“We got a real problem here people,” Rick Cornell addressed his team one faithful morning in mid March. The small conference room held nineteen agents that morning. They all looked glum and tired as the listened to the same information they had heard many times over the past five years. “The mobs or mafia, however you want to refer to them is not something from the past. It is living, breathing and thriving right here in our state.”
He flipped on his over-head projector and began to show pictures of various crimes and statistics.
“Texas is a première destination for drug trafficking. We are close to the Mexican border with only a fifteen-foot wall to protect us. It is not enough. Still, they move thousands of metric tons per week,” he emphasized. “It's the most profitable pyramid scheme in existence. Everyone profits. The only real losers here are the millions of addicted Americans who will end up giving all they have for their next fix, including their lives.”
Josh Sanchez nodded his head, his eyes glued to his boss.
“The Gianetti family,” Rick stopped at a picture of the family’s recent leader. “Five years we have investigated him. He hides right out in the open. He walks our streets every day. Don't let the fact that he is one of the only remaining members of this family fool you, people. He is still very active and very dangerous. Very few of his associates have been identified. Now, we can cut out the dealers. We can arrest the sellers. However, it will never be enough. Someone else will take their place.”
Stan Murdock squirmed in his chair. The gray-haired agent hated the long meetings
before a sting operation.
“We have taken out over six dealers just this month Cornell, I think we are making great progress,” Murdock interrupted.
“It's the top of the pyramid we need to take out. We need to cut out the source,” Josh Sanchez spoke.
“As of now, no one who receives their stock from Gianetti will talk. They will go to their graves without giving up as much as a hint. And anyone who has been brave enough to give up their source are found dead with in a few days,” Rick leaned on the long, imitation wood table and stared down his team. “We have a rat among us.” he intimidated. “And we are sniffing him out as we speak.” He watched the faces on each member for any telltale signs.
“The problem is only getting bigger,” Sanchez stood and continued the speech. He was the top agent and had been in charge of the operation since the day they had begun watching Sean Gianetti. “Carl Bolivia and his mob control more than half of the territory between here and the east coast. The only part left is what Gianetti now covers. We see one of two things happening. One; we are looking at the biggest territory war in the history of our state or two; these two organizations could combine. We will see an increase in the amount of drugs, guns and crime in our city and in our nation.”
“We don't want this to happen. Bolivia is rarely spotted. His whereabouts are unknown to us at this time. We do not have any idea of what the man looks like. We do however know who the contact is. We know who arranges the swaps,” Rick continued.
“We have a new plan,” Rick slid a stack of papers down to the middle of the desk and each agent took a copy and began reading. “We are sending in an unknown agent.”
“Who is this agent?” Murdock's ears perked up.
“Only myself and the four members of the surveillance team will know this person's
true identity. The new addition will come from another department, another city, perhaps even another state. We are not making any mistakes here people. I want everyone with their ears and eyes open. I want every shred of evidence looked through again. I want Gianetti off the streets and behind bars before these two groups....”
“Shouldn't we be going after Bolliva?” A redhead named Marcy chirped. “It is the bigger group.”
“Bolliva is not as dangerous as Gianetti. Sean Gianetti is a fourth generation mob boss. He has learned secrets that Bolliva has not begun to invent. His father Sean, Sr. managed to evade us all the way up until his mysterious death over seven years ago.”
Rick rubbed his temple. “That's all for now.”
He began to gather the files and photos he had brought with him into the small room. He was tired. He had spent his entire life trying to remove the Gianetti's lucrative drug ring.
Jessica Sanchez looked at the clock on the wall; then grabbed her purse and keys from the kitchen counter. She was going to work later than usual that day. Normally
she would have accompanied her husband, Josh, but he had pulled an all night-er on a big case. Josh was one of the top FBI agents in Houston, but his obsession with his job and the current case he worked on consumed his very being. Jessica ignored it for the most part. She loved him. At least she believed she still did.
