Chinese Wall, cooker, cruise ship, Devil's Island, gun, Milan, negotiator, robot, wings, caravan site
The robot with wings took off silently and headed in the direction of Settebello. The senior negotiator from Milan watched from a distance as project ‘Devil’s Island’ got under way. He thought back to the time six months earlier when he had been approached by Enrico Berluscani about what had been going on in this relatively quiet corner of Frosinone.
It had been a good few years since Enrico had been persuaded by a group of businessmen to put his meagre plot of land to a different use. For many generations his family had eked out a living from growing vegetables. He had learnt from his father, like his father had learnt from his father, the skill of working the land but it had never amounted to more than subsistence farming. It was a desperately hard way of earning a living. It meant getting up very early in the morning to tend the crops. At the end of the season, if everything went according to plan and there weren’t any natural disasters, he just about made a living for himself and his family but Global warming, with its changing weather cycles, was becoming an increasing threat to his precarious rural life.
When the new business plan had been explained to him he could see the potential of a more secure living at a higher level he could only dream about; a chance to send his daughter to university. He was quick to give his positive response and had eagerly signed the contract put in front of him but now he was having second thoughts. Several children in the village had become unwell and medics were puzzled as to the reason. W.H.O. specialists had been called in for consultation but Enrico always suspected his new business venture might be responsible because he didn’t really know the nature of the material being stored ‘underground’. It paid well, so he hadn’t asked too many questions but now he thought, maybe he should, and this was the reason he had called in the experts from Milan.
The results from the experimental 3D scientific aerial laser scanner embedded in the modified military drone were astonishing. In accordance with the Mafia Investment Group’s standing orders the results were immediately put in front of Toni Capo. It was his task to assess the investment potential of any new discovery and to formulate a plan to capitalise on any economic opportunity for the benefit of his principal shareholders.
It was really no surprise to discover the toxic material under Enrico’s land was seeping into the water supply with obvious consequences for two particularly vulnerable groups – the elderly and very young children. The scan showed traces of arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury and zinc; a truly lethal cocktail which was slowly seeping its way into the village water supply.
But it was the hidden treasure underneath the adjacent caravan site which really set the pulses racing. MIG’s scientists were practically salivating at the data which showed clear evidence that a vast Martian meteorite had landed there three billion years earlier. It was literally the size of a football field and put all earlier Martian meteorite finds into the shade including the famous NWA 7034 that landed in the Sahara Desert and which was 2.1 billion years old and known to be water-rich; and NWA 7034 was only the size of a baseball!
The new discovery was instantly nicknamed ‘Devil’s Island’ as Toni Capo quickly realised that the mining rights alone would be worth billions of dollars. He called an emergency meeting of his inner sanctum on board Casa Nostra the company’s luxury cruise liner moored off Venice which served as their floating H.Q.
Tony Capo had prepared a PowerPoint presentation containing aerial views of the relevant sites together with all the key points of his proposed action plan.
“As you can see, the area outlined in red is Berlascani’ s leased land – it is about 25000 square meters or six English acres – no more than a cabbage patch!”
“Leased land?” enquired Paulo Scassee, the group’s legal director.
“Yes” replied Toni “The National Investment Corporation of Italy (NICI) acquired the freehold when they put their original proposition to Enrico Berlascani – I doubt he understood what he was doing, after all he is only a peasant farmer”
“A typical underhand ploy you would expect from NICI” said Paolo. “Sorry Toni no slur intended on your brother Marco’s integrity, but NICI’s morals leave a lot to be desired, even by Sicilian standards.”
There was a general murmur of approval at the sentiment expressed around the room although all parties were beginning to see the enormity of this emerging proposition which would inevitably lead to a long overdue showdown with the two estranged halves of the Capo family who had fallen out following the assassination of Papa Capo 10 years earlier.
