* * *
"More coffee, sir?" the pretty waitress asked.
"A little more, please."
The young woman leaned over to pour the beverage, her tongue lodged in the corner of her mouth with concentration. But as she strained in her uncomfortable position, her hand shook, and she spilled coffee into the saucer, some of the dark liquid splashing on the chipped Formica table. "Oh, my," she said. "I'm terribly sorry."
Zavlin yanked some napkins from the dispenser and mopped up the coffee from the table. "Quite all right." He wanted her to go, but she became flustered, standing there apologizing, glancing over her shoulder to see if her boss was looking.
"It's my first week and all. But I'm getting better. Hardly ever spill any. I don't know why."
Zavlin looked out the window, saw Demoines and his hunting party climb into the Jeep.
"Just nerves, I guess, from working for my cousin. He's sweet guy, but he...."
Zavlin turned to the young waitress. "Leave me," he snapped.
She looked startled, almost tearful, but she left. Zavlin stared back out the window. Five in the Jeep. Plus the three he'd heard about. Eight. He hadn't heard how many they were hunting, but he hoped one of them was Dodge Reed. That would save him the trouble of killing the kid himself. Secretly, he admitted to himself that he hoped the big man in black was not among the ones that were trapped out there. No, he wanted that man for himself. He patted his traveling bag, felt the weight of the branding iron packed in among the shirts, pants, shoes and toiletries.
The running iron he hoped to be able to use on that man someday.
He looked at the clock above the smoking grill. It had been only a couple of hours since KGB informants had told him of the violence Damon Blue and the others had had at a remote cabin with Mafia chief Clip Demoines. He knew Demoines would never rest until he'd chased down the man who'd humiliated him. So he'd kept a tag on him, following him to Waycross.
Zavlin was familiar with the Mafia boss, since the KGB did extensive business with the Mafia. The dossier on Demoines suggested a certain emotional imbalance, a desire to be accepted by polite society yet still maintain control over his underworld empire. The result was a ruthless, quick-tempered man. Not to be underestimated.
But then, neither was the big man in black. He'd escaped Zavlin's assassins as well as Demoines's thugs. Whoever he was, Zavlin wanted him.
Patience, Zavlin told himself. Let the Americans splash about in the bug-infested swamp.
Meantime, he would wait and see what would happen with Demoines's hunting party. Zavlin plucked the menu from behind the ketchup bottle. Suddenly he was quite hungry.