Chapter XXXV - Shades of Grey
Lieutenant Vincenzo 'Vinnie' Crocetti had a room above Tina's Pizza Diner, an eat-in or take-out pizzeria owned and run by his mother. Tina's wasn't in the best part of town, nor the worst, but it had provided a living - just - for her and her five children after Vinnie's father had run off with a canine beautician. That was nearly twelve years ago now, shortly after the birth of Vinnie's third sister, Daisy. His eldest sister, Donna, was now working for their mother full-time. Vinnie helped out as and when, mainly financially.
He was not at home when Colonel O'Neill arrived at Tina's shortly after 2200, but Donna said he should be back soon.
"He's visiting his girlfriend," she added with a conspiratorial wink.
She regarded O'Neill with friendly curiosity.
"You're not one of his friends, are you?"
"Ah, we're not friends as such, no. I just work at the same place."
"Oh. Can I get you anything while you're waiting? Coffee, maybe?"
"Coffee would be fine. Thank you."
He smiled, creating a very favorable impression with Miss Crocetti. O'Neill took the coffee over to a table in a corner and made himself inconspicuous while he waited. He didn't have long to wait. Crocetti breezed in ten minutes later, whistling as if he hadn't a care in the world. That happy state was about to change forever.
He greeted Donna fondly. Before she could tell him he had a visitor, O'Neill had appeared silently at his elbow.
"Do you have somewhere private we could talk," he asked softly, with a smile.
It was an entirely different kind of smile from the one he gave Crocetti's sister - like smile on the face of the tiger. Crocetti looked around like a cornered animal and O'Neill thought for a moment he was going to try to make a run for it, which would have been so bad an idea. Evidently Crocetti came to the same conclusion.
He led O'Neill through a door into the back of the building and up to his room.
"So what's this about, Colonel? I mean, I take it you're not collecting for charity or anything."
It was said with careful casualness.
"Cut the crap, Crocetti, and tell me all you know."
"About what, exactly," he asked warily.
"Well, let's begin with National Security and take it from there, shall we?"
Crocetti seemed genuinely surprised.
"Ah, stop it, Lieutenant. We already know you told the Mafia about the Stargate."
"No. No way."
"Then who did?"
"I didn't know anybody had honest."
Crocetti looked stunned by the information, so either he was a very good actor, or he really wasn't involved in that part of it.
"And you didn't bring any diamonds back from P6C-111 either, I suppose?" O'Neill asked mildly.
Crocetti chewed his bottom lip.
"You know, a full and frank confession now will look a whole lot better at your court-martial."
"Court... Oh God, it won't come to that surely? I mean, I ain't stolen anything from anyone. They was just lyin' around for anybody to pick up. I didn't think anyone was gonna miss 'em."
"And what did you think you were going to do with them once you'd... smuggled them out of the Mountain? Take them to you friendly neighborhood diamond merchant?"
Crocetti chewed his lip again.
"I... knew someone who would... who could... find a buyer for them," he said slowly.
It was a statement, not a question.
"I... I didn't know..."
"Ah, come on. You're lying. You know it and I know it. So who was it?"
"I can't tell you."
"That's not gonna look good at your court-martial"
"I don't care! If I grass, people will die - people I... people I love! And if I get a light sentence, they're gonna know I've grassed. I can't protect my family - or my girlfriend - if I'm in Leavenworth! And neither could you - or the U.S.A.F., or - or anyone."
O'Neill eyed Crocetti thoughtfully. That outburst had come from the heart. He had no difficulty in believing that threats had been made against Crocetti's family, nor that those threats would be carried out. It seemed the marine was much 'more sinned against than sinning', even if he had brought it on himself.
"So why'd you take the risk in the first place? Greed?"
"N-no, not exactly. I thought if I could just sell a couple for now, I could get Mom out of debt and have enough left over for Janine and me to get married. The rest I was gonna keep for a rainy day."
"Not too bright there, Crocetti," O'Neill said drily.
"No," came the whispered agreement.
"Okay, so correct me if I'm wrong here. After you tried to sell the first lot of diamonds, they blackmailed you into fetching a load more from the next two missions."
"How much did you get for the diamonds, by the way?"
"A coupla grand. Each time. Enough to clear most of Mom's debts..."
"You were done."
"I know it!"
"So-o, now comes the crunch question. What happened when S.G.-3 was reassigned?"
Again the lip chewing.
