Fortuna

FORTUNA: Out-Takes

 

 

General Packet Control didn’t grow at an exponential pace merely because of its technology. It also employed strong-arm tactics previously unheard of in the high-tech sector. Pietro “Pete” Marino was part of a cadre of individuals who motivated senior executives to make decisions that favored GPC. Here, he is introduced while working for a different client.

 

 

 

 

 

  

October 16, 2000

Emeryville, California

11:45 a.m.

 

Curtis Hartzig gunned the engine of the black 1984 Porsche Carrera 3.2 as he exited the gates of the Molectron campus and headed towards his lunch appointment at Bucci. It was one of the better Italian restaurants on his side of San FranciscoBay, certainly good enough for his wife’s “old friend.” Several of her old friends had showed up since Molectron had gone public. Suspicious by nature, he wondered if something was going on. He always met with them, but never gave them any help. It was too risky.

“We have to avoid the appearance of the appearance of impropriety,” Molectron’s legal counsel had said. It made sense. His enemies in Washington would look for anything they could use against him.

He pulled up in front of the restaurant, grabbed his jacket and handed the keys to the parking attendant, who held the door open for him. 

“Be careful,” he said, eyeing the kid, who had two lip piercings. 

“Yes, sir.” 

Hartzig was tall, and unlike many of his CEO colleagues to the south in Silicon Valley, favored Baroni suits and highly polished Italian shoes over jeans and running shoes. With more than a touch of gray in his hair, blue eyes that were inquisitive if not piercing, and a stiff, military bearing, he intimidated many of the people he dealt with, even the high-ranking executives at Roche headquarters, where he was a frequent visitor.

The parking attendant pulled away from the curb, too fast for Hartzig’s liking. He loved that car, down to the custom strut assemblies, which he had installed himself. There was nothing we would rather do on a Sunday afternoon than go into the garage, put on some classical music and tinker with its engine or give it a fresh coat of polish. 

The restaurant wasn’t crowded, and he spotted the man immediately. He looked like somebody out of a bad Mafia movie” oily black hair combed straight back, wrap-around sun glasses, dark shirt with a white tie under a poorly-fitted sports coat. This was a surprise. Marcy cared about appearances. In fact, he had to admit, her coaching had helped his career. When they met, he had been a jeans-and-sneakers guy. 

Hartzig extended his hand. “Curt Hartzig. 

“Pete Marino,” the man replied. He reeked of cheap cologne.  

Hartzig thought with alarm, This is no friend of Marcie’s. Fragmented thoughts raced through his mind. Kidnap? Too public. Marcie’s involved. Not likely. Why did his college pal cancel at the last minute, conveniently creating an opening in his calendar? Who is this Pete Marino? 

Marino seemed to read his thoughts. “Relax,” he said, almost in a whisper.” Just then, the hostess approached. 

The hostess escorted them to a table... [description: white tablecloth, blue sky.... After perusing this menu, Marino actually did order osso bucco. Hartsig wasn’t hungry. The whole situation screamed shakedown. He ordered a half caesar salad. 

“So,” he said, after the waitress had taken their orders, “How do you know Marcie?” 

Marino considered this, inscrutable behind his wrap-arounds. “You know, Mr. Hartsig, the thing about you people is, you always want to rush into things. You’re a busy man. You probably work twelve hours a day. And now, God has granted you a whole hour – maybe a little more – in this fine restaurant. You’re stuck, I’ll admit it, but what a place to be stuck in.” Marino gestured expansively. “You should allow yourself to enjoy it. We’ll get down to business soon enough.” 

Hartsig smiled ruefully. Marino held all the cards. What was up with the penny-ante gangster

The food arrived, along with the two glasses of wine Marino had insisted on, an expensive Chianti for him, a Pino Grigio for Hartsig. 

“Here’s to life,” said Marino, raising his glass. 

Hartsig felt a chill go through his body. He know that, in his position, he was a target for everyone from senators to left-wing wackos who thought that corn with one altered gene could ruin organic life on the planet. But he insisted on living what approximated a normal life. No chauffeur. No bodyguards. And now this! 

To Harsig’s surprise, Marino refused desert, ordering only an espresso. After his first sip, he got down to business. 

“Mr. Hartsig,” he began, “I’m here to discuss some numbers. You might say I’m in the numbers racket. He reached into his jacket pocket and produced a folded sheet of paper. He handed it across the table. Hartsig immediately recognized the numbers.  

“Now, there’s this holding company, Biocom, that has a particular interest in these number. You follow me?” 

Biocom was one of India’s largest biotech firms. They were in negotiations concerning some of these patents right now, but only two of his vice presidents knew. Did Marino know?

“These are Molectron patents. I don’t personally control them.” 

Marino chose this moment to take off his wrap-arounds. There was a pained expression in his eyes. 

“Hartsig, I’m just the messenger boy here. But my people – he leaned over and whispered once again. “My people are not the kind of people who fuck around. They will pick up your Cindy and your Carl after school today and mail them back to you in pieces until you decide to cooperate. They will make it look like they’re after money, and that’s what those yo-yos from the FBI will think when they move in and tap your phones and all that... but you’ll know what’s really happening. And you will find a way to release those patents.  