She tested the lock on the front door to be sure that she had locked it then headed to her Jeep. She tossed her purse on to the passenger's seat then pulled her seat belt across her and locked it in place. Looking behind her carefully she backed her way out of the long cement driveway and began to make her way out of the middle class subdivision. It took her forty-five minutes to drive to the police department, but she wouldn't give up living on the out skirts of town for anything. Much to her husband’s disappointment.
Jessie was a detective for the Texas P.D. She was good at her job and had imprisoned several tax evaders and scammers in the area. But her real dream was to become an F.B.I. Agent, like her father before her. Yet, her application sparked no interest each time she applied for an open position.
Her latest refusal distracted her as she walked into the building to begin that days work. She poured herself a cup of coffee and headed straight to her small office. She pushed it out of her mind as she went over the files on the case she was investigating. A tax attorney who had several clients who had filed in multiple states puzzled her. It led to a huge tax fraud scheme, but Jessie had an idea that it was much bigger. Perhaps it was some kind of detailed and brilliant money laundering operation.
A light knock on her door distracted her and she looked up to see the kind eyes of Rick Cornell. He had been her father's partner from the day he had joined the force until the day he and her mother had died.
“Hey, baby doll,” he said walking into her office and sitting on the corner of her desk. “How is everything?”
"Everything is fine, Uncle Rick."
He smiled with kind eyes. He had never had children of his own and Jessica had always been his world, even before her parents had passed away. He was her unofficial godfather and was the only family besides her husband she had.
"That's good," the older man spoke softly.
Jessica could not help but study his face. His tired eyes sunk into his once vibrant skin that now possessed lines and creases caused by a worrisome job. He was still in good shape thanks to the hours he spent working out each day, but his once jet black hair was now streaked with silver and his eyes had dark pools under them from the stress of the unrelenting job he held.
"Well, then," his tone became serious. "I came to see you because I have an assignment for you."
Rick put away all personal feelings for the woman in front of him and used his authoritative tone. He was a strict leader in the department and no one, not even those closest to him could take a step off course.
“An assignment for me?” she asked shocked. “What is it, some kind of joint investigation? She wondered if her new case was relevant in some way to one of the F.B.I's targets.”
“No,” Rick smiled. “Congratulations Jessie, you have just been promoted to the F.B.I.”
“You're kidding?” Jessie smiled broadened and she threw her arms around Rick's neck. “I can't believe it!”
“Don't get too excited, “Rick informed her. “It's only a temporary position.” he handed her a file that he had brought with him. She studied the photos. Many of which she had seen many times. Josh had often brought home his work and had spent hours looking for some clue that would take Gianetti down.
She stopped when she came to a few unfamiliar pictures.
"Her name was Sara," Rick told her as she eyed it.
"She could be my sister," Jessica said studying the pictures. She came across one of the young woman with a man. A man she knew well. Sean Gianetti. The man her husband obsessed over. The man who drove him mad.
Everything Josh did was in vain where Gianetti was concerned. He beat him at every game and seemed to predict every move Josh made. It was a younger picture of the man who was now in his earlier thirties. She guessed him to be barely eighteen, maybe younger in the photo.
"She could be your twin," Rick corrected her. "She was Gianetti's wife."
"Wife?" This was something else that surprised Jessica. "But
it's a known fact that Gianetti never entertains a serious relationship."
"Sara was his whole world," Rick began to bring her up to speed. "She was killed shortly after their marriage and he has never had anyone else in his life, seriously anyway."
"If she is dead, then how is this relative to the case? No disrespect, but this is and has been Josh's case for the past five years. Shouldn't he be the one getting this information.”?
"Yes and no. I have known about Sara since the day Sean Gianetti, Jr began dating her."
"So, Josh knows about her?"
"She was never relevant to the case.... Until now."
Rick placed his hands on the desk and hovered over her.
"I'm going to be honest with you, Jessica. The reason you are part of this division after years of rejection is because of this operation. I was not happy about putting you in the middle of this. You will be close Jessie. In the middle of all of it.”
Jessica was a little disappointed. She had thought she had gotten her job based on her reputation and hard work in the P.D.
