Lone wolf #5: havana hit

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OTHER TITLES BY MIKE BARRY

Lone Wolf #1:Night Raider

Lone Wolf #2:Bay Prowler

Lone Wolf #3:Boston Avenger

Lone Wolf #4:Desert Stalker

Lone Wolf #5:Havana Hit

Lone Wolf #6:Chicago Slaughter

Lone Wolf #7:Peruvian Nightmare

Lone Wolf #8:Los Angeles Holocaust

Lone Wolf #9:Miami Marauder

Lone Wolf #10:Harlem Showdown

Lone Wolf #11:Detroit Massacre

Lone Wolf #12:Phoenix Inferno

Lone Wolf #13:The Killing Run

Lone Wolf #14:Philadelphia Blowup

The Lone Wolf #5:Havana HitMike Barry

a division of F+W Media, Inc.

Going through those back streets then, seeing all of the aspects of the night, watching the forms heaving their way through those streets or standing, doomed, broken against the stones, their faces the geography of damnation, the insight came to me clearer and clearer yet: the country had been under bombardment for a long time and now it was a free-fire zone. Now the enemy was coming in freely. Now the territory had collapsed to its perimeters. It was a war and America was occupied … and America had lost.

—Paul Von Partin,Ascension

They’ve delivered death by the inch through the veins of this country. It’s time to turn the needle around. Kill the brutes. Kill all of them.

—Martin Wulff

Contents

Prologue

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

XII

XIII

XIV

XV

XVI

XVII

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Copyright

PROLOGUE

TO THE COMMISSIONER: Supplement to our earlier report and containing a further description of the subject’s activities since that time. Your request for “further information,” however, puzzles me because I thought that background on the subject in that earlier report was fairly complete … and was based upon the same access to confidential PD files which is held by your office. Are those files now unavailable?

Incorporating, then, information embodied in the earlier statement and carrying it forward: the subject, Martin Wulff, thirty-two years old, was until August 1974 a ten-year veteran of the NYCPD. (Two years spent in US Army, most of them in Vietnam combat, were credited as per procedure to working time for the purposes of pension rights, seniority, etc.) Wulff served as patrolman, TPF member and in various other areas and upon his return to active PD duty in 1967 was assigned to the Narcotics Division where he remained for several years until, in August of 1974, for reasons which are still being investigated, lower echelons abruptly removed him from Narcotics Division and transferred him to local patrol car duty pending further hearings.

On the night of 8/15/74, files indicate that Wulff was ordered by radio unit to report to an upper floor of a single room occupancy dwelling on West 93rd Street where a girl, subsequently identified as one Marie Calvante, was found dead of apparent heroin overdose. Source of the call was anonymous and has never been identified. Wulff’s partner on patrol car duty that night was David Williams (see file) a rookie patrolmen who was the driver and who reported that immediately upon parking in front of the dwelling, Wulff left the car rapidly and in a state of high agitation. When he did not return to the car for several minutes Williams followed him upstairs to find him kneeling by the corpse. It was at this point that Wulff, announcing his intention to quit the PD, left the apartment, giving Williams no word of his plans or destination. Later that day Wulff telephoned in his resignation. Proper forms were never filed, procedures were not followed and subject was not located at listed address.

It is indicated that Marie Calvante was affianced to Wulff andthat her death—the circumstances of which remain mysterious, be it suicide or murder—was somehow connected with Wulff’s duties in the Narcotics Division. No further information can be developed on this. Certain crucial files which would be expected to contain information on Wulff’s difficulties with narcotics division are unavailable and may be presumed to be missing or stolen.

