I waited for the appropriate one to two beats before the expected punchline.
Yet the perfectly timed quip never came.
“Okay, he slowly began, “something has come to our attention that demands immediate action. You recall my source, the one code-named Fuente?
“Sure,” I allowed. That guy has been spot-on with his information. Is he okay? Do we need to pull him in for his own safety?”
“No, it’s not that at all,” Laz blurted out suddenly. He looked down at his shoes uncomfortably. “Jimmy,” he began again, pausing for a few seconds, “my source tells me that ’00’ wants to have you whacked.”
Having worked organized crime and investigated the Bronx-based Italian Mafia for the New York City Office of the FBI during the early 1990’s, I was quite familiar with the street vernacular that equated to an assassination.
“Come on, Laz, I don’t have time for bullshit and games this morning. We have the Lamont Young homicide to solve. We believe that “00” conducted the hit. And, I want you to give me an update on our controlled buys of BLOODs gang members and associates on Lander Street.”
“You’re not fucking listening to me,” he shot back. “Stop being ‘in charge’ for a moment and LISTEN to me. This is real. This is no shit. I think you need to reach out to DOJ, and back to HQ, and advise them that a credible and reliable FBI source has advised me that no less a homicidal maniac as Anthony “00” Boykin stated unequivocally, ‘I’m gonna have that basketball coach who wants to investigate the ‘Burgh whacked.'” We need to take this threat seriously.”
His words hung liked acrid smoke in the air. My mind raced. Come on, I thought to myself, no one murders an FBI Agent conducting his duties in the open. Most criminal enterprises were far more pragmatic than to let their hubris or desire for revenge impede their daily illegal street operations. Killing a cop meant massive attention from law enforcement. Anthony Boykin — what I knew of him — was far too smart to inadvertently bring the pain like that down on his BLOODS and the lucrative rackets they were currently engaged in.
Or was he?
A few days passed, and then:
“Jimmy, pack your shit. We have to move you. Sorry, bro.” The words stung, even though I had been expecting them. I was on the phone with the Assistant-Director-In-Charge (ADIC) of the New York FBI Office, Joe Demarest, a man I had immense respect for. He had laid out the case that his conversations with FBI Executive Management in New York, the Chief of the Criminal Branch at SDNY, and Senior Executives at FBIHQ had all pointed to the same conclusion — I needed to be moved out of Newburgh for my own safety, and the safety of my family.
“Boss,” I argued, “I’m not moving. I have roots here. And as important as my role is in leading this task force and confronting these street gangs, I also have a huge responsibility to the young men I coach at the Boys & Girls Club.” Demarest had just offered me a list of other offices that I could be transferred to. Some were quite enticing, and would be a nice change of pace for me, but I had to remain steadfast in my commitment to Newburgh and the task force officers who were following my lead, and adamant in my desire not to be removed from my post.
“No, sir,” I stated bluntly. “Joe, you certainly have the right to post me wherever you see fit. You’re the boss. But, I have to tell you that it won’t stop me from coaching my boys in Newburgh. So, your plan will simply remove my badge and gun role in running the task force by day. At night, I’ll still be patrolling the sidelines with my whistle, in shorts and flip-flops.”
From the other end of the line came an exhausted sigh. I had succeeded in wearing the boss down.
“Dammit,” Joe exclaimed. “Dammit, have it your way. But here are the parameters, Gagliano: You’re going to have a security system installed at your house. Alarms, cameras, high-grade locks. I’m sending our best guys to do this. And the system will be wired into the local police precinct. Anything trips, whether you’re home or not, marked units will converge immediately from a short distance away. Now, go gather your team. And get hyper-focused on taking these gangs apart.Your guys are making you look good again. Helluva team you’ve assembled. Now go make some cases.”
I smiled as I hung up. Not many have had the experience of pushing back on Joe D. and coming out of the encounter with their head still affixed atop their shoulders. I let out a sigh of relief and picked up the phone. There were police chiefs to call and inform that we were still “open for business” at the Hudson Valley Safe Streets Task Force.
And then the big break I desperately needed came; wrapped as it was, in a bright red BLOOD-colored bow.
(continued on next page)