"Come on, you don't need to name names - not Mafia names anyway. We know diamonds kept coming out of the mountain and we know it wasn't you... I need you to paint a picture for me here."
"It ain't a pretty picture," Crocetti said dourly.
"Didn't think it would be. However, I do need to know."
"Well, when I told them I couldn't get any more diamonds, they wanted to know where they came from so they could..." Crocetti laughed "...mount an expedition to wherever it was."
"And you told them...?"
O'Neill was watching the marine with acute interest now, his eyes glittering.
"I told 'em it's a Government project and only people with the right level of clearance can go there." "And they just accepted that?"
"They wanted to know who did have the right clearance."
"And you told them...?"
"That we work on a need to know basis - that I only know my team members and none of them would be going there either."
"And they bought that?"
"No. They told me to find out. I said I couldn't, so... they broke two of my fingers. As a gesture of goodwill."
"Jeez! I heard that happened in a bar fight."
Crocetti gave a sharp laugh.
"Yeah, I heard that too. The irony is that I don't drink. 'Cepting communion wine - and at weddings, funerals, that kinda thing. Didn't discourage the rumor though," he grinned.
O'Neill gave a perfunctory smile in return.
"So what did you tell them? Finally?"
"I knew S.G.-7 were down for a number of missions to P6C-111, but it wasn't till they met my little sister Daisy from school and took her out for a 'treat' for several hours that I passed on their names. But that's all I did, I swear. I didn't hear nothin' more. The heat was off and I forgot all about it. Till you showed up."
"Okay. Now, about Serena..."
"Don't play dumb. I have a patent out on that."
"But I don't know anyone called Serena. Honest."
"Really?" O'Neill asked sceptically. "You forgotten a certain trip in an elevator with Doctor Jackson?"
"When he went psycho on me? No way! Not gonna forget that in hurry!"
"Yeah, well he thinks you're behind Serena's kidnap, so you can thank your lucky stars it's only me you have to worry about For now."
"Huh? Oh. Serena's the girl that thinks she's Doctor Jackson's daughter is she? Sorry. I never heard her name. But what's the problem? They failed."
O'Neill raised his eyebrows at that.
"Then you won't mind telling me your part in it..." he said with a dangerous smile.
Crocetti returned a puzzled frown.
"I I don't know what you want me to say. I only heard about it by chance."
"Really? How so?"
"Sunday night, I went over to see my a friend. He told me he had a recovery job on. Said some dude had come over from Atlantic City."
"Ah, that would be Niccolo Pa...Per...?"
"Peruzzi, yeah, that's right. He was tracking down a runaway niece. MarMy friend didn't mention her name. Just said she was a real peach."
A murderous light flared in O'Neill's eyes and he took a step towards Crocetti who backed away.
"Hey, I'm only passin' on what he told me!" he protested in some alarm.
O'Neill's black ops. career had achieved near legendary status in the S.G.C. particularly as no actual details were known. And he was still alive...
"Sorry," the living legend responded as the fierce expression faded and he relaxed again. "So...?"
"He said Nicco - the guy from Atlantic City - had hired him and a coupla friends from the from a club he goes to, to grab the girl and take her home to her family. He says she's got this idea in her head that her father isn't her father - that her real father's an American. Then he says that the guy she's pitched on is someone I might know. 'Works in Cheyenne Mountain,' he says. 'Who's that?' I ask, and he says"
"Yeah!" Crocetti laughed, "which, knowing Doctor Jackson, I can't see. Anyway, after I have a chuckle about that one, I says, 'well if you're thinkin' of mixin' it with Doctor Jackson, you better pass up on that one. Go sick or something. You mess with him an' you'll have Colonel - um - his friends all over you.' That was before I seen him in action!" Crocetti rolled his eyes.
O'Neill smiled inwardly. He considered the information. Marwhatever had obviously taken the advice which had possibly swung the result of 'round one'. Maybe if he hadn't, Serena would have been snatched by Peruzzi's gang, which would have made her rescue so much easier. On the other hand, they might then have run into the much more organized Mafia gang with much the same result - and maybe fatalities... He thought back over what Crocetti had said.
"If you knew about the kidnap on Sunday night, why didn't you warn Doctor Jackson when you saw him in the elevator?"
"Never thought of it. All I know is this delusional kid's gonna put the hit on him. Her folks want her back. Fine. Nothin' to do with me so long as my friend ain't involved. I just made a joke in the elevator to get a rise out the doctor. And kinda warn him this girl's stalkin' him, too, I guess. Heck, I like Doctor J."
