The United States consulate in Jordan is firebombed, its staff mercilessly killed. With the group responsible scattered to hideouts in war-torn hot spots around the globe, Mack Bolan has to hit these terrorists hard before they can warn one another.
Soon Bolan is turning safe houses and desert refuges into killing fields as he battles to take down the terrorists three by three. But the last of the group vanishes just as Bolan discovers their ultimate target: an international conference in Switzerland headed by the American President. The world's leaders are caught in the crosshairs, and the Executioner has to stop the splinter group before they strike a global deathblow.
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About the Author
Phil Elmore is a freelance journalist, author, and technical writer who lives and works in Western New York State. He has contributed extensively to various trade magazines in the "tactical" gear and self-defense fields. He is also the senior editor of an IP development company based in Florida and the author of multiple commercially published scifi and action novels.
Read an Excerpt
Ciudad del Este, Paraguay
"It's freaking hot down here," Jack Grimaldi complained, lifting off his baseball cap to draw a handkerchief across his sweaty brow.
"It's South America," Mack Bolan, aka the Executioner, answered from the meager shade cast by his Til-ley hat.
"Hot," Grimaldi echoed. "Like I said."
They were on Avenida los Yerbales, near the sprawling greenery of Parque Jose Asuncion Flores, looking for a man who dealt in death. Their quarry didn't advertise himself that wayin fact, his neighbors knew him as an importer of farming implements and sporty motorcyclesbut behind the public face, familiar from his television commercials, the guy pursued a thriving trade in weapons.
Paraguayan law mandated record keeping for acquisition, possession and transfer of all privately owned firearms, yet no statute regulated activities of arms brokers or transfer intermediaries. Authorities claimed that one million guns, both registered and otherwise, were owned by Paraguay's people.
"We're here," Grimaldi said, standing at ease while foot traffic eddied around him.
Bolan eyed the tractor showroom, looking for a trap, and came up empty. The interior was air-conditioned, almost frosty next to the oppressive humidity outside. Before they'd had a chance to look around, he saw the owner moving toward them, flashing the electric TV smile.
"Good day, gentlemen. How may I serve you?" the dealership owner said in Spanish.
Bolan bit the bullet on the coded answer and replied in English. "We're concerned with pest control."
The famous smile lost just a hint of luster, then came back full-force.
"Of course, if you will follow me." Crossing the showroom, heading for a storage area, the man called out, "Antonio! You have the floor."
In the back, he led them to a steel door, tapped out numbers on its keypad, then they descended to an air-conditioned basement. The "armory" contained a cornucopia of killing hardware racked or hung on walls, some of the larger pieces free-standing on tripods. Crates of ammunition made a double row running the full length of the space, stacked chest-high beneath fluorescent lights.
"Gentlemen, what I have is yours," he said, then added, "For a price, of course."
"Of course," Bolan acknowledged.
He was flush with cash from his last mission in the Bahamas, liberated from a narco-trafficker who didn't need it anymore. The mony had been converted into Paraguayan currency at the going rate. Browsing, Bolan chose a Steyr AUG assault rifle, backed up by a Glock 22 autoloader in .40-caliber S&W. Grimaldi agreed with Bolan on the Glock but picked a Spectre M4 submachine gun for his lead weapon. Suppressors all around, with ample extra magazines and ammunition to feed their deadly tools.
Bolan switched next to heavy hitters, picking out a Neopup PAW-20 grenade launcher. Designed and manufactured in South Africa, the Neopup fired 20 mm point detonating rounds from a 7-round detachable box magazine, with an advertised effective range of 400 meters. For closer work, he took a case of U.S.-made M-67 frag grenades, in standard use throughout the Western Hemisphere and well beyond.
For cutting tools, Bolan bought an all-steel Randall Model 18 survival knife with a 7.5-inch blade honed to razor sharpness. Grimaldi made do with a six-inch Italian switchblade, basic black.
"Reminds me of the old home neighborhood," he said, wearing a crooked grin.
With pistol shoulder rigs and other stray accessories, the price was staggeringat least, in Paraguayan currency. Bolan paid up in one-hundred-thousand guaran banknotes, significantly lightening his roll, but leaving plenty for their travel and emergencies. Bidding the tractor man farewell, they lugged four heavy duffel bags back to their rented Hyundai Accent.
"Next stop?" Grimaldi asked, when he was at the wheel.
"Lay of the land," Bolan replied.
Ciudad del Este was Paraguay's second-largest city and capital of the Alto Paran Department. It was a chaotic, crowded place, hosting thousands of foreign tourists per year. Visitors were drawn by counterfeit Viagra, exotic pets, pirated CDs or DVDs, and weapons like the stash riding in the backseat of Bolan's rental.
None of that had drawn the Executioner to Ciudad del Este.
He was looking for specific men, and he had payback on his mind.
