“But September Eleventh changed all that. Suddenly, these fine, upstanding citizens are wondering if they’ve been subsidizing Osama, if the weapons they buy and sell are going to terrorist groups like al-Qaida. Apparently, the thought had never occurred to them before. In any case, they held a vote—very democratic, our Entrepreneurs. Six to two they voted to get out of the arms smuggling business, with only Belloti and Mellgren in the minority. But they forgot their partners. Stalin and the Family Boyz voted to stay. They also voted that the Entrepreneurs stay, too. The Entrepreneurs didn’t like it, but what could they do? Stalin, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, can be very persuasive.”
“Only Katherine Katzmark wouldn’t go for it,” Harry said. “She walked into my office without an appointment one morning, sat down, and told me everything. She wasn’t looking to make a deal, didn’t ask for immunity. She was willing to take whatever punishment she received. She had seen the Twin Towers fall on TV and she figured she deserved whatever happened to her. I always admired her for that. Anyway, we called the ATF … .”
“We were already on it,” Alec assured me. “We knew through our sources in Bonn that Geno Belloti was using his import-export packaging company to move surplus weapons …”
“But they didn’t know about the rest of the Entrepreneurs or the Family Boyz,” Harry said. “We supplied that intel.”
“We’ll be sure to invite you to the office Christmas party,” Alec told him.
“The Boyz and the Entrepreneurs were easy,” Harry said. “We could have busted them anytime.”
“But you also wanted the Russians,” I guessed.
“To get them, we used Katherine,” Alec said. “The relationship between the Entrepreneurs and the Family Boyz was strained, to say the least. We convinced Katherine to suggest a solution that would satisfy both parties. Arrange a face-to-face between the Russians and the Family Boyz. They could then negotiate purchase and distribution between them. If they decided to continue using Belloti and Mellgren as mules, fine, but the other Entrepreneurs could then be eased out. That way Stalin no longer had to worry about keeping them in line and he could keep more of the profits. Plus, Stalin gets to be an ‘international’”—Alec quoted the air—“‘arms dealer.’ Believe me when I tell you he liked that idea very much.”
“Oh, I believe it.”
“The Russians, unfortunately, didn’t like the idea,” Harry said. “Working directly with a black street gang? They couldn’t think of anything more absurd. Except possibly losing their lucrative North American market, and that’s what Casselman convinced them would happen if they didn’t take the meeting. So, they agreed. Stalin is practically having an orgasm over it.”
“If he’s so happy, why did he kill Katherine?”
“We thought he did,” said Alec. “We thought Katherine’s cover had been blown and Stalin had her tortured for what she could tell him. But listening to our wiretaps—Stalin was as shocked about Katherine’s murder as the Entrepreneurs. What’s more, both parties were determined not to allow it to compromise their business arrangements. If they had killed Katherine because she was an informant, would they talk like that?”
“Then Jamie was killed,” I added.
“And the conversations between the Entrepreneurs and the Boyz increased in volume. Does that make sense?”
“If Stalin didn’t kill Katherine and Jamie, who did?”
“We thought it was Bruder,” Harry said. “According to our taps, so did both Stalin and the Entrepreneurs. The way that clown Thompson talked to the media, Bruder was all but convicted.”
“But Bruder didn’t do it.”
“We know that now.”
“We don’t know,” answered Alec. “And as callous as it might sound, we don’t care. That’s your pal Detective Sergeant Robert J. Dunston’s job.”
“He’s pretty good,” said Harry. “What he lacks in imagination he makes up for in tenacity. He’ll figure it out.”
“I don’t understand,” I admitted. “If Stalin and the Entrepreneurs weren’t concerned that Jamie was informing on them, why did they try to kill me?”
“You were right about Cook. He did some checking after finding your business card. According to our intercepts, he told the Family Boyz that you were ‘some kind of cop.’ That was enough for Stalin. You have to appreciate that after Katherine’s murder, they all became paranoid.”
“Why was Cook killed?”
“You tell us,” said Harry.
“Same reason, I guess. Cook was a weak sister. He fingered me for Stalin but Stalin couldn’t put me down. When I showed up unexpectedly to hassle him, Cook panicked and Stalin became afraid he’d turn.”
“Okay,” Harry told Alec. “You can keep the ten bucks.”
“But why tell me that Bruder was right-handed, that he didn’t kill his wife? Why did you want me to keep pushing?”
“We knew the meeting with the Russians had been scheduled,” Harry admitted. “But we didn’t know when or where. Katherine was killed before she could tell us. Your involvement—your insistence on connecting the Boyz to the murders—kept the parties talking. Each time you survived an assassination attempt the phones would ring off the hook. We hoped that sooner or later one of those conversations would provide us with the intel we needed. And it did.”
“You used me.”
“Your government is grateful for your assistance in this matter.”
“Ahh, stick it.”
“You did a good job,” Alec told me.