San Francisco is the most photogenic city in America, with rolling hills, clanging trolleys, and all the charm that Northern California has to offer. But it is also the nation’s pornography capital, and for that it has drawn the attention of Mack Bolan, the Executioner, whose one-man war against the Mafia grows more merciless with every battle.
He reopens the fight at a nightclub, launching a satchel of high explosives into a meeting of local mobsters. Just before it detonates, he notices a delicate young beauty walking into the club. He yanks her away from the blast, delaying his own escape and bringing the full firepower of the San Francisco mob down onto himself. She offers him a way out, but will it lead to safety—or an ambush? Either way, the Executioner will be ready.
California Hit is the 11th book in the Executioner series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
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By Don Pendleton
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1972 Pinnacle Books
All rights reserved.
It was a time for war.
And Mack Bolan was not a negative warrior. His game was blitzkrieg—thunder and lightning, death and destruction, shock and panic and crawling fear-and once again his time for war had come.
For three nights he had held his peace and his patience, carefully reconnoitering and gathering intelligence, reading faces and comparing them with the indelible etchings of his mental mugfile, classifying them by family, function, and rank—and marking them for death.
On this third night, the tall man in night combat garb had been at his post for more than three hours in the late evening chill, quietly watching and biding his time outside the would-be swank nightclub at the edge of San Francisco's North Beach district. He was dressed all in black. From his right shoulder was suspended a "greasegun" machine pistol, riding muzzle-down at the hip. Clamped into the snap-away leather beneath his left arm was the black Beretta Brigadier—a nine millimeter autoloader with a muzzle silencer, his most trusted weapon. A number of extra clips for both weapons were carried in a web belt at his waist—also a light assortment of personal munitions, including a small fragmentation grenade and an incendiary flare. On the ground at his feet rested a flat canvas bag—a "satchel charge" of high explosives.
The place he watched occupied a chunk of high-rent ground completely isolated from the rest of the neighborhood by a couple of acres of asphalt parking area. At dead center was the joint itself, with access along a cozy little pathway winding through artificial shrubbery and plastic flowers. A man-made brook encircled the building, flowing beneath quaint footbridges and jogging around rustic benches emplaced in synthetic arbors.
The China Gardens, they called it, but most of it was bastard-American-Oriental with two wings of weathered stucco, painted-on dragons, and false eaves for the flat roofs. One of those wings housed a dining room, which featured a Chinese menu native only to America. The other provided a ballroom-lounge with pretty Chinese hostesses and cocktail waitresses—the only genuine Oriental touch to the entire place.
At front and center was a two-story structure that was supposed to look like a pagoda; apparently nobody had ever told the owners that a pagoda is a sacred place—a temple, not a saloon. No one seemed to mind but Bolan. Business had been good and the trade lively throughout its surveillance.
But Bolan had seen the joint in the daytime, and it had looked as seamy as most of these places are in honest sunlight. At night it was swankly glamorous and sure to catch the eye of the unwary tourists who couldn't spot a clip-joint until confronted with the bill.
The China Gardens was more than a clip-joint, though. It was a bag-drop and a crossroads of many diverging trails in San Francisco's underworld, a favored meeting place and watering hole of the area's most secretive citizens. During the three long nights of patient stakeout, Bolan had identified several California mob captains—including a Peninsula gambling czar and the narcotics boss of Berkeley. He had also recognized a miscellany of muscle men and runners, plus a couple of black bagmen who were probably from the city's Fillmore District, the black neighborhood.
So, yeah, it seemed the perfect place to start a war.
The timing was about right. They'd closed the door an hour ago. All of the legitimate customers and employees were long gone—and everyone left in the joint now would be a valid target. There were plenty of those left.
Johnny Liano was in there. He'd made it big in Berkeley when the kids began turning on with drugs instead of politics. Pete Trazini was also present, the shylocker and numbers king of depressed Richmond who'd lately been boasting that he was getting bigger than Bank of America.
About a dozen lesser Mafiosi were inside, too, some of them with Liano and Trazini—hardmen; personal bodyguards who probably followed their bosses even to the bathroom.
The parking lot was deserted except for a cluster of vehicles parked near the rear entrance. The neon marquee out front was extinguished and both wings of the building were darkened; only the pagoda was showing lights, and these were all on the upper level.
Wisps of fog drifted sullenly past the lone lamp which now tried to illuminate the parking area, a dull yellow blob of light which would have been worthless even without the dense atmosphere. This part of the city was eerily quiet and almost muffled in the characteristic black-gray wetness of early-morning San Francisco, the fog and the silence blending into an entirely new dimension of time and space. The world seemed to be wrapped tightly around this tiny oasis of sight and sound, the lighted coffee house in the next block and the occasional passing vehicle along the street belonging to an entirely different reality.
But the China Gardens was the only reality Bolan needed, for the moment.
It was to be a very direct tactic, sure—but it was the only one available. Bolan had to take what he could get, pull whatever handle happened to fit his hand, walk through the doors that opened to him.
And a war needed an opener.
