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Mack Bolan, aka the Executioner, crouched behind the Kia he was using as cover. Up and down the row of cars parked outside the bank in Kansas City, Missouri, SWAT operatives in dark blue BDU blouses and matching pants had their own rifles pointed toward the building.
Bolan had used up most of his 30-round magazine from the M-16 A-2 in taking out the window and the would-be bank robber, and now he shoved a fresh box mag into the rifle. The robbers still inside the bank and the cops behind the cars exchanged gunfire. If the gunfire continued long enough, Bolan knew it would accomplish nothing except getting the hostages inside the building killed.
Turning to the ruddy-complexioned SWAT captain next to him, the Executioner yelled, "Tell your men to cease-fire, Tom! If we don't establish some kind of dialogue fast, the good guys still inside are going to get killed."
"Cease-fire!" the captain screamed. Leaning his chin toward the microphone clipped to the epaulet on his left shoulder, he flipped a switch on his nylon utility belt and repeated the order. "Cease-fire!"
As the roar of the gunshots died down, Bolan thought about the strange situation in which he now found himself. He had been at Stony Man Farm, America's top-secret counterterrorist command post and training grounds. In addition to fielding top-notch assault teams like Able Team and Phoenix Force, Stony Man handpickedexceptional soldiers and police officers from the U.S. and friendly nations for advanced combat training. These men were flown to the Farm blindfolded, then left the same way—never knowing exactly where they'd been or who had trained them. What they did know was that they'd never received such pragmatic or intense instruction anywhere else in the world.
Tom Glasser, the sturdily built Kansas City captain next to the Executioner, had just completed a Stony Man session. When a local snitch informed the Kansas City PD of the upcoming bank robbery planned by the Rough Riders—a faction of the American Nazi Party—Glasser and Bolan had been flown straight from Stony Man Farm.
Bolan let the bolt on his M-16 slide home, chambering a round. The air seemed eerily quiet now. He watched quietly as a uniformed officer, hunkered low beneath the vehicles, approached Glasser's other side. When he was near enough, the uniform whisper-shouted a phone number.
Glasser wasted no time pulling a cell phone from a nylon carrier on his belt and tapping in the number. A second later, he had one of the bank robbers on the line.
"All right," he said into the instrument. "Let's cut the formalities. What do you want in exchange for the hostages?" He thumbed another button and activated the speakerphone so Bolan could hear the other end of the conversation, too.
The raspy cough of a heavy cigarette smoker sounded over the speakerphone. "Every damn penny we'll be hauling out of this bank," the bank robber declared. "And five million more for the inconvenience you've caused us." The voice paused and took in a hacking breath. "After that, the usual. A chopper big enough to take thirty people—that'll include some of the hostages—to the airport, a plane full of fuel ready to take off and a pilot who isn't a disguised cop." The man coughed again. "We find a weapon of any kind on him, or anything else that makes us think the flyboy's a pig, and we'll blow his head off."
Glasser looked toward Bolan. Even though he was technically in charge of this operation, the SWAT commander had just spent a month enduring the most rigorous cutting-edge training he'd had in his career, and Bolan had taught several of those classes. Hostage negotiation had been one of them.
Bolan answered the unasked question by silently mouthing the words, "You know what to do. Stall."
"I don't have the authority to meet your demands," Glasser said into the cell phone. "It can be done. But it's going to take time."
"You've got time," the man across the street rasped.
"I can't even get clearance for the chopper and plane in that length of time," Glasser said. "Let alone raise five million bucks for you."
"Well, you'd better try," the gravelly voice snapped. "Because each minute you're late means another dead hostage." There was a pause, then a low, phlegm-sounding chuckle. "I'll just shoot them, then toss them out the front window you guys blew out so you can see them." He finished with, "You've now got nineteen minutes." The line clicked dead.
Glasser cut the call at his end and turned once again toward the Executioner. He had known Bolan as Matt Cooper while training at the Farm, and still did. "Any suggestions, Cooper?" he said. "Yeah," Bolan said. "Get on the phone and start trying to get clearance for the chopper and plane. And check with the local Secret Service field office. See how much counterfeit money they've got on hand." He looked the burly man in the eye. "These guys aren't going to have the time or the equipment to check out good fakes, and it'll be a lot easier than trying to talk any other bank or rich individual into gambling with five million real dollars."
Glasser nodded and began tapping numbers into his phone. Rising to his feet, the Executioner stayed low, bending over to whisper into Glasser's ear. "You're never going to make the twenty-minute deadline," he said.
Glasser had just hung up the phone. "I know," he said. "And if the guys inside are from the Rough Riders, they aren't bluffing," Bolan said just as quietly. He remembered a recent intelligence report that Aaron "The Bear" Kurtzman—Stony Man Farm's chief computer expert—had put together about this militant faction of the American Nazi Party. The Rough Riders were suspected in several murders and—like so many homegrown American terrorist groups—relied on bank robbery as their primary means of support.
