Eye on the Prize

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Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Dom was well aware of Marco’s involvement with Bitcoin. As a mafia boss, it was his job to know about illegal business conducted in his city. Word on the street was that Marco was a con man and a good one since he gained his victim’s trust while using it to his advantage. Given that he conducted illegal activities, it was the perfect arrangement for Dom. When Marco contacted him, Dom was particularly clear about his expectations of doing business with Marco. The mafia boss also informed Marco that he knew all about his little side business. Contrary to what Diana told Marco, this was not a discussion to ask for business advice. Instead, Dom gave him strict instructions to be followed precisely. There would be no room for compromise or betrayal.

Dom received payment for his illegal business with preloaded debit cards. Marco would take these cards to invest in Bitcoin. This process was what he would use to launder Dom’s money. Illegal money would be used to buy legal digital money. Dom would let the dough sit for a while and then have Marco exchange the Bitcoins for cash when instructed. This protocol enabled his money to filter through the financial system without flagging the transactions as suspicious. Furthermore, Bitcoin’s digital ledger only recorded transactions and not the users’ identities. The deals were virtually untraceable due to layered encryption and blended transactions.

Bitcoin could convert to cash via Bitcoin ATM or bank account.

Dom didn’t want the Bitcoin going to a wallet on his phone because he didn’t want any transactions to trace back to him. The business arrangement was for Marco to keep track of the money until Dom asked for cash. It was Marco’s problem to figure out how to liquidate the Bitcoin to cold hard cash. Dom was willing to pay Marco’s

administrative fee in addition to a ten percent cut of the money he was converting. It was a mutually beneficial deal for both parties and very generous of Dom. The mobster would get his money cleaned, and Marco would be making a killing for a minimal amount of work. To put it into perspective, it would be more money than the rest of Marco’s investors combined.

Marco’s challenge was to devise a plan to obtain cash in a hurry. The Bitcoin teller machine (BTM) would disburse $20,000 a day but required identification and a social security number to convert a sale to money. There was no way in hell that he would enter his social security number so that he could take the fall for laundering money. Marco determined that the safest and most feasible solution was to use an exchange similar to Craig’s List. Craig’s List was the digital version of classified ads for products and services. He searched and found sellers looking for Bitcoin in exchange for money. Unlike the BTM exchange, this one didn’t require any identification and was generally safe. After selecting a buyer, Marco chose a location to meet and exchange cryptocurrency for currency. Once he had the cash in hand, he used his laptop to transfer the Bitcoins to the buyer’s account. It was an easy exchange and free of any possible scam. Both parties remained together until one received cash, and the other saw the digital currency in their account. The typical meeting place was at the shared office space in Philadelphia to allow for a secure public meeting location, therefore minimizing the danger. He was careful to check the ratings for each buyer to avoid any disreputable dealings. If at all possible, Marco attempted to use the same contact as often as possible. He preferred to keep the risk of jeopardy at a minimum.

Dom contacted Marco a second time to let him know that they would no longer be communicating with each other after this phone call. The boss delegated the job and gave strict orders to deal with his soldier Sal when contacted. Sal would provide Marco with a drop off destination and time, along with the amount of money to deliver. The first drop would be a test to make sure Marco could deliver and

follow orders. Dom made it clear that his business was to take priority over anyone else, and Sal would expect Marco to drop everything at a moment’s notice. Excuses would not be acceptable or tolerated.

Dom was paying too much money to be ignored and expected nothing short of VIP treatment. Anything less would be considered disrespect, and failure to deliver would be detrimental to Marco’s health. Marco assured Dom that he was the perfect man for the job and was looking forward to proving that he could be trusted. He thanked Dom for allowing him to be a part of this incredible business venture.

Dom matter of factly replied, “I judge you by your actions and not your words. Anyone can tell me what I want to hear, but can you follow through? To be perfectly honest, Diana is the only reason I am giving you a chance. She is a class act and has always done right by me without blowing smoke up my ass. Make sure you don’t fuck this up or else.”

The sentence didn’t need to be completed. Marco could use his imagination to figure out the gist. Before he even had an opportunity to respond, Dom terminated the call. It wasn’t often that he was left speechless and looking like a complete fool all at the same time. He immediately called Diana, and she cheerfully picked up on the first ring.

“What’s up, Babe. Is everything okay?”

“Oh, everything is fucking wonderful. Is that what you want to hear?”

“Whoa Marco, you better take it easy and change your tone. What is your problem?”

“Well, I didn’t have one until I finished my call with Dom. He told me something that I find very odd.”