Marino leaned back. “Look at it this way. This is your big chance to be a good guy for once. Cheap vaccines for Third World countries? What’s not to like about that?”

Hartsig thought, there’s a lot not to like about that. He said, “Just who do you represent?” 

“Mr. Hartsig! What kind of question is that? I represent people who can blow up your life.” 

Hartsig stared at the list of numbers. Did Marino’s people know he was already in negotiations with Biocom? Did he know about the FDA investigation. Helping Biotin could solve a lot of problems.... 

“I can tell by your expression that that you got my message,” said Marino, rising and replacing his shades. “We’ll be watching Yahoo Finance. We’ll be expecting an announcement some time next week” 

He reached into his pocket and fished out a hundred dollar bill, which he tucked into the leather check holder. 

“Lunch is on me,” he said. “And, I’m genuinely sorry about your car. I know it meant a lot to you. 

Hartsig remained seated, his mind whirling. The magnitude of Marino’s effortless entry into his life began to sink in. His phones tapped. His firewall penetrated. The security surrounded the Biotin deal compromised. His wife and children surveilled. They had their hands on all his levers. And there was that weird reference to his car.... 

Hartsig stood up and made his way towards the door. The crowd was thinning. As he stepped out onto the sidewalk, his cell phone rang. He flipped it open. 

“Karl, you won’t believe this.” It was Parker, his original lunch date. “I was kidnapped!” 

“Kidnapped” 

“Yeah. These black guys grabbed me when I was getting into my car to drive over to the restaurant. They had ski masks and everything. I’ve been visiting all the finest ATMs in East Oakland for the last two hours. They got about five grand before my credit cards shut down.”

“But you’re only responsible for fifty dollars per card, right?” 

“That’s not exactly the fucking point here, Jack.” 

“Are you okay?” 

“Yeah, I’m okay. Scared the shit out of me, though.” 

“Have you reported it?” 

“What good would it do? I’ll just call up all the credit card companies when I get home and tell them my wallet got stolen. I’m lucky. I just made a list of all the numbers last week.” 

“Makes sense to me. Are you sure you’re okay?” 

“Considering  the alternative, I’m okay.” 

“Parker, I’ve got a call coming in I have to take. I’ll call you tonight.” 

He flipped the phone shut. There was no call, but he needed to reach Marcie. He was just about to hit her speed dial when he heard the explosion. It sounded like it was about two blocks away. 

Fortuna

In this scene, Marino influences a deal in favor of CDC, albeit without Nick’s knowledge 

 

March 23, 2001

San Francisco, California

11:35 a.m.

 

With a cup of Starbuck’s coffee in one hand and a sheaf of technical papers, brochures and cocktail hour invitations in the other, Pete Marino stared at the brightly colored banners that hung over the aisles at the entrance to the exhibit hall of the trade fair. They bore a large numbers, from 1000 to 9000, designed to help visitors find the booth they were looking for, but the actual floor layout didn’t seem to match the diagram in any of the hand-outs Marino had picked up on the way in.  

The lobby was mobbed. Young geeks with sloppy clothes and iPods, seemingly oblivious to the world around them, mixed with Asians wearing ill-fitting suits and determined expressions. There were thirty-something engineers with polo shirts pulled tightly over their already protruding bellies, and a few guys that reminded him of the executives you saw on MoneyWatch. The women, wearing shapeless clothes and little make-up, looked as if they had specifically dressed to avoid getting hit on, except for the bimbos who were there to work the booths. They pushed the limit for business attire, but they were young, and didn’t look like they’d be much fun on a date. Too plastic.  

Like all the other attendees, Marino had a badge hung around his neck with a bright orange ribbon that declared him to be a senior consultant with DeLoitte out of the Chicago office. It was a flimsy disguise, but it only had to work once, and on an amateur at that. Still, in spite of the badge, the conservative  blue suit and expensive open collar shirt from Nordstrom’s, he felt vulnerable to being spotted. There weren’t that many men in their fifties at this event.

Marino decided there was no way to get where he was going except to go with the flow of the crowd. Luckily, there weren’t too many booths his target was likely to visit. His decision-maker. And, worse case, he could track her down in her hotel at the end of the day, although he didn’t really want to do that.  

He worked his way towards the banner over the 1000 aisle and stood against the wall where he wouldn’t be jostled so he could drink some of his coffee before it got completely cold. He scanned the hordes of attendees as they passed through the turnstiles, thinking he just might see her, but he was pretty sure she was already inside. 

After half a dozen sips, he found a receptacle for the cup and plunged into the din and chaos of the show. It was like a super-sanitized street fair. The booths were made out of white plastic, with bright company logos everywhere. Men in color-coordinated polo shirts stood ready to demonstrate their wares, which were displayed on rows of monitors behind them. Marino had no idea what was being sold, but it didn’t matter. He only had to close one deal. 

He got lucky, He found her in less than five minutes. Marino glanced at his watch. It was about 11:15. He would follow her, staying two or three booths behind, and pretend to listen to the techno-babble that the exhibitors would eagerly offer as soon as they saw his fake badge.

