that? She looked at Dan and pointed. Did you know their tails were that long? And hairless?

Yes

And whats all that white fuzz all over the placeoh, that is so sick. She shuddered. Its built itself a nest.

Dan shrugged. Rats need homes. What can you do?

You are crazy. She headed back toward the front of the nail salon. Ill have you know, Super-Duper Agent Daniel Maddox, thats no longer my car. As of right now. We can go back to yours, and you can have your pals from the Bureau pick up the rodent palace. Im outta here.

Dan ran to her side, slid the gun back into the holster under his jacket, and reality slipped away. Slipped away? Yeah, right. It was zipping down the sanity highway, but what could he do? Hed been saddled with a beautiful but crazy witness.

She beat him to the car and stood at the passenger door. She crossed her arms. She tapped the toe of her stiletto-heeled sandal, as if shed been there forever.

He unlocked the door. Get in.

Yes, Mr. Gracious.

Okay. It wasnt the nicest thing hed ever done. But he was frustrated, they hadnt taught him how to deal with this kind of witness at Bureau training, much less law school, and she took too much pleasure driving him nuts. He slammed the door shut the minute her rear hit the seat.

And he had to keep her alive long enough to get convictions on her family and their dubious friends? He shook his head, rounded the vehicle, sat behind the wheel and peeled away, all without another word.

While he drove in silent mode, he continued to fume. Now he had to call Eliza, his supervising Special Agent. Not something a mananyonein his right mind would want to do. But from where he stood, he had no choice.

To be more accurate, Carlie had left him no choice. He didnt know if he could keep her alive much longer. She refused to cooperate.

The next light turned against him. He sat and watched seconds crawl by. At his side, Carlie began to hum.

Dan hated humming.

And everyone had always called him laid-back. He scoffed. They oughta see the man hed become post-Carlotta Papparelli.

She slanted him a look.

He ignored it.

The light turned green, so he drove on toward the safe house the Bureau had set up for Carlie in a massive, Lego blocktype apartment complex.

Moments later he heard the faint whee-uhn, whee-uhn, whee-uhn of an emergency vehicle approaching from behind. He glanced in his rear-view mirror. The cherry light on the roof of the squad car strobed closer by the second. Dan pulled over to the shoulder.

I hope no ones hurt, Carlie murmured.

Dan glanced her way. Shed closed her eyes, clasped her hands in her lap. Her expression, for once, was serious, intent. Somehow he knew shed begun to pray.

Who for? The unknownand only possibly injuredparty?

Strange.

He merged back into the heavier-by-the-minute late-afternoon traffic. Carlie didnt speak. Neither did he.

Then sirens started up again. They approached from his right, so he eased up to the left shoulder. This time, an ambulance zipped up and rounded the corner. In less than three minutes, three more squad cars, an additional ambulance and two fire trucks raced by.

Must be big, he murmured.

Im afraid so, Carlie answered, her voice softer and more serious than hed heard it yet. She really wasnt that bad.

Im sorry.

She made a startled sound. What for?

I acted like a jerk back there. I didnt need to slam the door on you.

Thanks for the apology, but Im not totally innocent either. I tend to have a smart mouth, and I gave you a pretty hard time. I know youre trying to do your job, and I understand you want to keep me alive, but Im not used to all these restrictions. Besides, if the Lord wants me home at His side, then Im ready to go.

A chill went through Dan. Dont be so ready to croak, okay? Youre very young. Youve a long life ahead of you. By the way, how old are you? I mean, I have all that information in your case file, but I dont remember everything thats in it.

I prefer to keep that piece of data private. A touch of humor came back into her voice.

Not for long. When I get back to my place tonight, youll be busted.

Ill take what scrap of privacy I can get these days.

With an air of comfortable companionship between them, they turned the corner three blocks away from Carlies apartment complex. As they approached, a nasty feeling took root in Dans gut.

A hideous orange glow tinted the blue sky, and clouds of smoke spread and hovered on the light wind. Right over the complex.

Dan slowed the car. At his side, Carlie caught her breath. His pulse pounded through him, throbbed in his temple.

Every one of his internal alarms detonated.

Which is what seemed to have happened to the structure, a detonation of some sort. All the emergency vehicles that had passed them no more than ten minutes earlier were lined along the backside of Carlies apartment building. A HAZMAT team had joined the party, too.

That nasty feeling morphed into a ravening certainty. Still, he had to know. You stay here, he said. And I mean it, Carlie. Dont move.

She nodded, her eyes glued to the scene. Firefighters in their yellow suits ran around the trucks, some climbed the giant ladders, others helped people to the ambulances. Uniformed cops talked to a throng of civilians.

Dan approached an officer. What happened?

The woman turned to him and shrugged. Were not sure. Thats what were trying to figure out.

A burly man in a white muscle undershirt and tan shorts walked up. You wanna know what happened? I know what happened.

Officer Shenise Davis turned keen hazel eyes on the guy. So tell me what happened, already.

