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Tác giả: David Baldacci
Thể loại: Trinh Thám
Nguyên tác: The Whole Truth
Biên tập: Dieu Chau
Upload bìa: Dieu Chau
Language: English
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Chapter 22
HIS CREW MADE THE IRANIAN and his bloodthirsty boys look like a bunch of four-year-old thumb suckers, thought Shaw. He was sitting in a car, a block of granite from Tajikistan on one side of him with a small mountain from that same Asian country on the other. It was a wonder even the large Mercedes’s front wheels weren’t off the road with the half ton of flesh perched in back. But then again it might have been due to the pair in the front seat, both also Tajiks, who pulled at least seven hundred pounds between them, and very little of it from fat that Shaw could see. Add one more guy and they could have made a decent line for any NFL team.
Shaw had never met a Tajik who didn’t seem angry. Perhaps living in a brutishly mountain-bound country that had been used by the Soviets as a toxic waste dump and had an eighty percent poverty rate gave them good reason to be perpetually ticked off.
He said something in Russian and received what could only be described as a growl in response. Tajiks didn’t see themselves as Russian; culturally they along with the Persians were part of the Iranian ethnic pool. Shaw had never bothered to learn Tajik. He hoped he didn’t live to regret that decision.
He settled back in his seat. The Tajiks were selling drugs, heroin specifically, made from opium produced in neighboring Afghanistan, the country’s most lucrative export crop. This was possible because coalition forces had largely abandoned Afghanistan to go make Iraq a beacon of democracy. Drug-dealing empires of the world thanked them every night for their thoughtfulness, because without opium one could not make heroin, one of the most popular street drugs of all time. The sheer misery this one bastardized chemical time bomb had imposed on the world was beyond calculation.
Shaw was here to purchase one metric ton of the misery, one thousand kilos with a street value U.S. of fifteen million dollars or $120,000 a gram. The drugs would be shipped out from Scotland to New York concealed inside thousands of soccer balls. Imports from Scotland, the Tajiks had discovered, received far less scrutiny from undermanned U.S. customs inspectors than, say, a large package from Iran or North Korea with “Death to America” written large on the outside.
Of course, if things went according to plan, the cargo Shaw would be purchasing tonight would be confiscated at New York Harbor. The seizure would be touted in the press as a huge blow to international drug traffickers and a testament to the efficiency of global law enforcement efforts. That’s if Shaw succeeded in his mission and managed to walk away with all his organs intact. Although he seriously doubted that Frank would see his survival as a necessary gauge of triumph.
Yet making U.S. customs agents look good was not why Shaw was here. It was to prevent the proceeds of the drug deal from flowing to an international crime syndicate that had been partially taken over by Islamic fundamentalists who were all over Tajikistan. Their share of this take tonight could buy a few dirty bombs or ten thousand IEDs, neither of which was a good thing for the civilized world.
They weren’t that far from Edinburgh but the land had quickly turned open and isolated. Far to the north was the Firth of Forth. As one of the Tajiks rolled down his window to blow out smoke from his cigarette, Shaw thought he could smell the heavy sea air. Thirty minutes later they turned onto a gravel road and were quickly swallowed by dense trees on either side.
The driver of the truck waiting at the end of the road nodded at his colleague in the sedan as it slowed to a stop next to the truck.
Shaw and the four men climbed out of the car.
“Soccer balls?” Shaw asked, pointing to the cargo in the truck.
The man to his left grunted, which Shaw took as a “yes” in Tajik.
The only reason Shaw was still alive was because these men thought he would be a good future customer on the other side of the pond. South American cartels ruled the U.S. illegal drug market, the world’s biggest, but the Tajiks had long had their eye on it. If they had to fly to Colombia and rip the throats out of a few thousand Spanish speakers they would be more than willing.
Shaw slit open one of the soccer balls using a knife handed to him by one of the Tajiks. Inside were plastic baggies filled with a white powder. He didn’t slice open a baggie and taste the stuff like they did on TV since he didn’t want the crap in his system. The only thing worse than heroin on that score was meth. It seemed if you even sniffed the stuff from a hundred yards you were a candidate for detox.
“And what, I only have your word that it’s heroin and all the other balls are filled with it right up to a thousand kilos?”
The four men stared back at him; none seemed inclined to answer. The passenger side of the truck opened and a small, slender man sprang down, landing lightly on the soft ground. He had thinning blond hair, wore an expensive suit and a perpetual smile showing a new set of implants.
“We’ve been doing this a long time,” he said, any accent he might have had barely discernible. He extended his hand to Shaw.
“All new clients have the same question. But they are never disappointed.” He pointed to the split soccer ball. “That is the best heroin in the world. Guaranteed seventy percent pure even with all the shit you’ll put in it before it hits the streets in the U.S. Most heroin, you need ten kilos to get a little over two salable kilos. That’s a forty percent purity rate. That’s for shit. That costs you money, my friend. With our product you’ll make double that.”
Shaw imagined himself standing in a product demo line listening to the pitch.
The man continued, “And I threw in ten kilos at no extra charge. That’s a million-two U.S. on the street. It’s for new customers only, to show our good faith. One time only,” he added firmly, but still smiling. “We sell it to you for five million euros and you get twelve to fifteen U.S. for it in New York, L.A., and Miami. Not a bad markup. And we can do this every other week. Easy money.”
“It’s a big risk pushing drugs in America,” Shaw pointed out.
The man chuckled. “That’s not what I heard. Candy from babies because all Americans are addicted. Fat, greedy, and sex maniacs. And now that you’ve seen our product, I’d like to see your money.”
“How do I get the balls to the port?” Shaw asked, buying time. If Frank screwed me? The Tajiks will feed me to the squirrels one finger, toe, and critical organ at a time.
“We put it right on the ship for you. Nobody the wiser. Now, your money?” The man looked in the Mercedes. “I see no briefcase. Five million euros take up a lot of space even in large notes.” He looked at Shaw inquiringly. “We don’t accept checks or credit cards,” he added with a flicker of a smile, and then his mouth tightened. “Where the hell is the cash?”
“My people are bringing it,” Shaw said casually.
“Your people? What people?” The small man looked around at the emptiness that surrounded them.
“You have your people, I have my people.”
“We were not told about this.”
“Come on. You think I’m getting into a car alone with four T-Rexes I don’t know from Adam with millions of euros burning a hole in my pocket? If I were that stupid, I wouldn’t have lasted one week in this business.”
The little man motioned to his men and four MP5 submachine guns emerged from the trunk of the Mercedes. A metallic sound Shaw heard from the truck indicated that the driver was also armed.
Where the hell are you, Frank?
The Whole Truth The Whole Truth - David Baldacci The Whole Truth