Hope For A Storm
Thomas Calabrese — Robert Raine was a full blooded Native American, a direct descendant of the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh. His tribal name was originally Falling Rainwater, but that was shortened and Americanized to Raine after World War II. Catherine Manelli was Italian and her grandfather emigrated from Sicily to Kansas City during the 1920’s and rose up the ranks to become a leader in the Mafia. He controlled gambling, bootlegging and loan sharking until his death in 1989 and rarely ventured more than a few miles from his unpretentious home in an ethnic neighborhood, conducting his business out of the backroom of a small drugstore just down the street.
Robert and Catherine met at the University of Missouri in Columbia where they were both majoring in business administration. The couple dated through their junior and senior years and married three years later while working at entry level jobs and living from paycheck to paycheck.
Catherine went to the University of Missouri to get a master’s degree in political science in hopes of working in the government. They both got jobs that left them entrenched in the low middle income bracket.
“At this rate we’re going, to have one foot in the grave before we have anything of real value,” Catherine lamented.
“We’ve got job security, but becoming wealthy is off the table,” Robert sighed.
“We’re going to have to make hard decisions and live with them,” Catherine said, “Do we want to remain part of the faceless mob and live from paycheck to paycheck or should we roll the dice?”
The couple came home from work every night and did hours of research and reading about entrepreneurs, desperately finding their path to success. They discounted numerous plans and were about to give up in frustration and reconcile themselves to their lot in life. Catherine was half-heartedly browsing through a book on tax laws when she came across something that aroused her interest. She showed the chapter to her husband who read it then shrugged, “What the hell, let’s give it a shot.”
There were thousands of acres sitting idle in Southwest Missouri that belonged to the Shawnee Indian Tribe. Robert Raine approached the tribal council with a proposal offering them ten percent on any profits he made from the development of the land. Since he was a member of the tribe and there were no other offers, the tribal council awarded him a five year lease for the land with the option for twenty five more. This was the first step and now it was Catherine’s turn to do her part. For most of her life Catherine maintained a safe distance from the part of her family that was still connected to organized crime, but these were desperate times that required desperate measures. She set up a meeting with Leo Manelli, an older cousin who was in charge of a venture capitalist and wealth management firm that was primarily funded with nefarious business dealings. Several investors included Russian Oligarchs and international arms dealers. Catherine laid out the bold plan in intricate detail at his palatial home on Lakeshore Drive in Chicago, “Very interesting, are you sure this information is correct?”
“Absolutely, I wouldn’t waste your time if I had not gone over it at least a dozen times. The laws are clear,” Catherine reassured Leo.
“You don’t mind if I have my attorneys review it?” Leo Manelli inquired.
“Absolutely, I expected no less,” Catherine smiled, “This only works because my husband is a Native American and has the options to the land. There is no plan without him being involved. He is one lynchpin and I’m the other. ”
“What you’re basically telling me is that if I decide to cut you out and use this information on my own it would be worthless,” Leo Manelli laughed.
“I would never tell you that, but if you inferred it, then you would not be wrong,” Catherine answered.”
“You remind me a lot of my brother. He was also very shrewd.”
“Any comparisons to Louis Manelli is a high compliment,” Catherine replied
Leo Manelli signed the contracts and invested 500 million dollars in the area and businesses began moving to the Joplin area. Robert and Catherine approached corporations with offers they couldn’t refuse. If they entered into a partnership with the Shawnee Native American Trust and placed their buildings on tribal lands, they would be exempt from federal and state taxes. Who could refuse a deal like that, not any good businessman.
Wynn Enterprises built a casino and hotel and that was followed by a large housing development. Once word got out about the unique business opportunities and the improving infrastructure, corporations began lining up to move to the Joplin, Missouri area.
Catherine realized while she was in college the value of political influence so she became a persuasive and effective lobbyist. She convinced state politicians in Jefferson City to designate another 150,000 acres or 200 square miles as tribal lands. By falsifying ancestral records, multi billionaires were admitted to the tribe and built palatial mansions on tribal property and used that address as their primary residence to avoid paying taxes. A large hospital and research facility was constructed and Federal Express and UPS placed distribution centers in the area. Thousands of workers were needed to fill the numerous positions so single family homes, townhouses and apartment complexes were needed. This happened at a breakneck pace with crews working around the clock since there were none of the normal bureaucratic delays.
