An Elephant

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Chapter 10: Dog

Chapter 10: Dog

‘The ultimate art of war is to subdue your enemy without fighting.’

- Sun Tzu



“You’re a really skilled martial artist Dog,” said Grant. “How come Filipino? Why not the more common Japanese or Chinese stuff? Why are the Filipino ones better?”

Dog checked that no one could hear him.

“It’s generally more the artist than the art that’s important,” he shrugged “and there are many paths to the top of the mountain...”

He waited for two passers-by to get out of earshot, then after a moment’s pause for thought, he continued:

“It’s far from simple, I’ve studied many arts. I started out with Karate, but now I focus mainly on the arts of what was the Majapahit Empire, which used to cover most of South East Asia. I practice Muay Thai, Silat, and the Filipino martial arts, which I call Kali as an umbrella term… but there are hundreds of systems and styles, absolutely loads… I do some grappling, and conceptually I am a Jeet Kune Do man.”

“That’s Bruce Lee’s style, isn’t it?” asked Grant.

“It’s not a style so much as an approach to the martial arts.”

Dog checked his watch for time, there was no rush: they would still get to Place St George at the right time as long as they kept their pace. He was processing the surrounding area and people. Both Boots and certainly Grant were obviously interested in his martial background, and no-one was in earshot.

“Bruce Lee was taught Wing Chun Gung Fu while growing up in Hong Kong, and was always told that it was the ultimate system - that once it was mastered you could beat everyone else with it. After falling in with the wrong crowd and getting involved in some of their rooftop challenges, his family sent him to America to keep him away from trouble. He studied philosophy, but as a little oriental guy in the States he was picked on a lot, and he always stood up to his aggressors. He found his Wing Chun worked well, but lacked something against people who practiced different things, like western boxing or college wrestling.”

Across the road from them, a woman walked in the opposite direction, holding hands with a little girl. The girl had noticed Dog, and appeared to be informing her mother of his presence, while being too frightened to look back in his direction.

“He analysed his art, trained outside it, and as a natural philosopher he decided that there is no ultimate system that will work against all of the people, all of the time. The traditional arts back then were very insular and static: ‘If they do this, you must do this’ with little concern for the individual fighter. Some things work better for tall, skinny people that don’t work for short stocky people and vice versa. Certain arts are very good at close quarters, but not so good at distance. Some are especially good on the ground, the Filipino arts also cover weapons and multiple attackers, but combat sport tend not to.”

Dog fell silent again as a small group of England fans caught them up and overtook them. He could tell Grant was clearly interested in the mention of ‘weapons’ and ‘multiple attackers,’ but was missing the real lesson.

“Sigung Bruce thought that truth in combat was a personal thing. People should train in varied techniques and discover what worked best for them: ‘research your own experience, absorb what is useful, add what is specifically your own’ he used to say. He was a major advocate of what we now call cross-training, although that falls a long way short of true Jeet Kune do expression, in my opinion. It’s a personal, subjective approach to the truth.

“I heard Bruce Lee was the first person to think of cross-training.” said Grant. Dog shook his head.

“Miyamoto Musashi suggested training in different arts back in the 1600s in his Book of the Five Rings, and I’m sure he wasn’t the first. Sigung Bruce was always learning and challenging himself and Jeet Kune Do was his vision, but like all truths, it varies slightly from person to person. It needs to be discovered. A person shouldn’t have to force himself into a given art via technique, he or she needs to discover it for themselves. He said he wished he’d never even given it a name.”

Dog was a little surprised. Clutching the holdall in his pail and narrow fingers, that Boots seemed to be as interested as Grant.

He seems to be drinking this stuff in.

“And what’s this got to do with the Philippines?” asked Boots.

“Largely down to Guro Dan Inosanto, really. He was the main training partner of Bruce Lee, one of his closest friends, and the only full JKD instructor he ever made.

“He was Filipino-American and Bruce Lee suggested that he look at the heritage of his own martial culture and “absorb what is useful.” Guro Dan took him up on the advice and is now a major practitioner and ambassador for the Filipino arts, and martial arts in general. With his amazing connections he is the ultimate cross-trainer.

