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Mack Bolan reached under the dashboard of the Lincoln Navigator and worked the slide on the Beretta 93-R. The smooth action made a metallic snap as it maneuvered a 9 mm Para-bellum round into the pistol chamber. The MX12 sound suppressor was a squat black cylinder on the end of the threaded muzzle. Bolan moved the fire-selector switch to the semiautomatic position and then slid the Beretta into place behind his back under his navy blue windbreaker.
Bolan sat up and looked through the tinted windows of the SUV, watching his prey nervously pacing in front of the men's bathroom in the city park. The man's name was Raphael Pucuro and he was a Confidential Informant for the DEA. Bolan narrowed his eyes and brought the man into focus, scanning the figure for every detail.
The park was almost deserted at the late hour. Halogen street lamps created halos of yellow light in staggered pools. Across the park a group of teenagers shouted and laughed as they played on the basketball courts. An elderly couple walked a black Labrador retriever along a paved path. On the far side of the recreation area several vehicles sat parked and silent, forming a wall between the grass and the street.
Pucuro was tall, as tall as Bolan, but whipcord thin with the nervous habits and shaking hands of an addict. His hair was swept straight back from a pockmarked face. The CI had made a marginalized living working as a drug mule between Colombia and the United States, giving up tips on his competitors to stay out of prison.
Bolan considered what he knew about how Pucuro made the big time. As part of his dealings, he had been given a cell phone by his DEA handlers, one they were constantly locked into. He'dgotten lazy over the digital signal and sealed his fate. Pucuro had arranged for six ex-special operations soldiers working as security contractors to meet in Bogotá with members of Colombia's FARC terrorist group to arrange an information buy on behalf of American interests.
The meet had been a setup, and the Americans were machine-gunned in their car at a stoplight outside their hotel. DEA control had listened in as Pucuro had arranged payment. What they overheard had shocked them into alerting the Department of Homeland Security and from there Hal Brognola had quietly inserted himself into the situation.
In return for his help in setting up the private contractors Pucuro received a memory stick containing a communications list of all telephone numbers used by field administrators in the Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services for Venezuela. For strike two, instead of going to his DEA handlers, Pucuro tried to cut a deal with Chinese intelligence instead.
Brognola wanted the memory stick with those numbers, and the betrayed American operators cried out for justice. Bolan had been called in. If the CI wasn't willing to cooperate, he had sealed his own fate. The Executioner shadowed the man to the secluded park and was about to instigate an interception one step ahead of the Chinese retrieval team. Despite his crimes, Pucuro was a treasure vault of information and a live capture had been requested.
Bolan opened the door to the SUV and stepped out into the night. He wore blue jeans and hiking boots with his wind-breaker. The dome light to the Navigator had been disabled, and he closed the door softly while Pucuro's back was turned. Bolan put his head down and shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket as he set off across the grass.
The Executioner angled his approach across the corner of the athletic fields to keep the squat brick restroom building between himself and Pucuro. Bolan covered the ground quickly, looking casual but moving with purpose, like a man in a hurry to get to the bathroom. He reached the back wall of the structure and scanned the scene. On the street two men got out of a black sedan in the parking lot to his right. When he looked, Bolan saw nothing between himself and the basketball-playing teenagers on the left. He rounded the corner of the building.
Pucuro looked up, startled at Bolan's sudden appearance. His hand fell in a telltale sign toward the inside pocket of his thigh-length leather jacket. The big American held up his empty hands and smiled.
"Easy, friend," Bolan said in Spanish. "I just want to give you some money."
Pucuro's eyes flickered over Bolan's shoulder, and the Executioner knew the snitch was looking toward the two men approaching from the street. Pucuro looked back at Bolan. His hand darted back inside his jacket, and Bolan caught a glimpse of a nylon shoulder sling. The Executioner sprang into motion.
Bolan surged forward, sweeping up his left arm and catching the startled snitch high on his chest. His fist grasped Pucuro's jacket tightly while the elbow slammed into the other man's shoulder. Bolan drove the slighter man back behind the L-shaped concrete wall serving as a divider between public view and the open door to the men's bathroom.
"Don't be stupid," Bolan growled. "Let me help you come in."