Several internets companies were in the negotiation phase of relocating from the ultra- high tax state of California to the area. The Shawnee Native Savings and Loan, a bank owned by the Raine Trust’ carried the loans on most of the properties in the area. Homebuyers were given the option of a one percentage point loan in return for the agreement that when they moved they would sell it back to the Savings and Loan at a ten per cent profit. This kept property values stable and the quality of life high. The Raine’s maintained a hands on approach to everything while also designating authority and responsibility to trusted employees. It was a balancing act that they performed with intricate precision.
They were adamant that all public service workers including police, firefighters and first responders remained the highest paid in the state with well-funded pensions and full medical plans. They knew that if people were happy where they lived, it made them more productive in the workplace. Schools, parks and common areas were meticulously maintained and the community was a glowing example of what was possible when the public and private sectors worked together for the common good.
Catherine worked through her pregnancies and her three boys grew up in a juggernaut of economic development. They could routinely be found wandering around the office, doing minor chores and learning the business from the ground up. Robert and Catherine Raine knew that their sons were born into privilege so they were extremely cautious with their upbringing. Their parents told them that great accomplishments weren’t possible without hard work and the willingness to take great risks. Failure was nothing to be ashamed of but lack of effort was. The three boys grew up to be strong honorable young men with a code of conduct that didn’t always coincide with political correctness or the letter of the law.
John and Michael were like their father and enjoyed the everyday operation of the ever expanding family business, but Joe the youngest of the three brothers was more like his mother, he was a visionary who saw the small and big picture at the same time. He was a sharp negotiator and a keen judge of character and when he traveled with his mother she never failed to get his opinion before closing a deal. By the time Joe was 22 years of age, he was making multi-million dollar deals on his own.
While on their way in the company jet to a meeting in Mexico City, Catherine instructed her son, “I’ll handle this.”
A limo was waiting for Catherine and Joe when their plane taxied to the private terminal. They were driven to a heavily guarded hacienda on the west side of the city and met with druglord Felix Adolpho. “Welcome to my home, thank you very much for coming,”
“Thank you for inviting us,” Catherine replied.
Felix Adolpho led Catherine and Joe to the large dining room and gestured to the 25 foot long table. Catherine and Joe sat down and Felix asked, “May I offer you something to eat or drink? I have the finest cook and bartender in all of Mexico. You haven’t eaten true Mexican cuisine until you’ve tasted Maria’s special recipes.”
“Your hospitality is appreciated, but we ate on the airplane,” Catherine responded, “Shall we get down to business?”
“Of course,” Felix responded, “I would like to use your distribution hub to distribute my products. I am prepared to make you a very generous offer, one that you can’t refuse.”
Catherine flashed her son a knowing look, “Let me think about it.”
“Of course, take all the time you need, just don’t take too much time,” Felix’s tone of voice was slightly more threatening now, “I am not a patient man, it is one of my faults.”
Joe saw a flash of anger in his mother’s eyes, one that she quickly controlled, “Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
When they returned to the Mexico City airport, Catherine told the pilot, “We’re going to Chicago.” As soon as Catherine boarded the aircraft and sat down, she called Leo Manelli, “I’d like to speak with you. I should be there in about six hours.”
Catherine got right to the point when she arrived at the Manelli home, “I just had a meeting with Felix Adolpho.”
“About what?” Leo asked.
“He wants to use tribal land as a distribution center for his products.”
“What did you tell him?” Leo said.
“Nothing yet,” Catherine answered.
“You knew what he was going to ask you and what your answer was going to be before you met him. Why meet with him at all?”
“I always like to look my enemies in the eye just in case we go to war,” Catherine confessed, “It helps me plan my strategy.”
“Adolpho is a very dangerous man, are you sure you want to tell him no?” Leo inquired.
