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Stuart M. Kaminsky
The Dog Who Bit a Policeman
If any one of us knew of a proposed political murder, would he, in view of all the consequences, give the information, or would he stay at home and await events? Opinions may differ on this point. The answer to the question will tell us clearly whether we are to separate, or to remain together. .— Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Possessed
“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.”
The young man and woman sat eating porterhouse steaks at a table in the restaurant of the Radisson Slavyanskaya Hotel and Business Center at Bereszhkovskaya Naberezhnaya 2. The restaurant’s meat was reputed to be the best in Moscow. The hotel, on the other hand, though it had once been the most popular in the city, had been quickly overtaken and passed in size, quality, and service by more than a dozen new capitalist hotels within walking distance of the Radisson.
Originally the hotel had been one of the many Soviet Intourist tombs of dark rooms and darker hallways. For about two years, it had been the headquarters for business travelers. Americans still accounted for a large number of its guests. Indeed, President Clinton had stayed here on one visit, eating the famous meat and watching CNN in his room with his shoes off.
Gradually the hotel had become a hangout for members of the various Mafias. The coffee shop, in fact, was a meeting place for Moscow’s hit men, or keellery, who argued, drank, ate, and bragged to impress each other and the women who hung on their every word. The coffee shop was known as Cafe Killer to those who knew its reputation, which was much of the population of Moscow.
This young man who sat in the restaurant eating steak with his companion was dressed in designer clothes from Italy. His hair was brushed back. His face, though young, resonated with experience.
He drank, ate, looked around, and minded his own business. The young woman was pretty, slightly plump, and dressed in an expensive green Parisian frock. The two talked quietly, neither smiling nor seeming to savor the expensive food brought to their table.
There were others watching the two. Since they were new to the restaurant, the regulars naturally wondered who the newcomers were and whether they were tourists or potential regulars. The regulars were curious, but they minded their business. Two of those examining the pair were Illya Skatesholkov and Boris Osipov, who had already discovered that the young man and woman were registered in the hotel, that they were Ukrainian, that his name was Dmitri Kolk and hers Lyuba Polikarpova, and that he had asked a bellboy, whom he had slipped a twenty-dollar American bill, if he knew who he might contact about attending a dogfight.
Packs of hungry dogs roamed Moscow. They had been pets, or attempts at protection from the soaring rate of personal crimes in the city. Most of the dogs were rottweilers, which cost as much as five hundred American dollars. Licensing was optional. Many of the dogs had been released by owners who could no longer feed themselves adequately, and certainly could not afford to feed a dog.
They had been replaced by guns. Russians can own rifles, shotguns, and tear-gas pistols, and the number of registered weapons in Moscow, whose population hovers at nine million, was over three hundred thousand. Adding in the nonregistered weapons, the police estimated that there was one gun for every three Moscow residents, including babies and babushkas.
So, the dogs had formed into packs that came out at night, scav-enging, attacking lone dogs, and, ever more frequently, humans.
Recently, the packs had started to emerge during daylight hours.
Food was scarce. Almost forty thousand dog attacks had been reported by Muscovites over the past year. Two-thirds of those had resulted in hospitalization of the victim.
Crews of uniformed policemen had begun combing the streets and dark corners of the city, shooting strays. Five policemen had been among those hospitalized with bites. One of the policemen had lost an eye. Another had lost the use of his left arm.
It was inevitable that enterprising criminals would find a way to reap profits from the wild dogs. First, some small-time dealers in stolen goods had captured the fiercest of the wild dogs and had organized dogfights, fights to the death in garages where men stood betting, shouting, smoking, and drinking from bottles sold them by their hosts. The enterprise was an immediate success. The newly rich, government bureaucrats, and a rabid assortment of bored tourists and Muscovites came to the illegal fights and wagered huge sums.
It was only a matter of time before the Mafias took an interest in the dogfights. The Armenian Mafia took over the original enterprise after persuading the four leading arrangers of such fights to sell out for a very reasonable price. One of the enterprising pro-moters had required a square carved in his back before becoming reasonable.
The Armenians, in turn, had made a quick profit in weapons by selling out to a group of Muscovites reported to be heavily financed by international investors.
Now, the dogfights were turning into big dollars in the early-morning hours of darkness. Now, there were private arenas, some with padded seats. Now, one could win or lose thousands of American dollars or millions of rubles.