"You're a good cop," Rick assured her as if reading her thoughts. "Your skills and your ability to think on your toes is exactly what this case needs.” he took on a father's worried expression.
“What do you think I should do?” she asked him. She valued his opinion more than anyone's.
“If it were up to me, I wouldn't be in here proposing this opportunity to you,” he sighed. “But I also know how much being part of the bureau means to you.”
"I'm confused...Am I part of this because I am smart or because my looks favor a dead woman?" Jessie was still upset by the reasons she had been chosen for the undercover mission.
A man named Andrew Harkin entered the room and stood beside Rick. He was the head of the entire state in the F.B.I. Rick took his orders from him and it had been
Andrew who had found Jessie's application and on further investigation had pointed out the similarities between Jessie and Gianetti's late wife.
"We are making no progress on this investigation,"
Andrew strolled across the room. He had made a point to talk to the girl himself,
knowing that Rick's personal objections to her involvement could influence her to turn down the job.
"After five years and countless surveillance and undercover operations; we still know no more than we knew when we began. We need a fresh face. A fresh perspective...." he smiled menacingly. "And the fact that you favor Sara Gianetti may play in our favor.”
Despite the fact that his goddaughter had been chosen for the operation he had to admit it was ingenious.
"How? Forgive me; but this sounds absurd."
Jessie, although meek at times, never held back her reservations.
"What we are hoping is that the similarities between the two of you will trigger the soft part of his heart. Thereby distracting him and making him vulnerable. That is what we need to bust him and put him away for good."
"I think I understand...." Jessie nodded. "What you are saying is you want me to go undercover and stay in his line of vision causing Sara's memory to haunt him."
She nodded as she rationalized her own thoughts. "This could be possible especially if it affects his ability to think straight. He would be so distracted by my appearance that he would not pick up on Josh and his team's presence and slip up."
"No, my dear," Andrew purred... "Gianetti is much smarter than that. I want you to get a job at this club."
He dropped a picture of the strip club, De'Bris in front of her. The building was painted black with a classy looking neon sign that spelled out its name. "Gianetti is a regular patron; visiting almost every night. Get to knowhim.... Get close to him,"
Rick's expression turned to one of anger.
"You want me to date him? No, no way," Jessica said standing up. "Josh would never go for this. I'm a married woman."
“Wait a minute Harkin,” Rick interrupted. “That was never in the plan. She was just
supposed to get a job and keep her ears open. Be our ears on the inside....”
“What could she possible find out by dancing close to Gianetti's table? The closer she is to this man, the more likely he is to confess everything to her.”
He placed a callused hand on Jessie's shoulder. “This is your ticket to your dream. Your job here is on a temporary basis only. How you perform on this operation will determine if you remain in this bureau."
"This sounds like blackmail," Jessie pouted. She thought about how much she had
wanted the job she now had. "Josh will never go for it."
"Josh has no say in the matter, unfortunately," Rick informed her with a hint of hatred. He had liked Josh as one of his agents, but never approved of him dating his Goddaughter. He felt that he held her back and that he didn't treat her as well as she deserved to be treated. He was controlling and overly jealous over his wife, which, more often than not, made Jessica's life miserable. However, after hearing the addition to Harkin's plan he hoped that her husband dismay would be enough to make her turn down the case.
"This is your shot, Jessie," Hawkins persuaded. "You got your foot in the door. Now what are you going to do to; make some noise and stand out or blend in with the numerous applicants in line for the job."
Jessica twisted her long dark hair around her finger, as she tended to do when she was nervous or deep in thought. She knew if she took this assignment, it would wreak havoc on her marriage; yet she was stubborn where her career was concerned. Josh of all people should understand. He lived and breathed his job. In addition, if it could help him finally take down Sean Gianetti, surely he would be all for it.
"I'll do it," she finally agreed although her emotions and best judgment conflicted with each other. If she wanted to make it as an agent, she had no choice. She couldn't and wouldn't turn down her first undercover opportunity.
"I knew you would."