“I work in a broken system that I can manipulate to my advantage. I break laws if I don’t like them and when I have a problem, I can go to my people for assistance,” Catherine said, “There are some red lines I won’t cross and drugs and human trafficking are at the top of the list. I can’t ask a politician for help if I’m involved in the drug business.”
“You don’t have to tell them,” Leo suggested.
“I’d know and my family would know and that’s enough.”
“If I would have come to you with the same deal as Adolpho, what would you have said?” Leo asked.
“I’d say, we’ve got a problem,” Catherine answered.
“You’ve become a very powerful woman; do you think that you become strong enough to take me on? You wouldn’t be where you are without me.”
Joe knew that Leo Manelli was testing his mother and had a pretty good idea how she would react. Catherine hesitated for a moment to make sure that she chose her words carefully and forcefully so that there was no misunderstanding about her position, “We’ve made a lot of money together and we will make a lot more. There are a lot of people who rely on us for their livelihood and if you want us both to crash and burn over this then so be it. The Raine family’s position is non-negotiable.”
Leo leaned back in his chair and smiled, “I can respect that. When are you going to tell Adolpho?”
“I wanted to tell you first then brief my security team before I got back to him,” Catherine answered.”
“I’ve had dealings with him in the past, why don’t you let me handle it from here on,” Leo offered.
“Are you sure, I don’t want to bother you.”
“Absolutely, like you said we have mutual interests and your welfare is my concern,” Leo said.
“Thank you,” Catherine responded.
“Goodbye Mister Manelli,”Joe responded.
Leo Manelli rarely traveled, but in this case he thought it was important enough to leave Chicago. He arrived at Carlsbad airport in his private jet with his entourage, and went directly to meet Felix Adolpho, who had rented an entire wing of the Omni Resort & Spa in Las Costa, California.
“It’s a no go with Catherine Raine,” Leo said as he sipped on his straight bourbon drink.
“I was very polite, next time I won’t be. If I kidnap one of her sons that might help change her mind,” Felix laughed.
Leo threw his drink in Felix’s face, “I gave you permission to ask Catherine Raine if she wanted to be involved and she made her decision. That means it’s over so let it go.” When Felix started to speak, Leo raised his hand to stop him, “This is not a discussion or a debate so unless the next words out of your mouth are, ‘I understand Mr. Manelli, it’s over’, then we’re going have a serious problem that gets rectified by you being slowly tortured and killed before I leave this room.”
Felix wiped his face with a towel and fearfully responded, “I understand Mr. Manelli, it’s over.”
Very good, you need to do one more thing for me”
“Yes sir,” Felix meekly said.
“You need to pass the word to your colleagues and competitors in the trafficking business to stay clear of the Raine family and all of their business dealings. They are family and an attack on them is an act of war against me,” Leo slammed his empty glass against the tile floor to emphasize his point.
Felix Adolpho was a ruthless and brutal man who killed without hesitation. He also did not scare easily or retreat from a confrontation, but Leo Manelli’s threat had him trembling like a scared child in a summer thunderstorm, because he knew that the crime boss was deadly serious. When he returned to Mexico, Adolpho passed the word about the Raine family and they were never bothered again.
Three months later Catherine and Joe were in Bahrain (an island country in the Persian Gulf that comprises a small archipelago around Bahrain Island, situated between the Qatar peninsula and the northeastern coast of Saudi Arabia.) to meet with a group of international businessmen and bankers to discuss the use of cryptocurrency for their financial transactions. The Raine family thought that anything that kept the government out of their businesses was a good thing. With cryptocurrency there was no need for central regulations, hefty bank charges and it was not at the mercy of currency adjustment by government regulators. Most important of all to the Raine family was that they could conduct business transactions in any amount and remain anonymous. By this time, they had become so phenomenally successful and wealthy that they were giving one billion dollars yearly to a long list of charities and worthy causes.
