“Sanchez and his men will be here any minute. You stand beside me when I greet him.” Ricco clapped a hand around the back of Gabriel’s neck, and gave him a playful shake. “Let him know who my trusted soldiers are, capisce?”
“Capisce.” But Gabriel couldn’t help asking, “You’re going to let Sanchez’s men invade the house? How many guns does he need to salute his engagement? You don’t think we oughta confiscate their weapons when they arrive?”
“Confiscate their weapons.” Botelli mimicked Gabriel, amused.
“Where’d you go to school, the police academy? You don’t treat a man like Sanchez like he’s a common crook. You treat him with respect. With dignity.”
Unless you managed to kill him first, but Botelli had decided it was easier to join him than fight him. Luckily he had two things Sanchez wanted: a beautiful young sister—and oversight of several very efficient West Coast drug distribution networks.
“A couple years ago nobody ever heard of Don Jesus Sanchez,”
Gabriel pointed out.
“That was a couple years ago. Sanchez has taken over half the Pacific Northwest in the last eighteen months. Right now he’s holding the high cards, he’s the man of the hour, so we gotta bend the rules a little. We gotta accommodate him. Once he sees we’re the best possible partnership for his organization…well…” Botelli spread his hands.
“Not much of an honor if he decides to take advantage of the situation and eliminate the middle man.”
“Paisan, you got a suspicious mind.” Botelli chuckled, not displeased. “Relax! Sanchez wants to marry Gina. He’ll be family soon. Naturally he’s going to check out our operation.
And we want to check out his. But tonight…tonight we celebrate a marriage between two families with good wine and good food and good friends.”
It sounded like an ad for the Olive Garden. Gabriel tried not to let his cynicism show, but he must not have been entirely successful because Botelli said, “The Mexicans have taken over the supply pipeline to the city—the fucking western United States, for that matter. Our old connections are gone. In jail or dead. We need to negotiate a new deal fast. It’s that simple.”
Gabriel stood steady. It was his information, from deep inside Botelli’s business, that had sealed the fate for some of those absent connections. For others, Sanchez’s ruthless pursuit of empire could take credit. And now Sanchez was positioning himself to be brought down, the biggest coup of all for Gabriel.
Botelli checked his Rolex, frowning.
One of the bodyguards stationed at the front door signaled to them. “Boss, the Mexicans are here!”
Botelli grabbed one of the servers as the girl scurried past, and she nearly dropped her tray of crab puffs.
“You, blondie, send a housemaid upstairs to tell my sister our guests have arrived.” Despite all his assurances to Gabriel, Botelli’s voice revealed his true tension. The uniformed server nodded hastily, backing away.
Botelli turned his attention briefly back to Gabriel. “You don’t worry about Gina. I’ll take care of my sister. You just make sure she keeps her hands off you or Sanchez’ll cut your hands off—or maybe something else.”
Except that it was easier said than done. Gina had all the self-control of a Pomeranian in heat.
“Capisce?” Botelli said sharply, as though Gabriel hadn’t spoken.
“Yeah, got it. I’ll stay clear of her.”
Botelli nodded once sharply, apparently satisfied. Gabriel stayed silent and followed the other man through the wide open front door and outside. He thought Botelli seemed uncharacteristically jittery as he positioned himself with his lieutenants at the top of the steps.
Edging forward to stand on Botelli’s left, Gabriel glanced at the impassive face of Bruno, the mob boss’s personal bodyguard.
Gabriel always liked to know where Bruno was in relation to him because stepping in between Bruno and the object of his interest could constitute a health hazard.
On Botelli’s right stood Michelangelo Rizzi, Botelli’s underboss, second in command only to Botelli. He was of Sicilian descent—as he never tired of telling people—tall, blue-eyed and blond, handsome, vain, ambitious—and more slippery than an eel in an oil slick. Michelangelo’s blue gaze slid to Gabriel’s and he smiled. Gabriel smiled coolly back.
Michelangelo didn’t like him—resented Botelli’s interest in the younger man—and they both knew it.
Covertly, Gabriel reached up to touch the pistol beneath his arm.
Unlike his fellow hired guns who liked stealthy .22 calibers, he preferred the big bang of his favorite Walther P99, a compact snub nose with a grip that fit nice and snug in the palm of his slender hand.
In addition to the Walther, he wore a double-edged boot knife in his Kenneth Coles. Despite their party finery, the men he stood beside were equally well armed—as no doubt were the men inside the limo.
Gabriel’s heart beat faster. He had spent eighteen months charming, manipulating, and deceiving his way into Botelli’s den of thieves, drug dealers and murderers. When he’d landed this undercover gig no one could have foreseen the alliance between the infamous Mexican drug lord, Don Jesus Sanchez, and Ricco Botelli, the reigning king of cocaine distribution on the west coast. In fact, when the word had first spread through Botelli’s ranks, it had sounded too good to be true. But here it was unfolding right before his eyes: the makings of the biggest drug bust in history.
A long, low, dark blue sedan with heavily tinted windows glided leisurely down the shady circular drive, stopping just outside the formal entrance. In a couple of quick moves the driver expertly angled the car to block and prevent any other vehicle pulling alongside.
The limo doors popped open, and several scarred and grim-faced men wearing immaculately tailored dark suits—and stony expressions beneath sunglasses—stepped out onto the drive.
The men beside Gabriel shifted imperceptibly, straightening shoulders. The Mexican crew fell into position, silently appraising Botelli and the lieutenants flanking him.
Another man—this one in a tuxedo—disembarked from the back seat of the limo.
The tall man unbent, eying his soldiers without expression and then turning his strangely light gaze on the Botelli faction.