Harkins shot Rick a satisfied smile as he made his way to the door.
“Set it up Collins.”
Rick followed him, doing nothing to hide his disapproval of the plans.
“Oh, Uncle Rick, do I report to the bureau in the morning, or do I need to go now...?” She had many questions surrounding her new job assignment.
“No. You do everything you would normally do, we will be in contact,” Rick sounded
dazed. As if he couldn't believe the sting was actually going to happen. “Oh, and Jessie don't lets keep this visit between us.”
Jessie nodded her agreement and tried to continue her work. Her thoughts kept
interrupting her despite her best effort. What the F.B.I. Had in mind was dirty and underhanded, but could it work?
Rick felt defeated by the time he returned to his office at the F.B.I. Bureau. He
looked around the plainly decorated room. He had many pictures of Jessie on the
walls and a picture of him, his wife and Jessie in a sterling silver frame on his desk.
“Are we all set, Collins?” Harkins sat across from him in an uncomfortable leather chair with metal arms.
“I don't like it,” Rick admitted. “It's risky.”
“This is going to work,” Harkins insisted.
“Do you realize how dangerous this is for her?” Rick felt his blood pressure begin to rise. “Gianetti has had only three women in his life since his wife that we know about and all three of them have disappeared without a trace. You know he killed them.”
“We have no proof that these women are dead,” Harkins barked. Rick's insolence had been unexpected. It irritated him.
“We have no proof that they're not!” Rick bellowed standing up and pounding his desk. “This is my family we are talking about.”
“Then I suggest you keep your personal feelings out of it and do all in your power to keep her safe.”
Harkins stood and gathered his jacket that hung over the back of the chair. “I have to get back, but I will be checking in. Don't attempt to go behind my back and sabotage this investigation Collins.”
The door shut behind him and Rick growled in frustration. He sat down at his desk.
There was one other problem that had to be dealt with. One problem he hoped would not be as easy to conquer. For Jessie's sake. He pressed the intercom button on his desk.
"Carol, please send Josh Sanchez in," he murmured with a tired voice.
"He's in the media room going over last nights surveillance videos."
"So, go get him," Rick snapped back at the woman. His secretary got on his nerves most days. He often joked by saying that she had no common sense for someone who looked like they walked right off the screen during a playing of Revenge of The Nerds.
Rick had grown irritated by the time Josh finally walked through his office
"Well, thank you for finally gracing me with your presence Sanchez," he hissed sarcastically. "Sit down."
Josh's smile was brash and cocky as usual.
"What's up?" he said in his deep, over-confident voice. Josh had a
chip on his shoulder about his place in the department. He knew how good and
how valuable he was to the agency. He walked with his head high as if he ran
the agency and would act like it until the exact moment Rick decided put him in
“Your current operation has been scrubbed. Tie up what you must as quickly as
possible so we can move on...”
"What?" Josh grumbled. "Do you realize how many man hours we have wasted on
"I don't care if you have wasted a life time on this set up. For six months, you have been watching and waiting. Gianetti is on to you and he is resourceful. There is only one way to get new leads and information at this point. We are sending someone in."
"Gianetti knows all our agents," Josh reminded him. "He has eyes and ears all around us. He has missed no one, you can bet on that."
"Not everyone," Rick said sliding him a file with the new plan. “Harkins has come up a doozy of a plan this time. I'm not happy with it and I'm sure you won't be thrilled either.”
Josh read over the new outline of what they were beginning to put into place.
“This is ingenious.” he chuckled. “And who is the girl he plans on sending in?”
“It's Jessie, Josh.” Rick broached the subject carefully and gave him a picture of Sara Gianetti.
Josh jumped from his chair in protest.
"You know that me and Gianetti have some bad blood between us. Surely, he knows who my wife is. She will be killed the moment she steps foot into...."
"If he knew who she was, he would have gone after her by now." He tossed the photo on the desk.
"How can you be so sure? Rick you are not using your head on this one," Josh whined. “We don't know who Gianetti's stool pigeon is....”