From this point on, only hearsay information may be developed, some of this information obtained from a mixture of informants who range in degree of reliability. It appears that Wulff—whose background in PD and combat gave him an excellent working knowledge of ordnance and guerilla techniques—embarked almost without pause upon a campaign to “destroy the international drug trade,” which he saw as directly responsible for the death of his fiancée and against which he felt his efforts in the ND to be completely ineffective. Beginning in New York, traveling then to San Francisco, back across the country to Boston and back yet again to Las Vegas—all within a period of less than four weeks—Wulff appears to have been solely responsible for the deaths of several hundred operatives involved at all levels of the national and international drug trade. At least three of them, Albert Marasco of NYC, Louis Cicchini of Revere Beach and a man identifiable only as “Lazzara” who was murdered in Las Vegas, appear to be at the highest perceptible levels of the network. In San Francisco, fire aboard and subsequent sinkage of a large freighter seems to be Wulff’s work. So does the destruction of a townhouse in NYC, a series of residences in Boston and the gutting of the Paradise Hotel, a major resort and gambling center of Las Vegas. And, one of our informants has indicated, Wulff may have appropriated a major shipment of heroin that arrived on the San Francisco-bound freighter. Even more significantly (but here the informant is particularly unreliable and the level of inference is quite great), something over a million dollars of hard drugs taken, as you know, from the evidence room of the NYC criminal division, may have been traced to Las Vegas by Wulff in the wake of the mysterious disappearance of Lieutenant Bill Stone who might have been tied in with those thefts. These drugsmaybe in Wulff’s possession.

It cannot be sufficiently emphasized, however, that all information on Wulff’s activities past his resignation from the PD are contrived wholly from hearsay information and any of the specific details listed above may be erroneous.

What is clear—and memos intercepted by our informants do make this beyond dispute—is that Wulff’s “war” against the drug trade has had or is having significant results, that he has already severely damaged the network of supply and distribution in this country, and that the many murders have demoralized suppliers and distributors at key points.Nevertheless there is no truth to the allegation that Wulff may have the sympathy and covert assistance of law-enforcement personnel. Certainly the man is a felon, engaged in criminal conduct, and no efforts will be spared by reputable officers and departments nationwide to arrest him.

He is, in the bargain, apparently marked for execution at all levels of the network and despite the apparent success of his initial shock tactics, cannot go on much longer. It is sincerely hoped that legitimate law-enforcement personnel will apprehend him before employees of the network, since only in that way are we liable to interview him to obtain specific details.

On the other hand, the subject is extremely sophisticated in all phases of weaponry and is not only extremely dangerous but probably would not permit himself to be taken alive.

A fuller report is being prepared and will be on your desk within the next day or two but in line with your request to deliver an “informational noting the highlights,” the above is submitted.

We remain in the closest contact with usual informants, of course, and will pass on further information when and as it develops.

I

Crazy. The detector at the passenger gate was supposed to find weapons in hand-luggage, but Wulff doubted that probability very much; these things were full of shit anyway and there was no such thing as a dependable detector at this early stage of technology. But whether or not they could find weapons they were certainly not attuned for drugs; a million dollars or close to it of pure heroin had passed through the detector without a blink, and now the valise was up front, on the rack behind the first class section and he was sitting at the end of coach, airborne, drinking, safe.

Well, it had been risky of course; putting a million dollars of pure shit through the X-rays had been nervous-making for Wulff but then again what else could he do? He had to get out of Vegas fast and he had to have the shit with him. Between those two poles of the equation there was only the understanding that he had left a blasted hotel behind him, six men dead in the desert, half a hundred more perhaps dead in the vicinity of that hotel. But this most lethal of all the death-injections he had given the enemy could only be a temporary fix itself. They would be coming after him now no longer in squads but in battalions. He had maybe an hour of time or a little more before the fresh troops rolled in from west and east and the great wars would begin. They were beginning anyway. They would show him less mercy than he had them and that was little enough. He had killed maybe three hundred since his Odyssey had begun and only with the feeling, all the time, that he was just clearing the way for the great confrontations, the more serious business of his war.

But for the moment it was not necessary to think of this. He was airborne; they would be in New York in five hours or a little less and he would take the valise with him off the plane and disappear, for a little while anyway, into the ragged periphery of New York, deciding what he would do next. He guessed that he would take the valise to Williams, though. Yes, he would like to do that. He would like to take this valise into pure, comfortable, secluded little St. Albans in Queens where Williams was. Willaims, the black man who was all for the system because the system was holding them off him. Wulff would open it and shove it into his face.There’s your system, Wulff would say,there’s your fucking system. It makes death and it shares death and it pumps death all through the country but you want it to go on just this way so that you can pay your fucking mortgage. Well what next, Williams? When your shitstorm comes and half of your people are walking around with the death inside them—where are you going to be?