"Must've been a bit of a shock when he jumped ya then..."
"I'll say! Anyone would think she really was his daughter," he grinned.
Crocetti's face fell.
"You're kidding!... No, you're not kidding, are you?"
O'Neill looked straight back at him, not denying it.
"Hot damn! Well, I'll be Anyway, looked like he can handle himself, and there wasn't gonna be any guns involved, so it never occurred to me to say anything more. I heard the guys got beat up some - which wasn't as big a surprise as it might've been a coupla days earlier..." Crocetti said wryly. "And then I heard the dumbfucks were stupid enough to try it again and this time Nicco got shot. Funny, I didn't imagine Doctor Jackson packed a gun off base."
"You thought he was just a geek?"
"Better people than you have made that mistake..."
"Still, all's well that ends well."
"Wrong," O'Neill said grimly. "It didn't end well at all. Serena was kidnapped the second time around - by the Mafia. They're still holding her hostage. And Nicco wasn't the only casualty. Two of my team got shot as well."
"Oh God. I'd no idea. I really wish I could help you more But I can't. Honest I can't."
Chapter XXXVI - Tangent
When Colonel O'Neill had finished interviewing Lieutenant Crocetti, he took him back to the S.G.C. In response to the marine's request, he 'cuffed his hands in front and allowed him to drape a jacket over the restraints. Crocetti wanted to spare his family the ignominy of his arrest being too obvious as he passed through the diner. Once O'Neill had seen him locked up and had dealt with the necessary paperwork, he returned to Daniel's flat.
Daniel was sleeping soundly so Jack stretched out on the couch and slept too. The night was disturbed slightly when Daniel cried out in the throes of a nightmare. Jack was up in a flash. He went through to find him lathered in sweat and fighting against the bedclothes. He shook him gently. Daniel barely roused, just muttered something in a language Jack couldn't identify, then rolled over and went back to sleep.
Despite the late and broken night, Jack awoke promptly at 0600. After he'd freshened up a little, he went in to check on Daniel again. He was still fast asleep, so Jack left him to it and went to raid his kitchen for something to eat. Afterwards, he called General Hammond on Daniel's 'phone to give him a full update. Although it was Sunday, he knew the S.G.C.'s commanding officer planned to be at the S.G.C. at 0700 as usual. It was quite a long call.
"In conclusion, you'll find all the forms relative to section 807, article 7b, section 809, articles 9a and 9d, and section 811, article 11b of the U.C.M.J. in your in-box, sir. ... ... ... ... Ah, he's asleep right now. ... ... ... Well, that's the plan. He was completely exhausted yesterday, but you know Daniel, sir!"
He signed off then, and replaced the handset.
"You bastard! " came a husky growl from behind him. "You waited till I was out of the way then you went to see Crocetti behind my back!"
O'Neill gritted his teeth then turned to face Daniel's baleful glare.
"Like that's something you would never do..." he replied tightly. "Now go back to bed. I'll fetch you some coffee and tell you what happened."
He didn't wait for a response - just stalked stiffly towards the kitchen. When he returned with two mugs of coffee, Daniel had disappeared into the bathroom. Which was somehow typical. Give him an order and he could never follow it exactly. Always had to take the circuitous route. Jack put one mug on the nightstand, then sat down on the ottoman at the foot of the bed and awaited Daniel's return. The tousled archaeologist was still looking like a thundercloud when he finally emerged from the bathroom.
"Feeling better, Daniel?" Jack asked in somewhat acid tones.
"Not really, thank you all the same," came the peevish reply.
"Ya know, that's what I like about you - the early morning cheerfulness. Gets me every time..."
Daniel returned a friendly scowl and slouched back to bed.
"Okay, spill," he grunted, reaching for the mug, a little off-target and slopping coffee over the rim.
Jack cracked a laugh.
"You were saying?"
It took a moment, then the vestige of smile sneaked across Daniel's face, and he chuckled.
"I'm still annoyed with you, Jack," he said, mopping up the spillage.
"Yeah, well, you were asleep, and I thought you'd appreciate me moving things along."
"And you didn't want me turning berserker again?"
Jack gave him a guilty look.
"Ah yeah. You're too close to keep a clear head - to be objective. Wasn't easy for me."
Daniel thought about it.