The Executioner moved out of his surveillance position and crossed over to the combat zone, a gliding shadow upon the night, and came into no-man's-land via the parking lot, halting slightly uprange from the darkened rear entrance to the central building and directly opposite a lighted upstairs window.
Shadowy images were playing upon that rectangle of light. The "boys" were no doubt having a business meeting-posting records and splitting profits and laying plans for the next day's cannibalistic activities.
Bolan muttered into the night, "Well, for openers...." and swung the satchel charge one full revolution in a softball windup, then let it go in a high, arcing pitch.
The game plan was simple ... hit and fade ... and he was back-pedalling rapidly in the follow-through when he saw her in his corner vision.
She was a real live China doll, hurrying out of the darkness from the back side of the pagoda and heading directly across his path, and apparently she had not even seen him yet.
Consciousness froze for an agonizing instant—with that shipment of high explosives poised midway between Bolan's hand and the impact point—the girl rushing blindly into the blast zone.
She was a beauty, petite but fully proportioned, the Dragon Lady in the flesh, wearing a tight Mandarin style dress with a slit to the hip.
There was time for only a flashing glimpse of her—and then Bolan was reacting instinctively, like a killer linebacker hurling himself into a busted play—whirling and lunging to grab the girl and throw her to the pavement, falling with her and shielding her body with his own. She was struggling and grunting in alarm, her breath hot on his face, when all the sounds of the night became telescoped into the smashing of that upstairs window and the closely following explosion of the satchel charge.
The entire area received instant light, flying debris and whizzing chunks of deadly glass and mortar—and Bolan had another flashing glimpse of frightened eyes as the girl ceased struggling and suddenly lay very still, her head turned to the sound and sight of hell unleashed.
Flames were whooshing through a hole in the upper wall and unseen men were shrieking in panic. Then the wall bulged out and leaned forward, and Bolan was dragging the girl into deeper safety when the whole thing collapsed, spilling bricks, timber, flaming furniture and human bodies in an avalanche onto the parking lot.
He pulled the China doll to her feet and roughly shoved her toward the darkness—and his first words to her were an urgent command. "Run!" he growled. "Run like hell!"
She ran, and Bolan went the other way, into hell, knowing that his assault plan was busted wide open now, his greasegun thrust forward and ready for the inevitable reaction from the enemy.
It came quickly. Three men staggered from the rear door and into the light of the disaster, and immediately a strangled voice cried, "Jesus Christ, it's him!"
The Executioner acknowledged their presence and recognition with a sweeping welcome from the machine pistol, and they all lay down quickly, brothers of the blood for real, now.
Another man ran into the scene from the front of the building. He slid to a confused halt, then began a flatfooted, backwards dance, crouching and firing at the apparition in black with a snubnosed revolver.
Bolan calmly stood his ground and zipped the guy with a short burst from the greasegun, the firetrack sweeping up from ground level, splitting the target up the middle and punching him over onto his back.
The Executioner went on, advancing across the bloodied body, and he met another pair at the corner of the building with a blazing criss-cross burst that sent them rolling along the walkway. A third man from that same group scampered back through the main entrance, evidently preferring the inferno in there to the hell outside.
And then a new and familiar element was added to the chaotic environment—a police siren was screaming up from the Fisherman's Wharf area.
Bolan checked his impulse to follow the fleeing Mafioso into the pagoda and instead whirled about and returned to the parking lot. He paused there long enough to press a marksman's medal into the limp hand of a fallen gunner, then he fell back along the flagstoned walkway.
A secondary explosion occurred somewhere inside the joint. A portion of the roof fell in and the flames leapt higher.
More sirens now ... coming in from every direction ... and Bolan mentally tipped his hat to the quick reaction by the city—but his numbers had never been more critical, and he knew that a successful retreat was becoming less likely with every step he took.
A line of automobiles had come to a halt just uprange from the disaster area and a collection of people were standing around in tight little groups and gawking at the spectacular fire.
One of the onlookers spotted the armed man in black, and he reacted visibly. Bolan stepped back and went the other way. A police cruiser flashed across the street down range, and the deep rumbling of fire trucks had now joined the sounds of the night.
Yeah ... he had overplayed his numbers, all right.
The enemy had regrouped outside the flaming building, and a lot of arm-waving and signal-calling was happening down there now. They would be organized into a hot pursuit, very soon now.
Sirens were flying all around the area—and Bolan had known what to expect if he dallied too long at the scene of combat. The entire neighborhood would be sealed off—by police and fire equipment-and the Executioner would be contained within a painfully small hunting preserve, with irate Mafiosi turning every rock in a search for their most hated enemy.
Yeah. So what the hell. It was what a guy could expect when he opened with a wild card.
But it was the China doll who'd made the difference. Except for her, he would have been free and clear before anyone had realized exactly what happened.
Bolan was poised there, at the edge of hell, his senses flaring out through the night in an intuitive search for the best road back.
And then she was there again, moving out of the darkness precisely as she had done before, except that this time she seemed to be targeting directly on the man in black and she was showing him a tiny automatic which somehow managed to look large and menacing in that petite hand.