Enough of this. He settled back and into a thick sleep, heavy waves of recollection coming through him: dead faces staring up at him from a field like flowers, pulped bodies turning inside out in the opening bursts of fire, the look of the town house on Eighty-Third street as it had gone down, the look of the casino as it had gone up, buildings impacting and fragmenting like grenades and memory became apprehension, the waves turned thick and moist, shaking him inside out on the seat, the voices of the dead overtaking him and he opened his eyes then, strangling from the dream, to find that it was not a dream at all and that he was confronting an open, spreading artery of terror. The plane was shaking in the air, shaking and shattering like a child’s rattle and moving up and down the aisles of the coach section was a man holding a revolver, flicking it over the faces of the passengers. The passengers, what few of them there were—this was off-hours and a thinly-populated flight—were in the usual postures of air-travel, some looking out the windows, others looking through newspapers, only a very few risking short, sidelong glances at the man who more than anything else seemed bored, not really in possession of the cabin so much as merely considering it.

Wulff felt his muscles tense against the hard, slick edge of the seat. His first impulse was to spring at the man but that was inconceivable; the man had him in full range and was looking directly at him now with an expression which seemed to take in not only the moment but that series of actions which might come from it. He had ditched his revolver on the way to the airport, of course, presuming that New York would yield him a better one. No point in taking chances. He was, Wulff realized, almost entirely helpless.

The passengers were beginning to realize their own helplessness. Wulff had no idea how long all of this had been going on; not too long at all, obviously, because the passengers were just focussing, one by one, into a kind of attention goaded by the pacing of the man and the shaking of the plane which started again now even more ominously; the plane coming up, the plane going down, moving like a roller coaster on the first series of dips, and now, for the first time, a young girl across the aisle, a couple of rows ahead began to scream. She screamed delicately, mouth behind hand and this seemed to kindle the others. Instantly the coach section was in chaos, passengers putting aside newspapers to grip the seat backs ahead of them, the sounds of retching coming through. The stewardesses, huddled up in the galley were holding on tightly; a sound of clattering coming from there as things shifted, then the plane took another nauseating roll, dipping forty-five degrees wing to wing, banked deeply, shuddered and came out of it.

Only the man in the aisle seemed untouched. Through the trembling he had kept his balance, spreading his legs slightly, balancing on heels, holding the gun before him with that curious, absent grace which Wulff had noticed already, his eyes very keen, poised, sweeping through the cabin, the gun hand steady. Everything was focussed on that gun. Wulff could see from long instinct that the man was a professional. You might kill him but you would not otherwise stop that steady hand on the trigger from driving death home.All right, he conceded to himself at some level where he could think almost without words,we’re in for it now. Nothing to be done. There was nothing to be done. He wedged himself back in the seat as the plane steadied, as the girl’s screams arced to whimpers and then went away, and he made no move.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” a flat voice said through the amplification system, the gunman’s head swinging toward the public address system but that hand, steady, continuing its sweep, “we’ve encountered a few difficulties as you should surely know by now. We’ve had to rapidly adjust our altitude and flight plan. There seem to be a couple of people aboard who don’t want to go to New York and until we can work things out with them we’ll be heading in a different direction.” The speakers whined, there was the sound of someone yammering in the background, the captain—Wulff guessed it must be the captain—cleared his throat and said, “I can only advise you to relax as much as possible; we’ll try to keep it steady up here now and get you down as quickly as possible.”

The gunman smiled at this. Something in the announcement seemed to have granted him an obscure relief; if the passengers were not relaxing the gunman was, visibly, and with the steadying of the plane he began a measured, even pace up and down the corridor, his pace as detached and exact as if he were a prison guard casually working out the moments of his duty. Wulff, battling impulse, forced himself back into his seat yet again, drawing deep even breaths, willing himself to control while around him he could see the scattered passengers responding in their own way. The girl who had screamed now curled in upon herself in her seat; a businessman across the aisle lit a cigarette with a hand that fluttered, the rest of him very composed, almost rigid in place but the hand telling all; the stewardesses, still huddled in the galley now consulted one another. The plane flew on with slow grace. Wulff lifted his head and caught the gunman’s eye.

