Married To The Mob
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
Married to the Mob
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 Hospital’s
Columbia Medical Center, without whose
help this book wouldn’t have been written.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
Somewhere in New Jersey
“What part of ‘The mob’s got a contract on you’ do you not understand?”
Dan’s whispered question didn’t faze the stunning blonde at his side. She shrugged. “I understand you’re trying to do your job, Mr. FBI Special Agent Maddox, but you should remember I’ve lived with these people all my life.”
He went to press his point, but she cut him off.
“Do you really think they don’t know where to find me?” She tossed her tawny mane. “They have more arms into more places, people and things than a family of octopuses…octopi?”
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 memory’s not so hot, is it? I’ve asked you and asked you not to call me that. Carlie—that’s what you want to call me. It’s 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 you’re in the Witness Protection Program, you better leave the driving to me—so to speak.”
She rolled her large brown eyes. “Speaking of driving—”
“Would you please lower your voice? People are staring, and we don’t want to draw attention to you.”
Carlotta—Carlie—laughed.Here he was, trying to keep the crazy woman alive, and she laughed.
He tried again. “Don’t laugh like that. Keep it quiet. I just told you we don’t want to draw attention—”
“Just look—at where,” she gasped between laughs, “we are. Then you tell me who’s causing the commotion.”
Dan pressed his forehead against the aggressively pink door frame. “I know, I know, I know. But that’s 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. Let’s go. We’ve overstayed our questionable welcome.”
“But I’m not done yet.”
“Oh, yes you are.” Dan grasped her upper arm and urged her toward the—what else?—pink door. “And I don’t mean the paint on the nails either.”
“But I have no color—”
“Believe me, you don’t 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 don’t.” She took a step toward the bubble-gum-colored front door. “But I’m 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. He’s not worth it—”
“What are you doing?” He turned to stare at her. “Who are all those women? How do you know them all?”
“I’m saying goodbye. Don’t you do that when you leave?”
“Why did you come to a place where you’ve been before? Don’t you realize that’s the quickest way for your brother’s pals to get you?”
“I didn’t come back to where anyone knew me. This is the first time I’ve been here.”
Why me? “So how do you know about the mother’s cold or the other one’s jerk?”
“I don’t know. I said hi, and we got to talking. It’s not just about the nails, you know.”
“But you still risked your life for them.”
“I told you I don’t want to die for my nails.”
He led them out of the shop and to his Bureau-issue car. “I’m glad you’re not ready to die for plastic. And that shadow life you mentioned isn’t a forever thing. All we need is a conviction on your husband’s 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 I’ll be free to roam wherever I want?”
“Pretty much. At least, that’s when my job ends, as far as you’re concerned.”
“Think again, Cop Boy. Larry’s got more ‘family’ than Giant Stadium has seats. And they won’t be too happy with me—they aren’t already. Then there are all of good old Dad’s zillion ‘business associates.’ Think they’ll like visiting Dad at the pokey? Not hardly.”
“What makes you think we won’t get them all?”
“That’s the dumbest thing you’ve 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 didn’t budge. “Um…there’s just one teeny, tiny, teensy-weensy problem here.”
Yeah, her. “What’s the problem now?”
“That’s your assigned car, not mine. Do you figure you’ll 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 can’t drive both cars back, nor can I come back by myself later. Go ahead. Drive yourself.”
He looked around for his car’s clone, but didn’t see it anywhere. “So what’d you do with it?”
“I parked it out back, in the salon’s lot. What’d 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. I’ll 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 and—yes, of course—a nail, the pointed steel kind?
“While we’re 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 lioness’s mane, to the satiny cream skin over model’s 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 sandals—toenails coated with chipped polish—Carlotta Papparelli, mobster’s widow, looked nothing like any target he’d 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. That’s the reason for the plain agency car, since there’s not a lot we can do about you—unless you’re ready for plastic surgery and a hair makeover.”
She rolled her eyes—again. She was quite proficient at it, too. “Get over it, Danny Boy. I’m a blonde, not a boring bland, bland, bland, like the car.”
That’s for sure, that trouble-making corner of his head retorted. “Let’s get something straight. You’re no boring bland but a bottle blonde—”
“Ouch! That’s not nice—”
“Neither are the guys after you.” Would she ever get it? He went on as if she hadn’t interrupted him. “And in the second place, no one calls me Danny Boy and lives.”
“Wow! I never thought I’d ever see it—didn’t know you even had it. A sense of humor, that is. Is it an FBI requirement to be grim, gloomy and glum—eeeeek!”
She could’ve busted a window—maybe she did, but Dan didn’t bother to check. He grabbed the shaking woman and shielded her body with his. That’s how he approached the beige car.
He realized this might be Carlie’s wake-up call. The formerly boring midsize model now sported a particularly realistic portrait of a massive rodent, and in case the observer didn’t 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.
Dan turned and saw Carlie’s face glued to the passenger side window—the woman didn’t listen worth a dime. Before he could yell at her—again—she resumed her wail.
“Yuck! There’s 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?”
“And what’s all that white fuzz all over the place—oh, that is so sick.” She shuddered. “It’s 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. “I’ll have you know, Super-Duper Agent Daniel Maddox, that’s 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. I’m 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? He’d 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 she’d been there forever.