“I went to some of his seminars in London, loved the emphasis on flow, and got heavily involved in Filipino stick fighting, so I went over to Manilla to train, and fought in some competitions. I fought a guy whose technique I really liked and asked him about it. He turned out to be Sensei’s cousin and that’s how I ended up meeting Sensei.

“Sensei’s amazing!” said Grant to Boots. Boots knew he had recently witnessed a seminar.

“‘Guro’ would be the term usually applied to teachers of Filipino martial arts,” said Dog, “but I came from a traditional Japanese training background. Sensei had trained in some of the traditional Japanese arts, in addition to the Filipino family system passed down through the generations. It was also what they used to effectively defend themselves against the Japanese in the middle of WWII, so there is some irony there, too.”

Everyone paused for breath as they considered Dog’s words and the imminent meeting.

“I heard Bruce Lee liked to smoke weed” said Boots, but Dog didn’t reply, he was thinking back to a walk with Sensei, for a sense of perspective. The first time they had met was in the back streets of Metro Manilla, where the young children have strange, hoarse voices from the pollution. He was warned to be very wary of pickpockets, petty challenges, corrupt policemen and all manner of danger-in-waiting. The following day he saw someone stabbed in the chest with a barbeque stick in an argument about a smoked fish.

It made Dog stifle a smile at the false bravado of the two oncoming men in France ’98 T-shirts, as they tried and failed to look untroubled by Dog’s appearance, and overcompensated in an attempt to look threatening themselves.

Dog moved to his right, forcing them to veer away from Boots, with Dog between them. Boots had missed the subtlety and continued to nervously swing the holdall with his product in it. The product was disguised, and appeared to be just another bottle of Evian water, so it wouldn’t draw attention to anyone who examined it, but drinking it, or even smelling it, would certainly change that opinion.

All the while Dog was glancing around, checking ahead and behind them as they walked. A few England fans, a few locals, and a few international tourists were all that they had seen down the quiet route they took, but they often heard shouts in the distance.

Quieter than I expected thought Dog. Most people have gone to watch the screen on the beach.

They approached another mini crossroads and his eyes flickered between the alleys and windows, between the people and how they were behaving, plus any possible vantage points. Cheering rang out again for England, far behind them.

The England fans are the some of the worst: half of them will already be pissed and unpredictable.

Boots swapped the bag with his product, from one sweaty hand to the other, while Grant was over-playing his role: bobbing about and darting glances at the bag.

Dog thought about how Jeet Kune Do was all about being dynamic and adapting to the environment as well as the opponent, but while working in his current capacity - keeping Boots and the product safe - he would have much preferred sure-fire predictability. Dog was one hundred percent focused on the job, anything less could get people hurt or killed, but he had recently been considering converting his martial arts academy into a full-time endeavour. He was planning on handing over his door work responsibilities, and stopping this sort of mission for Kevin. Kevin had promised two ex-forces men as back-up for this job, and all he ended up with was Grant: a rank amateur and loose cannon. Dog’s work as minder and back-up for Kevin was very highly paid, but he wondered if it were so highly paid that he had lost his objectivity.

He urged Boots to walk slightly quicker and thought of the Venn diagram of all the people he was involved with. There was the hardcore criminal fraternity: upscale drug dealers like Kevin, doormen with ’roid rage and more recently the likes of Angry Grant. He also trained with graphic designers, businessmen and bankers, one of his students was even a policeman. Another policeman, the detective who arrested him over the knife fight with Jimmy the House and his accomplices, had since called Dog as an expert witness in court for some knife attack cases. Dog found that his social mix of law abiding citizens and the criminal fraternity was becoming increasingly awkward.

The alleyway they walked down joined a street, and Grant immediately veered off toward what looked like a twelve-year boy as he passed, he even held his arms up aggressively.

“Try not to draw attention Grant. That’s just a kid out for a walk and I thought you were going to put him in a wrist lock. I want low key.”

