Initially, his only taker was the Savannah DEA office, but within weeks, Sabol proved that while he was pretty much a loser as a thug -- at 32, he'd already spent nearly half his life in jail -- he was a marquee-value rat. The authorities placed him in the cell of a pathological crack boss named Ricky Jivens, who, among his many other crimes, was believed, as head of a local drug crew, to have ordered as many as 30 murders.
Not only was Sabol able to get close enough to Jivens to get him to identify the shooter on most of the hits, but he extracted the name of a crooked cop -- who just happened to be a high-ranking drug-enforcement officer and who eventually got life in prison. He also provided the government with information that enabled them to scuttle a plot to kill the mother of the assistant U.S. Attorney who was prosecuting Jivens.
In exchange for his extraordinary work as an informant, Sabol was given what's known as Rule 35 consideration, a reduction in sentence based on cooperation -- his sentence was scaled back from twenty years to six.
Then, using his work in Savannah as a selling tool, a kind of rat's résumé, he once again began to work the phones. This time, the U.S. Customs office in Newark -- not exactly a high-glam crime-fighting agency in a sexy location -- decided to use Sabol as an informant after Sabol boasted that he could get inside the Lucchese crime family.
As Sabol's relationship with the government was solidifying, Davis was shocked to find that his marriage was falling apart. "I don't know if I was spending too much time on the job," he says, "or if I just wasn't paying attention, but I didn't see it coming. But by 1991, things really began to get bad.
"Diane was having trouble getting pregnant," says Davis. "We were going to fertility doctors, she was going to a psychiatrist, and the stress just finally became too much. She began to have a nervous breakdown. She was staying out drinking. She was really just a mess."
Davis was spiraling downward, too. He and Pelatti separated at the beginning of 1993. Working the day shift now, he was off duty by four. By 4:30, he'd be in a bar somewhere, and by 8:30, he'd usually be passed out drunk on his couch with a half-eaten plate of takeout Chinese food on the coffee table. That May, he lost nearly everything in an apartment fire -- of course, he suspected Sabol had a hand in setting it -- and had to move back into his family's house in Yonkers.
At the family dinner on Christmas Day, Davis was drunk and depressed. Around the table were his parents, his two brothers and their girlfriends, and his sister and her husband, Michael Lanteri. Davis wasn't paying attention to the conversation, but suddenly Lanteri began to talk to him directly.
"Hey, Vinny, didn't you tell me that guy Sabol's in jail for twenty years?"
"Well, guess what? He's out."
"What're you talking about? He's doing twenty on a federal drug rap."
"He's out and he's hanging with Gerry," Lanteri said, referring to his best friend, a wiseguy named Gennaro Vittorio.
But this was not just any wiseguy. Gennaro Vittorio, a.k.a. Gerry Giampa, was the stepson of Joseph Giampa, a capo in the Lucchese family who supervised a crew of ten soldiers, or "made members" of the mob, and dozens of associates -- "worker bees" in mobspeak.
Davis was able to collect himself long enough to figure out what he thought was going on. He told Lanteri that if Sabol was out so soon, it meant he must've rolled on somebody. "Tell your friend Gerry to stay away from Sabol, because I'm going after him and I'm gonna take him down. I'm gonna find out what he's up to and send him back to prison."
Six days later, the house was filled with people for a New Year's Eve party. At five minutes to midnight, Davis, who'd consumed an entire bottle of Johnnie Walker Black, went upstairs to his bedroom. The ball was about to drop in Times Square, and he couldn't bear to be in the midst of everyone celebrating. It was the first New Year's since 1980 he'd spent without Diane Pelatti. He sat on the edge of the bed sobbing.
He'd always wanted to be just like his father. He wanted to be a cop, and now he was on shaky ground at work because of his personal problems. He wanted to get married young and have a family the way his dad did. But his wife couldn't have children, they'd split up, and now she was strung out.
He took his gun out and was holding it in his hands when his brother and a friend came into the room.
"What're you doing?" his brother asked.
"What's with the gun?"
Looking back, Davis says he's not even sure he realized he had it in his hand. His brother Michael walked over slowly and carefully took the gun away.