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57

We believe they are returning to America now, La Duca said in Italian.

Dez clenched the phone then tried to make himself unclench it. Are they on a flight?

S'i, we assume so. They did not take Alitalia or any commercial flights. My men followed them as far as a regional airport before they lost them. Christopher McNeil is good. La Duca s voice wasnt livid as he reported that. He was the kind of boss that respected proficiency in others. Not that he wouldnt still kill the man when he got the chance. We believe they are on a jet.

Dez fully released his grip on the phone.

Which means, La Duca continued, that you acted quickly, just as I asked you to do. You did something to get them to return immediately. Complementi.

Complementi was the Italian way of saying nice work, good job. And La Duca was not the type to toss praise easily.

Grazie, Dez said simply.

This is your show now.

Ive got it, Dez said with authority.

You are sure?

Dez knew La Duca was speaking as much about Dez proving himself as he was about taking out the McNeil family.

Certo, Dez said. All of them.

I ask that you will be discreet.

Dez froze. You are asking me to conduct this operation in quiet?

S'i. You and I will know. But the news will not go up. At least not until it is all done.

They both knew what La Duca meant. The act that Dez had planned was splashy, one might say explosive, so the act wasnt really going to be done in quiet. What La Duca was speaking of, though, was that the planning of the McNeils deaths would be kept between the two of them. It wouldnt go up, which meant it wouldnt reach the top-the top boss of the Camorra. The top boss was the one who, it was said, let the clans duke it out so that he was the only one who saw everything clearly.

There is something strange, La Duca continued, very strange about the McNeils. Christopher McNeil has been a thorn in our side for entirely too long. I want us to handle this quietly. Later, we can reveal how and when it was done.

Dez liked the words us and we coming from La Duca s mouth. He had hoped that by handling this situation well he would prove himself immediately to the top. He had also put a plan into action for learning the identity of the one at the top. Although La Duca didnt know it, that second part of the plan was still in play.

You place your trust correctly, Dez said finally.

What was about to happen would be very Camorra, and yet it would also be very American Camorra, putting the U.S. and Chicago on the radar of the System in the same way Spain and Madrid had done in the past. His nerves tweaked a bit in anticipation. The game had already started. The McNeil brother, little Charlie, was already installed at the place where it would go down. As Dez had hoped, his abduction had drawn an immediate response from Isabel McNeil and her daddy. Isabel McNeil, who had seemed such a problem, was turning out to be his solution.

Christopher McNeil is good, La Duca said again. For him to evade the Camorra for years, to trick us like this, is incredible. And worthy of caution. We have been able to find out little about where he lived or what he did during these twenty years since we thought we killed him. But we are certain now that he has been working for the antimafia office, working against the System. You should be careful of him.

Of course. And what is your opinion of the other family members? Dez liked the way this conversation was proceeding, as if he and La Duca were equals, comparing professional notes.

They are amateurs. La Duca made a dismissive noise. Your testa rossa apparently has some skills, but purely amateur.

I can handle amateurs.

Dez spoke a few more words, reassuring La Duca, then hung up the phone.

He would eradicate Christopher McNeil and his family. Even if they kept it quiet for now, as La Duca had asked, word would seep out, so that eventually those in the System would know it was the Camorra who had taken care of the deed, and Dez in particular. But the authorities would not suspect that the hit was Camorra. The rampant desire for public glory that kept showing its ugly face in Napoli would be placed on the back burner.

The building where he held Charles McNeil was perfect, owned as it was by a Mexican company, one that provided drugs and runners to Dezs operation. Right now, the company was behind. Way behind. They had taken a lot of money from Dez, but then fallen back on providing what theyd promised. And now they were running scared. Rightly so.

Disposing of the McNeils would not only be an eventual signal to the System that Dez was truly in charge in the U.S. and someone to be taken very seriously, it would also act as a clear signal to the Mexicans. To the authorities it would appear that Family McNeil had tried to save their wayward, drug-troubled brother but their attempt had gone wrong, and theyd all died. There would be no warning-not for the McNeils, not for the Mexicans. Not for any of them.


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