Valley Of Shadows – Snippet 27

The former government political analyst and fixer turned mob wise guy had grown in influence within the Cosa Nova since the crisis had progressed. It was his idea to try to close out the niche players. The smaller groups were very difficult to infiltrate, but the NYPD, Rune’s team and Matricardi’s group had independently corroborated information that they were feeding the black market for vaccine outside the City, benefiting from a considerable markup exceeding what the “Gang” had negotiated with each other. They’d also violated boundaries and aggressively operated in Matricardi’s territory. Worse, the information from the consolidated police precincts was that they had swept up civilians who appeared to have stage one symptoms, and then skipped the confirmation blood tests before adding them to the pool of “raw materials.”

A day ago Tradittore had proposed to his boss that they simply terminate all the noncartel operations inside the five boroughs. Once Matricardi had approved the notion, he briefed the smaller inner circle of BotA collaborators. From there, the results would be presented to the still dithering much larger cartel, and perhaps drive a decision that it was time to move. The first four players would present the end of the independents as a step towards enhancing safety and policing in the city.

The surprise twist was that Matricardi had directed his deputy to run the operation himself.

In person.

The mob winnowed its ranks of the less capable somewhat differently than a bank. The best sharks tended to rise to the top, regardless. Matricardi appreciated the metaphor.

In addition to the joint Jersey and BotA team assaulting the Canal Street site, there were two other operations starting simultaneously, mostly run from the Hercules and Ajax units fielded by the Emergency Services Unit of the NYPD, now openly controlled by OEM and led by Dominguez. Previously used to maintain a rapidly deployable and up-gunned presence near high-value targets in Manhattan, these armored trucks and more heavily armed officers had been used to collect the police department’s share of zombies. They might also eventually enforce the terms of agreement between all players.

Tom had decided to tag along. He had a feeling that they might find a considerable stock of vaccine on site and he wanted to ensure that product of questionable quality was put to the torch. He didn’t really expect that Matricardi would so obviously screw him by under reporting and reusing the material, but he did elect to help Matricardi by keeping “honest men honest.”

For values of the word honest.

If it annoyed the Cosa Nova lieutenant, that was pure bonus.

Tradittore had been more than a little apprehensive–he was no operator–and timing was going to be tricky. Over the radio he heard the cops prepare to launch their assaults.

Outside, Spanish could be heard over the truck’s diesel engine, which in turn was almost drowned out by the shriek of a rusty garage door being rolled up. The truck lurched forward.

Tradittore raised his hand as the trucked began to brake to stop.


The modified roll up door on the truck fell away, revealing three surprised gang members standing in a courtyard lit by a fire in a fifty-five-gallon drum as well as the interior flood light that lit the open garage beyond. Despite being armed, they didn’t get off a single shot as the first two Cosa Nova shooters serviced their targets with easy central nervous system hits.

Tom and Kaplan followed the Sicilians out of the truck, jumping down last. Their AR carbines were legally short-barreled rifles, or SBRs, courtesy of Rune’s shopping trip earlier. The decreased overall length and pistol caliber weapons permitted the handier use of the suppressors, which kept the sounds of the first shots to a loud clapping sound, similar to a chair falling over on a hard surface.

The use of similar weapons by the first shooters out had kept the reports down, and no obvious response to their presence had started yet.

The Cosa Nova crew split into three teams as Tradittore directed them toward the priority targets, including the suspected upstairs lab and the bunk area. As the Jersey shooters went upstairs, Tom and Kaplan soft footed up to an exterior door. Tom twisted the door handle and found it unlocked. The second man placed his right hand on Tom’s shoulder and squeezed, indicating his readiness. Tom swiftly opened the door and followed it all the way around, ensuring that no one was standing behind it. As he cleared from the wall towards the center of the room, he saw a man in a loose business suit look up from his desk. Demonstrating excellent reflexes, the seated man darted a hand at a pistol on the desktop.

Kaplan had already entered behind him. His suppressed weapon coughed simultaneously with Tom’s, their combined efforts dropping the now limp body across the desk as the dead man’s hand covered the gun.

A fusillade of shots rang out upstairs, then tailed off. Tom cocked an ear for a moment, but there were no other sounds so he scanned the room more completely.

A large stainless-steel refrigerator was set into the next room. Opened, it revealed several Styrofoam racks of the now familiar vaccine ampoules. Manufacturing dates were scribbled on the stickers decorating each rack.

“How much is that worth?” Kaplan whispered.

“Don’t matter,” Tom replied. “We’re gonna burn it. Hold open your ruck.”

Kaplan knew that he was looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars but letting his carbine dangle from its friction strap he shrugged out of his pack and held it open as Smith dumped the vials in, two racks at a time. The chore was completed in less than a minute and they started up the stairs.

Behind a door, they could hear Tradittore’s distinctive voice. Knocking on the door very loudly, Tom yelled: “It’s Smith, I’m opening the door.”

He waited a moment, and slowly opened the door, giving the Sicilians time to see him. All were aiming towards him, but dropped their muzzles as soon as they saw Smith. Tradittore lowered his last.

“Took your sweet time.”

Tom glanced around the room. In the corner of the lab area, one of the Cosa Nova shooters had returned to bandaging a second. Two more Mara Salvatruchas lay on the floor, unmoving. The shorty version of a Kalashnikov protruded from under one body. Broken glassware and debris from medical devices crunched underfoot.

“What’s the hold up?” Tom asked.

Tradittore gestured at a wide but shut door at the other end of the room. The surface was bullet scarred but intact.