This set Grant thinking, and after a few seconds he said to Dog:

“You said on the plane that traditional Jiu-Jitsu was loads of wrist locks.”

“There’s loads more to it, it was the art of the Samurai, so the reason for all the wrist locks in traditional Jiu-Jitsu dates back to them. If an enemy could get his sword out, he was likely to kill you with it, so they had to become experts at wrist manipulation, to avoid getting chopped in half by a drawn weapon. The martial arts are all about finding solutions to problems.”

“But nobody goes around with huge blades hacking people to death these days, do they? That hasn’t happened for hundreds of years” said Grant.

Dog shook his head briskly, and waited until they passed a stall with a man selling merguez, before answering.

“Look at the Congo, Somalia, or South Africa. Ask a Ghurkha. Even today the Filipino arts are very weapon-orientated, lots of them will carry several weapons, bladed and otherwise, it even translates to their ‘empty hand’. Sensei trains extensively with ‘live’ blades - they train on the beach with them, every morning. It was not so long ago that Grandmaster Illustrissimo and a few others fought prize fights with real swords. In a prize fight in India he chopped off the hand of a bloke who asked to be his student afterwards.”

“Wow! Grandmaster who?” Grant’s eyes lit up.

“Illustrissimo. He was in a famous guerrilla group in Manila who hunted the Japanese during the war, earning himself the nickname ‘The Executioner’. His blade work is amazing, and I’ve seen him spar with sticks myself, in Manila. He’s so quick, and yet he hardly seems to move at all. He’s the real deal.”

“They spar with real, sharp knives?” Grant was smiling and nodding excitedly, wide-eyed.

“Beginners - not at all, but advanced players - every day.”

“Shit!” Grant was manic. “…I hope we won’t have any of that kind of shit today.”

“Me, too” said Dog.

Boots’s pale grip on the black bag tightened, Dog could see his whole body was oozing tension.

“Imagine how I’ll feel if it kicks off?” said Boots. “It’s alright for you Dog, you’re a ninja.”

That’s what I’m worried about thought Dog. Ninjas were considered expendable.

His mind was made up. The longer he worked with Kevin back in Manchester, the more he was exposed to the danger of arrest. Also, even though Dog hadn’t murdered Jimmy The House, many thought he had, and Jimmy had a big family and major back-up. The further he was from Kevin and his regular haunts, the less likely Dog would be to suffer reprisals for something he hadn’t done.

No more working for Kevin after today. He hoped the decision hadn’t come too late.

“Here we are.”

As they arrived onto Place St George, Dog took in his surroundings and found himself remembering his anting anting: his link with something supremely powerful. On his barrel chest, between the image of a samurai war mask and some Thai script, he had a tattooed symbol: the affirmation of his anting anting. It was a remnant of the pre-Christian belief systems still followed in parts of the Philippines. He had received it after many years visiting and training with Sensei, each time for three months or more. It was something that had to be earned with blood and sweat…

In the western Visayas, four days travel from the nearest airport, across a mountain range, a broad river with no bridge, then another mountain range, there is one of a thousand tiny jungle villages, and at the centre, is one of many small huts, built on stilts. It was a night time ceremony, and already exhausted from training all day, knee-deep in a flooded paddy field, Dog had drunk cobra blood as part of his rite of passage to become one with Sensei’s family system, and join the local warrior caste.

It had been an overwhelmingly visceral experience, his senses overloaded by ten hours of heavy training, both with and without a variety of weapons. He then had to defend himself against a surprise attack by three unknown, but skilled and spirited warriors, invited from a nearby village. They attacked him, hitting and slashing with wooden staffs and slightly blunted swords - certainly enough to sever fingers and possibly a hand - but not generally a cause of fatalities.

His enormous size and the fact that he was a foreigner, meant that they tried very hard to test Dog, and at one point he only narrowly managed to deflect a stab aimed at his throat - although it opened up a two inch gash on his jaw line. He successfully defended himself, suffering only bruising and two other flesh wounds, while using only a stick he had grabbed from the fire, together with a nearby candle holder.

