Sunday 17th Oct 1976, 12:30 pm
Carpentras France, In The Bakery
On La Rue Des Ramparts ...
About 30 Meters Kitty Corner From Le Café
Not Far From The Church
It wasn’t hard to pick out our man. They all have that look about them. You can spot them at a mile off, if you know what you are looking for. I stood there inside the bakery and watched. He was there airing himself out in the fall sun, smoking his cigarette and waiting as if he had nothing else better to do.
My thoughts just rambled for a few moments. I had not said anything out into the room as of yet, but I did wonder if my lips moved as I thought.
Cleone knew who he was instantly. “That one, sitting right there with the smoke, that’s the bastard ... he’s ... a part of Carlos’ crew.” She paused as we simply looked on. She had a croissant poised to be eaten but it was now a pointer indicating in the direction of le Café. “He and Sánchez have worked together,” there was a slight pause while she gathered her thoughts ... “several times.” She paused again and thought, “Johannes somebody or other, he is on our hit list of people to grab onto. Take him down at all costs!”
She just looked at me. “You know you look and look and look for these people and never see them, and then all of a sudden there they are. Right there within my grasp. Fuck!” This fuck was a short and snappy fuck not a long and drawn out exasperated fuck ... just short and to the point. Something you’d say with your teeth clenched. “Fuck!”
Both Cleone and I knew that this man was a psychopath and would kill simply because it needed to be done.
I recognized Weinrich from his photos but never had I gotten this close to a world class terrorist since that time I came face to face with Ilich Ramírez Sánchez aka Carlos, in the Ottawa airport. At the time I was role playing being an Air Canada supervisor ticket agent. We were looking for Carlos. We suspected that he would be at the airport either coming or going on that particular day. I got to look him straight in the eye, and somehow in that space between me, the counter and the distance to the doorway, he slipped away and made good his escape. That space in time seemed like and eternity but it was only the very briefest of seconds.
Both Sánchez and I knew. We recognized each other for who we were; I a foil and he a perpetrator playing out our parts. That death’s door was simply waiting to be opened. For an instant it was as if both heaven and hell held their breath to see what each of us would do. Either one of us could set madness in motion. We could see it in each other’s eyes. And he knew that I, would not do anything while we were constrained by the configuration of the airport and the crowds contained therein.
He actually smiled at me. Not an ear to ear, but more an ever so slight Mona Liza type smile. He knew that I knew he had me.
There was no need to say anything on either of our behalves.
I got a simple fuck you by eye contact and the smile. That was it.
King Hussein of Jordan was in the nation’s capital and he was Carlos’s intended target. Security was too tight and Sánchez simply slipped away and melted into the crowd. There was a rumor that he had a girl friend who lived somewhere behind the Governor Generals Residence at or near Rock Coté Park, but that was only a rumor. I could still feel those shivers I felt then, right now as my thoughts wandered about in my mind.
Right before my eyes I watched as a world class predator becomes our prey. That gave me a different kind of shutter.
So close yet so far away. My mind came back in focus to the here and now. I noticed a young man in a poorly tailored suit wearing a fedora motion to the waiter. He handed a note and some currency over to him. The waiter nodded and went straight to the table and gave it to Johannes.
Weinrich finished his wine then got up and began to stroll from the café. It was not a hurried walk, but it was a well-rehearsed walk that he walked so he could easily see if anyone was watching. He walked to a dark green two door Citroën parked (in parallel fashion) on the street at the side of the café. He sat in the front seat, lit another cigarette, rolled down the driver’s window and waited to see what was going to happen around him. When he apparently determined that no one was interested in him, he started the car. It rose as Citroën’s do, like a camel getting to its feet. He backed out into the street and lurched ahead into traffic. It was obvious that the clutch had him guessing, thus not his personal car. Just like us, either borrowed or stolen. I smiled.
Max was waiting at the end of the street in Cleone’s blue Peugeot. I clicked twice on the radio and I got one click back. He confirmed that he had the target and was on him. Max had seen all this happen too.
Cleone and I were now traveling in a cream colored Renault sedan with a retractable hand cranked sunroof and a brown leather interior, stolen earlier from a bakery in a little place just outside of Vaison le Romaine. We all went in for coffee and a bun and came away with a coffee, a bun and a car. Not such a bad morning’s work and the baker will not miss it until he goes to leave for home at 3 pm. (You might want to know how I knew it was 3 pm when he would miss his car. I simply asked him, “What time do you usually go home each day?” and he told me while he waited on us at the counter.)
Johannes tossed a crumbled piece of paper from the driver’s window as he rounded the corner at the bottom of the block. Cleone was off like a shot and on it. She was as cat on the hunt and the mouse was that scrap of paper. It is not often that one makes a mistake in this business and lives to see the next day. It could be that Mr. Johannes Weinrich had sealed his fate. I turned and went for the car. Boris was in the back seat and still absorbed in his trashy novel.
It was decided, level playing field or not, that we had to take the initiative and get ahead of this thing before it got us. So we had resolved earlier, over breakfast, that it was better to die trying than it was to die hiding in our fear.
It was game on.