tth-webDiamonds, drugs, money laundering, murder – the DeLuca and Brattini crime families are still at it – but now there is a new threat to their existence – a threat uncovered during a takedown of Aboriginals (illegally) crossing the border between the U.S. and Canada. Who is behind the threat? The FBI and the RCMP want to know. So do the DeLuca and Brattini families. Their lives depend on it.

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CHAPTER TWO Cornwall, Ontario.

It was winter and, on this particular night, the undercover agents on assignment were members from the FBI and INSET. They had arrived in Cornwall around midnight and saw that the Mohawk men had parked their Escalade outside a tavern located off Pitt Street, near the main highway. When the team pulled up into the parking lot, they backed up their truck to face both the SUV and the road.

Their assignment was simply to follow the money – to watch and record the smugglers’ network of contacts, safe houses and hopefully, once over the border, the money launderers. The Russians had made serious inroads into the crime business in North America – once the purview of the Italians and the Chinese. Rumours had recently surfaced that they were branching out, incredibly, by enlisting the help of some of the First Nations. Due to the Jay Treaty of 1794 between the United States and Great Britain, the Mohawk had the right to pass between the Canada–US border freely with no checks, and for some it was a smuggler’s dream.

The lead on this project was a woman known only as Sally. Her real name was Jennifer White. She decided it was time to rattle the prey’s cages. Wearing a black ski mask that left only her eyes visible, she got out of the truck and quickly moved like a small iguana along the dirt path over to the Escalade.

That Cadillac has to belong to someone a step or two up the ladder, she thought. Couriers use second-hand vans or trucks.

Once she reached the SUV and saw that it wasn’t armoured, she quickly opened the hood and planted a small explosive device by the ignition; she was excited to see what would happen when it blew and how the smugglers would react. Even though there was no official plan to intervene and no way to stop them from crossing the border into the United States with the money, Jennie had the authority to use her discretion and judgement. She thought that a diversion such as this might net the agents some useful information. She was back in the truck within five minutes.

The door to the tavern opened minutes later and out came three men, obviously drunk. Two got in the back of the SUV, the other took a gym bag out of the trunk, opened the driver’s door and heaved it onto the front seat as he climbed in after it. From the way he had to shove it up and in with his shoulder, the agents knew the bag was full.

As the man slammed his door shut, the entire SUV exploded. The agents initially froze – then started their truck and took off.

“Wait! Stop!” yelled Jennie. “That SUV had to have been wired before we got here. My explosive was a glorified firecracker. Someone set these guys up, and I want to see what I can get from that car before it’s total ashes.”

They spun the truck around and Jennie jumped out and ran in a crouch to the burning SUV. She went around to the driver’s side, which was already crumbling under the heat. She shot through the door and pulled it so hard it came off the hinge. Cringing at the sight of the driver immersed in flames, she grabbed what was left of the gym bag next to him and threw it on the ground. She felt the weight.

The other agents had broken open the back door and managed to pull out the other two men; both were burned horribly – one was obviously dead, but one was still moaning.

“Grab him, put him in our truck!” yelled Jennie. “We’ll take him back to the field office.”

Still there were no sirens, no one visible around the tavern. It was as though what had just happened hadn’t happened at all – like it was expected and no one wanted to be around as a witness. Jennie guessed that the explosive was set off by someone watching the SUV but who couldn’t see the agents nearby. Or it was a remote on a timer.

Jennie sat inside the truck holding the burned Mohawk and pulled out the emergency kit from under the seat as they took off. She found a small tube of Polysporin in the emergency pack – good for minor finger burns, but it was all she had. The man was trying to speak. Jennie was always wired when she was on assignment, so she put her chest and the attached microphone against the man’s face to record anything he said as she tried to soothe him. He spoke a language unfamiliar to Jenny for about a minute, and then he turned his head and died. Jennie had no idea what he said, nor could she remember ever hearing that First Nations dialect before.

The gym bag was in tatters, but what was still left inside appeared to be a huge sack of coloured stones. At first, Jennie missed the diamonds hidden at the bottom next to a rubber pouch that looked like the ones used for their interoffice memos; it was also in tatters. Jennie was pretty sure there could not have been much money in the bag. Millions of dollars, even in large bills, could not have been completely obliterated in such a short time – but heroin or methamphetamine would have. The remnants of foil wrapping reinforced her assessment.

“Well, I guess I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do,” whispered Jennie to her colleagues.

They nodded and grunted.

“The good news is that if we hadn’t planned our little operation, we would have missed the diamonds, and the explosion would have gone unnoticed, at least to us, for some time. The bad news is that we have nothing else to show…yet. Just a little rubber pouch – let’s hope there’s some good stuff inside it.”

Inside that rubber pouch was a scrap of paper – what was left of a memo that had an Israeli foreign ministry stamp over words that were now barely legible: “P&M, Latchman & Howard Ramsay” as well as what looked like “The 3rd hole.”