Authors: Chuck Barrett
on the abandoned crane platform offered an ideal view down the length of the warehouse. She had an elevated line of sight at anything or anyone entering or leaving the front entrances as well as the rear. Valkyrie scouted the prime location to setup sniper watch after receiving the location of Scalini's warehouse from Shepherd. It was a premium spot for the kill shot.
Her choice of the lightweight .50 caliber Barrett M107A1 rifle with a QDL suppressor was an excellent choice for the one hundred twenty foot vertical climb to the platform. At just over five pounds, the sniper rifle was no burden to carry, unlike her escape kit, which weighed over ten pounds alone.
When she reached the platform, she attached her optics to her rifle, a Barrett Optical Ranging System. Systematically she made her mental and physical preparations for the long-range shot. There was no margin for error. Preparation was an important key to a successful mission. There were countless variables to consider before squeezing the trigger. Range to target, wind direction, air density, and elevationâall factors that influenced the bullet's trajectory and point of impact.
The wind was light, something that would work in her favor. Using the ranging system she determined her shot would be just over nine hundred yards. Not the easiest shot she'd been forced to take. Not the hardest either. She had made longer distance sniper kills with pinpoint accuracy. However, those were daylight shots without shadows or glinting from streetlights.
The long-range sniper shot was Valkyrie's forte. Her trademark. She was a master of stealth with the patience to wait for the perfect shot. It was vital to setup position, verify that position was well camouflaged, establish an escape route with a backup plan, and train both the mind and the body.
The sniper's mind needed to be trained and the skill honed to perfection. As soon as she setup her rifle, she started her relaxation breathing. Proper breathing was another critical step in mental conditioning for the shot. She observed the exits and took mental shots, calculating the options and obstacles. Her line of sight view offered her prey virtually no cover once clear of the building. And, in this instance, clear of the building meant anywhere more than two feet from the exterior walls.
One shot, one kill. A sniper's motto.
Thanks to Shepherd relaying this location from his inside source, she was able to scout the area and get into position on the perch before the Buick LaCrosse arrived. She knew it contained the witness and his captors. Through the crosshairs on her rifle's scope she watched the next two men pull up in a Mercedes, park, and stake out the warehouse. A black limousine appeared and drove inside the warehouse. One of the men from the Mercedes subdued both guards with a quick-hitting strike and dragged their bodies away from the front of the building.
She zoomed the optical in on his face and recognized Gregg Kaplan. He had not lost his skills, she mused. And he was still ruggedly handsome and very dangerous.
Within seconds another man joined him. He stepped in front of Kaplan, blocking her line of sight. It was the man she had met in Little Rock and worked with earlier. And he was now here in Newark.
Senior Inspector Pete Moss, United States Marshals Service.
And by the looks of it, he had teamed up with Kaplan.
The two men quickly disappeared inside the warehouse.
She figured if Moss and Kaplan were together, then Moss's hunch about the man was correct, he was leaving a trail only law enforcement could follow. Something had changed though, because he didn't take the witness to the SSOC in Virginia as originally anticipated. Along the way a new plan must have developed and now all the players seemed to be in Newark and, according to Shepherd, Moss's witness was in the hands of Martin Scalini. And from what she knew of the mob boss, the witness would likely die at the hands of Martin Scalini.
As she settled in to wait for her target to exit the warehouse, she noticed two large black SUVs enter the Newark Shipping Terminal complex and stop a hundred yards from Scalini's warehouse. The vehicles turned off their headlights and idled for several minutes. Even with her high-powered scope she was unable to see through the blackened windows. Traces of steam and exhaust puffed from the tail pipes.
Suddenly, the doors to both SUVs opened and four men from each vehicle exited and rushed toward Scalini's warehouse.
Each man carried an assault rifle and wore an armored vest. Emblazoned on the black vests were three bold white letters.
ngelo DeLuca waited
for Martin Scalini to start torturing the man when they heard the noise on the steps. By the time he and Bruno made it to the landing, Joey and Nicky had the two intruders at gunpoint.
This wasn't the first time DeLuca was going to witness one of his boss's sadistic torture sessions. In fact, he'd had to endure far too many. The victims were tortured until Scalini extracted the information he wanted. If the victim could no longer endure the excruciating pain they would beg for death. The lucky ones got a bullet to the head.