He unlocked the door. “Get in.”
“Yes, Mr. Gracious.”
Okay. It wasn’t the nicest thing he’d ever done. But he was frustrated, they hadn’t 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 man—anyone—in 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 didn’t 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 he’d 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 block–type 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 one’s hurt,” Carlie murmured.
Dan glanced her way. She’d closed her eyes, clasped her hands in her lap. Her expression, for once, was serious, intent. Somehow he knew she’d begun to pray.
Who for? The unknown—and only possibly injured—party?
He merged back into the heavier-by-the-minute late-afternoon traffic. Carlie didn’t 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.
“I’m afraid so,” Carlie answered, her voice softer and more serious than he’d heard it yet. She really wasn’t that bad.
She made a startled sound. “What for?”
“I acted like a jerk back there. I didn’t need to slam the door on you.”
“Thanks for the apology, but I’m not totally innocent either. I tend to have a smart mouth, and I gave you a pretty hard time. I know you’re trying to do your job, and I understand you want to keep me alive, but I’m not used to all these restrictions. Besides, if the Lord wants me home at His side, then I’m ready to go.”
A chill went through Dan. “Don’t be so ready to croak, okay? You’re very young. You’ve 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 don’t remember everything that’s 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, you’ll be busted.”
“I’ll 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 Carlie’s apartment complex. As they approached, a nasty feeling took root in Dan’s 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 Carlie’s 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. Don’t 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. “We’re not sure. That’s what we’re 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 guy’s bearded jaw pushed out. “Don’t get your feathers all ruffled up, you know?” He shook his shaggy head. “Kids! Anyway, there’s this blond broad who lives across from me, and either her gas line went nuts or something else did. All’s 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 don’t have much to go back home for—if she wasn’t 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 ladder’s up to the window to the right of the babe’s place. Mrs. Schulz is seventy-five. Sure, she’s got more vinegar to her than I got hair, but she can’t go running or nothing like climb down on her own. I figure they’re 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.
“We’re outta here. Your friends and family came calling, and they left you a calling card. Of the exploding kind.”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t ask me where we’re going, because I don’t know. I have to call in, report this, check out what’s available and then get you there. We can’t stay here anymore. Someone bombed your apartment.”
And then she threw Dan for a loop—again.
Carlie chuckled. “And you gave me grief about my nails. Just be glad I wasn’t here. Face it, Danny Boy…er…Dan. I’d better get a manicure more often. It’s good for my health. My nails—you know, the ones you said were going to get me killed—just saved my life.”
Yes, she should be scared.
And yes, she was in serious danger.
But what could she do for herself? Nothing. So Carlie blocked out Dan’s griping and turned to the Lord.
Father, I’m not so good at this yet, but I don’t want to die. Don’t get me wrong. If You want me, I’m there. But if it’s not urgent, then I’d like to hang around here a little longer. The deal is, I don’t know what to do, how to avoid Dad’s and Tony’s slimy friends. And Dan? Well, he tries, but there’s 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 didn’t share her new faith, but with this latest development…He’d asked. “I had to pray.”
“Okay.” He looked way uncomfortable. “Well. That’s fine. Ah…we’re 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?”
“Ah…nothing. I just figured you’d want to know why I was stopping when we need to get away ASAP.”
Carlie peered at her companion, but couldn’t read him, and she really did try. “Oh-kay, Mr. Secret Agent Man. I’ll be right here, seat belt on, ready for takeoff whenever you’re 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 her—she would’ve preferred the ice cream. Pulling over to the side of the road wasn’t the smartest thing to do. And yeah, yeah, she’d figured Dan as the Boy Scout–type right from the start. He’d 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 she’d helped Maryanne Wellborn, now Prophet, save her elderly father from dear brother Tony’s murderous intents, Carlie’s world had turned into a surreal series of images, each one weirder than the last. All because she’d agreed to testify against her father, her brother Tony and a bunch of their mob pals.
She’d also acquired her intense, good-looking blond shadow.
Carlie had never been so squeezed into a box. She’d called her father a tyrannical spoilsport during her high-school years. Then, after she married, Carlo gave her complete freedom—as long as she stayed out of his business.
That business, the same as her father’s and brother’s, was what landed her smack in the middle of this mess. She’d done everything she could during those years of marriage to ignore the signs, the same ones she’d 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 driver’s side door opened. “Okay,” Dan said once behind the wheel again. “We’re 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. “It’s probably safer for you not to know too much about our plans.”
“Oh, sure. I might telepathetically transmit the location to Dad’s pals. Give me a break. What do you think I’m going to do? Hop out of the car—while it’s zipping down a highway—flag down some unsuspecting soul, then run and tell on you?”
“It’s telepathically, Carlie. And it’s 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 you—that’s so cool! I feel like I’m reading the script for a TV cop show. Yeah, if they snuff you, don’t you think they’ll just grab me from the passenger seat? I’ll be no more than a memory.”
His knuckles went white on the steering wheel. “Sorry. You’re right. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t usually get this rattled on a case. I guess it doesn’t help that I didn’t get much sleep last night.”
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî