Read an Excerpt
Mack Bolan looked over the reports Hal Brognola had assembled. The Executioner had been wrapping up business in San Francisco when Los Angeles became ground zero of an assault.
Bolan paused, looking at the photograph of the automobile where Rosa Trujillo had been murdered. The crime scene photos had been taken before the coroner had removed the body, and Bolan felt a knot of disgust form in his gut.
"Amanijad was a lawyer for the ACLU. He'd just achieved a court hearing for two Arab-Americans who were being held without charges," Brognola explained.
Bolan glanced over to the lawyer's photographs spread on the conference table. His frown deepened as he saw a photograph of a slain police officer, also murdered by the mystery assassin.
"He was sending a message," Bolan stated.
"About what?" Brognola grumbled.
"This speech was in direct response to finally letting two men have their day in court," Bolan said. "Someone didn't want the particulars of that case heard."
"I looked at the files on those arrests," Brognola said. "It was sloppy, speculative work all around. Circumstantial evidence at best."
Bolan nodded. "I heard about the case too. Three years without seeing a lawyer or even knowing what they were being charged with. They even spent some time in Camp X-Ray."
"Interrogation results were inconclusive," Brognola said.
Bolan picked up the photo detailing the carnage caused by the grenade in the assassin's car. The shootings were acts of efficiency. Minimum firepower for maximum effect. The grenade itself provided a barrier of fire and catastrophe between police pursuit and the escaping killer. The cops would pause to help the dying and wounded, and be slowed withthe hunk of burning metal barring the subway entrance.
It was a coldly efficient means of stopping the law.
He stacked the photos and inserted them back into the file folder. The images and information within were burned into his memory. He fought down his anger, cramming it into his reserves of strength to keep his mind clear and analytical. When the time came, the Executioner would take the death dealer down.
Carlo Admussen lit up a cigarette and caught a fierce glare from his partner, Maurice Einhard.
"Do you fucking see everything around you?" Einhard asked.
Admussen glanced around at the crates of rifles and grenades stacked around their warehouse. "Yup."
"So the problem with starting a fire in the midst of all this fucking firepower doesn't ring a bell?" Einhard snapped.
Admussen sighed. They'd had this argument hundreds of times. He wondered if they were becoming more like an old married couple than highly-respected black market arms dealers. "One spark in the wrong spot, and we'll be blown clean to San Francisco," he muttered.
"Don't take that tone of voice with me, Carlo," Ein-hard grumbled.
"They're securely boxed, the roof has vents, and I'm here at the fucking desk, not out in the middle of our ammunition stockpiles. Rifles aren't flammable and matches can't set off a grenade," Admussen retorted.
Einhard raised his hands in frustration and walked away.
Admussen tapped out some ashes and smirked.
From the shadows, Mack Bolan watched the two men bicker. When Einhard stormed away, leaving Admussen alone for a moment, he stepped from the shadows and wrapped a brawny forearm under Admussen's chin. The limb cut off the man's air and stopped the sudden cry of alarm in his throat.
"Hello, Carlo. You and I need to have words," Bolan whispered.
Admussen croaked softly.
"Don't make a sound," Bolan warned him. He let the dealer feel the hard muzzle of his Desert Eagle against his kidney. "A hole through there will mean a slow, painful death."
Bolan loosened his grasp on Admussen's throat, and the death merchant took a deep breath. He glanced back, seeing the Executioner looming above him, features smeared with midnight black grease paint. Cold, deadly eyes stared out of the blacked-out face, pinning Admussen in his seat with the force of their intimidation.
"What do you need?" the gun dealer asked.
Bolan reached to Admussen's right-hand drawer, pulling out a Glock. He stuffed it under his web belt, out of the black marketeer's grasp. "Information."
"I guess I can't play dumb about why," Admussen said.
Bolan shook his head. "Who bought the Berettas?"
"The guy didn't have a name, unless you count Ben Franklin," Admussen replied.
Bolan's eyes narrowed. "Description."
"Six feet. Brown hair. Brown eyes. Nondescript," Admussen said.
Bolan frowned. "Got the money?"