Unless it was personal. Then there were no lucky ones.
And with Tony Q, it was very personal. Scalini would take his time with Tony Q. Make him suffer for two, maybe three days before finally ending it. Driven out of his mind from pain, he too would beg for death. In a way, DeLuca felt sorry for the old man.
As soon as the mob boss arrived, Martin Scalini and Tony Q stood across the torture table from each other without speaking. Scalini, a lanky man with thinning hair had an intense seething glare behind his big black frame glasses with Coke bottle thick lenses.
Tony Q stood straight with relaxed shoulders and a frozen scowl on his face. Odd posture for a man who had an impending date with death. The two men stared at each other, a silent communication that only the two of them seemed to share. Maybe they were sizing each other up for the inevitable. Or maybe Scalini was simply bewildered at Tony Q's demeanor. The mob boss was the most feared and powerful mobster in New York. Instilling fear in others was how he ran his organization. Tony Q did not act panicky or intimidated. Scalini was visibly taken by surprise and shifted his weight back and forth on his feet revealing his obvious agitation.
It was in that moment when they heard Joey yell at the intruders.
at Moss and then back to the men pointing guns at his head.
He and the inspector dropped their guns and raised their hands.
An older man with overly thick glasses walked onto the landing and glanced at both men then his eyes settled on Kaplan. He had a cigarette dangling from his lips while he spoke. "Mr. Kaplan, I presume?" He removed the cigarette. "Come to collect on that favor so soon?"
Kaplan recognized two of the men from last night when he handed over Tony in Lexington. "I'm a man of my word," said Kaplan in a terse tone.
"That might very well be your undoing." Scalini looked at Moss. "You must be Senior Inspector Pete Moss."
Moss gave him a baffled look.
"Tony mentioned you to Angelo here." He pointed to Moss. "Plus your belt badge was a giveaway." He smiled. "Pete Moss, not a name one forgets."
Scalini stepped back and took a long draw from his cigarette. He coughed. "Bruno, go get Tony Q and bring him out here. I want these gentlemen to observe what happens when someone double crosses me."
Bruno disappeared into the room and returned leading Tony by the elbow.
Scalini turned to the old man. Sweat trickled down his forehead. "Tony Q, this breaks my heart. We've been together for forty years. You're like family to me. I gave you your start and what do you do? You stab me in the back. Bastardo. This is how you repay me for all my generosity?"
Kaplan observed the men's body language. Tony stood eerily calm, as if he'd made peace with his impending fate. Scalini, on the other hand, was shaking from pure unmitigated anger. His face was red and more sweat trickled down his forehead and dangled from the tip of his over sized nose.
And then Scalini's phone rang. He looked annoyed until he looked at the caller-id.
"Yeah," Scalini said into the phone. "What? Are you sure?" His eyes took on a panicked look. "When? Now?" He disconnected the call.
If it weren't for the impending threat of being shot by the thugs, Kaplan would have found Scalini's behavior amusing. The already panicked mob boss seemed to unravel at once. And at that moment, all the lights to the warehouse went out.
Scalini gasped and then cursed.
Battery powered backup lights came on at the four corners of the warehouse, barely enough to see but better than pitch black.
Several canisters broke through the windows above them sending shards of glass raining down. The canisters landed on the lower warehouse floor and burst open spewing tear gas into the air.
Kaplan noticed all the men looked at Scalini for instructions.
All, except one.
Scalini looked at the old man. "Tony Q, may you rot in hell." He raised his gun.
Before Scalini could pull the trigger, Bruno turned his weapon on Martin Scalini and fired a bullet into the mob boss's head.
Scalini's face never had a chance to show surprise. His body dropped to the ground. His trusted bodyguard had killed him. Bruno the Rat.
The next projectiles through the broken windows weren't difficult for Kaplan to recognize or prepare forâflash bangs.
Instinctively he and Moss flung themselves to the floor, closed their eyes, opened their mouths, and covered their ears with their hands, pinching off as much noise as possible in preparation for the blast. The last thing he saw before he closed his eyes was Bruno retreat into the back room with Tonyâ¦but not before he fired another round at point blank range.