“Since you called me, I guess that you are dying to tell me, so out with it already.”

“He claims that the only reason he even considered me to handle his business was strictly because of you and that I should thank you.”

“You’re welcome then. Is that it?”

“You know damn right that I was not calling to thank you. Is there something you neglected to tell me?”

“What exactly are you insinuating?”

“I think you are smart enough to figure it out. Maybe it is a possibility that you did a little more than write an article for Dom.”

“You are a jerk with a lot of nerve and should get a clue, Marco. I don’t owe you an explanation and don’t feel a need to dignify your accusation. Dom was pleased with how I handled the article when his home was vandalized and trusts me enough to throw some leads my way once in a while. I can’t help it if you are too insecure to handle the truth.”

“Oh. Listen, this is a big misunderstanding. Dom caught me off guard. I thought maybe…”

“I understand exactly what you thought, and you are an asshole.” “C’mon, Babe. Don’t hold a grudge for a simple

misunderstanding.” Marco waited for her to respond to his plea.

Diana was no longer listening. The line went dead because she hung up.

Marco’s call really annoyed Diana. What gave him the right to throw accusations at her? She was in an excellent mood and having a great day until he felt the need to ruin it. It agitated her for the rest of the day. She was preparing dinner when the front door opened.

Marco came home and was carrying a bottle of wine in one hand and a bouquet of flowers in the other. He looked at her with a goofy look on his face, but she was too mad to think it was cute, “Truce?”

“It is a step in the right direction, but I will have to think about it.

You showed a side of yourself that I don’t care to see again.”

He put down the wine and flowers and folded her into a hug. She stiffened immediately and sent off a signal loud and clear that she did not want him to touch her. “Listen, I’m sorry. Why don’t you stop cooking and let me take you out to dinner tonight?”

“I am not feeling romantic at all and am still angry with you.”

“Give me a chance to let me make it up to you. I am trying to make this right. Help me out a little.”

Diana sighed. “Oh, alright. I will be ready in ten minutes.” Once they were seated at the restaurant with a drink in hand,

Diana asked, “So why don’t you tell me what set you off today?”

“I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. Dom made me so angry when he said that you were the only reason why he called me. He made me feel irrelevant and worthless.”

“Dom made you feel that way, but I never did, so why take it out on me? Have I ever given you any reason to doubt my faithfulness to you?”

“No, but…”

“Marco, I find it cute that you care enough to show a little jealousy; however, it will be a problem if it continues.”

Marco leaned in and stroked Diana’s hand. “Listen, I’m sorry. It was unfair of me to blame you for something that you never did. You never gave me a reason to doubt you. He made me crazy with jealousy when I thought he was holding something over my head.”

Diana smiled, then closed the distance between them to give him a kiss. “I accept your apology. Can we order now? I am starving and need to eat right away. I hope you brought your wallet because you are paying.”

Marco received a call from Sal on his cell phone three weeks after talking to Dom. He was in the middle of a meeting and dropped everything to get to the designated drop-off spot with fifteen minutes to spare. It was more important to cut his client meeting short with a lame apology than to be late for his delivery. He was quite sure that the mafia boys did not want to be kept waiting and would take lateness as a huge insult.

Marco was nervously waiting when Sal casually strolled up to his black Range Rover and opened the passenger door. He issued a forceful command to Marco with one word. “Drive.”

Sal appeared non-threatening in his baseball hat and sweats; nevertheless, Marco knew better. He was no expert regarding the Mafia hierarchy, but he was well aware Dom must be working for the Merlino, Gambino, or Bruno family. Marco was conducting business with a very important guy. Sal’s presence made him nervous, although he tried his hardest not to show it. His stomach felt like it was tied in knots. Sal reached down and grabbed a Maxwell House coffee can from the floor and removed the plastic lid. He would have been extremely disappointed if there was coffee in the can.

Sal was satisfied with the contents. “Very good, Marco. I appreciate that you can follow simple directions. You passed your test run. I wasn’t too confident since you are a medagan. I’m not certain what Dom sees in you, but I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you. He’s the boss for a reason, so as long as you don’t screw me over, you and I won’t have any problems, capiche?”

Marco nodded his head in agreement and also said, “Yes, I understand.”

Sal asked for Marco to drop him off at the same location where Marco picked him up. “I will be in touch soon, Marco.” He reached into his pocket for something and handed it to Marco. “Here is a burner phone to be used only for our business. You will not make any

other calls on this phone. It will ring when I need to talk to you. Make sure you answer it whenever I call and keep up the good work.”