He had received the tattoo that same night, done by firelight using the traditional bamboo method, while chickens were taken from beneath the house and sacrificed. The blurred, smeared, rough image on his chest was far from clear, but the embedded message for Dog was as direct and immediate as lightning – the message was one of enormous power, and was meant for a warrior. The ink talisman over his heart was supposed to make him invincible, at one with the Almighty, and it conveyed divine protection in times of need on the battlefield.

He scratched the suddenly-itchy tattoo as they entered Place St George from the east. He checked ahead and into the square which opened out to the left.

Nothing to hide behind. Mainly English wandering about. I suspect the Tunisian fans will either be watching on the screen at the beach or staying away from places like this. There’s that copper from last night, he’s in plain clothes today, just hanging around. That’s a lucky spot.

Just behind them, a young Japanese couple followed, and a couple of English fans. The corner they arrived at shared another exit to the north, and Dog looked to his right. Down past the hot-dog stand, amongst other passers-by, he saw three men approaching from fifteen or twenty metres away.

Tadeusz.

Dog knew Tadeusz was a captain for a major international crime boss, and probably his second in command. They had been given a description of him, and the approaching guy was expensively dressed and wearing what Dog knew to be Ray Bahn sunglasses, although different from his own.

Nice.

He was with what looked like two other Poles – one was mid 20s with a large moustache and appeared nervous enough to be Boots’s opposite number, and the other was a big guy and obviously there for protection: he wore camouflaged gear that oozed ‘ex forces’, and he carried a black shoulder bag, that Dog expected to be full of cash.

The CPO wouldn’t normally carry the money, he needs both hands free. That’s amateurish.

He looked left to the southeast corner of Place St George and saw a young couple sat chatting on the ground in the Southeast corner of the square. He couldn’t see the face of the lad who sat with his back to the square, but he wore a yellow T-shirt with an elephant on the back, and he spoke to a girl facing out from the corner, who wore a pink vest.

Wow. She’s gorgeous.

Along from them, just past an alleyway that was fenced off due to building works, was a woman wearing a T-shirt with the Brazilian flag on it. She sat on the ground with her legs folded beneath her and her back to the wall of the school, with a small canvas bag in front of her. Dog’s hotel would be close to the far end of that blocked alley, if they took the most direct route.

In the centre of the small square, Dog was dismayed to see a large television camera filming a female journalist with a microphone. The camera was pointing away from him, toward the south, but if the camera turned around, he, Grant and Boots would be on film, complete with their holdall with the product inside. He willed the camera to remain pointing away, and that none of them would attract the attention of the journalist with the microphone, as she may be searching for interviewees.

No one else seems here for anything other than an afternoon out, apart from those two.

Dog made a point of checking his watch, while out of the corner of his eye he paid great attention to an Arabic-looking kid and his blond accomplice, standing near the off duty policeman from the night before. The black-haired one looked at Grant, who had somehow managed to get even more jumpy suddenly, and then at Boots, who was sweating so much he was struggling to hold onto the black holdall that held the product. Dog thought briefly about how much the fake bottle of Evian was worth, then looked at Boots, its creator.

He’s in a right state, and he stands out a mile among these crowds with that dyed hair.

Dog knew the way to watch a crowd is to watch people’s eyes. He looked for sudden movements in the dynamics of people’s torsos, as arms are waving all the time when football meets alcohol at big tournaments.

Shit.

It was clear the two street lads had spotted the bag, and thanks to the body language of Grant and Boots they had guessed that it was valuable. The trio walked slowly past a book shop on their right, along the northern edge of the tiny square and then passed the computer-lined internet café.

Dog could see the terrace of Hotel de la Paix ahead of him, with three shouting Scousers getting rowdier by the second as he approached. Dog always had a ‘feel’ for when something might be about to go off -working security on the door of pubs and clubs was perfect practice for developing such a sixth sense. Various sirens intermittently rang out in the distance. He could feel the emotions running higher and higher and he suspected that violence was brewing nearby - he heard shouting a street away to the north. He glanced to his right to see behind them in the reflection.