Catherine and Joe were staying in adjoining suites at The Merchant House in the capital city of Manama. After the conclusion of their last afternoon meeting, Joe told his mother, “I’m going to get a workout at the hotel gym, take a hot shower and hit the rack early. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“I’ll be up later,” Catherine said, “I think we had a good day, what do you think?”
“I like what we’ve heard so far,” Joe responded.
“I’m proud of you, son. I don’t tell you that often enough.”
“Thanks,” Joe mumbled, “It’s not necessary, never was and never will be.”
“You’re good enough to do all this on your own; I’m just not ready to start baking brownies just yet so be patient.”
“You’re in your prime and retirement is still a long way’s off for you,” Joe reminded his vibrant mother, “Besides I like being right where I am.”
Joe was sound asleep when a series of thunderous explosions rocked the building and almost knocked him out of his bed. Joe rushed over to the window and looked down out from his 30th floor suite and saw flames and smoke rising up the ground. Flashing red lights were approaching from every direction. Joe’s next reaction was to check on his mother.
He ran into her room but she wasn’t there so he got dressed in less than five seconds. The elevators were shut down so he sprinted down the stairwell passing panic-stricken hotel guests along the way. When he reached the lobby, it was total carnage! People were screaming for help as they staggered around bleeding and lay wounded on the floor. There was the pop, pop, pop of small arms fire. Through the smoky haze, Joe saw several armed men firing at first responders as they tried to enter the building. He had received some training from the company’s security personnel on what to do in case of an attempted kidnapping or if he was ever taken hostage. Joe came to the harsh realization that people were going to die if he didn’t do something. He came up behind one of the shooters and smashed a vase over his head then took his weapon and shot two other terrorists.
Several hours later, the hotel had been secured and the dead attackers were identified as Iranian backed Shia militants. Bahrain officials determined that their primary mission was to kidnap powerful economic leaders from around the world in order to pressure the United States into removing the economic sanctions that were strangling Iran’s economy. The terrorist group quickly claimed responsibility for the assault and issued their list of demands and the United States immediately responded with ‘release the hostages first then we’ll talk.’
The first call that Joe made after the shooting stopped was to his father and brothers. Robert Raine asked his son, “Are you sure that you are alright?”
“Yeah, don’t worry about me.”
“I made some calls and you should be hearing from someone within two hours. They are in route as we speak,” Robert Raine added. “Bring your mom home.”
“I’ll do my best.”
When Robert Raine hung up, he called Leo Manelli, “Thanks for your help.”
“I’ll do anything for Catherine,” Leo replied.
Ninety minutes later, Joe received a text message that simply said, “Meet at cargo terminal.”
Joe stood at the front entrance when a man approached, “Joe Raine, my name is Aaron. Leo Manelli sends his regards and says he’s sorry about your mother.”
Aaron stood about five foot ten with chiseled facial features and a lean muscular physique, vaguely resembling a young Charles Bronson.
“Glad to meet you,” Joe responded.
“Here’s where we stand; we’ve have ten scout teams out right now and we’re waiting to hear back from them. Follow me.”
When they reached an empty hangar, a hundred men were setting their bedrolls on the concrete floor. Aaron walked up the metal stairs to the 757 and Joe followed him. A dozen men were sitting in a section of the plane with computer screens and terminals before them. “This is our communication center. We’ll be prepared to move within minutes once we get actionable Intel.”
“Who are you guys?” Joe asked.
“We’re called RT, Rapid Team or Response Team.”
Joe sensed from Aaron’s demeanor that he should keep his non–essential questions to a minimum. RT was a combination of the finest special operatives from around the world. Their base of operations was secret and the men in it only went by their first names or call signs. The Rapid Team was created and funded by a select group of very powerful men and women who were aware that when things went seriously wrong, they didn’t want to be at the mercy of partisan politics or failed diplomacy.
For two days, Joe sat restlessly in the hangar, no one spoke to him and he returned the courtesy. On the third day, Aaron approached him, “We got it.”