The truck door slammed shut, and Marco breathed a sigh of relief the minute Sal was gone. He hadn’t realized that he was holding his breath. His hands were clenched, and when he released them, they were trembling. It would not be his first choice to deal with a wise guy; however, it was advantageous for his company’s success. This business arrangement was the answer he was looking for to allow him to be set for life. The short-term minor inconvenience and stress would be worth his uneasiness in the long run. If he played his cards right, the mafia would make Marco a wealthy man. He could not count his dollars quickly enough.

His illegal money was transferred directly to his untraceable offshore account in Bermuda. Marco decided to open an account in that particular country because it was a tax-friendly jurisdiction. There were no taxes on business profits, capital gains, or most other forms of income. The account also enabled Marco to buy and sell shares of local investment funds more efficiently, and as a non-resident, he did not need to pay taxes on those earnings. The decision was a no brainer.

Although Bermuda was often regarded as a tax haven, it was also known as a highly reputable place to bank. He wanted to avoid shady activities at all costs. It was a little ironic considering how he obtained the money that was deposited into this account. There was enough government oversight to prevent people from abusing the system, but Bermuda valued business and financial freedom. Marco had used Diana’s graduation trip as a cover so that he could open up his offshore account. It was perfect planning on his part since the vacation was the primary reason to travel to Bermuda and not just to open up a bank account. He disguised his business as a vacation to propose to Diana.

The engagement was genuine, and Marco wanted nothing more than to marry her. Proposing in a foreign country wasn’t suspicious in the least, which was precisely what he intended.

Marco’s achievements impressed Diana, and she was proud. He proved to be very motivated, and his business was a success as a result. Since success required a great deal of hard work, he worked long hours. They rarely had time to eat dinner together during the week. Diana worked a considerable number of hours as well and was very driven.

Whenever their schedules allowed them to spend time together, Marco spared no expense and took her out to fancy restaurants.

Diana told him time and time again how she was just as happy, spending a quiet night at home with him. It fell on deaf ears. Marco went all out for date night because he felt that it needed to be a momentous occasion each and every time. In addition, he insisted on showering Diana with flowers, jewelry, and spur of the moment overnight trips to Dewey Beach, Delaware. Marco loved taking her there since it was one of his favorite places. There were not many pleasant memories from his childhood, so he treasured his positive experiences in Delaware. It pleased him immensely to know how Diana adored the area as much as him.

Diana accompanied Marco to the end of the summer beach party, held the third weekend of September each year. Music was a big part of the town’s culture and party atmosphere. There was no better place to close out the summer than on the beach. A stage was set up on the sand with lighting for when the sunset. Live bands performed late afternoon into the night while vendors from local bars and restaurants such as Woody’s, the Starboard, and Hammerheads served burgers, pulled pork, local specialties, and drinks. Families and couples kicked off their shoes and relaxed in their beach chairs in the sand to the sound of the music with the waves in the background while enjoying beer, wine, crushes, or soda. Some couples held hands and took a romantic walk along the water’s edge while kids played and danced to the music. Everyone received a glow necklace, and the camaraderie was contagious. It gave Diana yet another reason to love the town.

She often expressed to Marco that the beach relaxed her, and she always felt like she was on vacation any time she visited this wonderful town. It became her happy place before long and being in close proximity to the water made her feel at peace. The spectacular view of the ocean or the bay quickly helped melt her stress away. To Marco’s delight, Diana revealed that she could see herself living there full time someday. Until then, she would look forward to their fun weekend getaways whenever the opportunity arose.

One weekend, Diana found herself between assignments and had a rare chance to take a couple of days of vacation. Marco seized the moment and ran off with her to Dewey Beach. Diana was bewildered as he pulled up to an oceanfront house instead of the condo where they usually stayed. The home was gorgeous! He never mentioned anything about renting a home for their current getaway.

Marco parked the car in the driveway and faced Diana as he smiled and gazed into her eyes, “Baby, I have a very special present to give you, and I cannot wait one second longer.”

“Not here, Marco! You pulled into someone else’s driveway. You better back up before they come to the door and catch us in their driveway.”

“I don’t think you understand. No one is home because we are staying here. I wanted to give you a special gift.”

“Marco, you have been going overboard with your gift-giving lately. You have the Range Rover monthly payments along with your other bills.”

Marco shushed her.

“Don’t shush me. Why is it so hard to make you understand that I don’t need lavish presents? You are all that I want, and I am very appreciative of everything that you do for me.”

He leaned over to silence her with his lips and placed a surfboard keychain into her hand.