Admussen looked at the wall next to Bolan. The Executioner saw the wall safe and gestured for the arms dealer to open it.
"We haven't had a chance to get it laundered," Admussen admitted. "Then the shooting happened, and I knew we'd be feeling heat. I didn't realize that we'd be experiencing a visit from the boogey man. I was expecting ATF."
Bolan looked out to the warehouse. Einhard was busy directing his men to pile crates into the trailers of eighteen-wheelers. "Hence the house cleaning?"
Admussen nodded. The safe door clicked, and Bolan leveled the Desert Eagle at the gun dealer's stomach.
"Just in case you have another Glock in the safe," Bolan warned. He opened the safe door, and sure enough, there was a handgun set next to the stacks of bills. It wasn't a Glock, however. Bolan took the Colt Python and put it next to the Glock in his waistband. "Which is the stack of cash the buyer gave you?"
Admussen handed over a wrapped band. "I take it you're not going to give me a receipt for that?"
Bolan glared and Admussen took a step back.
"Ten thousand dollars isn't going to be much compensation for the lives lost because you supplied a psychopath," Bolan stated. "Nor is it going to do much for the families now suffering thanks to your greed."
Bolan put the cash in a plastic bag. Admussen realized that the Executioner was wearing surgical gloves. "All this money is good for is finding the madman. Prints, serial numbers. Trace evidence. I'll find something."
"And for that, you'll leave me alone?" Admussen asked.
"And I forget that I ever saw you," Admussen added.
Bolan shook his head. "The next time you think about selling so much as a toothpick to terrorists, you remember me."
Admussen's lips tightened.
"Go out and help your buddy. Just don't take your cigarette. I don't want you blowing yourself up before you give me the pleasure," the Executioner warned. "I'll let myself out."
Admussen walked through his office door. He reached the top of the stairs that led into the warehouse and looked back, but the big man had already melted into the shadows, gone from sight.
Cameron Richards got off the plane in Phoenix, Arizona, and his partner, Willem Noth, met him at the airport.
"What the fuck, Will?" Richards grunted as they met. Noth handed over a small nylon gym bag, containing Richards's favorite pistol.
"Care to be more specific?" Noth asked.
"I thought we had presidential sanction in L.A.," Richards grumbled.
"Plausible deniability," Noth explained. "You can't have the White House dancing a jig because we knocked out some Arab mouthpiece."
Richards's eyes narrowed. "So they have a manhunt going for me. I'm fucked."
"Cam, you're swearing again. Have you taken your medication?" Noth asked.
Richards eyed Noth, then grimaced. "Oh, sure. I feel betrayed, and the sudden reaction is'are you off your meds?'"
"You're supposed to be taking your pills," Noth told him. "You are an operative of the Rose Initiative. You have an image to uphold."
"Image? As what? Some kind of vigilante loose cannon who isn't worthy of praise?"
"Are you off your meds?" Noth inquired.
Richards closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "No."
Noth looked at him closely. "Do you have your bottle?"
Richards fished in his pocket and took out an unmarked pill bottle. Noth pulled out his PDA and checked the contents against the readout he glimpsed.
"It's almost time for your next dose. Humor me and take it five minutes early," Noth said.
Richards opened the bottle and shook out two tablets. "Want one?"
"Fuck you and eat your damn pills," Noth growled.
Richards tossed them into his mouth and swallowed. He opened his mouth and let Noth examine his cheek pouches and under his tongue for unswallowed tablets. "Happy? Let's go get a Coke so I can wash the taste of these out."
Noth nodded, pocketing his PDA. He took a deep breath, then raised an eyebrow.
The pair made their way to the food court, where Richards got a soft drink and an order of fries while Noth sat. The Rose Initiative operative pinched his nose as if searching thoughts trying to escape his nasal cavities.
"What's on your mind?" Richards asked, sucking on his soda through a straw.
"Just thinking," Noth said.
"I'm not going to be given up, am I?" Richards asked, popping a fry into his mouth. "The media's howling for my head."
"We've already got a half-dozen patsies in place, depending on where the investigation takes the government," Noth explained. "All you have to do is lay low until we find you a new assignment."
