A working FBI field office was a pretty bland place relieved by the occasional bit of personal stuff, such as a photo of wife and kids or some sort of other memorabilia on the desk in the cubicle. People gossiped, people talked, people formed camraderies and rivalries, just as in any bland office setting. It was every shitty cubicle farm ever invented, though perhaps with a little more AV equipment and more phones; the guns and the badges, perhaps, gave it away as something slightly different than the dreary sort of place where people collated mail and contemplated auto-defenestration on an hourly basis.
He had a orange and black cap with a big cartoon bird on the face of it as his memorabilia, next to a picture of Deb, Sarah, Mark and Sammy. The Orioles hat was a balls move in Philly, a place known for its sports violence.
Paul Goldstein was the first to admit that the FBI was not always exciting...and when it was, it usually meant that you weren't going to get any sleep. Sleep deprivation and a general work/life imbalance tended to skew one's view of the job, but then there was the camaraderie and the thrill of the hunt to get you through. FBI agents had their moments, but it was a mission as much as a job, much to the despair of Deborah more than the kids -- the kids thought an FBI agent dad was cool. Deborah worried.
Three years in, they were still probing for information on the Cremonisi crime family, but it was not a priority against other threats -- these days, counter-terrorism had the top billing, not mafia families...unless, of course, those mafia families were linked in some form to terrorism.
Paul sometimes felt like a caged animal in the office setting -- he'd come up as a street cop in Baltimore, and while he was a bit of an odd fit for Baltimore City Police, he was excellent at his job. Running surveillance on gangbangers, who were aware of the surveillance, created this intense thrill that motivated him through days like this at the office.
Like now, reading through inter-agency communications. This was stuff in the Southwest, way more of a Border Patrol and DEA type of deal, except, a word snagged him.
Lots of guys have that name, Paul.
Silverio Marcantonio Basso, where the fuck did I hear that name before?
And so he read the reports more carefully, the ATF stuff. Then he started running things down.
About thirty minutes later, with the printouts in his hands, he walked through the door to the office of Supervisory Special Agent Collins, who was his immediate superior. Two men could not be so different; Goldstein was a skinny guy, and half-Jewish, Collins was the kind of guy that ate barbells -- hell, he'd played football in college. Goldstein never got near athletics, except for exercise.
Goldstein slumped in the chair opposite Collins' desk, which prompted the mock stern response of, "Oh, of course, have a seat Agent Goldstein." It wasn't a ceremonious relationship around here. The office wasn't ceremonious either; it had real walls but no actual window out -- that was privilege in this place. Collins usually wasn't in the office, he liked to be out at the cubicles, interacting with his team, not penned up at his desk. But there was a certain amount of paperwork involved, and it involved one's very own computer.
"Got something interesting from the ATF out of Tuscon, Greg."
"Tuscon? What's there besides cactuses and Mexicans?"
"A biker gang known as the Unshriven got bombed. Victims are in the local hospital down there. Listed by name." He handed the file over, with an air of someone looking for confirmation of his gut feeling.
Collins grunted when he read the name Goldstein was talking about. "Basso." Not a question.
"Yeah, I just happened to remember that John Basso had another son, one no one really heard shit from shinola from. We know Vincenzo is a little dirtbag," Vinny Basso was a bit of a cafone, an empty suit, that flunked out of Penn State and came back to do bullshit work managing some club; a seedy living but he was involved in shit, "And Anna Sophia is clean." Stanford. The betting pool was on Georgetown, as a good Catholic girl, given her grades, but they'd lost. "But no one really paid any attention to Silverio because this guy disappeared years ago."
"Yeah, well it says here he's a patch, in one of the hardest outfits in the Southwest, no less. Guess being a shitbag is a Y-chromosome linked trait in that family." Collins seemed amused at his own conclusion, though it was mostly a humorous observation rather than good criminology.
"These Unshriven guys?"
"Yeah, they were all over San Diego. Not a big club. They were never brilliant or they were just smart, and never expanded out of their little pissditch of a town. Nothing really happens with these guys worth our time."
"Except the Cremonisi consiglieri's missing son is one of them and the Rebel Brothers in this area do business with the Cremonisi. If it's a biker gang infighting thing, and John Basso's son is on the wrong side, maybe..."
"Yeah," Collins grunted, perhaps a tad cro-magnonly, "But let's see what we dig up down there. before we go too far. I'm gonna shoot off an e-mail to their special agent in charge in the Tuscon ATF field office, see if we can strike up a chit-chat. Meanwhile, start digging. I wanna know everything we can get about Silverio Basso and John Basso."
Paul was no longer feeling that sense of ennui and vagueness, that fell away like a snakeskin in a molt. Now he felt suffused with a sense of purpose, a subtly warm flush in the belly that seemed to awaken his most acute senses from their torpor. He knew this feeling from Southeast Baltimore, surveillance ops in the rowhouses, hunting the drug networks. The danger always did this, though it was distant indeed from the fortress-like safety of an FBI field office.
"This could give us something on the Cremonisi, Greg. They've been hard to nail down."
"Yeah, but for now, we just gather intel. We don't rattle the cage until we're sure of what kind of bird is in there. Paul. No buck fever. And you tell me what you're thinking." Busting mafiosi on anything substantial was delicate, long-term work, and the worst thing one could do is spook the game. Everyone in the room knew that and respected the capabilities of the men they were trying to hunt down. The warning was, in a sense, unnecessary, but it was also a mantra they all repeated to themselves, lest their enthusiasm get the better of them.