“Third door.” He smacked it with a palm. “The hinges are internal and there are least two more inside. I think it’s a safe room. Our rounds bounced.”

“What’s your plan?” Tom asked.

“We blow it, then shoot what’s left.”

“Works for me,” the banker replied. “We’ll go back down.”

Before he could step back, the locked door began to open, prompting the assaulting team to hastily raise their weapons.

The door finished swinging open. A pair of very young women, clearly not yet eighteen, were revealed. Behind them was a sleeping area.

“Manos arriba!” Tradittore jerked his carbine up, and the clearly scared girls raised their hands up, revealing that their midriff-length shirts were not cut with modesty in mind.

One of the Jersey boys whistled.

Kaplan and Smith didn’t react as Tradittore sent the two remaining shooters into the room to clear it. Finding nothing, their shouts of “Clear left, clear right” lowered some of the tension in the room.

One of the women stepped a little closer to Tradittore, sizing him up.

“You aren’t going to hurt us, yes?” She had survived with one ruthless gang and seemed to understand which currency might buy her security for a time with a second. She lowered her hands, one resting on her hip and another tugging her shirt downwards, ostensibly for modesty’s sake but serving to tighten the thin fabric across her chest. “We can be friends.”

“Sure, we can be friends,” Tradittore said with an easy smile. “You two just stand there for now.”

He gestured the two teenagers towards the wall, where they obediently shuffled while carefully not looking at the two bodies leaking on the floor.

Letting his weapon aim back towards the floor, Tradittore turned to address his men and organize the withdrawal.

“Sacks, get Little Mike down the stairs if he can walk. Let the other two know that you are coming so you don’t eat a bullet. Sammie, you and I’ll search these two, then the lab. You banker boys can check the bunkroom. Priority to vaccine, documents, then cash.”

Tradittore sounded confident. He clearly thought that the op was already over.

The Bank of America pair looked at each other and watched as the injured man stumbled downstairs. Kapman’s eyes scanned the pair of women who stood, mostly still, against the wall. The hips of one girl tilted from side to side as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other and back again. Tom frowned a bit as he noticed his partner’s eyes lingering.

It was neither the time nor place for eyeball liberty.

They crossed towards the bunkroom as the Cosa Nova pair approached the women, grinning in anticipation of the “search.” Tom entered and began to yank open drawers. Kapman paused just the other side of the door, keeping an angle on the activity in the lab.

The women smiled back at the Sicilians, sharing a knowing look between themselves. The one closer to Tradittore ran a hand up her leg, raising the hem provocatively.

Tradittore chuckled throatily as stepped closer, blocking most of the view from the bunkroom. He ran his hands around the woman’s waist, and addressed his partner.

“Sammie, what do you think? Any contraband?”

Sammie had leaned in to sniff the hair of his “target” but his reply was interrupted by a needle-sharp ice-pick that the teen rammed into his right eye. He froze and made a glurk sound just as Tradittore’s searchee produced a black compact pistol from under her skirt and pressed it into her target’s side, pulling the trigger as fast as she could.

Kapman took a single sideways step back into the room and serviced both targets, dropping each woman with a pair of rapid shots. Tradittore stumbled back, cursing, and emptied his magazine into the corpse at his feet as Sammie finished falling to the floor. His fresh corpse drummed its heels against the industrial tile floor.

From start to finish the action had lasted under three seconds.

Kapman added one more headshot to each body as Tom exited the room and scanned the scene. He looked at Tradittore who was pressing his hand to his ribs, but was still on his feet.

“How bad?” he asked the Cosa Nova.

“I don’t know,” Joey wheezed. “Motherfucker hurts. That fucking bitch–”

“Shut it. Let me see.”

Tom brushed the injured man’s hands away and opened the velcro on the plate carrier as Tradittore kept up a steady torrent of profanity. The shirt under the armor was unpunctured and unbloodied. Tom looked under the cloth and observed a large bruise already blooming.

“You got lucky. The armor kept it out.”

He looked down at the brass on the floor and picked up a case ejected from the dead teen’s pistol.

“A twenty-five,” Tom said. “That wouldn’t even penetrate the soft-armor. Like I said, lucky.”

“Lucky,” wheezed the mobster, drawing the word out.

“How did you know?” Tom asked Kaplan.

“The girls weren’t scared enough,” Kapman said, his right hand still on his AR grip. “They had a plan. The one with the gun kept rubbing her thighs together, like she was horny. I don’t care how seductive you are, you watch your man get shot, you don’t feel sexy. She was moving her legs together to check that the pistol she grabbed while she was behind the door wasn’t about to fall out of her underwear.”

“I thought for a second you were distracted by the jailbait,” Tom said. “Shoulda known better, Kapman.”

“It’s all good, Boss.” Kaplan turned to hold security, facing the two doors leading out of the room. “I like a piece as much as the next guy, but no matter how good they look, somewhere, some dude learned the hard way that she was too far to the right on the crazy-hot matrix. I just read the signs.”

The security specialist jerked his head at the dead Cosa Nova shooter, whose face was still decorated with a knurled red ice-pick grip.

“We taking that with us?”

Tom looked over at Tradittore who had his kit back together and was fumbling with a cell phone.

“Not our problem,” Tom said, jerking the stair door back open. “Let’s go downstairs to take care of that job.”

In the courtyard, Tom relieved his teammate of the pack full of vaccine and began shaking it into the burning trash barrel. The chore took a minute.

“What the fuck are you doing!”

Looking up he saw Tradittore exit the door and start to raise his weapon.