The bellhop had told the young man in the silk suit that he would see what he could do. Dmitri Kolk had nodded, saying,
“Tonight, if possible.”
The bellboy had told the bell captain, who had told a contact he knew was into illegal dogfights, and the contact had gone to Illya and Boris.
The restaurant was abustle with hurrying waiters, table-hoppers, and busboys. Dmitri Kolk sat passively looking around the room.
He made no eye contact and drank slowly.
Illya called a waiter, who came immediately to the table. “That man,” Illya said, looking at Dmitri. “Give him this address and tell him to be there at midnight to get what he is looking for.”
Illya wrote an address on a napkin with a felt-tip pen and handed it to the waiter, who immediately took it to Dmitri Kolk, who listened, glanced at the napkin, and tucked it into his inside jacket pocket. Kolk did not look around to see who might be watching him.
Sasha Tkach and Elena Timofeyeva had been assigned to track down those who were running the illegal fights. This was not considered a choice assignment and neither of the two deputy inspectors from the Office of Special Investigation had any idea of why the Yak, Director Igor Yaklovev, had taken on the dogfight problem. There had to be some political gain to be had, but neither officer could come up with an idea of what that gain might be. They had dutifully taken on the identities of Kolk and Lyuba, and for several days Sasha had enjoyed the rich life and the four-hundred-dollar-a-night room. Elena would have preferred her own identity.
Sasha was just past thirty but looked at least five years younger, in spite of his growing problems with his wife, Maya, and the pris-onlike condition of living in a tiny two-room apartment with two children. Making the situation worse was the neurotic intrusion of his mother, Lydia, who appeared whenever she wished, shouted her directives for proper living and child rearing, and was constantly on the verge of battle with Maya. Younger men were being promoted ahead of Sasha, who was considered part of the old guard in spite of his age. Sasha was seldom in a good mood, but he was feeling rather content tonight.
Elena, on the other hand, was a few years older than Sasha. She was being pursued by Iosef Rostnikov, Inspector Rostnikov’s son, who had recently joined the Office of Special Investigation. Iosef was smart, handsome, and, in spite of being considered Jewish, looking toward a promising future. Iosef had proposed marriage to Elena three times in the last few months. She had turned him down each time. She had a career and ambition, and she did not want to come home each night to anything but the emotions she had
earned during the day. Still, Iosef was wearing her down, which was not entirely an unpleasant experience.
When they got the assignment from Chief Inspector Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov, with a warning to be especially careful, Sasha had told Maya that he would be away for several days on a dangerous assignment. Maya didn’t look convinced, but she accepted the situation after getting a call from Porfiry Petrovich telling her that, indeed, her husband had been selected by Yaklovev himself for the job, a job he was not at liberty to discuss.
Elena, on the other hand, had had little trouble after telling her aunt Anna that she would be away on assignment for a while. Elena lived in a small, one-bedroom apartment with her aunt, who’d been a state procurator until a series of heart attacks had sent her into retirement. Recently, Anna and her niece had been finding it difficult to make ends meet. Anna’s pension money had not come in for months, and Elena’s salary, not particularly high, had arrived later and later each month. The two women had lived increasingly on Anna’s small savings.
It was the Yak’s idea that Sasha and Elena engage in this role playing. It was the Yak who had arranged for Sasha to have both a pocket full of American dollars and two credit cards in the name of Dmitri Kolk. The investment seemed out of proportion to the crime, but the Yak was not to be questioned. Besides, Sasha thought, it was a respite, a small if possibly dangerous vacation with enormous benefits.
“How do I look?” Sasha asked Elena when they were back in the hotel room and he had changed clothes.
Elena examined him. Sasha had daubed more hair cream into his hair and combed it straight back. He had changed out of his designer suit and was now wearing gray slacks, a blue button-down shirt, and a gray silk zipper jacket.
“Fine,” she said. “You saw the dog?”
“A pit bull,” he said. “Kennel has several of them. This one is supposedly particularly mean, but he looked quite benign to me. I hate dogs. My aunt had a dog. He growled and snapped at me and my cousins. Twice he bit me. I dreaded visiting my aunt. When the dog, Osip, died, my cousins and I celebrated. This pit bull is named Tchaikovsky. He was shipped to Kiev and then shipped here to me.