The man came over slowly, shorter than a hijacker ought to be, perhaps in his early twenties although the long sideburns, the thin mustache were deceptive; he might have been older than that or then again only struggling for maturity. Below the level of the eyes the face was very peaceful now, even detached. Probably on uppers, Wulff thought, uppers or downers it did not matter but something was cooking through the man giving him this calm. “Take me up front,” Wulff said carefully.

“You stay in your seat, mister,” the gunman said in a quiet, flat voice, “and don’t get taken anywhere.”

“You don’t understand,” Wulff said, “don’t be a fool. I want to go up front. How many of you are there? I want to talk to the others.”

“You know what a bullet can do in a pressurized cabin?” the gunman asked. “It can blow the plane up. Take a tip from me, just sit back in that seat of yours and shut the fuck up. When you’re ready to be told something you will hear it.”

“Leave him alone,” the businessman said to Wulff, leaning across the empty chair on his side. “Don’t you understand what we’re in? For God’s sake—”

“We’re in a hijacking,” Wulff said. “I know all about it,” and as he spoke he stood, bracing himself by the calves against the seat rear, rising to an uneasy posture. The gunman’s eyes blanked. He backed off a pace or two in the aisle and levelled the gun.

“Nowyoudon’t be a damned fool,” Wulff said quietly while the passengers turned and looked at him with the expressions of people who were now seeing either the beginning or the end, “you don’t want to shoot any more than I want to get shot and you don’t have any instructions. You’re not going to put a bullet in this cabin until you feel that I’m attacking you and I’m not doing that.” He began to move slowly, balancing himself in the aisle, the trip rockier than he had thought, the plane adding a slight side-to-side motion against the persistent rocking, the uneven pounding of the jets as it sought more altitude. “I just want to talk,” he said, “I want to see what the hell is going on.”

The gunman settled in behind him. Wulff felt the prod of the gun deep in his pelvis, but that was all right, then, the gesture was its own completion. He was not going to be shot. If the man was going to shoot him it would have been done already, when he had been in the posture of rising, the bullet thudding into him from that angle, destroying his organs and lodging harmlessly on exit into the seat. He walked, holding on for support, the stewardesses, bland faces now riven by uncertainty watched him go, past the luggage section where his own valise sat, that valise untouched which was either significant or not … but meant, probably, only that they had not had a chance to ransack the luggage yet but would. In first class there were only three passengers, a fat man with a briefcase on his lap, his eyes glittering wildly as he rubbed his hands over them and he was saying over and again, “I wouldn’t have believed it, who would have believed it, this can’t be happening,” but indeed it was, Wulff could have pointed out to him; and a young couple, newlyweds perhaps although not to sentimentalize they might only be a whore and her pimp bound out of Vegas with the proceeds, sitting, holding hands, their faces against one another. And he walked, the gunman behind him, into the cabin where the captain, copilot and flight navigator, all of them looking strangely young were being watched by a heavy, dishevelled man who was holding a rifle on them, sweeping the confined spaces of the cabin with the same gesture as had the one with the pistol.They must have a school for hijackers, Wulff thought foolishly,teaching them the motions; I wonder if it’s a correspondence course, and the heavy man looked up at him, raised the rifle; in that instance Wulff thought his head itself might be coming off but, no, the man lowered the rifle, his motions suddenly ponderous and he looked toward the gunman behind with a quizzical expression.

“He wanted to come up front,” the gunman said, “I took him up front.”

“Listen,” the pilot said, his voice not the flat, controlled tenor heard through the loudspeaker but rather a high, almost wispy sound in the cabin, “I’ve got to concentrate on flying this plane. I can’t—”

“Shut the fuck up,” the heavy man said almost casually and the pilot turned back toward the console. Neither the co-pilot nor the navigator looked up. “What do you want?” he said to Wulff.

“That’s not the question. What doyouwant?”

The gunman said, “Let me take him out of here.” It must have occurred to him that there was no control back in the cabin section. There were only the two of them, then. That was something on his side, Wulff thought, although not very much. Not too damned much. They had the guns, he had none, they were in control of the plane and any attempt to shift the balance was not worth the risk. A lot of people could get killed, the plane itself could be lost. As if in confirmation of this, the cabin shook again hitting a stream of turbulence, dived convulsively like a beast caught in a trap and then came out of it reluctantly, the pilot struggling with the controls, bright little droplets of sweat coming off the co-pilot.

