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The Executioner, Book Three
By Don Pendleton
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1970 Pinnacle Books
All rights reserved.
Mack Bolan was dreaming, and he knew it, and he liked the dream, and he was becoming increasingly irritated with the demands that he awaken. In the dream, his former comrades of the Death Squad were with him once again, and they were sprawled about the large living room of the beach house base-camp.
Chopper Fontenelli and Deadeye Washington were wisecracking about the status of black men in the Mafia brotherhood. Flower Child Andromede was reciting gruesome poetry to Gunsmoke Harrington while Harrington practiced his quick-draw. Boom-Boom Hoffower was booby-trapping a light fixture while Bloodbrother Loudelk quietly kibitzed the operation with Indian signs. Whispering Zitka was throwing a stiletto at flies while Politician Blancanales and Gadgets Schwartz were fiddling with an electronic panel.
The panel was causing Bolan's irritation. It persisted in emitting loud squawks, endangering the rosy dream. It was nice having the hellish bunch together again. Suddenly, the irritation was gone and Bolan was wide awake. He was alone in the dimly lighted room, fully dressed, half reclining in a large lounger. The security monitor, a makeshift console occupying a low table to Bolan's right, was flashing an amber light and buzzing furiously.
Bolan was on his feet and gliding across the room toward a window even before his conscious mind could fully assess the situation. He pulled back a drape and peered into the blackness, then hastened back to the monitor to check the location-identifier. The flashing light indicated an intruder at the gateway to the drive, some 200 yards from the house. Abruptly another light began flashing, then another. Bolan suspended a machine-pistol from his shoulder, smiled grimly, and moved soundlessly onto the side patio. The house occupied an isolated stretch of beach on California's rugged southern coastline just above Santa Monica, sheltered between sheer cliffs to each side, with the surging ocean to the rear. Bolan had selected the place because of the remoteness and natural defensibility; it had seemed a perfect base camp for his Death Squad in their operations against the Mafia. Now, however, there was no squad. Only Bolan remained, and he was wondering if the place might not turn out to be an inescapable trap for a lone defender. The isolation bore in on him, emphasized by the muted roar of the ocean behind him and the cloud-darkened skies above. And someone was coming calling.
Bolan hurried back into the house and picked up a waiting suitcase, carried it outside and across the patio, and tossed it onto the seat of a black sedan. He started the engine, left it idling quietly, and went back to the forward wall of the patio. There he lined up a collection of flare-shells, checked the azimuth and scale settings of a small cannon-like object, and immediately dropped in a shell. The tube belched a puff of smoke and gave out a soft whump. Bolan quickly re-set the azimuth and dropped in another shell, and was lifting binoculars to his eyes even before the second firing occurred.
The first shell exploded high in the air directly above the gateway and the second one opened at the midway point. Two automobiles had been moving slowly along the drive, without lights. Each halted abruptly, in reaction to the sudden dazzling brilliance of the flares. A door on the lead vehicle was flung open and two men erupted into the open.
Bolan caught a familiar face in the vision field of his binoculars. He grunted in recognition of Lou Pena, one of the local Mafia "enforcers." So, he calmly realized, the Family had finally tracked him down. He shushed the butterflies in his stomach and reached for his long-distance sniper, fitted his eye to the high-power scope, and picked up a target from among the rapidly dispersing invaders. His hand squeezed into the trigger guard, the big piece roared and slammed against his shoulder, and his target abruptly disappeared from the vision-field. He swung the long Mauser toward the vehicles and rapid-fired the entire clip into the enemy's mobile units. The lead car exploded into spectacular flames which quickly spread to the car behind. Someone began shouting loud instructions and a volley of returning gunfire swept into the beach house.
Bolan grinned, dropped the Mauser, and ran to the far end of the wall, where Fontenelli's prized fifty-calibre watercooled machine gun was emplaced. He hurriedly checked the ammo belt, positioned the swing-stops to a 30-degree sweep, and affixed the continuous-fire mechanism he had devised only hours earlier.
The heavy staccato of the big fifty began lacing the air, the muzzle swinging freely between the stops under the impetus of its own eruptions. Satisfied that the device was operating properly, Bolan sprinted for his car, climbed behind the far wheel, and gunned out across the parking lot in a spray of gravel.
He hit the driveway with lights out and in whining traction. Just as he entered the periphery of flare-light, an object loomed up over his front bumper. He felt the impact even as he recognized the object as a human figure and saw it hurling off into the darkness. And then he was in full light, hunched low over the steering wheel and in screaming acceleration. His head was jerked involuntarily as a projectile crashed through his windshield. Something tore into the seat alongside his shoulder. He was aware of excitedly running figures to either side of him and projectiles were now zinging into the body of the car from all sides. He put out a mental forcefield of protection around his tires, gas tank, and engine, and swung wide around the blazing wrecks that blocked the drive. One of his rear wheels dug deeply into the sandy softness at the driveway's edge, throwing the vehicle into a heart-stopping swerve. He spun the wheel into the skid, regained control, and swung back onto the hard surface of the drive at full acceleration. The tires screeched in protest, but held on, and dug in, and then he was rolling free and angling into the road.