Those two kids are definitely onto us. The blond is going ahead, he’ll probably try and cause a distraction, and the one with the black hair is getting behind us. He doesn’t know I’ve seen him.

Near the centre of the square, the policeman he had seen in uniform during his walkthrough the night before, looked like he was eyeing up the Japanese woman just behind them.

Those two local kids are going to be really awkward he thought. Especially with that copper, and Tadeusz is about to arrive. Grant can’t be trusted to react appropriately, and Boots is likely to fall to his knees and burst into tears if there’s any more tension.

He said nothing, but thought:

I wish I had the two ex-servicemen I’d been promised for this job.

“This is pretty much it.” He took control of the situation as best he could. He spoke quietly but firmly:

“Walk wide around those Scouse lads at the hotel Boots, and stay right next to me.”

Dog checked the reflection of the kid sneaking up behind them in the window of the café, then looked at the big, blond, shouting Scouser ahead of them. His eyes were rolling back in their sockets and Dog could see white residue at the corner of his mouth, despite the distance.

It’s not just booze he’s on, and he’s got an aggressive swagger about him. He’s not in good shape, but he’s a fire-starter. The pretty boy’s just as wasted, and is in much better shape, but I know his sort and he looks like he’d have a longer fuse and some banter. The smallest, red-faced one looks to be paying the most attention, but not looking to start trouble.

He thought that any one of them could still be a serious threat, a minor nuisance or nothing at all. If they took any interest in the bag it could make everything a lot worse.

Boots was continually coughing and sniffing and nervously rubbing beneath his nose with his skinny fingers. He was used to dealing with major players with serious back up, but Dog suspected that the Polish captain and his muscle were not only major players, but also very ruthless. He knew that Boots also suspected they were capable of extreme violence.

Dog watched the sweat dripping from Boots’s hand onto the handle of the black holdall. He seemed to be mouthing ‘Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!’ under his breath, and even Grant looked slightly nervous suddenly, as he realised they were almost at their destination. Tadeusz and his people were just around the corner behind them, and it was crunch time.

What’s wrong with this picture? Dog thought.

Dog thought Teddy’s crew would be unlikely to risk simply stealing the product out in the open like this, so surely it was much safer to meet them here rather than in some dark, secluded meeting place, with fewer exits and witnesses. That was the one of the reasons for this choice of venue. But if Teddy was kosher and here for honest business, then conducting it out in the open like this, with these crowds, was madness.

Why make an enemy of Keith? Surely he and Boots are valuable contacts? Maybe this is a one-off. Maybe they’re big enough not to care about repercussions, or they may be setting something up that they could deny later, like a simple mugging. That kid’s still homing in on Boots.

The bag the big Pole’s carrying looks heavy enough to contain all the money we’re expecting, but something’s still not quite right.

That kid is now right behind us. Teddy’s lot can probably see him if they’ve come round the corner, he’s right in front of them. Is he on the pay role? He looks unreliable. He’d fold under questioning with police involvement, so hopefully he’s unconnected.

Outside Hotel de la Paix, Dog turned and told Boots to pass him the holdall he carried. Keeping his eye on the Scousers and a mental image of where the thief might be, Dog unzipped it, quietly telling Boots and Grant to go to Table 4, just around the corner of the terrace, and wait for him there.

Police sirens sounded near the bottom of Rue des Pecheurs.

The blond decoy kid hasn’t gone downhill, he’s heading straight on. Dog turned to check the square behind him. The policeman’s still a way off by the far corner, but - damn - he’s turning this way, not far behind Teddy, who’s not far behind this idiot.

He watched the Scousers, who had clearly spotted him, as they immediately started discussing him amongst themselves. His immense size generally drew this reaction from strangers, and he was pleased to see that they appeared to have noticed nothing special about the bag.

Dog walked ahead of Boots and Grant, and carried the bag past Table 4, heading down Rue des Pecheurs. He glanced right at Hotel de la Paix and checked behind him with the corner of his eye.