Richards looked at Noth, his mood darkening as he regarded the liar sitting across from him. "I know too much, despite being an overly medicated little minion," he said.
"The smell from the pill bottle wasn't right," Noth admitted. "Don't make a scene. I have a gun leveled at your gut under the table."
"The Rose Initiative takes out a piece of trash, before it can be revealed that he's their garbage, right?" Richards asked.
"What'd you do? Mold sugar pills to resemble the right medication?" Noth asked.
Richards nodded. "Not that it matters now. You've got the drop on me."
Richards placed a fry between his lips, letting it dangle like a cigarette.
"Spit that out," Noth ordered.
"Oh, come on, let the condemned have his last smoke," Richards replied.
"Spit it out," Noth growled.
Richards spat the fry with blow-gun force, zapping Noth in his left eye. The man's reflexive jerk caused him to pull the trigger, but it also yanked his aim off target. The bullet seared into the lower spine of an elderly man sitting at the next table. The gunshot and the cry of agony created an uproar in the food court, giving Richards a chance to lunge across the table.
Noth realized he'd left himself wide open, despite the gun in his hand. He pulled the trigger again, but Richards had cleared the top of the table, thumbs rammed into Noth's larynx, fingers closing on the back of his neck. The third shot plowed into the tiled floor, panic lashing out like a writhing mass of hungry crocodiles through the crowd. Footsteps thundered, screams mounting, drowning out the third gunshot. Richards wrenched with all of his might, Noth's vertebrae shattering under the force of his powerful hands.
The gun clattered from dead fingers, and Richards charged through the crowd.
He had to contact his pilot, Costell, and get to the base he'd set up for himself. The Rose Initiative would be hot on his heels, and there was no telling what would happen next. Richards let himself be swept along by the running crowds, got out of the terminal and hailed a taxi.
He didn't know why the Rose Initiative had been feeding him behavior modification drugs for the past fifteen years, but suddenly his assessment of the organization's sanction left him alone and chilled. Richards had broken loose from their control, and that made him dangerous. The battles he'd waged across the turn of the millennium to protect his government from deadly threats had been real enough. The Initiative had a stockpile of mega-weaponry housed in its Washington, D.C., headquarters, enough matériel to render the surface of the planet uninhabitable for centuries.
Richards stuffed himself and his gym bag into the back seat of the cab.
"Where to?" the swarthy man behind the wheel asked.
Richards rattled off the name of a hotel he frequented while in town. He wouldn't stay in the place, since the Initiative knew he'd go there, but he'd be able to find a dozen places to hole up from there. The cabbie nodded and steered out into traffic, cursing other drivers in his foreign tongue.
No wonder the President had swiftly condemned his actions in Los Angeles, Richards realized. The Rose Initiative had been using him as a puppet. A weapon to keep the public in the dark about the countless threats that were really endangering them. Richards's covert wars kept American citizens from realizing the threats of Islamic operatives and foreign influences on U.S. soil. Rather than smear the menace across the headlines and news programs, they were quietly dealt with so that those who would profit from association with the devils could continue their underhanded deals.
It was all so clear now.
For decades, he'd been a dealer in death, and now, he knew that there was no way to take back the battles he'd waged that had enabled faceless government officials in power. Their chains hung around the American citizenry.
There had to be a way to break that relentless choke hold.
Richards knew of several militia groups who would throw in with him, powerful and trained allies who could help strike several small blows against the dictatorship he'd supported while drugged. Costell would also be a great ally, not to mention Colonel Weist and his mercenary forces.
Still, even with all that manpower, there was no way that Richards could strike a significant blow. The Rose Initiative was a monolithic force.
It would take a blow unlike anything that had been struck before.
Richards thought about the Initiative's deadly stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. From horrendous, but specific plagues to ultra-low frequency transmitters that could instill murderous rage into entire city populations, they were tools which could carve a new future.
All Richards had to do was break into the stockpile.
That meant distractions, and high-tech equipment.
And an assault on Washington, D.C., itself.
The death dealer nodded, realizing that it would be a suicidal ploy to free the world from its hidden masters, but it would be worthwhile.
Richards realized he had to atone for his wrongs against America.