It was past nine o’clock in the morning when I enter the meeting room. Everyone was there listening to Craig Byrton, the Editor in Chief of the journal. When they realized I had entered, their attention was directed to me. Craig stopped talking and looked angrily in my direction. Damn my stupid alarm clock! I will hear it again from Craig!
My thought realizes immediately as Craig opens his mouth and says wryly “Allyson, I see you have finally decided to honor our meeting with your presence”.
I smile at him and open my mouth to say an excuse, but Craig replies to my place instead “Let me guess… your alarm clock didn’t work!”. I smile awkwardly at him and nod my head to a yes.
“Take a seat. We will talk later”, he barely says, showing me an empty place on the first rang in the corner.
I immediately sit and listen to Craig assigning different subjects to my colleagues for investigation. He also examines some ideas from some of them. Finally, he says to me “Allyson, another assassination related to the Italian Mafia happened yesterday at Luigi’s restaurant in Brooklyn. Try to find out what you can”. Craig hands me a paper note with some of the details and the FBI officer’s name and phone number in charge of the case.
“Noted”, I take the paper.
“Well, folks, that’s all for this week. Back to work!”, my colleagues leave the room. I try doing the same avoiding looking at Craig, but I hear him saying “Not you, Allyson!”.
I turn to face Craig with a smile.
“Stop smiling. It won’t help” he says with a very serious tone in his voice while he sits on a chair. He shows me the chair in front of him to sit. I reluctantly do so.
“Allyson, you are a very good journalist. Really. But as an employee you are awful! Every day you are coming late and especially for our weekly meetings. I am sorry Allyson, but if this happens again, I will fire you”, Craig finishes explaining to me and I am in shock.
I know I am not the perfect employee! That’s why I became a journalist. I thought there were no working hours. But the reality is without working hours there is no fixed salary and therefore there is no possibility to rent an apartment. I understand him. He wants to make an example. Otherwise, everyone will do what they want.
“I understand Craig. I promise you. I will not be late again”, I willingly say to him.
“No promises, Allyson. Just do it!”. He gets up. I also get up. “Back to work now, Allyson”. I leave immediately the room, heading to my desk.
“He made his homily again?”, Janet asks me when I sit on my desk. Janet is my colleague and friend, sitting at the desk in front of me. She is responsible for the political reportage.
“Well, not exactly. He gave me an ultimatum. Either I comply with the early arrival or take the door”.
“Whoosh! He slept on the couch yesterday or didn’t have sex with his wife?”, she comments wryly, surprised by what I have said to her.
“I don’t know and do not care”, I say angrily. Hell, I need and love this job! I should buy another alarm clock and also set my phone to ring tomorrow morning.
I pick up the phone and compose the number of the FBI agent. “Herst”, I hear him answering, introducing his surname.
“Hello, Agent Herst! I’m Allyson Matthews from Brooklyn Journal. I’m calling…”, I start saying, but I don’t have the possibility to continue, because Agent Herst interrupts me abruptly.
“I know why you are calling and the answer is no comment”.
“Before asking you to comment about the case, I would like to ask if you have identified the victim and if his assassination is work of the Italian Mafia in Brooklyn”, I promptly reply to him, well known of their methods of communication.
“Everything you need to know about the case will be announced in the press release this afternoon”, he announces closing the line.
“What a pluck!”, I say out loud. Janet lifts her head. “This FBI agent is a real pain in the ass!”, I exclaim angrily to her.
“That’s why he is in the FBI, dear”.
“Yeah!”, I think that I should go to Luigi’s. I pick my staff and get up from the desk.
Janet looks questioningly at me “Where are you going?”.
“Somewhere where I can find out the information I need for my story”, I reply with a smile and walk to the exit.
Before I get out, I turn back and direct myself to Craig’s office. I should inform him where I am going. Despite he has his door open, I knock politely on his door.
The middle-aged man with grey hair shifts his head from the papers he is reading “Yes, Allyson”.
“I am going to Luigi’s restaurant to talk with the staff there and to the neighborhood. Herst, the FBI agent doesn’t help at all”, I inform him.
“Alright”, Craig plunges his head again to the papers in front of him.
I leave the journal and take a taxi to go to Luigi’s. When I arrive, there are still two police cars outside of the restaurant. The police officers are limiting the access of the people walking around the marked scene. Just outside of the restaurant, where some tables and chairs are displayed on the terrace, there is the mark of a man’s body on the ground. I take some photos with my mobile. Apparently, the restaurant will remain closed. So, I decided to ask the people in the neighbor stores.
They all tell the same story. Around 11 pm a black SUV passed by slowly. The men inside opened the windows and started to shoot. Then, no one saw anything. They all tried protecting themselves lain on the floor or hidden behind the benches. Then, they saw a man lain on the floor bleeding to death. No one saw any plaque or something to identify the killers.