He allowed her to gaze into the bore of the greasegun for a second before he told her, "You're not the enemy."
"Worse than that," she replied in a voice that almost smiled. "I could be a friend."
He shrugged and said, "You've got about a second to decide which."
"That's your decision," she told him. "Will you follow me?"
Bolan hesitated for only an instant—to sample the atmospheric developments about him—and it was all there, all the elements that could spell entrapment, defeat, and the end of a highly important war.
It had been a good opener, sure. But only if the war remained open.
"Why not?" he said, in response to the girl's question. "Let's go."
She spun about and glided gracefully back through the synthetic gardens, keeping to the shadows and moving surely along an arcing path toward the far side.
Bolan kept her in sight, his weapon at the ready, and his instincts in quivering alertness.
Whatever and whomever the China doll was, she was at least an unknown factor, a variable. It was more than Bolan could say for anything else awaiting him in that mist-shrouded night.
Sure, he'd follow her. To his grave, maybe.
But, then, all of Bolan's roads led inevitably to that same point, anyway. Maybe this one would be a bit longer, a bit more scenic, than any of the others presently available.
A guy had to follow his stars.
And somehow, for openers, this one seemed right. A China doll leading him out of a synthetic Chinese hell.
But into where?
Bolan scowled, hugged his weapon, and followed his guide into the unknown.
At least one thing was certain. He had drawn blood at San Francisco, and soon it would be flowing in buckets—his own very probably included.
For good or for bad, another Executioner war was underway.CHAPTER 2
Half of the firefighting equipment in the city seemed to be spotted around the China Gardens. Fire hoses were strung out in precise patterns and firemen swarmed everywhere, many of them wearing asbestos gear and equipped with oxygen masks.
It was a real scorcher. It was a damned lucky thing that this joint was sitting out by itself this way, or half of North Beach would have gone up with it.
Detective Sergeant Bill Phillips of the Brushfire Squad paced restlessly about the Life Emergency command post, trying to put the pieces together in his mind and impatiently waiting to get down onto the scene.
The Life Emergency—LE—people had found very little of life to worry about. Six victims were dead of gunshot wounds, another four had been killed instantly in the blast, and God only knew how many they'd find cremated inside—if they could ever get in there for a look-see.
Another police cruiser eased through the confusion and came to a halt inside the emergency perimeter. The heavy man in blue who descended from it was the Harbor Precinct boss, Captain Barney Gibson, a tough old cop with many ups and downs in his spotted career.
Gibson did not like black people—and Sgt. Phillips had a personal radar that detected such feelings, since Phillips himself was a black man—but he joined the Captain immediately and gave him a limp salute, not acknowledged.
They stood shoulder to shoulder in a brooding silence for a long moment, then the sergeant commented, "You've got a messy one here, Cap'n."
"Figure it's a Brushfire?" Gibson sourly inquired.
The Sergeant cocked his head and scratched absently at his neck. "Don't know," he admitted. "Right now it's just a damn mess. I happened to be in the neighborhood when the call came down ... so I dropped in. It might be a Brushfire. What do you think?"
Gibson shrugged his beefy shoulders. "This is a mob joint. Or it was."
"Yes sir. That's one reason for all the heat, I guess. Fire Department says the basement of that east wing was a regular liquor warehouse. And I'll bet every drop of it was contraband."
"How many gunshot victims?" Gibson asked, ignoring the other information.
Phillips sighed. "Six."
The Captain whistled through his teeth. "That many."
"Life Emergency says another four died in the initial blast. They think it was caused by an explosives charge."
"It figures." Gibson sniffed and swiped at his nose with the back of his hand. "Fog's bad tonight," he commented.
"It's bad every night," Phillips said.
"Who's in charge?"
"Lt. Warnicke. He's inside, looking over the victims."
Captain Gibson grunted and ambled off toward the LE van. Phillips hesitated momentarily, then followed the veteran cop into the rolling medical center.
Warnicke was at the far end, in the DOA section, drinking coffee and talking with two white-clad medics. He was a tall, graceful man with a touch of silver at his temples and a deceptively mild set to his facial features.
The Lieutenant looked up with an expectant grimace as the new arrivals joined the clutch at DOA. "Don't you ever sleep, Barney?" he greeted the Captain.
"When I can," Gibson growled. He elbowed his way forward and helped himself to the coffee as Warnicke and Phillips exchanged grim smiles, then the Harbor boss demanded, "Okay, give me the score."
Warnicke stared thoughtfully into his cup and quietly replied, "Joe Fasco, Johnny Liano, Pete Trazini—all very dead, plus seven minor—"
The Captain interrupted the report with, "I had a talk with Fasco just last week. Told him I couldn't tolerate much more of this. Told him to clean his joint up or I'd close him down."
The two junior officers exhanged glances and Warnicke said, "Well it's clean now."
Excerpted from California Hit by Don Pendleton. Copyright © 1972 Pinnacle Books. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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