The pilot looked up and said almost desperately, “Could you let me fly the goddamned plane? Could you just leave the cabin, all of you, and let me concentrate on this? I can’t take much more.”

The gunman who had escorted Wulff in, exchanged a look with the heavy man, muttered something which Wulff could not hear and then left the cabin. The heavy man turned toward him holding the rifle loosely, easily, his free hand dangling at his side. He had the kind of fingers that looked as if they had strangled men.

“Who are you?” he said.

“You know who I am,” Wulff said, watching the other man carefully.

“You tell me.”

Wulff looked at the cabin, the three men jammed up against the controls trying to move a plane against panic, looked behind him to catch a glimpse of the stewardesses, like birds, fluttering down in the galley. He made a rapid set of calculations, so quick as to be subconscious, and at the end of them he knew that the decision had been made for him. There was just no other situation possible.

“I’m Martin Wulff,” he said.

The heavy man sighed with pleasure, showed his teeth, held the gun on him. “I thought you were,” he said. “It’s a pleasure.”

“What do you want?”

“What do we want, Wulff?” He tapped the rifle with his free hand almost meditatively and then pointed it again. “What do you think we want?”

“All right,” Wulff said, “you can have it.”

“We intend to take it.”

“Let these people off. Let the plane go down and discharge the passengers. I’ll go with you and the valise will go with you wherever you want.”

“You sound very sacrificing, Wulff,” the man said. He belched, covered his mouth with a hand and then clung to a bulkhead as the plane, hit by another wave of turbulence, began to skitter mindlessly, side to side this time, swaying like a hammock. For just one instant the man’s control dropped; his implacable stare was replaced by terror and the gun slipped. But Wulff could not take advantage of the moment, he was holding onto steel himself and he hardly could see the benefit of trying to get control if the tube carrying them all would fragment under the struggle. After a minute the plane began to fly straight again at a lower level and the pilot looked up, his face almost transparent with shock and said, “You’d better let me radio in again. We’ve lost a lot of altitude and if they lose me on a radar track we’re really in trouble.”

“Where are we?” Wulff said.

“As far as I can tell we’re somewhere over the Great Salt Lake. There’s too much cloud cover though.”

“If you don’t let him fly this fucking plane,” the navigator said, looking up for the first time, a much older man than the other two, (were navigators failed or washed-up pilots? Wulff found himself thinking irrelevantly) “we’re going to beinthe Great Salt Lake.”

“All right,” Wulff said, “let’s get out of the cabin.”

“Are you crazy?” the man said. “Who do you think you are? What do you think you’re doing anyway?”

“I’ve got what you want,” Wulff said. “I’m the man you want. We can do business together. But there’s no reason to hold the plane hostage. I’ll cooperate.”

“That suits me,” the pilot said. His shoulders heaved. “That suits me; you talk sense to him. But do it out of my cabin.”

“Land the plane,” Wulff said again, “land the plane and let these passengers off. Get a fresh pilot to volunteer and I’ll go anywhere you want … with the valise. But this can be between us.”

For the first time the heavy man seemed to open a trifle, his eyes becoming luminous. “It would be easier,” he said, “it would be nice and simple if we could do it that way.”

“Let’s do it that way,” Wulff said. “Be reasonable. Do it easy.” He understood the gunman now. He understood both of them. He thought that he could see their position and a dangerous and tricky one it was. They were after the valise, that was their job and about the only way they could get it, they figured, was with a hijacking but they didn’t want any part of it. They were professionals, probably more so than any he had been dealing with so far and the theory among professionals was to accomplish the most with the least possible effort; if you could negotiate your way out of something you did it with a mouth not a gun and if you could get hold of a valise the easy way you didn’t have to hijack a plane to do it because hijacking was a Federal rap and quite serious now.

“You’ll cooperate?” the heavy man said. “You’ll go with us all the way?”

“I have no choice,” Wulff said, “I don’t want to get people killed. I’m not in this to kill people; I’m trying to save them.”

That at least was the truth. If nothing else he had not lied there; his quest was not worth the lives of the innocent. He could litter the continent with the bodies of vermin but he would not, if he could help it, make victims of those who were not culpable because if he did he was playing the vermin’s game.