Easy there. The guys bearded jaw pushed out. Dont get your feathers all ruffled up, you know? He shook his shaggy head. Kids! Anyway, theres this blond broad who lives across from me, and either her gas line went nuts or something else did. Alls I know is the place went kaboom! The whole building shook like one of them California earthquakes. Smoke started to stink up my place, and I opened the door. Well, the babe dont have much to go back home forif she wasnt home, know what I mean?

Dan knew. Too well.

The walking, talking wealth of information ran a massive paw through the wild thatch on his head. Either the explosion busted her place to pieces, or else the fire ate it all up.

Although sure he already knew, Dan asked, What floor was this?

Tenth, over in the middle section. He pointed an arm heavy with dark hair. See? The ladders up to the window to the right of the babes place. Mrs. Schulz is seventy-five. Sure, shes got more vinegar to her than I got hair, but she cant go running or nothing like climb down on her own. I figure theyre gonna have to carry her down.

Dan gave what he hoped the officer and the verbose bear read as a nonchalant shrug, then walked back the excruciating distance between him and Carlie. He got in the car, turned the key, then shot her a sideways look.

Were outta here. Your friends and family came calling, and they left you a calling card. Of the exploding kind.

What do you mean?

Dont ask me where were going, because I dont know. I have to call in, report this, check out whats available and then get you there. We cant stay here anymore. Someone bombed your apartment.

And then she threw Dan for a loopagain.

Carlie chuckled. And you gave me grief about my nails. Just be glad I wasnt here. Face it, Danny BoyerDan. Id better get a manicure more often. Its good for my health. My nailsyou know, the ones you said were going to get me killedjust saved my life.

TWO

Yes, she should be scared.

And yes, she was in serious danger.

But what could she do for herself? Nothing. So Carlie blocked out Dans griping and turned to the Lord.

Father, Im not so good at this yet, but I dont want to die. Dont get me wrong. If You want me, Im there. But if its not urgent, then Id like to hang around here a little longer. The deal is, I dont know what to do, how to avoid Dads and Tonys slimy friends. And Dan? Well, he tries, but theres a lot more of them than of us. So help us out here. Okay?

You! Did you go deaf or something?

Carlie shook herself. No. I just had to He didnt share her new faith, but with this latest developmentHed asked. I had to pray.

Okay. He looked way uncomfortable. Well. Thats fine. Ahwere going to have to pull over long enough for me to make some calls, get an idea what we should do next.

Fine. What do you want from me?

Ahnothing. I just figured youd want to know why I was stopping when we need to get away ASAP.

Carlie peered at her companion, but couldnt read him, and she really did try. Oh-kay, Mr. Secret Agent Man. Ill be right here, seat belt on, ready for takeoff whenever youre ready.

He gave her another of his exasperated looks. She had come to identify and catalog 37 flavors of weird looks Dan Maddox used on hershe wouldve preferred the ice cream. Pulling over to the side of the road wasnt the smartest thing to do. And yeah, yeah, shed figured Dan as the Boy Scouttype right from the start. Hed never cell phone and drive. But the New Jersey Turnpike was no lonely country lane. Anyone could come along here and pop the two of them with the greatest of ease.

Ever since shed helped Maryanne Wellborn, now Prophet, save her elderly father from dear brother Tonys murderous intents, Carlies world had turned into a surreal series of images, each one weirder than the last. All because shed agreed to testify against her father, her brother Tony and a bunch of their mob pals.

Shed also acquired her intense, good-looking blond shadow.

Carlie had never been so squeezed into a box. Shed called her father a tyrannical spoilsport during her high-school years. Then, after she married, Carlo gave her complete freedomas long as she stayed out of his business.

That business, the same as her fathers and brothers, was what landed her smack in the middle of this mess. Shed done everything she could during those years of marriage to ignore the signs, the same ones shed ignored at home. What woman wants to admit her family, and the handsome, debonair older man her father insisted she marry, were all mobsters?

The drivers side door opened. Okay, Dan said once behind the wheel again. Were on our way.

On our way where?

Some other place over in Pennsylvania.

Could you be a little more specific? That covers a big chunk of ground, you know?

He gave her another of those worried looks. Its probably safer for you not to know too much about our plans.

Oh, sure. I might telepathetically transmit the location to Dads pals. Give me a break. What do you think Im going to do? Hop out of the carwhile its zipping down a highwayflag down some unsuspecting soul, then run and tell on you?

Its telepathically, Carlie. And its safer for you not to know too much in case someone takes me out and they snatch you.

I like telepathetically better. And what you just said made no sense. If they snuff youthats so cool! I feel like Im reading the script for a TV cop show. Yeah, if they snuff you, dont you think theyll just grab me from the passenger seat? Ill be no more than a memory.

His knuckles went white on the steering wheel. Sorry. Youre right. I dont know whats wrong with me. I dont usually get this rattled on a case. I guess it doesnt help that I didnt get much sleep last night.





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