"You could be right," he conceded. "So what did you get out of him?"
Daniel was much inclined to think that Jack had had the wool pulled over his eyes. He was all for driving over to the S.G.C. and dragging the truth out of Crocetti.
"Maybe you'd like to borrow Anise's zatarc machine," Jack suggested with heavy sarcasm.
Daniel shuddered. There was no way either of them wanted to go back there!
"Trust me, Daniel. While I have no doubt that he wasn't telling everything he could, he's definitely not the major player here."
"But he's Mafia, Jack. If he doesn't know, he can find out..."
"So you're gonna what? Threaten to torch his mother's diner if he doesn't tell all?"
Daniel's face wore an arrested look.
"You're saying he's just another victim?"
"I think he's been used by the Mafia rather than being one of them."
"But what about Serena? He knew all about her."
"He thought he did. But then, he'd only heard Peruzzi's side of the story."
"So he said."
"You should've seen his face when I told him Serena really is your daughter," Jack laughed.
Daniel looked thoughtful again.
"Well, if you're convinced we aren't going to get any more out of Crocetti, then I guess we'd better go track down S.G.-7"
"Starting with Ferretti? Uh-uh. You're staying right here. I need you to be a whole lot fitter than you are right now."
"No. We're on downtime today. You're resting. That's final. No more arguments."
Daniel looked mutinous.
"S.G.-7 are off-world anyway, so you might as well relax. I'll bring you another milky drink, then see if you can sleep a little more. It's 0755. Not your normal waking hours when we're on downtime."
Once Daniel had succumbed to the soporific effect of another milky drink spiked with a crushed sleeping tablet, Jack made a couple more 'phone calls. First he called Carter at home to enquire after her health and to fill her in, as promised, on all that she'd missed.
He could clearly visualize the round-eyed expressions of dismay and wonder crossing her face as he gave details of the ransom, and later, their acquisition of the diamonds. He could also tell that she was every bit as annoyed as her 'little brother' at being kept out of the loop, but slightly better at concealing it - though only just...
That she'd been shot by the Mafia seem to tickle her.
"Pity it wasn't the goa'uld, sir. They'd probably have missed!"
They laughed at that and enjoyed a little banter at the expense of their sworn enemies. Jack was about to sign off when Sam asked:
"Any chance of you bringing Daniel over to see me this afternoon? Only I still can't drive, Janet and Cassie are out of town and I'm bored out of my mind here. Please...?"
Jack agreed that it would probably do both of them good, provided he was certain Daniel was up to it. Then he called Teal'c.
Chapter XXXVII - Dead Man's Switch
S.G.-7 arrived on time and in good order at 1400hrs. It had been a regular survey mission to P2A-392 with just one night off-world. This was a young world, not on the goa'uld cartouche. As it was also uninhabited, it had great potential for colonization. Dr. Curtis had been checking his insect traps and doing a quadrate survey. Dr. Czabaniuk had been analysing meteorological data from equipment she'd set up there on a previous mission, and Lieutenant Li, a geochemist with a doctorate in pedology, had been doing soil tests on auger samples. It was all very promising indeed and the team had returned in excellent spirits.
Teal'c, dressed in his Chulakian robes, was taking his ease in the commissary when they returned from their debriefing. He waited until three of them had departed. He was pleased to note that the remaining member was Ferretti, who'd just settled down with a crossword puzzle and another mug of what he termed 'caffè fango'.
O'Neill had requested him to sound out Ferretti first if possible. This was partly because he wished to clear the major at the earliest opportunity and partly because if, as DanielJackson seemed to believe, his Italian name really did go with Mafia involvement, then they would need to look no further for their leak. Mostly, it was to prevent the archaeologist from trying to rip out his intestines and strangle him with them before he'd had a chance to establish his innocence.
Teal'c rather doubted that DanielJackson had either the will or the ability to perpetrate such a bloodthirsty act, but couldn't fault the rest of the logic. He picked up his glass of juice and went over to join Ferretti.
"Hey Teal'c, how're ya doing?"
He took in the outlandish attire.
"Going to see Rya'c?" he asked.
Teal'c inclined his head, leading Ferretti to think that this was so.
"And how's the team? I heard Sam got shot - in the Springs, too."
"MajorCarter is recovering well, thank you, and DanielJackson is exhausted from our last mission, but ColonelO'Neill and I are fine. I trust I find you well also?"
