LUCIANO SAT IN THE empty room, waiting for his interrogators. It wasn’t his first visit to the FBI headquarters, and it probably wouldn’t be his last, but he was growing tired of the constant harassment. He lit up another cigarette and slouched back in the wooden upright chair, with his feet on the formica-topped table in front of him. He gazed unconcernedly up at the ceiling, blowing smoke rings. He knew he was being watched, although he couldn’t be sure where the camera was. He guessed there were two or three, but if that’s how the law-enforcement agents got their kicks, who was he to complain?
The door opened. He didn’t even bother to turn his head to see who it was. Why give them the satisfaction?
“Feet on the floor and put that cigarette out,” the voice commended.
Luciano threw the cigarette butt on the floor, swung his legs to the right and stamped it out with his heel, all in one fluid movement.
“Always the wise-ass, eh?”
“And good morning to you, Agent Penfold. How are you going to waste my time today?”
Penfold drew up the wooden upright chair on the opposite side of the table and sat down, his hands resting on its top.
“We know who’s behind you, Luciano.”
“All I got behind me is my ass. You aint got nothing because I ain’t done nothing.”
“Even the ugliest of birds can sing the sweetest of tunes.”
“What the fuck? You been at those fortune cookies again, Agent Penfold?” Luciano sneered. He gazed around at the cream-colored bare walls. “Perhaps you could paste ‘em up in here. Give me some entertainment next time I pop in for one of our little chats.”
“The net’s tightening, Luciano,” Penfold said, ignoring his comment. “Do yourself a favor and work with us. We can protect you.”
“I don’t need no protection from dumb fucks like you. I got my own private security.”
“You mafiosos think you’re so smart. But your day of reckoning is coming.”
“I play the hand I was dealt. I don’t need or want your slimeball jokers in my pack, and I certainly ain’t gonna shuffle them in for you.”
Agent Penfold pushed back his chair and stood up. “Then let the cards fall where they may.”
“Sit down a minute,” Luciano said. “I got something to tell you.”
Penfold resumed his seat. “I’m listening.”
“Do you know what a mafioso stands for?”
“I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”
“Mafioso stands for strength. Mafioso stands for greatness. Mafioso stands for pride. Yeah, pride. All mafiosos are proud. Proud of their heritage. And do you know why?”
Penfold looked bored. “Surprise me.”
“You got ten minutes?”
“I wanna tell you a story.”
Penfold looked at his watch. “Start talking.”