“All right,” the heavy man said, “all right, I think we might be able to do business that way.” He seemed to think, pointing the edge of the gun at his nose and for a surreal moment Wulff wondered if the equation was going to be solved by the man killing himself, then he dropped the gun to waist-level and said, “I heard that you were a pretty professional guy: I guess that’s the truth.”

“Let’s let them get that plane down,” Wulff said, “and we can find out who’s professional.”

“That suits me,” the heavy man said. He made a gesture with the gun. “Go on,” he said, “you get out, go back to the coach section and shut up. I’ll stay in the cabin and help this man fly her in.” There was no irony in this.

“That makes sense,” Wulff said. “I think that that makes a lot of sense.”

“What do you think?” the heavy man said. He shrugged; in that shrug was a great deal of understanding, more comprehension than Wulff would have wanted the man to have. “You think I’m some kind of goddamned fool?”

“No,” Wulff said, “I don’t. It’s just business.”

“That’s right. Business.”

On the way back to his seat then, Wulff passed the other gunman. The other gunman was in the galley, his gun held loosely on the stewardesses, his features quite lively.Fuckhe was mumbling and the stewardesses were looking at him impassively.Fuckindeed. In a few moments, the man would reach below his belt, start to grapple with himself.

Well, Wulff thought, trying to smile reassuringly at the passengers, most of them already looking as if they had suspended hope, it took all kinds, even cruising at thirty-eight thousand feet. It was as much the world up here as down there and you might as well take your pleasure where you could.

II

Delgado sat in the small room, feet on the floor and waited for the two men to come in. He tried to keep his mind empty, thinking nothing at all. Thinking only meant anticipation and rage and he could afford neither. Handle things as they came. Delgado breathed deeply, evenly, trying to suspend himself against the killing rage. It was true. He could kill them.

A security guard brought the two men inside. They contradicted what Delgado had conceived them to be. He had supposed that they would have a lurking stupidity, the clumsiness and indelicacy which he had always associated with the type of people who worked at low organization levels up north, but no they looked reasonably competent, even comfortable, particularly the taller, heavier man who seemed to have decided that he would do all of the speaking. The other one held himself against a corner under the gaze of the guard. “Listen,” the heavier one said, “I’m glad that we finally got a chance to get in here. We’ve been waiting—”

“Shut up,” Delgado said.

“I’ll shut up when I’m ready to. Now you people listen to me, you just can’t—”

“I said,” Delgado said, “that I wanted you to shut up.” He made a gesture toward the guard. The guard shrugged, came toward the desk, stood behind the heavy man and very carefully lifted his pistol.

Almost delicately he hit the man behind the ear. It was contrived to be a grazing blow, successful that way, and only a thin smear of blood came from the scalp lining behind the ear. The heavy man did not even fall. He stood there in confusion as if someone had whipped out a handkerchief and thrust it upon him and then, almost casually he moaned, staggered backward, landed against the wall.

The other man reached forward in a gesture of appeal. “Look,” he said, “I don’t know—”

“You keep quiet too,” Delgado said. He found that his hands were curling convulsively in rage. No good. It could not be this way. If anything was to come of this he would have to remain in control. “All right,” he said to the guard, “get out. Stand outside the door. I don’t think that we’ll have any problem here but if you hear any noises—”

The guard nodded. His English was only fair but he gave the impression of complete comprehension which was enough. He walked to the door, opened it gently and went outside.

Delgado leaned back in his chair and looked at the two men. The one that was supposed to be the spokesman was running his hands through his scalp, feeling the seam of the cut, a strange, blank expression in his eyes which was worse than fear because he had not yet judged what was happening to him. The other man stood quietly, holding his hands together, looking past Delgado out the window where he could see the mountains. They were not thoughts of escape that were overtaking him but merely a wistful desire for an openness he would never see again. Delgado knew the feeling well. He had been there.

“You gentlemen have put us—all of us,” he said, “in an impossible situation. Now I am going to do the talking and you are going to do nothing but quietly listen. I do not think that you truly understand what you have done and I have been appointed to tell you.”

The heavy man said desperately, “Listen, damn it, we had instructions—” and then at a look from Delgado seemed to become aware of the fact that he was speaking. He put a hand to his mouth like a child. A thread of blood came down over his eyebrow giving him a clown’s aspect.

