The Dog Who Bit a Policeman

Kaminsky Stuart M.

Prologue

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Marseilles, France

“Les chiens, dogs,” said the oldest man sitting at the booth in the corner of the restaurant. He shook his head.

The three men had the rugged, weatherworn faces of fishermen, mountain climbers, or laborers. They were none of these and had never been. In spite of the fact that one of the men was half black, it was clear that the three were related.

One man, the youngest, who was at least forty-five years old, wore a blue turtleneck shirt under an unbuttoned black sport jacket. The other men were old. The half-black man was about seventy. The third man, who had said “dogs” in a voice of uncertainty, was close to eighty. The two old men wore white polo shirts under sport jackets. All three men were lean. All three were armed, making no effort to hide the holsters and weapons under their jackets.

Noise filled the room. Smoke filled the room. The people who filled the room laughed, talked, drank. Everyone-fishermen, shopkeepers, petty criminals, drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes-was careful not to look at the three men who sat talking, eating shrimp, and drinking wine.

These were special men, dangerous and dour men known to the underbelly of Marseilles. The waiter, who had known and served them for more than two decades, approached them cautiously, said nothing, and brought them whatever they ordered. The oldest man always ordered and said, “Bring whatever is fresh.” He didn’t bother to order wine or after-the-main-course shrimp or squid.

And the waiter had done as he had been told, and as he had not needed to be told. He filled the wine glasses when they were empty and retreated quickly after he had done so.

“You are certain about the money?” asked the half-black man.

“If we can take over independent operations in Moscow, Bom-bay, Osaka, New Orleans, Hamburg, Buenos Aires, and Cairo,” the youngest man said, “we will be insured of an initial income of thirty million a year.”

“Francs?” asked the oldest man.

“American dollars,” said the youngest man. “And we can expand.

Take over or start operations in Taiwan, Sydney, Singapore. It is almost limitless. This could mean more than the drug income, the protection business, the. . almost limitless.”

The oldest man drank his wine and shook his head, still not convinced.

“And we must go to Moscow?” asked the half-black man.

“We must start there,” said the youngest man. “It is well organized, and the young lunatic who has taken over has ambitions much like ours. We absorb him or eliminate him. We meet with him, see his operation, judge him. If we don’t like him or what we see, we deal with it.”

Silence at the table while the three men ate and thought. A man across the room laughed loudly. It was too hearty a laugh to be natural.

“He’s crazy, this Russian?” asked the half-black man.

“Mon oncle, you will judge for yourself.”

“When?” asked the oldest man.

“Immediately,” said the youngest man. “Tomorrow or the next day. The sooner we act, the less trouble we are likely to have.”

“We take our own men?” asked the half-black man.

“Yes,” said the youngest man.

The oldest man finished his glass of wine and the waiter appeared instantly to refill the glass and then move quickly away where he could watch and be ready to serve the needs of the three men without hearing any of their conversation.

Since the men had killed his father a quarter of a century ago, cut him open and thrown him into the sea, the waiter might not be blamed if he poisoned the trio. But he had only once considered such an action. Years earlier, when he had thought about such an act of retribution, his bowels had given way and he had sat in his small room shaking for most of a day. Through the window of his room that looked out at the ocean, he had considered what might happen to him whether he succeeded or failed in such an enterprise. No, he would never act, just as he had gradually realized that he would never marry, never have a family beyond his sister and her children in La Chapelle. He had little to lose but his life, should he decide to kill the men, but his life was still precious. They, or their survivors, might simply, or complexly, mutilate the waiter. He had heard tales. No, fear had kept him from action and now it was far too late.

Besides, the three gangsters tipped very well and the waiter had a reputation because of his almost nightly service to the three men and others they occasionally brought with them. The three men were talking business. The waiter could tell by the slightest signs of animation on their craggy faces.

“Tres bien,” said the oldest man finally. “We go to Moscow.”



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