That kid’s still following me. He should know I’ve clocked him and his mate by now.

There was shouting and signs of a scuffle ahead of him at the bottom of the hill.

As if I didn’t have enough to deal with, it’s kicking off down there.

Confirming his fears, Dog heard what sounded like the ignition of a smoke grenade. He had a familiar metallic taste in his mouth, signalling high adrenalin, but he was in control. He looked to his right to see the long deep doorway of the first shop after the hotel. It was an upmarket watch shop, complete with Rolexes, Omegas and Tag Heuers.

Enough room to manoeuvre.

He stepped forward and then to his right into the wide doorway, which led nearly three metres to the front door of the shop, which was closed. Dog walked down the long entrance past the watches lined up, brand by brand, and put the bag down behind him and to the right, as he peered into the last display.

Tag Heuer Series 1500 Two-Tone Diver. Nice.

The blond accomplice was nowhere to be seen, but the dusky kid persevered and pretended that he was walking downhill, his reflection directly behind Dog. The kid checked that Boots and Grant weren’t watching, then veered off to his right, straight towards Dog and the bag. Dog was watching everything as the faint reflection of the shop front reflected onto an oversized polished watch face. He scratched his itching anting anting tattoo and bided his time as the kid prepared to make his move.

Probably got ten to twelve seconds before the Poles come around the corner, the copper two or three seconds after that, but there’s something slightly wrong with the Teddy trio.

Dog focused on the approaching thief’s reflection in the angled watch face, and waited for the right moment, almost willing the kid to get it over with. The thief stepped toward the bag and leaned forward, to either grab the whole bag or reach inside and run.

Dog heard a bizarre shriek and suspected it came from the blond accomplice as a warning, then the sound of two women muttering in French and scurrying into Place St George, away from the crowd disturbance at the bottom of the hill.

I’m sure that was a smoke grenade going off.

He thought about the possible consequences of a riot spreading up the hill.

What if the Scouse lads walked around the corner in the middle of the business deal at table 4? What if we get a police lockdown, like that time in Italy - Everyone in the area gets arrested and I’m carrying two litres of Boots’s product. Teddy will be here in seconds, maybe the copper straight after that, and I have this thief to contend with.

He comfortably found the time to take all these considerations into account. It was as if time was slowing down. Dog still felt he had the time to choose the right moment, as the kid leaned over to grab the bag and then run like hell.

He thought of an old saying of his Arkansas instructor, Marc McFann: ‘If the time comes, and I have no choice but to fight, I’m prepared to kick the groin, pull hair, bite, head butt, scratch, and eye gouge my way to a quick victory. If that doesn’t work, I’ll cheat.’

What happened next was an experience that Dog had only heard about, first hand, from his Visayan Sensei and Guro Bob Breen. Sensei had been talking about a bolo fight in Manila, and Bob Breen had once spoken of a knife experience in Florence. Stories of such occurrences abound in martial arts mythology, and it felt both real and unreal at the same time. It was probably only for a fleeting second, but he knew better than to question it. Everything slowed to a halt, the thief mid-stride, the music from the hotel seemed to slow, the breeze, even the clouds in the sky.

Silence… and utter stillness.

He was in the eye of the storm.

He began to feel the ground under his feet, the weight of the whole planet as it spun beneath him, then back up through a tiny piece of petanque gravel stuck in the treads of his Adidas. He could feel every sinew from his toes, ankles, calves, thighs and hips as he spun to his right. There was no need for calculation or co-ordination, there was only expressive reaction.

It may have been coincidence, but his anting anting tattoo was suddenly burning, as he took the time to recalculate the seconds until Teddy arrived. He felt tremendous focus, enabling him to take full advantage of his years of training. He knew what was wrong.

They’re not alone. They must have some other contingency as well, and we’re being watched from elsewhere. Teddy is rich, powerful and dangerous. Two people are not enough to protect a man like him, he has back-up somewhere. Where? Possibly the tall tower up there? Who knows?

