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Dez Romano sat in his office, thinking about Isabel McNeil. Hed learned she was heading for Naples.

His mole inside the antimafia office talked to the idiot notary shed had coffee with, and the guy had been only too eager to brag about his date. Yes, she had talked about the Camorra, the notary said, and he had told her that if she wanted to know about the Camorra she should go to Napoli.

Once he knew about the Naples potential, Dez had put out a watch for her name. Because shed given her passport to a travel agent to buy train tickets, his people had been able to find her reservation.

What was she doing? he wondered now. Was she after him? Was she really a federal agent, one who was trying to bring down the Camorra?

He lifted the phone and called a familiar number. Speaking in italiano, he described the situation in vague terms to the man who answered.

Her name is McNeil? the man said.


And she is looking for her father? Is that Christopher McNeil? The guys voice was rough now.

Dez had never heard of Christopher McNeil, but he wasnt sure if he should admit that. Luckily, the man kept talking. Il duca will want to talk to you about this. Stay by your phone.

The man hung up, leaving Dez surprised. Il duca was the duke, the nickname for Flavio La Duca, the head of Dezs clan in Naples. It was La Duca whod known Dezs distant family members in Italy and had reached out to him in the U.S. and brought Dez on board. Flavio La Duca was his boss.

Dezs phone soon rang and the gruff tones of the duke filled his ear. La Duca told him that Christopher McNeil was a traditore, a traitor of the worst kind. He told Dez how they had killed him two decades ago, put an explosive in his helicopter.

So when this girl was telling the antimafia office that she was looking for him, Dez said, you dont know what she meant by that?

No. But this is a man who was against the System, always had been. If there is any chance he is alive, any chance for us to bring him in and kill him, that would mean the world to the top.

The top was the person at the head of the Camorra. The clans warred against each other, and yet the person at the top knew all of them, could get the clans to do just about anything, except to stop fighting each other.

Dez thought he could do better. He wanted to be the top, the head of the Camorra, but he first needed to know who the person was. Once in control of that knowledge, he would be able to formulate his message to that person and eventually grow his own power not just in the U.S., but in Naples, as well. Then he would not only unite the clans and bring more power into the United States, he would take the Camorra around the world. He would operate the System worldwide.

This goal Dez had, it wasnt just for ambitions sake. He was doing it because there was so much potential for this business-for money, for power, yes, but ultimately because it would allow him to craft his life the way he wanted it. Dez thought that everyone should be able to do that. He simply had grander tastes than most.

He and La Duca discussed the possibilities. La Duca said that Isabel McNeil was probably just a woman having issues getting over her dead daddy. Dez disagreed as kindly as possible, told him that Isabel McNeil was a keen woman, someone who learned quickly, acted quickly. Hed asked around about her since that night at Gibsons, since she had eluded him at the nature museum, and hed learned that she had been involved with a string of bizarre events over the last year-a fianc'e disappearing with a bunch of her clients money, a friend who ended up dead, causing McNeil to be considered a suspect in her murder. And yet when hed met her, in that fucking purple silk dress that clung to her and with a gaze that said, Yeah, I see you looking, go ahead, she seemed as if shed never been challenged, as if she wasnt bothered with any bad emotions from those situations.

La Duca paused when he heard Dezs assessment of Ms. McNeil, then said, And you think that you are reading this correctly, il diavolo? The devil. It was Dezs clan nickname.

Over the years Dez had gotten the feeling that the duke was presenting him with unique situations, one after another, testing him and yet also telling him that the Camorra didnt entirely trust any of their americano contingents.

So, as he always did, Dez now reassured La Duca of his commitment to him, to the Camorra and to establishing their place in the United States. He told him that the McNeil he knew, the girl, was a threat to them here, that she was the one who had brought down their launderer, Michael DeSanto.

What should we do with her? La Duca said, and Dez flushed with pride. For the duke to ask his opinion meant only one thing-he was finally being trusted. But Dez was smart enough to know that such trust was only for now, and hed better prove himself by handling this situation with precision.

Have someone waiting at Centrale in Napoli, he told Flavio. Shes easy enough to spot. He described her with three words-la testa rossa, the redhead. Youll see what I mean.

S'i, La Duca said. And then what do you want with her?

I want to know who shes with. I want to know where she goes. Any information your men can give me. Then he told La Duca what he eventually wanted from la testa rossa, and the duke agreed completely.

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