"No." Rick crooned. He relished every piece of information he had that the brash agent had not known. "I know who the rat is and he is currently on his way to Pecos County, as a loan out. I told him that we had a lead tying Gianetti to petty drug trafficker. I'm sure Gianetti would be interested in who we think he is involved with him.
"That's ridiculous. You know good and well he wouldn't have any major ties so high up in the state."
"I know. It's a bogus assignment, but affective if it blinds Gianetti for the moment."
"Why would you do that? I mean why not arrest him?" Josh implored. It was out of Rick's character. There was nothing his father-in-law hated more than a dirty agent.
"Because Gianetti has it in for you, Sanchez. It's not a secret that he wants revenge and keeping his inside man busy is better than having to start all over again by finding whoever replaces him."
“That’s my point exactly, Cornell. He surely knows my file inside and out. That's exactly why Jessica can not go undercover on this case."
Rick again smirked.
"Wrong again. Your file states that you are single, unmarried."
He chuckled at Josh's confused expression.
"You have stepped on Gianetti's toes so many times Sanchez. Do you really think I
would enter Jessie's name into your file as carelessly as you are? You make enemies all over town. You are a liability to this bureau, but you're unfortunately the only one with enough knowledge of this man to head it."
Rick became stern as he stared down the man.
"If you're not taking me off the case then I am still the commanding officer. You need my approval and I won't sign off," Josh threatened. He would use his position to get his way.
." I don't need your approval. Hell, I don't even have a say so. It's Harkin's game now and we are all his pawns, “Rick continued to inform him. “She is going undercover and you are going to be in charge of surveillance as always. And that's an order."
"This is a mistake."
"It's final Sanchez. Or should I put someone else on the case. I'll do it and I won't care how knowledgeable you are of the suspect."
Josh curled his lip in anger. He slung the chair making topple over. It hit the floor with a loud thud.
"Fine." he said and threw Rick a hateful glare as if to accuse him of putting Jessie's name out there to help her get the job she had always wanted. He stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind him.
Josh was still furious when he arrived home later that evening. Jessie didn't have to see his face to know he was angry. She could tell by the loud thud his bag made when it hit the floor in the washroom.
“I guess you heard?” She peeped while she stirred the soup she had made them for dinner.
“Ya,” he grumbled, taking a bottle of whiskey from the top cabinet and taking a big swig out of the bottle. “I take it you accepted it.”
“Of course,” she admitted nonchalant. “It's a job in the F.B.I. How could I say no?”
“Figures,” he spat and ventured to the living room where he flopped down on the couch and kicked his feet up on the coffee table.
“You can't be happy for me for one minute can you?” She wiped her hands on her apron and followed him to the living room.
“Congratulations,” he said sarcastically and flipped the channels on the television. Jessie shook he head and returned to her cooking.
“It's ready if you want to eat,” she called, not caring if he joined her or not. She prepared two bowls of soup and placed them on the small, glass table in the kitchen. She placed a basket of fresh bread in the center and then poured them both a glass of sweet tea.
She had taken her seat and had begun to unfold her napkin when he finally entered the room. He sat down and looked at the meal she had made.
“What the hell kind of dinner is this?” he complained, picking up the spoon and letting the thick substance slid back into the bowl.
“Its soup,” she glowered at his complaint and covered her lap with her napkin. She took a piece of bread and dipped it into her bowl.
“Is it too much to ask for a decent meal when I come home,” he bellowed. He tossed
his spoon down on the table, splashing remnants of the dish across the clean table. He pushed away from the table.
“Where are you going?” she was awful at hiding her disappointment.
“Come on, Josh,” Jessie whined. “You go out every Friday. This could be the last weekend we have together for a long time.”
"That's your choice,” he countered. “I'm not the type who likes to sit home. You knew how I was when you met me.”
He shook his head as if she should have known he would be going to the bar and left.
Jessie pouted and stared at her food. She threw her napkin on the table and rested her chin on her hand. Another Friday night and she was sitting by herself yet again.