Calling them to order, Toni Capo continued with his strategy ... “the real honeypot lies in this vast area shaded in blue butting on to the Cabbage Patch - it is approximately 1,663 km² or nearly the size of an English county like Surrey where I send my children to school”
“And who owns it?” asked Paulo
“It is split between two listed corporations, Rio Tinto of Brazil and Agnelli Holdings of Luxembourg. The caravan site has a 100 year lease on it which is probably why neither corporation is willing to invest money clearing them out. The 2008 financial crash left both on the brink of bankruptcy. I think we could easily spread a rumour about the dangers of nuclear waste on their doorstep and offer to take it off their hands with a derisory bid of our own.”
“But how do we get round the problem of Chinese Walls at their stockbrokers” said Paolo. Toni Capo laughed at Paulo’s naivety
“How do you think we heard about this situation in the first place?”
The assembled Inner Sanctum joined in the laughter at their legal director’s expense knowing full well that their informant was a senior partner at the stockbrokers in Milan.
Carlo Lorenzo’s mobile burst into life as he watched the drone disappear over the horizon on its third reconnoitre – Toni Capo’s name illuminated the screen.
“Yes boss” he said
“We have a problem – someone broke into the house last night and stole the memory stick with my presentation on it plus all the data – any thoughts on who the perpetrator might be?”
“It must be someone connected to NICI. They may have picked up rumours about Enrico’s chat with me. They will be worried that their waste disposal scam is about to be uncovered”
“If it was them how did they link that with MIG?”
“Now whose being naïve? – your brother would always put you in the frame as no 1 suspect for anything and everything – even a run of bad results for Juventus”
“Now is not the time to joke Carlo – just remember who is paying your wages. Timing is critical – we need to create the news story about toxic waste being illegally stored on the Cabbage Patch and launch a bid for Settebello simultaneously”
“I know that but surely it would make sense to do a deal with Marco ahead of the bid and even cut him a slice of the overall deal – you have a full set of cards to play with – after all it is Rio Tinto and Agnelli who are the real targets”
Toni Capo thought for a while and then dialled his brother’s number for the first time in ten years.
The meeting of the two Capo heads was scheduled for 8.00 pm on board Casa Nostra – each was accompanied by their finance directors but security was tight and the atmosphere was more like a pressure cooker.
Marco Capo could barely conceal his contempt for his older brother Toni but knew that he had a weak hand to play. Since his father’s death he had worked tirelessly to build up his NICI organisation. To the outside world it looked like a legitimate business working to improve the environment by specialising in the safe disposal of harmful waste chemicals – the by-product of some of Italy’s most successful manufacturers.
In reality NICI had cut corners in a dash for spectacular growth by paying bribes to government officials at all levels. He knew there had been a risk but, as his father would have said – NO RISK NO REWARD.
Toni Capo looked across the boardroom table and surprised himself at his filial feelings. Marco was the spitting image of his father. He opened the negotiations carefully …
“Brother Marco” he said “Whatever comes out of today let us toast the memory of Papa who would surely have approved of this reunion” Just as they raised their glasses of prosecco the door burst open and they found themselves looking down the barrel of a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 hand gun expertly held with menace by a tall elegantly dressed female who shouted her orders with conviction.
“All four of you lie face down on the table with arms visible to the side on top of the table. One move of your hands and I will blow your fingers off!”
All complied immediately in a state of obvious shock. Eventually it was Marco who croaked out the obvious question – Who the fuck are you?
“My name is Sophia Maria Theresa Berlascani – I have come to seek justice for my father. I have your memory stick and full details of your grand plan and it stinks to high heaven like those chemicals which are poisoning little children even as we speak. The income from your grubby activities did at least get me to university where I studied cosmology before switching to corporate law”
Toni moved his hand briefly and then screamed in agony as Sophia shot the top off his index finger.
“As I said before I was so rudely interrupted, the real negotiation starts right now”
And with that she winked with some satisfaction at Carlo Lorenzo her man on the inside. The process of decapotation had begun.