When I asked them if it was the Mafia involved in this attack, they all mentioned one thing “Campanian Mafia”. It is the Mafia from Naples! I know about it, as I have been raised in an Italian neighborhood in New Jersey. My parents, though, were not Italians. The old people there were narrating many stories about Mafia in Italy. Sicilian Mafia, Calabrian Mafia and Napolitano Mafia. The Sicilian Mafia has been diminished, almost eclipsed, after the big arrest in the 90s of all the heads of the organization from the Italian Police. Actually, there are only two Mafia organizations in Italy actively speaking. They have massive influence not only in Italy but also outside of the country. They are related in affairs of extortion, drug, human trafficking and prostitution here in the States. Especially in Brooklyn.
Before leaving, I decide to go behind the restaurant. My instinct forces me to do so. I really have a very good instinct, because when I arrive behind the back door of the restaurant, there are some of the restaurant’s staff smoking in the alley.
“Hello! I am Allyson Matthews from Brooklyn Journal. May I ask you few questions?”, I present myself to them, always smilingly. They stare at me without saying anything, but they do not leave. So, I continue. “Did you know the victim?”.
“Yes, Signore Belluca. He was coming almost every day for dinner. His wife passed away a few months back from heart failure. His daughter, I don’t know where she lives, but she was not coming to see him. He was complaining to the boss. He was coming for dinner here and sometimes for lunch too”, a waiter answers me.
“Do you know his first name?”, I take notes about everything he says.
“Danny, I think”, he seems unsure and looks at his other colleagues for confirmation.
“Yes, Danny” another waiter confirms.
“Did you know why he was killed? He was not part of the Napolitano Mafia? Was he from another clan?” I continue asking them. They look at each other without speaking. I wait for their answer.
Finally, the waiter who had spoken before all else to me replies “There are rumors he was an informant. I don’t know if it was true or not, but in these cases, Mafia doesn’t take a risk that someone speaks. By killing him publicly like that, they also send a message that nobody should break omerta”.
Omerta! The oath! I had heard that word from the old Italians in New Jersey. When a new member enters Mafia, he swears to Virgin Mary that he will not speak to anyone outside of the organization about the organization. If he does, it is a death sentence for him. If the waiter is right and Danny Belluca was an FBI informant, then the Mafia definitely had a reason to kill him. This proves the Italian Mafia is well present and active in Brooklyn.
I thank them and leave the alley. I call from my cell phone Kelly, our information partner in the journal.
“Hello!” I hear her cheerful voice answering my call.
“Hi, Kelly! It’s Allyson. Could you please find an address in Brooklyn of someone named Danny Belluca?” I politely ask her.
“Hi, Allyson! Give me, thirty seconds” she replies eagerly and asks me “How was yesterday’s movie? You went to watch John Wick: Chapter three with Tom, isn’t it?”.
“Yes, we did! It was awesome! You should go and watch it. Keanu Reeves is the total incarnation of a killer machine” I reply, remembering last night with Tom.
Tom is my boyfriend. We are together for five years. He is a lawyer, but he comes from a political family. His grandfather and father are senators. He doesn’t like politics. In fact, he hates it. So, he decided to do something else. It is not the case for his brother. He is only twenty and started to be involved with politics.
“Do you have something to write down?” Kelly asks me, interrupting my thoughts.
“I’m listening”, I take my notebook and a pen in my hands, placing my phone in between my ear and shoulder.
“76th Street, number 56”.
“Thank you, Kelly! Have a nice day!”.
I write the address in Google maps. It is two blocks from here. I walk to the building. Arriving in front of it, I find the entrance closed. I push some buttons on the interphone and wait for someone to open the door. Indeed, it happens, and I enter the building. I look at the mailboxes. I find Belluca’s. Apartment No 16, third floor. I take the elevator to the third floor. The elevator stops and the door opens. I get out and search for the No 16. When I find it, I look right and left. There is no one. There is a yellow band from the police and a red scotch paper indicating the ceiling of a crime scene. I take out my tools and insert them into the keyhole. After few seconds, the door is opened. I scratch the paper and enter the apartment. I immediately close the door behind me.
I look at the apartment. The FBI passed from here and searched everything. Or at least is what they think. Living with Italians I have learned to hide money or other valuables in places where no one will think of searching. I walk to the kitchen. I open the cupboards and pull out the sac with the flour. I open it and pour it on the bench. Nothing. I do the same with the coffee and sugar. I find nothing. I try the rice. I am lucky! There are some papers rolled in a small pack. I put them in my bag. I continue searching, hitting the back of the cupboards, looking for a secret place, but I find none. I go to the bedroom. I find nothing. Then, I search the bathroom. I check one by one the tiles on the wall. Nothing. I look inside the water trunk of the toilet. Nothing. Even if it had, most probably the FBI would have found it. There is nothing else left to find. So, I decide to leave the apartment.
Once outside on the street walking, I am thinking about the Mafia organization of Naples. I always follow whatever is related to these kinds of criminal organizations. Since the stories I have heard from the Italians in my neighborhood, I was curious to learn more about it. The Mafia in Naples is a very old story. Not as old as the Sicilian, but quite old. It became more powerful in the 80s controlling drug trafficking and prostitution in the region of Campania in Italy. In the 90s their influence spread in the North of Italy, especially after the Sicilian Mafia or Cosa Nostra leaders have been jailed. It was the same period when started human trafficking with the arrival of immigrants from Africa and the Eastern European Countries and the Balkans.
