"René Budjinski did not hear a word of the public prosecutor's opening speech. He was reliving those last climactic hours in Varanasi, and asking himself, as he asked himself so many times, if it had all been worth it. The past year had seemed endless, waiting for this day when perhaps the sacrifice could be justified.Was it enough that they had him in chains, and that the killing had stopped? Would any punishment be enough?He raised his head and searched the mass of faces. Michel was slouched in his chair, his wrists manacled in his lap. He wondered what he was feeling. Confusion? Fear? His face betrayed nothing. Michel caught Budjinski's stare and a mocking half-smile formed on his lips. But Budjinski did not see it. He was lost once more in his reverie; a skein of smoke rose over the grey river, and he heard the sounds of his own screams. Over a year ago but the horror of it was still fresh in his memory. He realized that the man next to him was staring. His hands had tightened into fists on the wooden bench and his body was shaking with the force of his rage. If the Indians did not convict him he would kill this bastard himself."
Vientiane, 1960. Laos is a sleepy post-colonial backwater, run by generals and at war with the communist Pathet Lao in the north. Corsican gangsters, left behind after the French departure five years before, run the opium trade, flying raw opium out of the mountains to Bangkok and Saigon.The most celebrated of the milieu is Rocco Bonaventure,…
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