A woman is kidnapped, and only the Executioner can save her
On a moonlit Cleveland dock, Mack Bolan watches the flagship of the local boss’s criminal fleet. It would be child’s play to storm aboard and kill the capo, but this boss is strictly small time. Bolan wants the big boys—and he is about to get his shot at them. Toward the ship come two figures dragging an aging prisoner who makes no attempt at escape. Bolan breaks his stakeout to save the old man. He is a judge—and he’s minutes from cardiac arrest.
As they rush to the hospital, the judge whispers to Bolan about a kidnapped girl whose time is running out. As he fights to save the girl and bring down the Cleveland mob, Bolan discovers something he never thought he would find: a woman who might steal his heart.
Cleveland Pipeline is the 30th book in the Executioner series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
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The Executioner, Book Thirty
By Don Pendleton
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1977 Don Pendleton
All rights reserved.
The bad ship Christina was centered in the range-marks, darkly silhouetted against the nighttime glow of Cleveland, queen city of Lake Erie To the unaided eye, the old freighter was no more than a dark blob in the jumbled shadows of the outer harbor. But Bolan knew her well, thanks to tireless surveillance and the phenomenal capabilities of his own good "ship," the Warwagon. The glow in the viewscreen revealed a nondescript vessel at dock, boxlike warehouses squatting beside her, a dimly lit pier along which an occasional human movement could be noted. In a finer focus, Bolan could pick out details on the ship herself: a uniformed sailor on the bridge, another at the top of the gangway, several lighted portholes along the boat deck, now and then the momentary flare of a cigarette at various points about the main deck.
Yeah, he knew her well.
The bad Christina served one Bad Tony Morello, Head Cannibal of the Cleveland mob. And the evidence of Bolan's senses was telling him that Cleveland had become the new pipeline for Mafia ambitions since the Command Strike against New York.
Sure, Bad Tony had balls enough. Cleveland could well be the new pipeline, and Christina could certainly be part of it. Morello owned the waterfront, his amicu owned the Liberian fleet which operated Christina, and a lot of hard shit was moving through the Port of Cleveland.
But there was more here, just at the surface, than a career psychopath such as Tony Morello could ever hope to handle entirely on his own. Big things were rumbling through Cleveland. A summary execution of Bad Tony would solve nothing, change nothing. Bolan had to get to the Senior Savages, those "respectable" businessmen who obviously were playing the Mafia game.
So it had been a game of wait and watch. Somewhere, sooner or later, an insulation would thin or shred, someone would inevitably trip a wire—and the Executioner meant to be watching when that occurred.
Persistence, yeah, has its own reward.
It was being rewarded now, if Bolan's instincts meant anything. A shiny limousine had edged into the viewscreen, moving cautiously along the pier toward Christina. Bolan sharpened the focus and punched in the laser-supplemented infrared scan to zero on that limousine. It halted a few yards from the Christina's gangway and two hardmen bounced onto the pier, their pedigree apparent despite the best efforts of barber and clothier.
One of the torpedoes casually scanned the scene while his partner helped another man debark through a rear door. Bolan zoomed on that face and started the video recorder as the third man stepped into view. What was the emotion being displayed there on that cultured face? Indecision? Apprehension? Raw fear, maybe. He was a man of about sixty, immaculately groomed in semiformal evening wear.
The frightened man was peering apprehensively up the gangway to the ship and moving slowly toward it, under escort by both torpedoes. The next move was not precisely the "spark" Bolan had been awaiting but it was spark enough to dislodge him from the sidelines as passive observer. The man in the middle suddenly whirled about and made a run for it, catching the two hoods momentarily off guard and flat-footed in their reaction.
Gun metal flashed in the optics as a snarling hardman produced a revolver. The other slapped it away and sprinted off in pursuit of the fleeing figure.
Bolan was also launched, in instant reaction. He was out of the Warwagon and into a waiting chase car, a Jaguar sportster, before his intellect could even begin to assess the implications of that startling "spark."
The cannibals, yeah, were hard at work—but apparently an intended victim had decided to "reason" with them from outside the boiling pot. That man was running for his life.
Bolan was running, also—for that same life. The Jag hit full revolutions during the first hundred yards of the charge and did not let off until the headlamps were sweeping the warehouse area in search of the game. He found it several hundred feet downrange from the bad Christina, where two big ugly cannibals were dragging a struggling victim toward the intended feast—and he joined it at full throttle, sending startled torpedoes scrambling for survival with all festive thoughts abandoned.
They dropped their prisoner with instinctive alacrity, to spin away in their own chosen paths of salvation—playing Bolan's game Bolan's way. He easily avoided the fallen prisoner and sent the charging vehicle toward instant intercept of the guy on the dock side. The sleek nose of the Jag made contact with flesh and bone, crumpling it and flinging it cartwheeling into the water with an anguished scream. The other guy had spun off to the side of a warehouse and was bringing hardware to bear on his problem when the Jag stood on her nose and Bolan erupted from there with Big Thunder unleashed. The torpedo's weapon spoke first but Bolan's spoke better, the big piece roaring out 240 grains of splattering death, totally eclipsing the lighter report of the other weapon. The Jaguar was moving in reverse even before the reverberations of that sudden encounter could move the length of the pier.