In the 2000s they started money laundering through legal entities. They established a company for the incineration of the wastes. That was a big scandal later when journalists had found out that the wastes collected from the municipalities around Naples were thrown to empty fields near some villages in Campania. The Mayors were also involved in the scandal. Some journalists had been killed by the Mafia as well as a Mayor who had spoken to the media saying he was obliged to accord to this company the treatment of the wastes in fear of his family and his own life.
The last Chief of the Mafia in Naples was Honofrio Aleggati. He died from natural death five years ago at the age of eighty-five. The new Chief is unknown to the public eye yet. Only the mafia members know, but no one talks of course. So, I hope the papers, which I have found in Belluca’s apartment, will give me a hint about the identity of the mysterious man.
“No, no way Allyson. I am not sending you to Italy. Forget it” Craig moves his head right and left in disapproval.
Last week my investigation paid me with a potential name that could be related to the Mafia, not to say he might be the Chief of the Neapolitan Mafia. The papers from Belluca’s apartment lead me to a cosmetics laboratory in Manhattan, which by the way has other entities around the United States. This laboratory belongs to an Italian company named A.D.A. Holding A.S.. Searching more, I had found out that this Holding belongs to the di Ambrosio family. A very wealthy Italian family from Naples. The President of this Group is someone named Angelo di Ambrosio.
After that discovery, I have searched for this Angelo di Ambrosio, but I haven’t found many things. On the corporate internet site, they write about him. Apparently, he has been graduated from Harvard Economics School with an MBA in Economics. He is the son of Andrea di Ambrosio, who founded the Group. No photos are published on the net. Nothing in the Italian press either. He doesn’t have a LinkedIn page, neither a Twitter nor any other social or professional media page. How is it possible? According to the American tax authorities, the cosmetic laboratory registered a profit of around a hundred and thirty-five million dollars last year. One of my sources in the Treasury Department told me they had been audited last year. Everything was normal. How that could be possible? I really cannot figure it out. There must be a connection! My instinct never betrayed me!
For that reason, I have asked today Craig to go to Italy to investigate further.
“Please, Craig! This would be really a good story. An amazing story! Imagine!”, I try persuading him. “Everything leads to that man, Angelo di Ambrosio. I am sure he is the Chief of the Mafia”.
“Allyson, no! Forget it! I am not letting you go to Italy. Even if what you are saying is true, can you imagine being there alone? These people are killing everyone outside of their clan who knows something about them. What if Belluca collected this information for the FBI to reveal the identity of the new Mafioso Chief? And instead of giving them to the FBI, who can investigate better than you and might collect proves against him to put him in jail, you are asking me to send you to the wolf’s mouth. Are you really out of your mind?”, Craig replies exasperatingly.
“Craig, I understand your concern about me. I will be discrete. I am always discrete, you know that. I have been in contact with a local journalist there. She is willing to help me. She knows many things about the mafia there and has seen this Angelo di Ambrosio many times. Despite the fact he is not letting anyone take a photo of him, he is a very public person in Naples. He goes everywhere. I will be with her and when she will show me his face, I can take his photo without understanding it. Believe me. I know what I am doing. It will also be a good occasion for me to investigate there some things to prove the relation between the Italian Mafia and America. So, what do you say?”, I carefully explain to Craig, waiting for his answer.
“Allyson. It is not as simple as you are presenting it. Firstly, I cannot afford to send you there. It will be costly. And for how long are you going to stay there? I really, really care about you for sending you there. My answer is no, Allyson. I am truly sorry”.
Alright! I was expecting that! So, let’s move to Plan B! “Craig, what if I take a week off? I can go by my own means there. Officially I am on holiday, visiting a friend in Naples”, I say with a big smile.
“You are definitely nuts!”.
“Please, Craig! One week. Nothing bad will happen to me. I will be careful. After all, I will not say a word. I do not speak Italian. Ciara is going to do the questions for me”.
“I suppose that if I do not give you holidays, you are going to take them by yourself, isn’t it?”, he skeptically asks me.
“You know me very well!”, I smile.
“I will regret it the rest of my life! I hope you realize that!”.
“So, it is a yes?”, I ask happily.
“Yes”, he finally says.
“Oh, Craig, thank you!”, I say merrily and jump on him giving him a hug.
“Just come back in one piece and preferably not in a coffin!”, he says tartly while I am leaving his office.
“Noted, boss!”, I reply joyfully.
“Did he accept it?”, Janet asks me when I sit behind my desk with a huge smile on my face.
“Yes!”, I reply happily.
“You are lucky! I thought he wouldn’t”.
“Well, he didn’t want to, but I told him that in this case I will take my holidays and go there. So, he accepted it in the end”, I explain to her, while I am booking my flight from a holiday’s internet site.
“You will need a visa”.
“Yes, I know. I am making the bookings now for flights and hotels. Then, I will apply on the internet to the Italian Consulate for the visa”.
“Good luck!”, Janet wishes me.
“Thank you, Janet!”, I reply smilingly to her. Indeed, I will need it!