It took a second or two for Diana to register why Marco gave her keys. As he patiently waited for her reaction, her eyes showed a variety of emotions. Her facial expression transformed from disbelief to surprise, to amazement, and finally, pure pleasure.

She was laughing excitedly and clapping like a giddy little girl. “Would you like me to unlock the front door?” Diana looked like she would jump out of the car as fast as possible because she was so excited to get into the house.

After reminding her to open the car door first, Marco couldn’t help laughing with her. Her excitement was contagious. “Yes, that would be wonderful,” he said. “Take me on a tour of your new house.”

While they were standing outside of the house, the look on Diana’s face changed from pure joy to fear. She turned to face Marco. “Marco, please don’t take this the wrong way, but where on earth did you make enough money to buy this luxurious home? I couldn’t be happier to live here and am not trying to spoil the mood, but there is no possible way that you could be successful enough to afford this.

She looked at him anxiously before continuing. “I don’t know how else to ask this, but please tell me that you didn’t pay for this with Dom’s money.”

Marco’s mood immediately shifted. A dark look came over his face like a storm cloud. “I am genuinely hurt and pissed off that you don’t have enough faith and trust in me to think that this is nothing but my own hard-earned money. Are you insane? Why would I steal from the mafia, and why would you doubt me? I earned this with my hard work.”

“I am simply asking a question that I have every right to ask. A home like this is a substantial purchase. There is no need to get all defensive unless you have something to be defensive about.”

“I can’t even dignify that with an answer.”

“You can’t blame me for wondering where all of this expensive crap comes from, and it continues to multiply. Your Range Rover had to cost a small fortune.”

“If you are going to list everything that I ever bought for you, let me stop you right there.”

“Okay. I won’t, but you spend a lot of money as it is, and now this?”

“It’s my money! Maybe you would like me to take a lie detector test?”

“That won’t be necessary, and I didn’t intend to spoil this moment for you.”

“How noble of you! It’s too late! You obliterated the moment with your twenty questions.”

Babe, I apologize, but the reporter in me asks questions. You made an enormous purchase without me. Typically, couples discuss home purchases before the final sale.”

“It’s called a surprise.”

“Sorry, I call it temporary insanity. Of course, you earned it. You have been working so hard. I guess my mind imagined the unthinkable because this had to set you back at least a million dollars. A feeling of terror went through me, thinking of what would happen to you if you bought a beach house with Dom’s money. Let’s

just agree to disagree and start over again. Can we go inside? I am dying to see what it looks like.”

The smile returned to Marco’s face. He was relieved for the change in subject. “How can I possibly stay mad at you? I understand where you are coming from, but you need to trust me so that you can put your mind at ease.”

The outside of the house was yellow trimmed in white. They went inside the house through a beautiful arched doorway flanked with circular windows on each side. Light wood adorned the foyer and central areas of the home. A rounded white staircase contrasted with espresso stair treads, handrails, and post tops. Beyond the entrance was a kitchen with white cabinets and black marble countertops.

Surfboards hung on the living room wall and looked beachy with coral striped couches. There was a French sliding door with windows to the ceiling. The view of the ocean from the living room was amazing. The master bedroom had access to sliding doors and an outside deck.

After touring the entire house, Diana happily jumped up and down and threw her arms around Marco before rewarding him with a giant kiss. “Thank you so much! I have to say this is the best gift I have ever received in my life. I can’t wait to make many happy memories here with you.”

Marco smiled lovingly at Diana, “I have one more gift for you today. I bought myself a new phone, so I did the honors of buying one for you too. I created a sign in for both of us so that we can share the same iCloud for all of our documents and for buying things in the online store.”

Diana had a look of concern on her face and was about to say something, but Marco stopped her before the words could leave her mouth.

“I am going to stop you because I can see you are going to say something about the money. It was a buy one get one deal, so we should change the subject unless you plan on thanking me. I would appreciate it if you would stop telling me not to buy you gifts every time that I give you one. I find it rude and annoying.”

“Okay, but I can’t help it. I am curious by nature. Thank you very much. Of course, I appreciate everything that you do for me.”

“You are more than welcome and let me assure you that there is no need to worry your pretty little head over money. Remember, I went to school for finance. I know what I am doing. It is my job to make sure that we never run out of money.”

“If you don’t have any plans, I would love to take you upstairs to show you my appreciation. It will take me a long time to repay you.”

Marco laughed while swooping her up into his arms. “What are you doing? Diana asked.

“You need to save your energy. it looks like you are going to be up there a very long time indeed.”

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