The hostages were being held on the disputed island of Abu Mesa in the Persian Gulf under guard by a detachment of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. RT developed a plan within an hour and began preparations to implement it. Twenty five men armed only with pistols and knives would be dropped out of an aircraft flying over the Persian Gulf at a distance far enough away to be undetectable by Iranian radar. From an altitude of 25,000 feet and wearing high tech wing suits, they would maneuver themselves through the wind currents to land on the island. The other men would use low profile watercraft powered by lithium batteries and silent propulsion systems to come in from the Gulf.
Joe grew up in a family where expertise and competency was not only expected but demanded, so when he saw the workmanship precision of the men in the Response Team, he was very impressed and felt confident in their ability to successfully complete the rescue mission.
Aaron approached Joe, “We usually only have team members go on missions, but we can make an exception in your case, do you want to come along?”
“Absolutely,” Joe responded without hesitation.
Aaron called out, “Rondo! Get Mister Raine outfitted for the mission.”
“The name is Joe.”
After Joe got out of earshot, Aaron called Leo Manelli on his cellphone, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“We’ll find out soon enough,” Leo responded.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard leadership thought the location of the hostages was unknown so they saw no reason to increase security on the island. The nine hostages were separated; five women in one cell and four men in another. Catherine wasn’t one to panic, but she was definitely concerned. There was one thing that comforted her however, that was the belief that her family would be coming after her.
It was 0100 hours and the transport plane reached its designated altitude of 25,000 feet and coordinates twenty miles due east of Abu Mesa island. The green light flashed and the 25 men dove out of the aircraft, stretched their arms out to fully deploy their wingsuits then got into formation. The rest of the Response Team was aboard an oil tanker and moving through the Straights of Hormuz. When they got within 15 miles of the island, the tanker slowed to a stop and a dozen boats were lowered over the side and the men climbed down cargo netting to board them. Joe was in the lead boat with Aaron and felt an exhilaration that he had never experienced before. Everything in his life before this paled in comparison in importance, but at the same time it prepared him for this.
The winged suit members of the team parachuted to land once they reached five hundred feet and quickly moved to an area that was twenty five yards from the building where the hostages were being held. Once the other members landed on shore, a coordinated attack began between both groups. Joe stayed right next to Aaron as they they entered the building .The guards were quickly dispatched and when Joe saw his mother in the cell, all he could say was, “Hi Mom.”
Catherine was equally at a loss for words and choked back a sob, “Good to see you son.”
An advance party of 20 men went ahead to secure the escape route. The Response Team and hostages boarded the watercraft and headed back to the freighter before anybody was aware that they were even on the island. The assault, rescue and escape were all done in less than 30 minutes. Joe was dumfounded at the precision of the entire operation.
When the Iranians realized that the hostages had been rescued, they had no choice but to put out a press release stating that they had been freed as a sign of good faith. When Joe got back to the states he had a long conversation with his family about what he felt during the rescue and how it profoundly changed his life. Even though he had no previous military experience, Joe had natural skills that related perfectly to this kind of work plus he was highly motivated. For the next three years Joe trained under the tutelage of Aaron and some of the best special operatives in the world and when he had attained the necessary skills and knowledge, Joe started his own team. He began actively recruiting former special operative from United States military personnel and Aaron referred a few foreign born warriors. Leo Manelli never told Joe that it was him who convinced Aaron to let him go on the mission. He just had a hunch that the young man had unfulfilled potential that would never be realized until he was in a life and death situation.
Joe called his team Storm and it became an integral part of his family’s global empire. Over the next five years, Storm’s reputation began to rival the exploits of the legendary Response Team. After a particularly harrowing mission in Afghanistan where both forces had the opportunity to work together, Aaron turned to his former pupil whom he now considered his equal and close friend and asked, “So what’s next on your schedule?”
“It’s June 30th and I plan on being home for my parents’ epic 4th of July celebration. The United States has been good to my family and we never miss an opportunity to show our appreciation. You’re welcome to join us; in fact the entire Response Team is invited,” Joe said, “We have the best fireworks display in the Midwest.”
“What’s the weather forecast?” Aaron asked.
“I don’t know, I haven’t checked.” Joe said.
“You know what people in trouble say; Pray for Raine and Hope for a Storm.”
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