Mack Bolan knows he escaped France too easily. When the Calais ferry arrives in Dover, he steps onto the dock expecting a trap. The quiet port fills with gunfire, and he is on the verge of being overrun when a sports car pulls up beside him, and a woman tells him to jump in. The United Kingdom is in danger, and she believes that only Bolan can save it. As thanks for the rescue the man known as the Executioner will bring his unique brand of justice to the underworld of Great Britain.
He fought his way into England, and he will have to fight his way out. Battling a bizarre, perverse conspiracy, he is shocked when the Mafia does the unthinkable—and asks the Executioner to join its side.
Assault on Soho is the 6th book in the Executioner series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
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Assault on Soho
The Executioner, Book Six
By Don Pendleton
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1971 Pinnacle Books
All rights reserved.
RECEPTION AT DOVER
Bolan did not see the enemy but he could sense their ominous presence out there, in the darkness. He had felt that from the moment he stepped aboard the car ferry at Calais, and it had lasted throughout the brief crossing of the English Channel and the landing at Dover.
Sure, they were waiting for him: the escape from France had been too smooth, too easy, as though someone had been running interference for him. Even the fast shake through British customs had been entirely too easy. Now that he was in England the feeling had accelerated into a big ball of mush at the pit of his stomach and he knew that he had been maneuvered here, manipulated and channeled and directed to just this place and time. And now they were out there, waiting.
He unbuttoned his coat and tested the breakaway on his side leather, then checked the clip of the hot little Beretta automatic, retracted the slide to chamber in a 9mm round beneath the hammer, and snugged the combat-ready weapon back to his side. The retreat was over.
Bolan had purposely hung back to allow the swirl of debarkation to proceed on ahead of him as he watched and evaluated possible avenues of escape. Now he stepped out of the shadows of the ferry station and into very light foot traffic, walking at a casual clip toward the waiting railway cars. Footsteps immediately moved in behind him, pacing him across the darkness; a double pair, slowing when he slowed, quickening when he quickened. Bolan's trained ears could recognize a dropback set ... and as he crossed the fifty yards or so of wharf he became aware also of a converging set across his flanks. He was being bracketed on either side and cut off from the rear. Somewhere up ahead he would find the final side of the box, and this would be a place of their careful choosing, a point of no escape, with doubtful survival for the prey caught in the center of that box.
Bolan took a deep breath and made his move, pivoting suddenly and walking straight toward the left flank. He heard them quietly adjusting, a soft voice in the darkness behind him issuing muffled commands, a sudden scraping of quick feet just ahead making hurried changes to the choreography, running sounds on his new right flank.
It was time to hit, perhaps the only time he would find. But first he had to make positive identification of the enemy. He had never yet slapped leather on a cop; he had no wish whatever to do so now. A dim overhead lamp, muffled and impotent in a high-swirling fog, lay just across his path. He stopped directly beneath it and lit a cigarette, his ears straining for movements about him, and he found encouragement in the knowledge that they still seemed to be somewhat off balance and scurrying toward new positions on the box. He went on quickly then, looking to neither left nor right but with ears quiveringly alert to the sounds behind him.
Now! He flipped the lighted cigarette far ahead, the gun hand moved inside the coat and his forward motion was arrested on the ball of his right foot as he went into his pivot, swinging about to the right in a lightning sweep, the Beretta swinging with him at full extension and spitting its sharp argument against entrapment as Bolan sprawled into a prone firing position. For a single heartbeat Bolan had hesitated, staying the trigger finger and sacrificing that all-important moment of surprise in the interests of identification. But a heartbeat was all that was required; his uncanny timing had caught them directly beneath the overhead lamp, and this split-second of visual reference was all Bolan needed to confirm his earlier instinctive identification ... his welcoming committee were Mafiosi.
Earlier that day Bolan had refined the tolerances on the new Beretta and reworked the trigger for a four-pound pull, getting consistent two-inch target groupings in rapid fire from twenty-five yards. Tonight he was thankful for that foresight, even though firing at an almost point-blank ten-yard range. The two men under the lamp were dead on their feet with mutilated hearts, pistols hardly clear of the sideleather, and even as they fell Bolan was rolling on. Then he gathered his feet under him, and charged the side of the box. Muzzle flashes pierced the darkness ahead of him as handguns were unloaded in panicky reaction and fired blindly at him, the unseen and fast moving target. Even so, Bolan was moving through a suddenly dense atmosphere, and the flashing synapses of his computer-quick brain told him that the enemy had come out in massive force. A whistling slug tore through the fabric of his coat, another took the heel off his shoe. He charged into their ranks, the Beretta blasting with telling effect as the 9mm Parabellums spurted into the opposing flashes, their success registering as despairing grunts and muffled cries.
Bolan was moving swiftly and feeding the Beretta a fresh clip when he collided with a large human bulk. They went down together in a sprawling tangle and a heavy weapon exploded almost in Bolan's face, the shot sizzling off into the night. Bolan's free hand chopped out and turned the weapon just as the hammer fell again and this time the shot buried itself in soft and unresisting flesh. The man wheezed, "Oh, Jesus ..." and melted fluidly out of the tangle.