"Yeah, we're all doing great. Where'd you go to exhaust Dr. Jackson? Or did you just run out of coffee?" Ferretti grinned.
He had a soft spot for Dr. Jackson.
"We have been to P6C-111."
"Really? We've made quite a few trips there ourselves. Wouldn't have thought there was anything there to merit a visit by S.G.-1."
"Then you did not find the deserted town of Runkuracay, as DanielJackson has named it?"
"No, we didn't. Where's that?"
"In the mountains to the south of the 'Gate."
"Oh. Must be fairly high up then. We spent quite a while on the lower slopes but didn't see any signs of habitation."
"I understand. It is well concealed. There must have been something of interest to necessitate a number of missions?" Teal'c said, with an assumption of casual interest.
"Yeah, we were checking it out as a possible delta site - for colonization and exploitation of resources, y'know? There are traces of naquadah in the soil, but not enough to be viable as it turned out, and iron, magnesium, mica and - er - chromite. Again, not enough to make mining worthwhile."
Ferretti thought about it for a while, then seemed to come to a decision.
"There is one thing - well, many things actually" he laughed, "that would be very worthwhile... Ironically, the S.G.C. ain't allowed to exploit 'em."
Teal'c tipped his head to one side by way of encouraging him to continue. Ferretti leaned forward and dropped his voice to a whisper.
"Jimmy found diamonds - thousands of them..."
"Yeah. So we brought a handful back with us. Hammond was delighted. Said it might get the Appropriations Committee - well Kinsey, actually - off his back. For a while anyway. Then, just as we were about to leave on our next mission, he called me into his office, gave me the diamonds and told me to dump 'em back where we got 'em from! Can you believe it?! He'd been told they could compromise the secrecy of the Stargate Project. He was not happy!"
"Were you not tempted to keep the diamonds, MajorFerretti?"
Ferretti flashed a sly grin.
"As a matter of fact, we all kept a couple each. Just as souvenirs, y'know? I mean, can you imagine trying to sell a couple of rough diamonds? Where would you go? What would you say when you were asked where you got 'em from? Though maybe, when I'm old and grey, if the Stargate's public knowledge by then, I might be able to sell 'em to eke out my pension!"
Teal'c smiled warmly.
"Perhaps. And who is Jimmy?"
"Jimmy? That's Lieutenant Li - Lì Qìng Mín in full, but the 'Ching Min' bit sounds like Jimmy if you say it quick," Ferretti grinned, "so that's what we call him."
After a little more desultory conversation, Teal'c left the commissary and went in search of Jimmy Li.
Daniel slept for another eight hours, much to his surprise and annoyance. The sooner he found the source of the leak - who would naturally know where Serena was being held - the sooner he could set her free. Somehow...
"Well if you hadn't needed the sleep, you wouldn't have slept," Jack commented grumpily.
It had been a long eight hours.
"Maybe," Daniel conceded, "and I do feel a lot better."
Jack gave him a sceptical look.
"Really!" Daniel reassured him. "So if you'd take me in to the S.G.C., I'd like a word or two with Crocetti."
Jack said nothing. Instead, he collected his jacket from the closet, tossed Daniel a jacket and headed for the door, rattling the keys to his truck. Which should have made Daniel suspicious. It wasn't until Jack drove down the exit ramp into Lake Avenue instead of continuing down Highway 115 to the Norad Road cloverleaf that he had any idea of Jack's duplicity. By which time, it was too late to say anything. Not that that stopped him...
"Carter asked me to bring you to visit," Jack said with some asperity as Daniel showed signs of winding down. "I didn't think she was asking too much, and I thought you might like to rescue your saviour from terminal boredom - a kind of reciprocal arrangement."
"Well, yes. Of course I want to see Sam, but"
"He's not going to tell you anything he hasn't told me, trust me."
"Then Teal'c'll take care of it."
"Teal'c?" Daniel asked in dangerously quiet tones. "You've set me up again, haven't you? You're deliberately keeping me out of it!"
"You know, you really ought to consider taking a course in anger management," Jack sighed as he pulled up outside Sam's house.
"S-Sorry, Jack. I guess maybe I am going a little over the top."
"Ya could say!"
"It's just that... I've lost all the other members of my family that I've ever known - cared about. I can't bear it if I lose another one another one I'm supposed to be protecting. And so soon after I've found her."
His voice faded into a whisper.
"We'll get her back, Daniel, I promise. All of us. Together."