The third man had not moved from where he'd fallen. He'd been roughed up a bit. A lip was split and bleeding, one eye puffed shut. But that was only the beginning of this man's problems. Apparently he was also experiencing a heart attack.
Sounds of alarmed reaction were coming from Christina. There was but one sane move left for Bolan. He scooped the ailing man into his arms, deposited him in the car, and got the hell out of there.
But the guy was in bad shape, struggling for breath, the open eye plainly aware of the situation and flaring into the knowledge of approaching death.
Bolan knew a bit about heart resuscitation but he also knew that this man's best chance lay at the emergency hospital just a few quick blocks away.
"Don't fight yourself," he advised. Try to be calm. You'll have medical help in a minute."
But the guy was trying to tell him something.
"Don't talk," Bolan said firmly.
The dying man insisted nevertheless, the voice weak and the tortured words all but indistinguishable. "... pro shop ... great danger ... help her ... the girl ..."
Bolan's first item of business was to get the dying man to the hospital, and he beat his estimated time by about ten seconds. The guy was still gasping the urgent message—even more urgent than his own life itself, apparently—when the Jag powered along the drive to the emergency entrance and pulled onto an ambulance ramp.
A uniformed cop was standing there.
"Cardiac!" Bolan snapped at him. "Get some help out here!"
The cop's gaze strayed to the victim's face. He paled, then quickly went inside without a word to Bolan.
The old man had stopped breathing. Bolan ran around to the passenger door and hauled the guy out, lay him on the ground, and commenced CPR. A couple of orderlies appeared a moment later and smoothly took over. Another guy with a stethoscope dangling from his neck appeared then, and continued the CPR procedure while the others lifted the patient onto a gurney.
Bolan's mind was now fixed on the necessity for a quick fadeaway, but the cop was holding the door for their entrance and his concerned comment to the attendants stayed Bolan's departure another moment.
"Take good care of the judge, boys."
Bolan froze at midstride, torn between the need to fade and the almost equally important need to know. Another moment and the cop would be wanting answers to some questions of his own.
Too late already. The cop was giving him an expectant look. Bolan fell in behind the procession and went inside.
People were gathering around, applying oxygen and doing the other usual things as the "judge" was hurried toward a treatment room.
Someone gasped, "Hell—it's Judge Daly!"
The cop was looking Bolan up and down-wondering, maybe, if and where he'd seen that face before.
The "most wanted" man in the country did not give the guy too much time to wonder about it. "Call it in!" he snapped. "Be sure someone notifies the family!"
The cop reacted immediately to that voice of quiet authority, spinning on his heel and walking quickly toward the desk.
It was cut, now; to follow through seemed the only logical action. Bolan followed through. He went into the emergency treatment room and grabbed the intern by the arm. "What's his chances?" he quietly inquired.
"How long was he gone before you instituted CPR?"
"Just a few seconds."
"That could be the determining factor," the intern said. "We'll get him stabilized and then—"
"I'm a police officer," Bolan lied. "I need to talk to him. Now."
"That's impossible," the guy replied angrily. "The man is barely alive."
Perhaps. But the man was conscious and still trying to talk. Bolan brushed past the intern and bent low to catch the labored speech. "... Mel ... girl ... plot ... help ..."
"Where is she?" Bolan asked. "Where is the girl?"
"Pro ... pro ..."
"Right, the pro shop. But where? Where is the pro shop?"
The judge muttered something that sounded like "pine group."
Bolan's eyes asked the question of the intern.
"Pine Grove, probably," the guy told him. "It's a country club on the west side. Now you've simply got to-"
"Sparks," Bolan said quietly.
"Take care of the judge," Bolan said, and he went out of there.
The cop was still at the telephone.
Bolan waved as he went past. He reclaimed his chase car and turned her head westward.
Sparks, sure. Paydirt. A federal district judge, Mafia torpedoes, a country club, a girl in jeopardy, a plot, great danger. Paydirt for damn sure.
"Thanks, judge," Bolan whispered to a brave spirit. "I'll take it from here."CHAPTER 2
The local chamber of commerce liked to think of Ohio's largest city as "the best location in the nation." And maybe it was ... for many things. Within a five-hundred-mile radius was concentrated more than half of the entire population of both the U.S. and Canada, fifty-five percent of all the country's manufacturing plants, and more than fifty percent of all retail sales in both countries. One of the busiest ports in the nation, it handled traffic not only from the Great Lakes but from the world at large via the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic and from all the great industrial rivers of the continent via inland waterway to the mighty Ohio.
Only the cities of New York and Chicago could claim more corporate headquarters than Cleveland—and this proud center of America's industrial heartland did not mince words in staking its claim, pointing to the biggies like Goodyear and Firestone, Standard Oil of Ohio and Republic Steel, General Tire and TRW. Sherwin-Williams, Addressograph-Multigraph, American Shipbuilding—on and on, count them, forty-one of the top one thousand industrial corporations in the country were headquartered here.