Pucuro squawked in protest and stumbled back on his heels under Bolan's onslaught. His right hand emerged from his jacket around the butt of a black automatic pistol. Bolan's right hand emerged from his jacket pocket even as Pucuro's tried to claw his own weapon free. The Liquid Silver gravity knife opened as Bolan flicked his wrist.
The big American brought his arm up fast and hard, shoving the blade into Pucuro's solar plexus and penetrating the diaphragm. Pucuro gasped and air rushed from his lungs. Blood spilled out sticky and hot across Bolan's knuckles.
Bolan shoved Pucuro. The man bounced off the wall, and the soldier spun him into the open bathroom door. Pucuro's pistol, a compact Glock 19, hung loose in his hands. Bolan's fist lashed out again. The knife slid home under Pucuro's chin and more blood spilled, splattering the floor. The Glock dropped to the concrete with a clatter.
Bolan let the dead man fall, then dropped to one knee beside the corpse and began to frisk the body. He found a fat wallet inside one pocket. A business envelope tucked into Pucuro's other jacket pocket contained the memory stick.
Bolan carefully wiped the blade of his knife clean on the dead man's shirt. He rose to his feet and put the envelope in his own jacket pocket.
He heard footsteps on the concrete outside. They hit the ground rapidly, and Bolan knew whoever was approaching was doing so at a dead run. He spun and pulled the Beretta 93-R from behind his back.
The first of the two men Bolan had seen in the parking lot rounded the corner. He was dressed in a business suit and an overcoat. A flat, black automatic pistol filled his fist. Over the first man's shoulder the second man appeared, jockeying for position in the cramped quarters.
Bolan's gaze locked onto the Chinese agent's startled eyes. Both men raised their weapons. The big American threw himself to one side as he brought up the Beretta. The sound suppressor spit, and an instant later the tight chamber of the restroom reverberated with the sharp clap of a gunshot as the Chinese man fired simultaneously with an unmuffled pistol.
The Chinese agent staggered backward, a fount of blood opening up on his shoulder an inch above his heart. The man stumbled and his arms flew out as his pistol round rattled the metal divider around the toilets in the back of the room. Bolan bounced off the wall and spun, dropping to one knee.
Bolan pulled the trigger on his pistol again and buried a soft-nosed 9 mm round in the lead agent's forehead. The second man twisted at the waist, ducking out of the way of the tumbling body, and his own pistol came up around the falling corpse.
Bolan shot him through the heart.
The man's finger convulsed on his trigger, and the pistol bucked in his falling hand. A round flew past the crouching Bolan and shattered the thin, metal-backed glass of the restroom mirror. Splinters of glass showered the Executioner, sprinkling his hair and shoulders before falling to the floor.
The second agent hit the curve of the wall and slumped to the ground.
Bolan popped back up and quickly placed the still warm Beretta behind his back. He shook his head and ran a hand through his hair, spilling additional shards of glass onto the floor. He patted his pocket to make sure the memory stick was secure. Satisfied, he stood. Without hesitation he walked forward, stepped over the corpses and exited the restrooms.
The Executioner caught a glimpse of the teenagers across the park. They had stopped playing basketball and stood on the edge of the court, facing his direction. Several of them held up cell phones. He saw no sign of the elderly couple and their dog as he crossed the grass.
Moving quickly but staying calm, Bolan slid behind the wheel of the Lincoln Navigator. The big block engine purred to life immediately.
Bolan smoothly guided the big SUV out of the parking lot and into sparse traffic. He got out his cell phone and prepared to call Brognola. The big Fed had a mess that needed cleaning up.
The gunmen were in the hotel.
Crouched in the dark, Marie Saragossa eased the charging handle back on her mini-Uzi machine pistol. She chambered a 9 mm round and eased the receiver back into place. She pushed the safety selector onto the fire position. Out in the hallway beyond the door to her hotel room, Saragossa heard the murmur of deep male voices and the creaking of the floor under their footsteps.
Rain hammered the glass of the room's only window. Despite the downpour, the heat in the room was stifling. Sara-gossa wore an olive green tank top, and it stuck to her body like a second skin. Perspiration ran into the valley between her breasts, and she could feel beads of sweat slide across her abdomen and along the small of her back.
Saragossa clenched then relaxed her grip on the machine pistol. As a young girl in Castro's Cuba, she had been instructed in the use of weapons. Her subsequent rise into the intelligence service of the dictator's country had only sharpened those skillsskills she now sold on the open market in the true spirit of the capitalism she had been taught to hate as a child.
