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.
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.
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
He pulled up in front of the restaurant, grabbed his
jacket and handed the keys to the parking attendant, who held the door open
“Be careful,” he said, eyeing the kid, who had two lip
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
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
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
Hartzig extended his hand. “Curt
“Pete Marino,” the man replied. He reeked of cheap
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
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
“Here’s to life,” said Marino, raising his
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
“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
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
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
“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
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
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!”
“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
for the last two hours.
They got about five grand before my credit cards shut
“But you’re only responsible for fifty dollars per card,
“That’s not exactly the fucking point here,
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m okay. Scared the shit out of me,
“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
“Makes sense to me. Are you sure you’re
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
scene, Marino influences a deal in favor of CDC, albeit without Nick’s
March 23, 2001
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
to face him with an annoyed expression.
Scapelli,” he said, smiling and offering his hand.
accepted his handshake while eyeing his badge.
asked me to track you down if I could,” he said
down?” she said suspiciously. “Why didn’t he just call me on my
“Apparently there’s something wrong with your phone. That
may be part of the problem.”
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.
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.
out to the lobby,” he said after about ten seconds.
she replied. “Has there been a breach?”
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.
show you what’s happened,” said Marino. Try to access your
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.
do it again, but use 1492 as the password.”
at him questioningly. Now, there was a hind of fear in her
later, a list of messages appeared on her display.
“We changed your password, Margaret” said Marino
“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
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
“So, what are we dealing with here, extortion or
Marino was impressed. This lady was not easily rattled. No
wonder she had climbed so high up the corporate
“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
“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
Margaret had put on reading glasses to study the
“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
“Well, you’re quite the gourmet, aren’t
“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
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
“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.