A good location, sure.
One of those "top corporations" not mentioned in the Chamber of Commerce brochures was La Cosa Nostra, whose annual gross "product" exceeded that of many small nations. The Mob was not headquartered here, of course, but it maintained a thriving branch office in this industrial heartland of the nation.
And so what was "going down" in Cleveland?
What was a veteran legbreaker and contract specialist such as Bad Tony Morello finding in common with so many respected pillars of the business and social communities? Gambling, narcotics, prostitution, pornography—sure, the usual nickel-and-dime operations from which pyramiding fortunes were built—it was common knowledge that Morello was local master of all that.
But there was more, much more—and Bolan had so far picked up only the vibrations of some ambitious new trust at the innards of American industry. He had followed those vibrations to Cleveland—"the best location in the nation"—and hit a stone wall.
The developments of this evening—as small as they seemed, on the surface—were the first faint crack in that wall. Bolan had absolutely no "feel" for Judge Edwin Daly. It was nothing new or particularly startling to find a federal judge playing the cozies with a Mafia boss. It was a bit strange, however, to find one running for his life from a couple of legbreakers. All sorts of interesting possibilities were thus presenting themselves to Bolan's trained and knowing mind as he sought out one of the most exclusive country clubs in this city of corporate exclusiveness.
He followed Interstate 71 south to an exit just beyond suburban Brook Park, then maintained a due westerly course—occasionally consulting a road map on the seat beside him—until the intersection with Pine Grove Road, a two-lane blacktop bordering the sprawling country club.
The time was close to three o'clock. The grounds were dark, silent, almost forbidding as he turned into the drive and killed his lights. He sat there for a moment to get the feel and lie of that place and to allow his eyes to adjust to the darkness. Then he continued on, climbing slightly for another few hundred yards in a winding approach to the clubhouse.
The place reeked of class.
Low, modern lines with a lot of rock and glass—reflecting pools in the front, swimming and other frolicksome facilities fanning off to the side, plenty of trees and sleek lawns, hedgerows, flowers, bowers, flagstone walkways peeling off in all directions.
A couple of floods lit the front lawn. Faint night-lights glowed at the rear. There were no signs of security guards or night watchmen—indeed, no sign of human presence whatever.
Bolan pulled his vehicle into a stand of trees at the edge of the parking area and quietly got out to sniff the night. It was then he heard the murmur of distant voices. He quickly stripped down to the black combat outfit which he wore beneath the street clothes and thoughtfully selected his weapons. There was no way to anticipate what may be encountered during the probe. Perhaps nothing more threatening than a steward or janitor. On the other hand ...
When he left the vehicle, the .44 AutoMag head-buster was riding military web at the right hip and the 9mm Beretta Brigadier—silencer equipped—rode shoulder harness beneath the left arm. Spare clips for both pistols were touch-placed at the waist. Special accessories, routine for such missions, occupied slit pockets of the blacksuit. Black sneakers on the feet completed the rig.
A light probe, yeah. Hopefully. He blended with the night for a quick and silent recon, remaining well clear of the lighted areas, carefully testing the darkness as he homed in on those muted voices.
The judge had mentioned the pro shop, which should be over toward the golf course. But there was nothing but darkness out there—and there was no need to travel beyond the main clubhouse.
Those voices were coming from the pool area. Male, two of them, a bit argumentative but seemingly allied in some joint enterprise. Some damn deadly enterprise, yeah.
"I say we put a bathing suit on her."
"Bullshit, go find one then."
"I could find one. They got a whole shop full of them in there."
"Forget it. This is just as good. She was here alone, see, after everybody left. She decided to have a swim. Why not bare-assed? Who's to look?"
"God it's almost a shame, ain't it? I'd look at that any day."
"Stop, you're breaking my heart. It's just another broad, Lenny. A wise broad, at that Now gimme a hand here, dammit. If she tries kicking me in the balls again, I'll have your ass."
"I guess she's all kicked out. Lookit that, would you? She's screaming with her eyes. She's afraid to open her mouth." The guy chuckled wickedly. "She believed you, Chuck. She really thinks you'll give her something to chew on."
"I'll give you something to chew on if you don't stop dicking around. Grab her feet, dammit."
Bolan had then in view now.
The submerged lights inside the pool were providing a rather mellow illumination to the macabre scene at poolside. A beautifully voluptuous and quite naked young lady lay passively on her back at the water's edge. At this point, Bolan did not have a clear view of her face but he had the impression that she was conscious and aware. Strangled little sobs on the borderline of hysteria provided a strange contrast to the docile manner in which she was accepting an unhappy fate. The two guys were standing waist deep in the pool, preparing to drag the girl in with them.
A chain-link fence stood across Bolan's way and the gate was at the far end. He hit that barrier at the run, vaulting over and landing lightly on the other side at almost the precise spot where the girl had been lying. She was now in the water, submerged between the two fully clothed torpedoes, horrified eyes open and—yeah, Lenny—screaming.
Excerpted from Cleveland Pipeline by Don Pendleton. Copyright © 1977 Don Pendleton. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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