The Big Bad Wolf
THERE WAS AN IMPROBABLE MURDER STORY told about the Wolf that had made its way into police lore and then spread quickly from Washington to New York to London and to Moscow. No one knew if it was actually the Wolf. But it was never officially disproved, and it was consistent with other outrageous incidents in the Russian gangster’s life.
According to the story, the Wolf had gone to the high-security supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, on a Sunday night in early summer. He had bought his way inside to meet with the Italian mobster and don Augustino “Little Gus” Palumbo. Prior to this visit, the Wolf had a reputation for being impulsive and sometimes lacking patience. Even so, he had been planning this meeting with Little Gus Palumbo for nearly two years.
He and Palumbo met in the Security Housing Unit of the prison, where the New York gangster had been incarcerated for seven years. The purpose of the meeting was to reach an arrangement to unite the East Coast’s Palumbo family with the Red Mafiya, thereby forming one of the most powerful and ruthless crime syndicates in the world. Nothing like it had ever been attempted. Palumbo was said to be skeptical, but he agreed to the meeting just to see if the Russian could get inside Florence prison—and then manage to get out again.
From the moment they met, the Russian was respectful of the sixty-six-year-old don. He bowed his head slightly as they shook hands and almost appeared shy, contrary to his reputation.
“There’s to be no physical contact,” the captain of the guards said from the intercom into the room. His name was Larry Ladove and he was the one who had been paid $75,000 to arrange the meeting.
The Wolf ignored Captain Ladove. “Under the circumstances, you look well,” he said to Little Gus. “Very well indeed.”
The Italian smiled thinly. He had a small body, but it was tight and hard. “I exercise three times a day, every day. I almost never have liquor, and not by choice. I eat well, and not by choice either.”
The Wolf smiled, then said, “It sounds like you don’t expect to be here for your full sentence.”
Palumbo coughed out a laugh. “That’s a good bet. Three life sentences served concurrently? The discipline’s in my nature, though. The future? Who can know for sure about these things?”
“Who can know? One time I escaped from a gulag on the arctic circle. I told a cop in Moscow, ‘I spent time in a gulag; you think
can scare me?’ What else do you do in here? Besides exercise and eat Healthy Choice?”
“I try to take care of my business back in New York. Sometimes I play chess with a sick madman down the hall. He used to be in the FBI.”
“Kyle Craig,” said the Wolf. “You think he’s crazy like they say?”
“Yeah, totally. So tell me,
how can this alliance you suggest work? I am a man of discipline and careful planning, in spite of these humbling circumstances. From what I’m told, you’re reckless. Hands-on. You involve yourself with even the smallest operations. Extortion, prostitution.
How can this work between us?”
The Wolf finally smiled, then shook his head. “I am hands-on, as you say. But I’m not reckless, not at all. It’s all about the money, no? The bling-bling? Let me tell you a secret that no one else knows. This will surprise you and maybe prove my point.”
The Wolf leaned forward. He whispered his secret, and the Italian’s eyes suddenly widened with fear. With stunning quickness, the Wolf grabbed Little Gus’s head. He twisted it powerfully, and the gangster’s neck broke with a loud, clear snap.
“Maybe I am a little reckless,” said the Wolf. Then he turned to the camera in the room. He spoke to Captain Ladove of the guards. “Oh, I forgot, no touching.”
The next morning Augustino Palumbo was found dead in his cell. Nearly every bone in his body had been broken. In the Moscow underworld, this symbolic kind of murder was known as
It signified complete and total dominance by the attacker. The Wolf was boldly stating that he was now the godfather.
THE PHIPPS PLAZA shopping mall in Atlanta was a showy montage of pink-granite floors, sweeping bronze-trimmed staircases, gilded Napoleonic design, lighting that sparkled like halogen spotlights. A man and a woman watched the target—“Mom”—as she left Niketown with sneakers and whatnot for her three daughters packed under one arm.
very pretty. I see why
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