Again Bolan rolled, getting as much distance as possible from that encounter. Running feet pounded toward him, shadowy shapes took form against a backdrop of sudden light. He came to one knee and sent all eight rounds of the new clip into that suddenly visible pack. It scattered, with toppling bodies and shrieks of alarm.
The source of light was arching toward Bolan now: automobile headlamps, blunted and haloed by the fog, and moving forward so that Bolan was not exposed to the full glare.
The enemy were either faltering or regrouping; there was silence and a sudden cessation of gunfire. Suddenly Bolan heard a feminine voice calling out to him, and it was coming from behind those headlamps. "Bolan, get in!"
Another voice, harshly excited and far to the rear, yelled "That car! Stop that car!"
The voice was American and Bolan thought that he had heard it before but a new volley of fire, this one directed against the vehicle, was now commanding all his attention. The car was taking repeated hits and swerving erratically in tinkling glass when Bolan reached it. A door flew open and Bolan flew in, and was immediately pinned to the seat under high-G acceleration as the scene of carnage quickly fell behind.
Bolan had an impression of softly feminine curves, glistening dark hair worn short and casual, an almost luminous skin, a nice fragrance. He judged her to be about twenty-five, and scared half to death. A short skirt was crumpled high on the hips; gleaming thighs reflected the light from the dash; knee-high leather boots fit tight on well-turned calves that trembled almost out of control. The car whizzed in a tight circle around the railway station, then plunged down a narrow street. Somewhere off in the distance the wail of police vehicles was added to the insane quality of that soft misty night.
Bolan added a fresh clip of Parabellums to the pistol and told the girl, "I'm grateful, but ... that was a dumb stunt."
She threw him a quick look, hardly more than a twitch of her eyes, and gasped, "Don't speak of dumb stunts. Your odds back there were about thirty against one."
"I was doing all right," Bolan said quietly.
He recognized her suddenly, and also the car, a Jaguar sports model. He had noticed both aboard the ferry from Calais. He had even lit a cigarette for her on deck while they small-talked about the value of radar navigation through channel fog. Now he was hanging on grimly as the powerful vehicle swerved through the foggy streets, navigating without radar.
"You shall never get out of Dover unless you do exactly as I say," she said in a voice thin with tension. "The hatbox, behind you ... it's yours, put it on quickly."
"It" was a wig of fiery red hair and matching beard, also a seaman's jacket in Bolan's size. He stared at the contents of the box while his mind clicked through the various implications of this latest development. Obviously the rescue had been a planned, not a spontaneous, action.
Quickly the girl confirmed this. "We'll exchange cars just ahead," she told him. "Get into your hair and be ready for the jump."
An uneasy feeling was crowding into Bolan's gut. Who the hell was the beautiful lady with the expensive car, and why was she interested in Mack Bolan's welfare? Where did she plan to take him, and for what purpose? From the noise of the sirens screaming through the night, it seemed that the police also had prepared some sort of reception for him. How had everyone tumbled so quickly to his movements? The idea of manipulation was churning in Bolan's mind, and he wondered just how prominently this lovely young woman had figured in those maneuvers.
At the moment, though, idle speculation was too great a luxury. His instinct told him to run with the play, and he was already reacting to the decision. The wig and false beard went on easily and snugly, and he was changing jackets when they braked to a squealing halt beside a waiting VW bus. A shadowy figure moved forward immediately to take over the Jaguar; another was crouched over the steering wheel of the VW and impatiently gunning the motor. Bolan and the girl climbed quickly aboard the bus as the Jaguar disappeared into a small garage. A fast moving police vehicle with siren at full wail blasted out of the darkness to their rear and screamed past them.
The man in the driver's seat of the VW chuckled and moved the vehicle into the wake of the police car. The girl sat in a rear seat with Bolan. She breathed in quivering little gasps. She cuddled against him and, burying her face in his throat, she trembled with a hard case of the shakes.
Well, Bolan silently told himself, here we go again.
His chief interest in England had been as a link in his route back to the U.S., with possibly a quick hit on a couple of names in his notebook. But he had been required to fight his way into the country. Now, it appeared, he would have to fight his way out. No quick hits tonight. The jungle had closed in on him again, and he would have to hack his way through it.
His life had long ago become fixed in an unalterable groove, and Bolan had learned to accept the grim fact that everywhere he went became a battlefield. He had never, however, thought too highly of a purely defensive mode of warfare. Particularly not against a massively superior enemy.
The girl was beginning to cry. He sighed and pulled her closer in a comforting embrace. He owed her a lot, whatever her motives. She'd pulled him out of a tough defensive position and now perhaps she was providing him with a temporary platform from which to launch a counter-offensive to carry him on through and out of England.