Scattered shots were still sounding behind him. He glanced back over his shoulder as he gained the roadway. Several men were running along the drive. He thought he detected the gleam of metal, reflecting the now-dying glow of the flares, on the road behind him. He hoped it was not another vehicle, but decided that it probably was just that. As he topped the rise that would drop him onto the main highway, the headlamps of an automobile flared up in his rear-vision mirror. Yes, they had another vehicle. Bolan forced himself to unwind a bit and to slow for the approach to the highway. He debated furiously for a micro-second as to which direction to take, immediately made up his mind, and swept into the northbound lane.
According to the roadmap which he'd burned into his brain, he would intersect a back road several miles up, to carry him easterly into the interior. He wondered if Braddock's Hardcase police detail was still in operation and, if so, how long it would take them to react to this latest sure-clue to Mack Bolan's whereabouts. Assuming, of course, that someone had heard and reported the disturbance. He pulled a quick traffic check of the highway and decided that easily a dozen cars could have passed within earshot of the gunfire. Bolan shrugged his shoulders and leaned into sweeping curve. Behind him, headlights were turning onto the highway, coming his way. Hell ... it didn't make much difference, did it? Cops or Mafiosi, what was the difference? Either one spelled out the same effect for Mack Bolan. He carefully removed the sling of the machine pistol and placed the wicked little weapon on the seat beside his leg. He glanced into the back seat, noting the presence of the heavy suitcase. The money bag ... or what was left of it. And what was left of Mack Bolan? That was it, wasn't it. A bullet-riddled car, perhaps even now spewing a trail of gasoline from a punctured tank. A machine pistol with five clips of ammo. A bag of money. Yes, that was it. No, he decided suddenly ... there was more than that. There were the ghosts of seven dead good men, and then there were the spirits of two more who might spend the rest of their lives behind bars. There was Bolan's utter disgust and cold hatred for anything Mafia. There were the brains of a very professional soldier, and the determination to win this lousy war.
Bolan squared his shoulders, loosened his grip on the steering wheel, and let his eyes range ahead to search for the appearance of that back road. He knew now where he was headed—knew where he had to go and what he had to do. He had known it back there with the decision to swing north. It was an idea he'd toyed with since the first battle, at Pittsfield. And now he had finally made the decision. The decision to live, and to once again take the battle to the Mafiosi. To live, Bolan must rid himself of his greatest liability. His face. And Bolan knew a man with a gift for faces. He'd watched Jim Brantzen reconstruct many battle-torn faces, and Brantzen now had his own clinic in Palm Village, not a hundred crow-flying miles from Bolan's present location. The problem, Bolan recognized, was that he was not a crow. That hundred miles could seem like a thousand, especially if the cops got into the act. He stiffened suddenly, spotting the dimly marked junction ahead, and swerved onto the narrow backroad without slowing his speed.
Mack Bolan, the Executioner, had been flushed toward a new horizon. He just hoped that he would be able to find it before the world rolled over and crushed him. Headlights turned in, far behind him. He floorboarded the gas pedal and searched his memory for the route ahead. All of life he could claim lay ahead of him. And, perhaps, only death.CHAPTER 2
Julian (Deej) DiGeorge paced the small study of his Palm Springs retreat, frequently eyeing the telephone and glancing at his watch. He stepped to a shuttered window and peered through a slit. The backs of two of his best boys hove into view, then moved out of sight as they restlessly moved about the grounds. Deej grunted with satisfaction and turned once more to the telephone. Why didn't the damn thing ring? Lou should have made the hit by now and be bursting to pass along the good news. Deej could not, he knew, count Bolan out until that telephone sounded. The nervy punk was just too full of ... DiGeorge shivered involuntarily and went back to the window. It had been a long time since Deej DiGeorge, boss of the Western Mafia, had been frightened of another human being. He was frightened now, and he admitted it... to himself. Sure, sure he was scared. It'd take an idiot to not be scared, with a maniac like that Bolan running around loose.
His eyes swung in near-panic as the knob of the study door turned, then knuckles sounded lightly on the panel. DiGeorge detoured by way of his desk, scooped up a nickel-plated revolver, and went quietly to the door. "Yeh?" he asked.
A faintly amused feminine voice said, "Poppa, what are you doing in there behind locked doors? Making love to the housekeeper?"
DiGeorge turned the lock and opened the door. Andrea DiGeorge, a striking brunette with long shiny hair worn in a fold- singer free-fall, pushed provocatively encased hips into the study, eyed the revolver in her father's fist and laughed softly. "Careful," she said, "the bogeyman'll get you."