“Your instructions have nothing to do with our situation,” Delgado said, “nothing to do with our situation at all. You have hijacked a major airliner with very controversial contents, have set it down in this country, have drawn international attention at a time when we want a minimum of attention, and have put my government in an impossible position. Certain agreements which were being worked out through the most intense and delicate of negotiations may have been utterly destroyed by this adventure. You have drawn maximum attention to a very dangerous situation at precisely the point where for the first time that situation seemed to be ending. And furthermore—” the heavy man seemed about to say something and Delgado raised a hand which quieted him, the man burbled to silence, the other one was looking at Delgado with an expression of absolute terror—our government has very strong feelings about being involved in what is known by the uninformed as the international drug trade. My country has had bery serious problems with this in the past and it is only through the most dedicated cleansing of the government at all levels, from bottom to top, that in the last several years we have come to assume some control over the situation. And now you have brought here and placed in our custody perhaps the largest single amount of drugs which has ever existed in a single shipment and you have also placed in our custody an extremely dangerous man who has drawn more attention. Do you begin to see now what you have done? Is there any awareness?”

Delgado sighed, leaned back from the desk and fumbled in the drawer for a cigarette, not looking at the two men now, letting them consider what he had said, trying again to reach that blankness of mind and aspect which he had had before they entered the room. It was not so much a mask now, not as much of a mask as it might have been if he had not been on the other side of this kind of desk many times in his life, knew what they were going through, knew exactly how the situation was opening up underneath them. They had a feeling of peril, of falling. It was always that way when you carried through something difficult and dangerous only to find that all along the signals had been wrong, had been issued in a different language.

“A million dollars worth of heroin,” he said to the silent men. “Let’s call it what it is, gentlemen, let’s not use any of your American terms like shit, smack, horse, H. It’s heroin, the most addictive and dangerous of all the hallucinatives used by humanity over a period of fifteen hundred years, a drug whose mere private possession in your country is a crime with severe penalties … and you have hijacked a plane in flight, imprisoned the crew, imprisoned a man named Wulff who was in original possession of these materials, have discharged your passengers at an earlier point and then have brought all of this within our borders. And what arewesupposed to do, gentlemen?” He kicked the desk drawer closed with a force he had not expected; his rage was showing again. “What are we supposed to do?”

He looked at the spokesman intensely and finally, the man saw that he was supposed to speak this time and that an answer was being awaited. “Our instructions were clear,” he said. “We were, if possible, to take the plane in here. We were told that all arrangements had been made at this end and that—”

“No arrangements had been made,” Delgado said quietly. “There is no level of dialogue whatsoever between those people who are your superiors and my government. There has not been any for many years. You have been lied to, gentlemen, you have been misdirected all of the way. We do not want your plane in our country, we do not want your drugs and we have no arrangements whatsoever for disposition. Cuba is a free country now; it is not a backyard and a playpen for your interests.”

“Look,” the heavy man said, “I’m sorry; we were only told—”

“I don’t care what you were told,” Delgado said and came over to the man. He raised his hand and struck him in the place where the wound was, once, hard, the man groaned and spat a trickle of blood and then fell to his knees, Delgado hovering over him. Delgado kicked the man in the stomach until he arced over and then coughed, spat blood on the floor. Instantly, the rage discharged, he was calm again. He walked back to the desk. The man against the wall was looking at him in a pleading way. Delgado let the one on the floor continue to choke and spoke to this one.

“You see,” he said gently, “I am here to tell you that your position is untenable. As untenable as you have made ours. We do not want anything to do with your traffic, we do not want any of your internal problems. The internal problems and politics of our country itself have changed a great deal over the past decade and some of your people have, perhaps, not caught up to this yet. You have given us an almost insuperable difficulty. The premier himself is very embarrassed. What are we supposed to do with you?” Delgado concluded quietly, his tone almost reasonable, they could have been working out the final details of some arrangement here.

The other man shrugged and looked away. With the spokesman incapacitated, however, he seemed to feel that some kind of statement was expected from him and after a moment of silence his eyes swung back, away from the mountains, toward Delgado. “I’m sorry,” he said. “We had very specific instructions and no reason to feel that we would find difficulties here. This man left fifty people dead in Las Vegas.”

“Which man?”