"Do we know how many hostages are inside?" the Executioner asked.
Glasser shook his head as he touched the cell phone to his ear for the next call. "Not exactly," he said. "There'll be twenty to thirty employees, plus however many customers happened to be there at the wrong time."
Bolan nodded and started to move past the man.
Glasser reached out and grabbed Bolan's arm. "Where are you going?" he asked.
The Executioner squatted again. "I've got an idea," he said. "And if you don't know it, you can't accidentally give it away to the enemy." He paused for a deep breath, then went on. "Just conduct this operation as if I wasn't here. But when you hear shots fired inside the bank again, move your men in as fast as possible. Got it?"
"And give me one of those two-ways so I can keep track of you," the Executioner said.
Glasser waved at one of his SWAT men, a slender sergeant with dark brown hair. "Give Cooper here your radio and mike," he said. "Then go back to the van and get another one for yourself."
The sergeant didn't even bother to ask who Cooper was. Jerking the radio from his belt and the microphone from his shoulder, he handed them over.
The Executioner snapped the radio onto his belt, checked the earpiece connection, then shoved the tiny plastic receiver into one ear. He clipped the microphone to the shoulder of his blacksuit. He looked at his watch.
Not quite ninety seconds had passed since the raspy voice inside the bank had given them their twenty-minute deadline.
The innocents inside had roughly eighteen and a half minutes.
Police cars completely surrounded the bank. Three of the building's four sides faced streets, and here the vehicles were lined up practically bumper to bumper. To the rear of the bank—beyond the drive-through windows—was a housing complex. Here, the police cars had pulled directly onto the grounds beyond the windows, doing their best to provide a buffer zone between the innocent residents in their houses and the miscreants in the bank. Behind the circle of cars knelt uniformed officers, plainclothes detectives and the rest of Glasser's SWAT crew, each of the men training a weapon on the bank.
Moving to the rear of the bank, Bolan sprinted for one of the marked units separating the bank from the residential area. But no shots followed him.
Dropping down behind the black-and-white patrol car, Bolan found himself next to a portly patrolman resting his Glock 21 across the hood and aiming it toward the drive-through window into the bank. The man's uniform cap had been discarded and lay next to him on the ground. Coarse but sparse red-and-gray hair stuck up from his receding hairline and balding pate.
The patrolman glanced at Bolan, then back to the bank. "You seen any activity through that teller's window since you've been here?" Bolan asked.
The patrolman nodded. "Some. There's a guy with a ski mask just out of sight below the glass. He pops his head up every few seconds and—" The blue head suddenly appeared as the officer spoke. "There! You see him?"
Bolan nodded. "You see anyone else?"
The balding man shook his head. "Just him."
The Executioner drew back slightly, taking in the rear of the bank as a whole. The First Fidelity Bank was a one-story building. Awnings covered the three drive-up windows with brick columns supporting what looked like shake-shingle roofs. He wondered whether they would support his two-hundred-plus pounds.
He suspected he was about to find out. "What's your name?" Bolan asked the cop next to him. "Coleman," said the man. "Call me Ron."
"You might want to hold back on that familiarity until you hear the rest of what I'm about to say," Bolan told him.
"You wearing a vest, Coleman?" Bolan asked.
"You better believe it," said the man with the sparse redand-gray hair. "I've got a wife and kids I like to go home and see every night."
"Shock plate inserted?" Bolan asked.
"Right over the old ticker. Thickest steel they make 'em in."
The KCPD officer's voice was starting to sound suspicious now. "Why?"
"Because I need to use you as a decoy," the Executioner said. "I'm going up on the roof. And if that blue ski mask happens to pop up at the wrong time and see me, it'll ruin what I have in mind."
Now the patrolman's voice took on a true tone of trepidation. "What is it you expect me to do?"
"Just get up and start walking toward the window. If Mr. Ski Mask shows his head or a weapon or both, take cover behind one of those brick columns. I just need his attention on you and not me."
"In other words, if someone has to get shot you'd rather it be me than you?"
"No," Bolan said. "It's just the way this thing has to go down, that's all. If you don't want to do it, say so now. I'll try to think of something else." He glanced at his watch. "But I've only got eleven minutes to come up with it and pull it off." He paused, then finished with, "So, Coleman. What'll it be?"
Bolan could see the concern on the man's face as he weighed his responsibilities to the job versus those to his family.
"All right," Coleman finally said. "Tell me exactly what you want me to do." He paused, then added, "And you can still call me Ron."
The Executioner smiled. It was a brave man he was working with.
"When I give you the word, just stand up and start walking directly toward the window. If you see the ski mask, make tracks for the brick column.After that, just stay where you are."
