Authors: Lorenzo Carcaterra
Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #General, #Crime
Read on for an excerpt from
by Lorenzo Carcaterra
Published by Ballantine Books
Los Angeles, California
My name is Vincent Marelli and I own your life.
I know you’ve never met me, and if you are lucky you never will. The chances are better than even you’ve never heard of me, but in more ways than you could think of, I own a piece of you. Of everything you do. I don’t care where you live or what you do, a percentage of your money finds its way into the pockets of the men I lead. We are everywhere, touch everything and everyone, and always turn a profit. And once we’ve squeezed every nickel we can out of you, we toss you aside and never bother giving you a second thought.
You lay down a bet at a local casino or with the bookie in the next cubicle, we get a cut. You take the family on that long-planned vacation, a large chunk of the cash you spend—highway tolls, hotel meals, the rides you put your kids on—finds its way into our pockets. You smoke, we earn. You drink, we earn more. Buy a house, fly to Europe, lease a car, mail your mother a birthday present, we make money on it. Hell, the day you’re born and the day you’re buried are both days we cash out on you.
And you’ll never know how we do it.
We’re never in the headlines. Oh, you’ll read about some busts and see a bunch of overweight guys in torn sweatshirts with tabloids folded over their heads do a perp walk for the nightly news, but that’s not us. Those rodeo clowns are the ones we want you to
we are. Those are the faces that get Page One attention, headline trials, and triple-decade prison sentences. We have thousands of guys like that and we toss them into the water any time federal or local badges need to make a splash, make the public think
they’re out there serving and protecting.
We remain untouched.
We are the most powerful organization in the world.
In the last twenty years nearly every top-tier branch of organized crime has joined our union: from the three Italian factions to the Yakuza in Japan, the Triads of China, the French working out of Marseilles, the Algerians, the Israelis, the Greeks, the Irish, and the British. We are now one. A powerful and ruling body so strong, we are beyond the reach of any government, let alone an ambitious local district attorney out to make a name. We have become what the old-timers like Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, and Meyer Lansky dreamed about.
We are a United Nations of crime.
We took the business of crime off the streets and brought it into the dark, wood-paneled rooms where the real money and power live. It didn’t happen overnight and there were some bodies dropped along the way. In those early years not every crew greeted the plan with applause. That’s understandable. These were men and women used to doing business their own way. It wasn’t easy to make them look at the bigger picture, have them see that the arrival of a new century brought with it an opportunity to take what we did in a more lucrative direction. But enough of them got it. They understood that the way we had accumulated wealth in the last century would take us only so far in this new one. That in order not only to compete but thrive and control the power levers, a modern gangster needed to be educated, as skillful with a spreadsheet as he was with a gun and a blade. The modern mob boss would need to be as comfortable inside a boardroom as his relatives had been inside a union hall. The muscle end would always be easy to find. The ones with the knowledge and expertise to dominate a corporate structure would take time to develop.
By the time the new century was welcomed, my group was in complete command. We had infiltrated the corridors of power from Wall Street to hedge funds to insurance companies and oil conglomerates. We were knee-deep in the political and medical worlds and cut a wide path in the hotel, art, jewelry, and airline businesses. You add to that gambling, drugs, sports, and sex, and we owned it all. By the spring of 2011 thirty-one percent of the currency spent in the world found its way into our pockets.
It should have been a gangster’s paradise, but in my world, hell is never far away. Terrorist organizations wanted no part of our methods and we wanted even less to do with their chaos. Besides, the way those groups traveled, the light of the law was never far behind. If they crossed into our turf for any reason, they were taken out, no questions asked, no arguments given. It worked pretty well for a few years.
Then along came the Russians, 1.5 million members strong, well-organized and even better financed. They laid low for close to a decade, letting the Cold War dust settle before tossing their muscle and cash to the terrorists. My group liked to get the bulk of their work done under the radar and preferred to conduct business in countries with stable governments. The Russians were the opposite. They thrived on worldwide unease—the more of it there was, the better they liked it. They had connections with forty-seven of the 191 terror organizations around the world and were the key financial suppliers for twenty-three others. Their money flow was endless and they were quick to supply those organizations with any weapons and high-tech equipment they desired. The Russians also knew their way around what any terrorist outfit most craves—a dirty bomb. Thirty percent of the Russian crew came out of the Cold War with degrees in physics and chemistry. That combination alone, working with the wrong people looking to cause serious damage, would deal my business a lethal blow.
If all that wasn’t bad enough, we also faced a growing problem south of the border. In 2008 the Mexican gangs got their hands on some terrorist money, working on the simple assumption that any enemy of the United States was sure to be a friend to them. The cartel bosses set up a drug pipeline, buying thousands of kilos of hash and heroin from the eighty-seven terrorist outfits around the world functioning as suppliers. In return, instead of paying in cash, they closed the deal with shipments of all calibers of guns, tossing in the clips for free. It wasn’t lost on me that the guns traded by the Mexicans to the terrorists were American-made and stolen.
Any spot I could point to on a map was about to turn into a hot zone. There was too much trouble brewing for it not to bubble over, and by the summer of 2012, I had a major decision to make. One of those calls a guy like me gets to make once, maybe twice, in his life.
I could walk away from everything I built, turn my back and enjoy what was left
of my time, proud of the criminal empire I helped create. I was thirty-three, with a wife I adored, two daughters, and a son who only had to smile in my direction to make me feel special. I had millions saved and millions more securely invested, every cent clean and legal. I had a thriving real estate and construction business that would keep my days busy and fuel a good and quiet life.
But something gnawed at me, held me back from taking the easy way out.
If I walked and let the terrorists and their criminal enablers have their way, they would bring everything I helped build down in one tumble. Besides, guys like me never walk away. We like to think we can, but the truth is I could never leave a problem
problem—on the table and ask someone else to handle it.
There was never a doubt in my mind these terrorist groups needed to be taken out. And my organization was the only one with the money and the manpower to take them head-on. We would need to be as ruthless and determined as our enemies, use all our resources, skills, and connections to bring them to ruin. In the process we would sustain heavy losses—both financial and in blood—but there could be no other way. You don’t talk peace with a guy looking for a fight and you can’t cut a deal unless you trust the hand you’re shaking. I looked at the situation from every possible angle and could figure no other way out. It was a war that needed to be fought. It would be a war foreign to us all: the power of modern organized crime against the Russian mob, the Mexican crews, and every terrorist outfit on the grid.
I had no way of knowing if it was a war we could win.
I only knew it was a war we couldn’t lose.