The men in the hallway fell silent. Saragossa looked over the bed she crouched behind. A satellite phone lay on top of the covers, her only link with the outside world. From the street she heard rough laughter over the falling rain, then the stuttering burst of a Kalashnikov. There was a scream followed by more laughter.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
The rebels had driven across the border as night fell and had taken the town. The rains had rolled into the region, halting the government counteradvance in its tracks, and the rebels had begun an orgy of murder, torture, rape and looting. Intelligence indicated that the township of Yendere was a sanctuary point for the rebels and that they possessed a good relationship with the population on the Burkina Faso side of the border with the Ivory Coast.
Makimbo, Saragossa's last street contact in the township, told her all of that had changed when the rebel units found the drugs.
The border town of Yendere had become a transition point. The rebels had morphed, becoming a link in the narcotic routes from Latin America into Europe. Cocaine and heroin were introduced by ship into the Ivory Coast, then made their way by a variety of means across the border into Burkina Faso's capital of Ouagadougou. Only the rebel units who had arrived across the border one step ahead of Ivory Coast national forces hadn't been a part of the established network. When they found shipments of narcotics among the crates of sheep wool in the warehouses behind the township mosque, the frenzy had begun.
Now Makimbo was gone, along with every other person who could make their escape along the only road leading out of town. With her dusky skin and long, straight hair Saragossa had been trapped. Her principal had promised her help if she could hold out long enough, but that was a huge if.
The green light indicating battery charge on her sat phone glowed like a beacon in the dark room. Outside her door Sara-gossa heard whispers. Holding the machine pistol close to her face in her right hand, the woman reached across the bedspread and wrapped her fingers around the phone.
The doorknob rattled as a heavy hand fell across it. Sara-gossa drew the phone to her and turned off the power. The bed lay between her and the door. Already on her knees, she slowly lowered herself to her stomach behind the mattress and frame as the doorknob began to turn.
She had taken a gamble. If she had locked the door, then she would be announcing her presence to the rampaging troops. She had to simply hide until help arrived in the form of mercenaries, government troops or a moneyman. Sara-gossa had experienced many unpleasant things since her days as a girl in Cuba. Being raped was not one she wanted to endure ever again.
The door creaked loudly as the rebel outside pushed it open. Saragossa slid under the bed. Light from the hallway spilled into the room. From her position she saw a pair of bare, skinny ankles above a filthy pair of rubber-soled tennis shoes. The soles of the shoes were thick with mud, and the toes were splattered with dark splotches that could only be blood.
Saragossa eased her arm up from her side, bringing the mini-Uzi around should she need to use it. Her breathing sounded as loud as a furnace bellows to her. The rebel walked a few steps into the room. She smelled cheap tobacco burning and an almost overwhelming stench of body odor.
The material of Saragossa's shirt was stuck tight to the small of her back from the humidity and her own sweat. In the next moment she felt a fat weight drop onto her from the bottom of the mattress. She tensed in horror.
She felt the tiny presence scuttle up her back. She closed her eyes against the shudder of revulsion that threatened to ripple across her body. The thing was too short to be a centipede, but the legs felt too close together to be a spider. To Saragossa's mind that left two optionsone creepy the other deadly. The first was a roach. West African roaches were prevalent, disgusting and huge. The second was a scorpion. If a Death Stalker scorpion was to crawl up her back and become entangled in the thick mass of her long hair, she knew she was in very real danger.
The poison of the Death Stalker was fierce, deadly in children and the elderly, and likely to make her so sick she'd be unable to save herself if the rebels attacked her. In the field pack hidden behind her under the bed she had a first-aid kit complete with antivenin shots for insects and snakes. But nothing would help her if she was discovered by the gunmen in the room.
The creature scurried up her body, and Saragossa bit down hard on her trembling lower lip to stifle any sound. A young bass voice called out something from the hallway. The thing perched between Saragossa's shoulder blades froze as the man in the room answered, his voice loud and slurred.
Saragossa held her breath. A sting from a scorpion that close to her spine and central nervous system could be fatal. If the gunmen discovered her under the bed and forced her to move and fire in self-defense, she was damned. There was no way that one of the aggressive African scorpion species would not strike.
Let it be a roach, she thought. Or a beetle. Let it be a god-damned dung beetle.