Excerpt From Prologue
Gianni was seated at a metal table, his hands bound behind his back. At one end of the table stood Sal Catroni. Unlike the other man, he wore no disguise. His longish hair was slicked back neatly, white at the sides, darker on top. His brow was furrowed in a scowl, amplifying the deep frown lines between his black-looking eyes.
Catroni spoke first. “You know who I am?” he said.
Gianni shook his head.
“I’m Sal Catroni, of the Catroni family, and this here is Hector. Hector was a medic in the marines. He’s here to help you with some medical treatment.”
Hector stood at least six-two, all of it solid muscle. He wore a tight white dress shirt, its silk sleeves rolled neatly to the middle of his massive forearms. A ski mask, open at the forehead, concealed his face, and his closely cropped black hair stood mostly on end. It reminded Gianni of a 1960s style flat-top cut, only not as stiff.
“Hector has some tools for you, Doc,” Catroni said.
Hector opened a clean white linen cloth, the texture of a dishrag but with a starched white appearance. Inside were surgical instruments. Dr. Gianni instantly recognized them—there was a blade handle and several large #10 blades, the kind a surgeon would use to make a long incision. It was not a delicate blade, but one meant to cut hard and fast through a lot of tissue with a single swipe. Next to the blades was a bone cutting forceps, which Gianni knew to be a Rongeurs forceps. Then there was a large pile of neatly folded gauze pads.
“Recognize those tools?” Catroni asked.
.“Well, Hector here is prepared to do a little surgery today.”
Excerpt From Chapter Three - Saratoga Springs, NY
At every barn there were grooms tending to horses in the stalls, hot walkers parading them around the shedrows after their workouts, and exercise riders up and down on horses in a continual parade to and from the track. Trainers walked from the barn to the track and back again, on foot or on horseback, stopping to exchange words with anxious owners who always had questions for which there were often no answers.
From a host of illegals just up from Mexico, to the likes of the Whitneys and the Vanderbilts, the world inside the gates was a microcosm of the world outside. Even the horses exhibited a class system. Each barn had its alpha male, with others assuming more submissive roles, not unlike a litter of dogs. Among the two-year-olds in Jeff Willard’s barn, word was spreading that Chiefly Endeavor was the new alpha-elect.
Gianni could see Jeff standing in front of the viewing stand, a small bleacher-like structure raised several feet above ground level. At six-foot-three, Jeff could forego the stand. He looked back and forth between the stopwatch in his hand and his horse on the track.
“Four furlongs in forty-nine and one. Not bad, not bad,” he said.
“Good morning, Jeff.”
“Morning, Doc. Your colt is next.”
“Jeff, meet Brad Hill.” They exchanged pleasantries, and then the three climbed the stairs of the viewing stand.
“He’ll be going five furlongs on the turf.”
The fog had lifted, and the trio had a clear view across the track to the far side of the turf course.
At the five-eighths marker they could see Chiefly Endeavor accelerate.
"Good stride,” Jeff said. “Look at the way he holds his head, he’s fluid and he has a good long stride. That’s a good horse.”
As he crossed in front of the finish pole, Jeff clicked his timer. “Looks like 1:02 flat, without looking like he had to work all that hard. That’s good.”
Excerpt From Chapter Nine
The woman walked across the room and looked at the envelope on the dresser. Thumbing it casually, she noted that it contained a wad of hundred dollar bills. She did not count them.
She appeared to be in her early thirties with a trim and athletic body, blonde hair and a stunningly beautiful face. Deep blue eyes looked directly into his. Her small nose was perfectly sculpted, without any surgery, it seemed. She brushed back a fallen tassel of hair and smiled, declining Gianni’s offer of a drink from the minibar.
The room at the Delano Hotel was all white. White walls, bedcovers, and white sheer drapes floated in the breeze from the open glass doors. A peach colored bouquet of flowers sat on a glass table, providing the only color apart from the ocean and the clear blue sky. The ocean air was warm and it was nearing sunset.
Excerpt From Chapter Twenty-Two
They drove to the back end of the landfill, where raw, non-recyclable refuse was piled high in three towering mounds. The stench was strong. As they began emptying the cans, they were greeted by three of the strangest looking creatures Ryan had ever laid eyes on. Each looked to be around fifty— though with Kentucky hill folks, it’s often difficult to tell.
There were two men and a woman. The woman had long grey and black hair hanging in a tangled mess around her wrinkled face and neck. One of the men was much shorter than the other, and he had on a worn-out fedora that sat on the back of his head. His face was round and plump, his body short and squat.
Travers saw Ryan’s puzzled look. “That’s Crow and Juicy. And over there is Zoom.”
Zoom was the tallest of the lot, more wrinkled and even dirtier looking than Crow. He joined the other two as they all came closer to the truck and began to rummage through the piles, paying special attention to what was thrown off the truck.
Crow, Juicy, Zoom. He has to be kidding, Ryan thought. This has to be some sort of first day initiation prank for college boy.
The old woman came to the edge of the pickup and reached in to grab a worn-out bridle from the end of the truck bed. Ryan caught a glimpse of her hand, blackened with weeks of unwashed grime, nails curled and irregular, some nearly an inch long. Her small dark eyes were deeply set and framed by dirty, wrinkled skin. She grabbed her treasure and scowled at Ryan.
No, this was no joke; those hands were real, and she did look like a crow, claws and all. She clutched the bridle in her hand, turned her hunched shoulders and slowly headed back towards home. Home was an abandoned yellow school bus, propped up on cinder blocks, with shreds of curtain on some of the windows. Outside the bus were a few half-dead potted plants placed amidst the weeds and sand.
Excerpt From Chapter Twenty-Nine
Jones opened the file cabinet beside her desk and retrieved a file. “Why would he go to all that extra effort? Why not just shoot the guy in the head?”
“This is the Mafia, Detective Jones. These guys will make that extra effort if it means something to them personally. They’ll take the time to chop a body into little pieces and pack the pieces neatly in a bunch of plastic bags. Sure, they’ll walk into a crowded barber shop and blow some bastard away in the middle of a haircut, but they can also make it look like a man decided to jump out of a hotel window and end his happy life without the slightest sign of struggle. They will take the extra step if it suits their vision of how the man should die.”
Chang continued, “In my years of investigating organized crime I’ve seen some very creative killing. I recall a case where all the hit man did was bump into his mark in a crowded bar, accidentally spilling his drink. Only the drink was actually cyanide. It seeped into the poor bastard’s skin, eventually killing him, and no one knew why he died until the hit man eventually confessed, years later. If they want it quicker, or more direct, then they dump the cyanide directly into the poor sap’s drink.”
Thumbing through the file she had retrieved, Jones paused to look at photographs of Chester Pawlek and Anthony Gianni. “So what did the tox screen reveal here?” she asked.
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