I can’t attract any attention. This kid’s interest needs to be extinguished immediately or this could go horribly wrong.

As he turned, he felt the temperature of the wind that rushed past his darting body. He covered the distance between them faster than the speed of thought, and what Dog found amazing, was that in the time he took to cover the distance, which was no time at all, he was taking so much into account: Everything, from the end of the song playing in the café, to the smell of the kid’s body odour and barbequed sausage in the air; from the nearby scurrying women’s muttering and sirens in the distance, to the metallic taste in his mouth, of the adrenalin and second-hand smoke.

He didn’t need to concern himself with correct body mechanics, or consciously choose between a great number of strategic options. Dog could have described, demonstrated, and taught a hundred physical variations to such a scenario: different combinations of punches, kicks, elbows, knees, foot sweeps, throws, plus the darker sections of the arts - most of them debilitating, all of them painful, a few of them fatal.

There were many other considerations: one decoy, one would-be thief, the bag with the product that was the thieves’ intention, the dynamics of how Grant and Boots would interact in the scenario, the people running up the hill toward them. Away from the incident at the bottom, Teddy and his team would come around the corner any second, and possibly the policeman immediately after that.

All capable fighters have to distil their craft, so as not to get technique blindness from too many options in such high-adrenalin situations. They need a handful of techniques that have been drilled literally millions of times, so as to come perfectly naturally, quickly and effectively. Flowery, beautiful movement was not the order of the day.

With the stalled passage of time, Dog felt he was able to choose between his options, but more importantly he had the creative freedom to find the natural order of things. As well as the local policeman, the riot police were probably nearby, and he did not want to attract any undue attention. Away from this doorway, back on the square, or even on Rue des Pecheurs, he might also be caught on camera, so it all had to end right there, deep in the extended doorway.

The rest was surgical, but also very natural. Dog found himself twisting and spinning to his right. Darting at the thief, he grabbed at his slim neck, through the long hair with his enormous left hand, checking the kid’s outstretched arm with the other. The grab was done so firmly as to leave the guy physically stunned. He would be disorientated and have spots before his eyes.

Clamping the thief’s neck firmly, pressing onto his LI-18 pressure point with his fingertips, Dog briefly held the wrist lock onto the thief’s left arm for a moment. He switched legs and forced the kid’s face down toward the opened black bag. All this happened before the youth even had the chance to widen his eyes from the speed at which one so large could move. Dog’s iron grip held his pale face just above the opening of the bag, allowing him to see inside.

He gave the thief half a second to digest the image of the Evian bottle disguise. The kid then looked up, and his eyes met something even more frightening. Dog imagined he must have the expression of those awaiting the guillotine or firing squad. If the pressure around his throat were any less he would have gulped. With his right hand, Dog had released the wrist lock and reached for the hidden holster, strapped to his lower back. He had produced a Browning High-Power semi-automatic pistol, which he aimed between the lad’s eyes.

Still clasping the narrow neck with his left hand, Dog turned the would-be thief’s blood-drained face from the barrel of the gun to look at his own. He gave him a dark and intense look that seemed to frighten the poor soul as much as the pistol. Dog checked that the blond accomplice was still nowhere to be seen, nor any other obvious witnesses, and let go of the lad’s throat. He remained red-faced, struggling to breathe, and restriction of the carotid arteries in his neck for any longer would have rendered him unconscious.

Dog then lightly nudged his right shoulder and gently guided his left elbow upwards. With an almost imperceptible finger pressing into the small of his back, the empty-handed thief couldn’t help but follow his physical instincts and turn and head slowly out of the shop entrance. He turned left and walked slowly back to the square, with a relaxed gait and a dazed expression, never to be seen again.

He’s in severe shock from the adrenalin. Doesn’t know whether he’s just had the luckiest or unluckiest experience of his life.

Dog leaned forward and zipped up the bag containing Boots’s product.

It just looks like a bottle of Evian.

He picked up the bag and headed toward Table 4, just as three Polish gangsters walked around the corner and slowed to a halt.

Here’s Teddy.

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