"Not as long as I got Charles Henry, here," DiGeorge replied soberly, shaking the pistol.
The girl pouted her lips and said, "Yeah, old Charlie there is a formidable weapon ... on a pistol range. I'll bet he's never thrown down on a living thing, though. Seriously, Poppa, why don't you ..."
The telephone sounded, and Andrea immediately lost her audience. DiGeorge's eyes flared in a delighted reaction. He all but leapt onto the telephone, leaving his daughter standing open-mouthed in the doorway. He snatched up the instrument and breathlessly said, "Yeah?"
"That you, Deej?" Lou Pena's mournful tones inquired.
"Well who'n hell you think it would ..." DiGeorge caught his breath and flicked a glance at the doorway. Andrea had departed. He sank limply onto the corner of the desk. There was no mistaking the failure in Pena's voice. "All right, Lou," DiGeorge said. "How'd it go?"
There was a brief silence from the other end of the connection. DiGeorge could almost see the wheels of Pena's brain whirling toward the right words. "I ... he got away from us, Deej," he said dismally.
"Whattya mean, he got away?" DiGeorge shrilled.
"I mean he got away. Julio and some boys took off after him, but he had a pretty good lead. I don't know."
"You don't know what?"
"Well, I dunno if they'll be able to catch him or not. He had a pretty good lead, and in a good car. Uh ... Ralph Scarpetti's dead. So's Al Reggnio. And two or three others are hurt, not seriously. I got a nick myself."
DiGeorge swore softly into the transmitter, then carefully placed the revolver on the desk.
"And he burned up two of our cars. That's how come I'm so long checking in. Had to send a boy in after some transportation."
DiGeorge's eyes were glazing. He loosened his collar and rocked gently to and fro on the edge of the desk. Presently he said, "So. Some hit, eh? I send fifteen boys out after one lousy punk and I wind up with two dead, half a dozen hurt, two cars ..." DiGeorge's voice choked off. He tugged at his collar again.
"Listen, Deej, this guy is no punk," Pena offered defensively. "He's a damn one-man army. God, he shot these flares up in the air, see, and caught us right out in the open. Hell, I can't figure how he even knew we were coming. It was pitch-dark, and we weren't making any noise, not even breathing hard. Then, out of nowhere, bloom, here's these goddam flares floating down on us. And he opens up with a goddam heavy machine gun. Hell, we're lucky any of us are alive to talk about it. This guy ain't no punk, Deej."
"Yeah. Okay, Lou. Where are you now?"
"Pay phone, north side of Santa Monica. I guess we got out of there just in time. Met a sheriff's car on the way back, lights flashing and all that crap. I guess somebody ..."
"Stop guessing, Lou, and bring what's left of your boys on out here."
"Well ... listen ..."
DiGeorge sighed. "Yeah?"
"I already started things rolling. I got ahold of Patty. He's spreading people all up and down the damn highways. I told him to cover everything, and solid. Gas stations, bus stations, road junctions, the whole bit. I told him, uh, I hope this's okay, Deej, I told him to hell with the expense, the sky's the limit. We just want to get Bolan. Right?"
DiGeorge sighed again. "Right, Lou, that's exactly right. But you come on back here. I want to start mapping out a foolproof campaign. I don't want any more half-assing around."
"Okay ... uh ... I'm sorry as hell, Deej."
DiGeorge quietly hung up the telephone, stared at it dolefully for a long moment, then said, "You sure are, Lou baby."
Bolan sent his car powering into a squealing turn to follow the torturous mountain road, crested the hill, and began the drop into the interior valley. The twinkling lights of a small town were showing, far ahead. He glanced at his watch and decided that he was making pretty good time, even with all his zig-zagging and backtracking through the mountains. His gasoline supply was getting low; the powerful car could consume a lot of fuel during two hours of this type of driving. The lights in the distance should be Palm Village, he decided. He wondered if he had gas enough to make it on in, and whether or not he would come onto a service station on this lonely road. A dull ache in his right ankle told him that the injury from the Balboa battle was again demanding attention. He felt shelled-out, weary, and entirely resigned to the role fate had decreed for him. He was going to die by the gun, he knew this. The only question remaining unanswered, in Bolan's mind, was the when of it. Why not right now, he mused. Why prolong it? A forlorn pride surged up from the depths of his weariness. He knew, of course, why it had to be prolonged. A man did not choose a time and place to die; he chose a battleground for life. Bolan had chosen his own battleground. The rest of it was simply a matter of fighting the battle to the best of his ability, and all the way to the end. Was that a philosophy, or a resignation? Bolan shook his head. He recognized it as neither. Philosophies, to Bolan's mind, were no more than idle games. In the final analysis, a man either spent his life or bargained it away. Bolan was spending his.
Excerpted from Battle Mask by Don Pendleton. Copyright © 1970 Pinnacle Books. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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