This one into Angelo DeLuca's chest.
n rapid-fire succession
, the stun grenades exploded. The effect was usually brain numbing. Upon detonation, the grenades were designed to emit an intensely loud bang, usually in the range of 170-180 decibels, along with a one million candela plus blinding flash. The immediate result was flash blindness, deafness, tinnitus, and inner ear disturbance. All of which caused disorientation, confusion, loss of coordination, balance, and sometimes even consciousness.
Kaplan's first exposure to the flashbang was in the Army. His Special Forces training had prepared him to use the flashbang against his enemies as well as defend against the grenade being used against him. The use of the flashbang was intended to disorient the opponent and buy the user extra time to gain a tactical advantage. It was a wonderful innovationâunless the mission demanded stealth. Obviously, this one did not.
Scalini's men, Joey and Nicky, groaned as they covered their ears with their hands. They were dazed and blind. Kaplan had a window of at least twenty or thirty seconds before they would recover enough to pose any threat. He also knew the men who launched the grenades into the warehouse would storm through the doors any second and he had no intention of being in the line of fire when they did.
Kaplan grabbed Moss by the arm and herded him toward the back room where Bruno and Tony disappeared.
The smoke from the tear gas canisters was already stinging his eyes. Both he and Moss pulled their neck buffs over their noses to help filter the air and delay the mucus membrane irritation in their lungs as long as possible.
The room was relatively clear of smoke, but in a matter of seconds that would change. He closed the office door behind him and as he did, he heard the sound of the men downstairs breaking through the exterior doors. He turned, expecting to see Tony and Bruno, but no one else was in the room except Moss. Through an open door in the back, Kaplan saw a staircase against the north wall leading to the warehouse floor beneath.
The thunderous sound of the men charging into the warehouse from the main entrance was interrupted by the sound of gunfire as Joey and Nicky had regained their faculties and opened fire on the intruders. The exchange of shooting was close, just outside the office. Below, on the warehouse floor, he heard the invaders yelling halt commands. Bruno and Tony had not gotten away.
"Throw down your weapons," several men yelled from the warehouse floor.
One of DeLuca's men yelled back, "See you in Hell." Then there was a continuous blast from an Uzi followed by an explosion at the far end of the warehouse.
The fuel tank.
Panicked yelling resonated from below and was followed by another salvo of gunfire. Then, everything went silent except for the sounds of boots running and the crackling of a fire in the background. He knew the outcome. Joey and Nicky were dead.
Footsteps pounded up the wooden stairs toward the office. Moss grasped Kaplan and spun him around. Moss looked him in the eyes and placed his gun on the table. He reached into his jacket and pulled out his creds.
The footsteps had reached the landing now and were just outside the door.
Moss snatched off his badge from his belt, turned toward the door, and held up his badge in one hand and his creds in the other.
The door flung open and three men swarmed in, pointing their rifles at Kaplan and Moss while yelling, "Drop your weapons. FBI. On the ground."
Moss yelled back, "U. S. Marshals, U. S. Marshals."
While the first two men in the door were subduing Moss, two others had come up the back staircase and tackled Kaplan from behind. The largest man held him down; pulled his arms behind his back, and held his rifle barrel against Kaplan's head.
"Federal agents," Kaplan shouted over the commotion. "You're making a big mistake."
"Oh, I doubt that," the big man said.
He got off Kaplan, pulled him to his feet, then pushed him over on a table that was bolted to the floor. The table was crudely built with rough-cut lumber and four adjustable leather shackles attached to the tabletop. Its splintery surface had dark red bloodstains from years of use by Scalini.
The man holding him down relaxed his grip and leaned over to speak to him. The other man standing next to him lowered his rifle. Kaplan bolted upright before the man could react and head butted him in the face. He felt the crunch of the man's nose. The crippling blow had momentarily stunned his opponent. Blood streamed down the man's face. With his right leg, Kaplan kicked outward, a powerful blow to the second man's knee. He dropped his weapon and fell to the floor, holding his knee as he did. Kaplan spun his waist in a tight twisting motion, extended his leg, and delivered a crushing blow with his boot to the side of the man's head. The man was unconscious before he hit the floor.
"Kaplan, no," yelled Moss.
Kaplan felt the butt of a rifle bash the back of his head. It sent a paralyzing shockwave through his body. His legs weakened and wobbled. He tried to fight it, but consciousness left him.