"What are you going to be doing?" Coleman asked.
"Scaling the wall. But don't look my way under any circumstances. I need that lookout's attention focused on you, or the inside of the bank's going to look like a Chicago slaughterhouse."
Coleman reached up and adjusted his vest, making sure the steel plate was in place. "Makes me wish I'd sprung for the steel-plated jockstrap you can get with these things," he said. "But what the hell. I've already got three kids and the wife and I were talking about a vasectomy anyway." He turned to face the Executioner. "Say when."
Bolan slung his M-16 A-2 over his shoulder and waited until the blue ski mask made another quick appearance, then disappeared. "Now!" he said under his breath and rose to his feet at the same time Coleman stood up. Coleman rounded the trunk, and the Executioner cut in front of the front bumper as both men made their way toward the building.
Bolan was running, Coleman walking—as he'd been instructed. So the Executioner reached the brick column supporting the carport several steps in front of the man. Sprinting at full speed, he lifted his right knee almost to his chin as his leather-and-nylon combat boot hit the bricks. His momentum carried him upward, and he got one more step with his left boot before he felt gravity beginning to overcome his own velocity.
Reaching skyward, the Executioner got his fingertips just over the edge of the shake-shingle roofing.
A second later, he had pulled himself up and out of sight on top of the carport.
No sooner had he risen to his knees than he heard several shots fired below him. Looking down, he saw Coleman driven back a step as the rounds clanged off the steel plate in his vest. But the balding cop he didn't let that stop him. Before the man inside the window could fire again, he dived behind the brick column.
Bolan leaned over the side and looked down. He could see Coleman sitting with his back against the bricks, the sparse and spiky reddish-gray hair pointing straight up at the top of the carport. The Executioner whispered downward, "Ron, you okay?"
The KCPD patrolman was savvy enough not to look upward when he answered. "If you call feeling like you just took three straight hooks to the chest from Buster Douglas okay, then yeah—I'm just peachy."
The Executioner chuckled. At least the man was out of danger now. He could sit out the rest of this encounter. "Okay," he said. "Stay where you are."
Bolan looked down at his wrist. He had a little under ten minutes before the hostages started dying. Switching on the microphone mounted to his shoulder, Bolan realized he had no call letters or numbers of his own, and he didn't know what Tom Glasser's were, either. So he said simply, "Cooper to Glasser. Cooper to Glasser. Come in, Glasser."
"SWAT 1," Glasser's voice came back. "This is Glasser, Cooper. You got a call name?"
The Executioner lowered his voice until he suspected it could barely be heard on the other end of the line. "I go by Striker, SWAT 1. And I'm on the roof," he whispered. "Have you had any more contact with the subjects inside?"
"Negative, Striker," Glasser came back. He was whispering, too. "But we've got the funny money on the way here, compliments of the Secret Service."
"How about the chopper?" Bolan asked.
"We're trying to find one big enough. And that's not easy if you don't go to the military."
Bolan immediately understood the reason behind the SWAT captain's words. The regular military was forbidden from taking action in police matters inside the U.S., and most of the time that was a good thing—it ensured that America would not become a military state ruled by its armed forces. But there were exceptions to that rule, when the use of the armed forces seemed like the only logical answer.
This was one of them. "See if you can go through the state's National Guard," the Executioner said. "If they don't have a chopper big enough on hand, they ought to be able to get one from the regular army." He paused and felt his eyebrows furrow as he thought further. "And use this as an excuse to stall some more. Call into the bank on your cell phone and explain the problem with the chopper. See if you can buy some more time."
"Affirmative, Striker," Glasser said. "May I ask what you're doing?"
"Negative, SWAT 1," Bolan said as he made his way carefully across the shingled roof one shaky step at a time. "And the fact that I'm up top is for your ears only. We can't expect fifty men—no matter how good they are—to keep from glancing up and being seen by the bad guys."
"Roger, Striker," Glasser said. "That intel stays in-house." Bolan finally made it off the carport roofs and onto the flat tar roof of the bank proper. His eyes skirted the building, seeing ventilation shafts, heat and air-conditioning equipment, and a variety of other pipes and housings sticking up out of the dirty black surface. He walked slowly around the perimeter of the building, staying just far enough from the edge that his head couldn't be seen by the police officers on the ground.
He had meant what he'd told Glasser. All it would take would be for one of the Rough Riders below him to see one cop straining his eyes toward the roof to know someone was above them. Then the element of surprise would be gone.
The Executioner had hoped to find a return air shaft or some similar means to enter the building below, but he had no such luck. Banks were built with the hope of keeping people out after business hours, and the rough roof of First Fidelity was no exception. There were holes leading down into the building, all right. But the Executioner would have had to have been the size of a house cat to get through them.
With one exception.
Posted April 15, 2011
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Posted January 28, 2010
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