The Bootlegger | Chapter 48 of 59

Author: Clive Cussler | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 4850 Views | Add a Review

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WHEN MARAT ZOLNER drew himself up to his full height, the Italian courier thought to herself that the rumors about the ballet must be true. It was evident in the elegance of his stature that when he was a child somewhere in some benighted province of czarist Russia, Marat Zolner had indeed trained to be a dancer. Haughty as the aristocrats they both disdained and despised, he looked down his handsome nose at her and said, “Comrade, I know that the Comintern demands obedience.”

“It is well you remember.”

“Absolute and instant obedience makes us strong. Whether we obey out of faith in the revolution or out of loyalty to Russia—knowing that when we carry the fight abroad we keep the international bourgeoisie from invading while the Soviet is still recovering from the civil war—or out of fear.”

She said, “You may keep your motives to yourself.”

His shoulders sagged very slightly, and she fancied that she saw the spirit drain out of him. He turned to the window and stared out at the bay and the blue ocean beyond. He opened the window, lifting the sash with the grace that ornamented his every move, and she had the strangest feeling that he would rather step into the sky and fall ten stories to the beach than return to Moscow.

She said, “Surely you are not considering suicide.”

Marat Zolner turned back to her, thinking, Suicide? Why would I commit suicide? I have wealth, I have power, and I have enormous plans. These setbacks are temporary. The future is mine.

He said, “I am not coming with you.”

She raised her voice: “Gregor!”

•   •   •

A HEAVYSET RUSSIAN almost as tall as Zolner pushed through the door from the adjoining suite. He held a Nagant revolver as if he knew how to use it. He pointed at Zolner’s shoulder and said in Russian, “Put your gun on the table, comrade.”

Zolner slowly opened his coat, pulled his automatic out of its holster by the butt, and laid it on the table. He feigned dismay, but surrendering the gun did not trouble him. He carried it mostly for show, preferring to fight in close.

The courier said, “He carries his blackjack in his left-hand hip pocket.”

“Put it on the table.”

He had no choice but to produce his blackjack and lay it beside the gun.

“Come closer,” said Gregor.

Marat Zolner knew the drill. He had cowed many a prisoner. Gregor would grab his arm in a powerful grip and smash his nose with the Nagant’s barrel. He stepped slowly closer, staring at the pistol as if mesmerized, right foot forward, left foot forward. Gregor drew the Nagant back slightly, winding up to strike. Right foot forward, left foot kicking toward the ceiling—a symphony of weight, momentum, balance—kicking higher, smashing Gregor’s jaw.

He caught the gun as it dropped, pressed it to the staggered man’s chest, and jerked the stiff trigger. The Nagant’s sealed cylinder made it much quieter than an ordinary revolver, and Gregor’s bulk further muffled the report.

The courier was as fearless as he. “Now what are you going to do?” she asked contemptuously.

“If I return home,” he answered, “I will return a hero.”

“Hero? You’ll spend the rest of your short life running from us and the American police.”

“They will blame his murder on you.”

“Who will believe that?”

“You shot your secret lover and committed suicide,” he said.

She tried to run.

Zolner bounded after her and caught her easily and threw her out the window he had opened.

•   •   •

ISAAC BELL heard a woman shriek.

She was in the crowd on the dock gawking at his boat, and she was pointing a rigid arm up at the hotel. Bell saw a figure in the air beside the building, a woman streaming long black hair as she plummeted past the windows. Others were screaming before she landed on a third-floor balcony with a thud Bell could hear at the end of the dock. She bounced off a railing onto the veranda roof, tumbled the final two floors in a flurry of arms and legs, and flopped on the sand.

The wooden dock shook as thirty people ran to see the body.

Bell watched from the boat. A top-floor window was open, ten stories off the ground, seven above the balcony where the body first struck. No human being could have survived that fall.

“She came out backwards,” said a male voice from the water.

Bell looked down at a skiff with a big motor that had just tied up behind his transom. A middle-aged Floridian, browned and puckered by the powerful sun, was squinting up at him.

“You saw?”

“Yup. I just happened to be looking up at that moment and out she came. Backwards.”

“You should tell the police,” said Bell.

“Well, the police and I are not on speaking terms.”

“If you have evidence of foul play, you should report it.”

“There’s no law against falling backwards. Anyway, I don’t have time to talk to the cops. It’s you I come talking to.”

“About what?”

“My thousand dollars that I hear you’re paying to find that big black boat.”

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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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