New York: September 4, 1969
The hunters were closing in for the kill.
Two thousand years ago in Rome, the contest would have been staged at the Circus Neronis or the Colosseum, where voracious lions would have been stalking the victim in an arena of blood and sand, eager to tear him to pieces. But this was the civilized twentieth century, and the circus was being staged in the Criminal Courts Building of downtown Manhattan, Courtroom Number 16.
In place of Suetonius was a court stenographer, to record the event for posterity, and there were dozens of members of the press and visitors attracted by the daily headlines about the murder trial, who queued up outside the courtroom at seven o’clock in the morning to be assured of a seat.
The quarry, Michael Moretti, sat at the defendant’s table, a silent, handsome man in his early thirties. He was tall and lean, with a face formed of converging planes that gave him a rugged, feral look. He had fashionably styled black hair, a prominent chin with an unexpected dimple in it and deeply set olive-black eyes. He wore a tailored gray suit, a light blue shirt with a darker blue silk tie, and polished, custommade shoes. Except for his eyes, which constantly swept over the courtroom, Michael Moretti was still.
The lion attacking him was Robert Di Silva, the fiery District Attorney for the County of New York, representative of The People. If Michael Moretti radiated stillness, Robert Di Silva radiated dynamic movement; he went through life as though he were five minutes late for an appointment. He was in constant motion, shadowboxing with invisible opponents. He was short and powerfully built, with an unfashionable graying crew cut. Di Silva had been a boxer in his youth and his nose and face bore the scars of it. He had once killed a man in the ring and he had never regretted it. In the years since then, he had yet to learn compassion.
Robert Di Silva was a fiercely ambitious man who had fought his way up to his present position with neither money nor connections to help him. During his climb, he had assumed the veneer of a civilized servant of the people; but underneath, he was a gutter fighter, a man who neither forgot nor forgave.
Under ordinary circumstances, District Attorney Di Silva would not have been in this courtroom on this day. He had a large staff, and any one of his senior assistants was capable of prosecuting this case. But Di Silva had known from the beginning that he was going to handle the Moretti case himself.
Michael Moretti was front-page news, the son-in-law of Antonio Granelli, capo di capi, head of the largest of the five eastern Mafia Families. Antonio Granelli was getting old and the street word was that Michael Moretti was being groomed to take his father-in-law’s place. Moretti had been involved in dozens of crimes ranging from mayhem to murder, but no district attorney had ever been able to prove anything. There were too many careful layers between Moretti and those who carried out his orders. Di Silva himself had spent three frustrating years trying to get evidence against Moretti. Then, suddenly, Di Silva had gotten lucky.
Camillo Stela, one of Moretti’s soldati, had been caught in a murder committed during a robbery. In exchange for his life, Stela agreed to sing. It was the most beautiful music Di Silva had ever heard, a song that was going to bring the most powerful Mafia Family in the east to its knees, send Michael Moretti to the electric chair, and elevate Robert Di Silva to the governor’s office in Albany. Other New York governors had made it to the White House: Martin Van Buren, Grover Cleveland, Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt. Di Silva intended to be the next.
The timing was perfect. The gubernatorial elections were coming up next year.
Di Silva had been approached by the state’s most powerful political boss. “With all the publicity you’re getting on this case, you’ll be a shoo-in to be nominated and then elected governor, Bobby. Nail Moretti and you’re our candidate.”
Robert Di Silva had taken no chances. He prepared the case against Michael Moretti with meticulous care. He put his assistants to work assembling evidence, cleaning up every loose end, cutting off each legal avenue of escape that Moretti’s attorney might attempt to explore. One by one, every loophole had been closed.
It had taken almost two weeks to select the jury, and the District Attorney had insisted upon selecting six “spare tires”—alternate jurors—as a precaution against a possible mistrial. In cases where important Mafia figures were involved, jurors had been known to disappear or to have unexplained fatal accidents. Di Silva had seen to it that this jury was sequestered from the beginning, locked away every night where no one could get to it.
The key to the case against Michael Moretti was Camillo Stela, and Di Silva’s star witness was heavily protected. The District Attorney remembered only too vividly the example of Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, the government witness who had “fallen” out of a sixth-floor window of the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island while being guarded by half a dozen policemen. Robert Di Silva had selected Camillo Stela’s guards personally, and before the trial Stela had been secretly moved to a different location every night. Now, with the trial under way, Stela was kept in an isolated holding cell, guarded by four armed deputies. No one was allowed to get near him, for Stela’s willingness to testify rested on his belief that District Attorney Di Silva was capable of protecting him from the vengeance of Michael Moretti.
It was the morning of the fifth day of the trial.
It was Jennifer Parker’s first day at the trial. She was seated at the prosecutor’s table with five other young assistant district attorneys who had been sworn in with her that morning.
Jennifer Parker was a slender, dark-haired girl of twenty-four with a pale skin, an intelligent, mobile face, and green, thoughtful eyes. It was a face that was attractive rather than beautiful, a face that reflected pride and courage and sensitivity, a face that would be hard to forget. She sat ramrod straight, as though bracing herself against unseen ghosts of the past.