Goldstein wasn't the kind of guy to do that, but the skinny bastard played his cards close to his chest, and that meant watching him when he was starting to think. Collins could see the wheels turning behind the eyes, and he knew that Goldstein would run this shit down like a bloodhound, but that he might try something crazy.
Goldstein just grinned, "I was thinking we could use Silverio there, but not on Johnny Basso. He's a hardcase, but Vinny? We might have leverage on Vinny with this. Maybe we drop word of this to Anna Sophia, so she can call brother Vinny with the news. Whaddya think?"
"You're an evil motherfucker, Paul, and this stuff would make Katie Ryan moisten right up, but for now, this is you and me. This shit doesn't leave this room." The US Attorney for the district was eager to get the Cremonisi or something to show she was tough on crime and thus help a future political career, and she had eager helpers in the office. But Goldstein knew that Collins was a good friend to have, and a bad enemy to make. Tipping off Katie Ryan would mean she'd start pressuring the office to do something and build her a case. Collins clearly thought enough of this shot to keep it to himself until it was time to try it.
"Your call, boss. Just do me a favor; let me know what Tuscon says."
"You got it tiger. Now go hunt."
The hospital room was another bland, uniform sort of place, though the first thing Marco noticed coming out of his torpor was how fogged his head was, and how numb he felt; there was a heaviness behind the eyes that felt off. He struggled to remember how he got there, and somewhere down the line mumbed, "Gonzo...Webb..." but he had no idea when he muttered that; his trip into the hospital was a series of bright lights and voices heard overheard in conversations he could not partake in. He rolled along in a gurney to and from various places, new voices and sounds, and the sight of things rushing by from his limited perspective, with his head immobilized and his body strapped down.
He cut out after that, and then came awake a few more times, the last couple being in the same place for the same amount of time in a bed that shifted position as he did, adjusting with a mechanical whirring sound to allow him to sit up or lay back. He noticed the sensation of weight on his left arm, right at the juncture between forearm and upper arm, the soft part of the elbow, and realized that it was an IV line.
Nurses in and out, temperature taken, vitals noted, questions asked. No cops, which was a shock, he thought one of them might come and ask questions while he was fogged -- the Club needed to get him in contact with whoever their fuckin' lawyer was, and soon, before this shit got going. He was thinking fuzzy, but he remembered that bit -- don't say shit.
His head was still hurting and his ears were ringing.
As the dullness faded a bit time for more pain medication he noticed that his ribs weren't feeling so great -- it wasn't the first time he'd cracked them, and he knew the feeling -- pain when he breathed. Suddenly, he realized Alex was in the room with him -- he hadn't heard her coming and he didn't even realize he had company.
"Bomb, all fuckin' blown up." He was trying to think clearly, but it was hard to do with his head ringing like a fucking bell. Marco was slurring, but that wasn't surprising; he was bandaged up in places and stuck with an IV of saline, which allowed for the injection of pain drugs. Just as he said that, a doctor came through.
The man was average sized and dark, but he was not Mexican -- rather, the nametag read 'CHOWDHURY, MD'
He figured the girl was the man's wife, since she claimed it to the cop, and apparently that was what the cop told the doc.
"I am doctor Chowdhury. Your husband has a concussion, broken ribs and lacerations. We have him on pain medication and some antibiotics to treat potential infections from the lacerations -- mostly shrapnel and the such, but he is in no condition to be moved for the moment. In the scheme of things, he is very lucky, but your husband will have to stay here for a few days so we can keep him under observation. You may wish to make arrangements for power of attorney and other privileges..."
Marco told him, slurred, "Full power of attorney to Alex and anyone she designates. I'll sign whatever." Marco was not a brain surgeon even in the best of times, but he had the basics drilled into him as the kid of a mafioso, and he remembered those basics.
But then he asked, "Webb, Gonzo. The others, what's up?"
That was when it got awkward, "You mean your fellow...uh, club members?"
The man's manners seemed to have him grasping for the right terminology so not as to offend, "Victor Gonzales is expected to survive, though he is still in critical condition...but he lost both legs in the blast. Apparently the bomb was sitting right under a table?" It was hard news for a patch member to take -- if you couldn't ride, you couldn't remain a member. Gonzo might not be able to be part of the MC, at least as an active member, ever again. It was a hard blow.
"As to, uh, Mr. Brian Webb, regrettably, he died in surgery. The damage was too extensive."
The tears started at the announcement of Gonzo's maiming; Webb's death wasn't nearly as bad as the thought of Gonzo having to leave the club. And it was hard to squeeze his eyes to stop the Doctor from seeing how profoundly that hurt Marco.
"Others?" He finally managed that, choked up, drugged up. The narcotic numb wasn't doing so well, his sense of well-being was being upset now. The doctor seemed fairly sympathetic.
"You're the worst off of them, everyone else was a walking wounded, Mr. Basso. I will be around later today to check in on you with the results from the tests. Mrs. Basso, you may well wish to pack a few things for your husband." The man seemed to be beating a hasty retreat in the face of Marco's emotional pain, not out of fear so much as a respect for privacy, "Since your husband has verbally designated you as being the decisionmaker in these matters, do you wish to authorize any other visitors or exclude any visitors at this time? Of course, I can't stop law enforcement with a warrant, but I can make sure you are notified."
So Doctor Chowdhury was in on the scheme of things, somehow. That was, to some degree, at least a blessing.