And not a bad platform, at that, he was thinking as the supple body molded against his. Down through history, he knew, lesser bodies had launched entire armadas and armies. What he did not know was that this one was fated to launch the Executioner's shattering assault upon Britain.CHAPTER 2
MUSEUM DE SADE
The girl's nerves were in good shape. After a brief letdown, she dried her tears and regained her composure and was staring solemnly at Bolan's hands when the VW pulled into the lineup at the police blockade, just west of Dover. She pulled his arms around her, lay her head on his shoulder, and said "Calmly, now. Just let us do the talking. Don't give away your American accent."
A uniformed officer stepped up to the driver's window and said something in a pleasant tone. The thick man at the wheel passed a paper through. The officer inspected it and handed it back, then held up something for the driver to look at. They conversed in low tones for a brief moment, then the policeman stepped down to the girl's window and lightly rapped his knuckles against it. She came out of the embrace slowly, reluctantly, her eyes going to the officer in a convincing display of confusion, as though she had just that moment become aware of the world outside.
The policeman touched his hat and passed in a large glossy photo of Bolan. "Have you seen this chap?" he asked her.
She nodded her head immediately and replied, "Many times, on the telly. It's that American adventurer."
"Have you seen him tonight?"
She shook her head, confusion still very evident. Bolan shook his red-maned head also, growling something unintelligible in a gutteral negative.
"Did you see a Jaguar sports roadster?"
The driver called back, "You're wastin' yer time, Bob. Them two ain't seen nothin' this night but their-selves, I'll wager that."
The young officer touched his hat, smiled faintly, and waved them through.
As they cleared the roadblock, the driver swiveled about to flash a grin at Bolan. "And 'ow was that for 'andling the bloody situation, eh? We'll 'ave you in Londontown in no time now, mate. Just keep your pecker up."
Slightly embarrassed by that last bit of advice, Bolan glanced at the girl.
She smiled and explained, "He means that you should keep up your courage."
Bolan grunted, let the girl go, and relaxed into the seat. He was going to have a language problem in England, perhaps more so than in France, this much was certain. But not immediately.
The balance of the trip was conducted in virtual silence, the girl withdrawing to her corner to gaze broodingly out the window, Bolan silently scanning the road ahead and behind, and watching the movements of the driver. Explanations, he figured, would come in due course; he would play it step by step.
It was just past midnight when they entered London. They crossed the Thames at Westminster Bridge and swung up past Pall Mall to edge into the Soho district. Here the town was still very much awake, bustling with the after-theatre crowd and the people who swarmed the thousand and one restaurants, niteries, and discotheques which had established Soho as one of the mod capitals of the world.
Bolan was driven to a nineteenth century townhouse at the western edge of Soho, a handsome building with cut glass windows and a red carpeted entranceway. There was a simple metal plaque on the massive door:
Museum de Sade
The VW dropped its passengers and drove away. Bolan followed the woman inside the building, seeing crystal chandeliers and dark wood. They went into a mahogany-paneled clubroom. The place was deserted, musty, oppressive. Boland had a feeling of entombment.
He asked the girl, "What kind of museum is this?"
She flicked him a sidewise glance and murmured, "It's private. No worry, I'm the curator. My name is Ann Franklin."
"Why did you bring me here?"
She replied, "It isn't my place to tell you that. Please be comfortable while I ring up the directors."
"What directors?" he asked.
"The directors of the museum. It is they who arranged all this, though I must say we didn't expect the fireworks at Dover." The girl was moving away from him, toward a door at the far side of the room. "The bar is over there," she called back, pointing it out with a flourish. "Please be comfortable."
Bolan felt not at all comfortable. He removed the false hair and beard and changed back into his own jacket. Then he went to the bar, poured some tonic into a glass, and tasted it before he went to try the door through which the girl had gone but his suspicions were confirmed, it was locked. He retraced his steps across the room and tried the other door. It, too, was locked.
Uneasily and with a growing sense of alarm, Bolan returned to the bar. He lit a cigarette and caught a flash of something reflecting off the opposite wall as he extinguished the flame of his lighter. Closer investigation revealed a wide-angle camera lens set flush into the paneling. He glared at it for a moment, then placed a hand over the lens and called out, "Okay, end of game. What's going on here?"
A cultured and crisply British voice responded immediately through a speaker concealed somewhere overhead. "You are quite perceptive, Mr. Bolan. Welcome to England. We hope you'll like us here. Dreadfully sorry for all that bother at Dover, you know. Please understand that we had nothing at all to do with that."
Bolan let his hand fall away from the wall and he stepped back to gaze coldly into the lens. "Shades of James Bond," he said drily. "Locked room, closed circuit television, the whole bit. What's it all about?"
A short, barking laugh preceded, "Surely you will understand our caution, Mr. Bolan. Your reputation is ah, legendary to say the least. We think it best that-"
Bolan angrily interrupted with, "No way, friend. Either those doors come open in twenty seconds or I'm blasting out."
A brief pause, then: "Please don't be boorish, Mr. Bolan. Nor imprudent. As soon as Miss Franklin completes her report then we'll see what can be done."
Excerpted from Assault on Soho by Don Pendleton. Copyright © 1971 Pinnacle Books. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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