“Wulff. The one we brought here.”

“Fifty people dead?” Delgado said. “I’m afraid that fifty of your people—they were your people were they not?—dead means far less to us than the fact that there were another fifty aboard that airliner and but for the grace of Godtheymight have been dead and we would have had to bear the responsibility. You see, whoever is giving you your orders is a fool.”

The man on the floor coughed again, spewed blood across the carpet. Delgado looked at it with distaste. It was uncosmetic, that was all. You could not have a nice, clean interrogation anymore. In the old days people understood and cooperated but then again, Delgado reminded himself and this had to be taken into account, in the old days the people who understood and cooperated were onhisside. The enemy had never been so reasonable. “Things have changed,” he said again. “Only the premier and the highest levels of the government know how much they have but this is still no excuse for you. You took orders from a fool, you have given us a most serious difficulty here and you may have set back certain facets of our international relations by several years. We will have to take the most extreme measures.”

He opened the desk drawer again, this time very casually and took out a pistol. Feeling it slide into his hand, leaping into his palm almost as might a woman’s breast, Delgado had a flash of recollection: this was not 1974 but instead 1957 or so and it was not he who was standing behind the desk but another man, someone in the uniform of Battista’s secret police … and this person was levelling the gun at a form which only could have been Delgado’s.Please don’t do this to me; I am a loyalist, this recollected Delgado was pleading,don’t kill me, don’t kill me. The weakness of this remembered voice poured out, gasping through every syllable and Delgado had a sudden flash of revulsion, all the more difficult because it was unexpected. The same, he thought, it is always the same, the actors and the masks and the words change but when you come to the end nothing has changed whatsoever; we have merely turned the tables. I am no different from any of the others, Delgado is like everyone else. And he reacted against this.No!he screamed in memory and then realized that it was not memory at all but reality which had overtaken him and facing this quivering man it was the Delgado of the present who was screamingno!the cry driving slivers of pain all the way from hand and elbow and then he was firing the gun into the man in front of him, firing convulsively: head, throat, shoulders, heart, spleen and the man was changing before him; he was no longer a man but a bag filled with blood, the blood spurting and leaping like fire through all the little discovered openings of his body … and then the form was falling, burbling.

“God!” Delgado found himself shouting as the man lay before him, “This cannot be,” and then his interrogator’s calm returned to him as it always would (because the masks would never change and now he was the Official, the Interrogator) and he found himself looking at the corpse now, the exploding form on the floor with something that was not revulsion at all but came closer to a sense of command. “You cannot do this to us,” he said in a calm, flat tone, “you simply cannot do this kind of thing to us anymore,” and did not know if he was talking about the hijacking and the drugs or whether it was an entirely different matter but then his attention flicked to the man lying on the floor, the man he had beaten. Death in the room had revived this man, unconsciousness had fallen from him and he was sitting in a cramped position on the floor, arms wrapped around his knees, looking up at Delgado with the expression of a child. Yes, he had made children of both of them: that was the essence of power, to strip personality and control from people and turn them into the helpless creatures they had once been.

“No,” this man said. “No, please,” but although his mouth moved his eyes did not. They were curiously cold and resigned; they seemed to be saying that they were not responsible for the motions or the words of the mouth which was, after all, only performing a series of necessary gestures. You’re going to do it, the eyes were saying, so do it quickly and at least allow dignity and to this Delgado could respond. He levelled the Beretta.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I’m sorry,” and he almost was because he knew what he was killing now, it was not so much these men in the room as some earlier version of himself that he had had to repudiate for survival. But every death was a recoil, every murder a lashing back, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it? Of course it was, that was the key to the delivery of death; you could only do it well if you knew what you were killing and then very quickly and precisely. Delgado knocked three shots off the trigger, driving them into the man’s skull, deep into the brain pan. The expression of the face did not change, the eyes did not change at all but only held that curious, cold glimmer of knowledge and then the man sprawled out below him on the floor, sinking away, the mass of his blood pooling with the other’s on the floor. And in that posture, dead, he was no longer Delgado but merely an anonymous man who had been killed.

Delgado put the pistol away in his drawer, closed it, and then went to the door. He opened it. The guard looked at him, caught in a posture of listening, his face looking very wet and strained. “Is it all right?” he said.

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