At 11:45 he decided it was time to make his move. He had skipped breakfast, and he was getting hungry. He approached the woman he had been stalking and tapped her lightly on her shoulder.

“Margaret Reeves?” 

She turned to face him with an annoyed expression.  

“Mark Scapelli,” he said, smiling and offering his hand. 

She accepted his handshake while eyeing his badge.  

“Bret asked me to track you down if I could,” he said quickly. 

“Track me down?” she said suspiciously. “Why didn’t he just call me on my cell?” 

“Apparently there’s something wrong with your phone. That may be part of the problem.” 

“What problem?” 

Marino studied her. She looked to be in her mid-fifties, about his age, a little pudgy, clumsily died brown hair, extremely pale blue eyes. She had no doubt spent years indoors, frowning at numbers all day long, and it showed. What she needed, he thought, was a membership in a health club with a tanning salon – not twenty-five thousand dollars in a numbered account. Oh well.... a job was a job. 

“There’s a security situation,” said Marino. He glanced around. “I don’t think we should talk about it here,” he said in a low voice. Marino watched her with his sad, dark eyes. Timing was everything here. 

“Let’s go out to the lobby,” he said after about ten seconds.  

“Okay,” she replied. “Has there been a breach?” 

“Something like that.” He lagged half a step behind her as they walked the length of Aisle 5000. When they reached the lobby there were only a handful of people, most of them talking quietly into their cell phones. 

“Let me show you what’s happened,” said Marino. Try to access your emails.” 

Margaret Reeves put on a pair of reading glasses and then took her hone out of her purse. She punched the keys and saw what Marino already knew would be there.  

Access Denied

“Okay, now do it again, but use 1492 as the password.” 

She looked at him questioningly. Now, there was a hind of fear in her eyes. 

“Try it.” 

A moment later, a list of messages appeared on her display. 

“We changed your password, Margaret” said Marino softly. 

“We? Who? And why?” 

“Because we can. And that’s only the beginning of what we can do.” Marino adjusted his suit, briefly flashing his shoulder holster. “Please, Margaret, listen to me carefully. First, I want you to know you’re not in any danger. I am not going to hurt you, and if you try to run away, I won’t stop you. Second, a few months ago we transferred twenty-five thousand dollars from a Hewlett-Packard account you control to a personal account we set up for you at TransCarib Bank and Trust of Grand Cayman using your authorization codes. So you do have a problem. But it’s nothing that can’t be fixed.” 

Marino watched fear, anger and uncertainty play across the woman’s face. He put his hands behind his back as he waited for her response, like a salesman in a showroom. It was the least threatening posture he knew. After a moment, she gave him a crooked smile. 

“So, what are we dealing with here, extortion or blackmail?” 

Marino was impressed. This lady was not easily rattled. No wonder she had climbed so high up the corporate ladder. 

“A guess it’s a little of both,” he replied. Look, I’m sorry we had to meet like this. I understand this is a lot to absorb. Maybe we should have a drink and a little lunch while we go over the details of your situation. There’s a terrific Italian restaurant that’s only a block away. I ate there last night.” 

She seemed to be gauging his resolve. This was one tough bird!  

“Who’s buying?” she said finally. 

They walked out into the bright sunlight and headed towards Fratello’s. Most of the people on the street had badges. Marino took his off and stuck it in his pocket.  

The restaurant’s dark wood and highly-polished glassware reminded Marino of places on the East Coast, restaurants he couldn’t afford in the early days. Now, they were a regular part of his life, and not only when he was on expense account.  When the waiter came, Margaret ordered a Jack Daniels on the rocks. To be polite, Marino ordered a Cinzano, although he rarely had alcohol at lunch any more. 

Margaret had put on reading glasses to study the memo. 

“I’d recommend the veal picatta,” said Marino. It’s very light. And the Caesar salad is good, but it’s authentic, you know, with real anchovies.” 

“Well, you’re quite the gourmet, aren’t you?” 

“Me, gourmet? Fat chance. I just like good food.”  

“Well,” she said, looking at him over the rims of her reading glasses with those pale blue eyes, “Why don’t you order for both of us?”  

The restaurant was filling up now, and Marino was slightly nervous that one of her co-workers would show up. He had to move this thing along, but just as he was about to begin, the waiter appeared. He ordered two veal picatas, one salad for them to split, and two glasses of a Sicilian red. He hated talking business like this, just jumping in. But he had to establish some ground rules.

“Margaret,” he began, “ I hate talking business like this – I mean, just jumping in. But I need your cooperation. Like I said, you’re not in any danger with me. But I need you to understand that I’m not working alone here. If we can’t reach a deal....” He lowered his voice, “If you decide to take this to the police....” He shrugged. “It might work. You could say that you were framed. They’d probably believe you. Who knows? I might even end up in jail. I don’t think so, but the point is, they won’t give up. They’ll send somebody else and – who knows? – he might have the proverbial offer you can’t refuse. “: 

Margaret took a slug of her drink.  

“I understand,” she said, looking down at the table.  

Fortuna