Bolan's targets had chosen Paraguay for its place on the Triple Frontier. The name referred to a tri-border region where the Iguaz and Paran rivers converged, bringing Paraguay into kissing contact with neighbors Argentina and Brazil. The US State Department claimed, with evidence to back it up, that thousands of Lebanese inhabiting the region funneled cash to terrorist groups including al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Egypt's al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya. That was possible, in part, because Paraguay, for all its pious claims of dedication to the war on terrorism, had no laws against financing foreign insurrectionary groups. Such laws as did exist, meanwhile, were hamstrung by the country's rank political corruption and its weak judicial system The men Bolan was hunting were among the world's most wanted fugitives. Unwanted might have been a better way to phrase it, since no country publicly supported them or made them welcome as official refugees. The FBI had placed three-million-dollar bounties on their heads, sixteen in all, for a payday of forty-eight million if someone could bring them together in one place, then blow the whistle.
So far, there'd been no takers.
Bolan didn't hunt for money, and his lead to Paraguay had come around the hard way, through concerted effort and relentless digging, biometric facial recognition software and the spiteful word of an informer who had lost his woman to a fugitive's seductive charm. In Washington, there'd been discussion of a covert military opdeploying navy SEALs, maybe a killer dronebut either one could backfire, big-time, in the theater of bitter politics. Americans had come so far from a consensus on the simplest things that no one cared to risk an act of war in South America. Enter the Executioner.
"Are we firm on this address?" Grimaldi asked, wheeling the Hyundai along Calle Victor Hugo Norte, less than a quarter-mile west of the Rio Paran and the Brazilian frontier.
"They were confirmed here yesterday," Bolan replied. "Hanging with Hezbollah."
"A meeting of the minds?"
Hezbollah was well entrenched along the Triple Frontier, collaborating with similar groups on occasion, skirmishing with them when tempers flared over logistics or fine points of Muslim doctrine. They were Shi'ites, modestly labeled the Party of God, and if a person bought that one, he or she might also believe that Jesus smiled upon the Ku Klux Klan.
One thing about extremists, Bolan had discovered during years of hunting them. Most could be flexible enough to deal with kindred souls of alternate persuasions in the short-term, if it profited both sides.
Sometimes, like now.
The target was a former tenement that Hezbollah had purchased from its slumlord owner for a song, assisted by the standard offer he couldn't refuse, then remodeled into two-bedroom apartments with a storefront office at street level, serving double duty as a mosque and faith-based charity soliciting donations on behalf of Middle Eastern refugees. The mosque preached war against the West; the money donated for displaced persons went, in fact, to Hezbollah's war chest. As for the eighteen apartments, six to a floor, they housed members of Hezbollah and anyone they favored with accommodations for a stopover.
How many gunmen could a two-bedroom apartment hold? Plenty.
Say, four on average, and the total was over seventy. If they were really crowded in, it could be double that, without counting the mosque and office space downstairs.
A simple way would be to bring the whole place down. Strategic high-explosive charges, detonated simultaneously or in swift succession, could collapse the building with all hands inside, ensuring that they didn't live to fight another day. It was effective but completely indiscriminate.
And Bolan needed to be sure that certain targets were included when he made his sweep.
Three names, three faces were to be scratched off Bolan's list. But first, he needed further leads to their associates, directions to wherever they had burrowed in, waiting to surface once the present storm had passed.
None of the men he hunted would be likely to cooperate. Bolan took that for granted and had come preparedboth physically and mentallyto do whatever might be necessary. Torture wasn't something he condoned or trusted, having seen men lie outrageously to stop the pain, say anything their tormentors desired to make it end.
But the flip side of that was his determination not to take "no" for an answer.
"Ready?" Bolan asked.
Grimaldi nodded, then answered, "As I'll ever be."
Grimaldi was ready for damn near anything. He hadn't flown forty-seven hundred miles to sit on the sidelines and watch Bolan do all the work, or to gripe about odds that were stacked against them. That was the name of the game as he'd learned years ago, when Bolan had snatched him out of his old lifelong storyand set Grimaldi on a new path unexpectedly.
For the better, sure, but not without risks.
And what was life without risk?
Their plan was relatively simple when they'd sketched it: breeze in through the building's office space and make their way upstairs from there, in broad daylight, three specific faces foremost in their minds while they were taking out the trash. Spare one or more of those until they could be squeezed for information, preferably at another site, removed from what was bound to be a bloodbath. When a plan like that was put into practice, though, there was a tendency for things to go to hell.
The good news: everyone inside the building should be hard-core Hezbollah, except the trio at the top of Bolan's hit list. Once they got inside, it was a free-fire zone, no quarter asked or offered, and their sole constraint was time. How long before police arrived to intervene, assuming that they came at all?
The Paraguayan National Police had roughly 22,000 officers nationwide, spread over 157,000 square miles of city and jungle, riding herd on nearly seven million citizens, plus tourists, drifters and the like. Police might show up at a crime scene late or not at all, depending on the victims' status in society.
With Hezbollah involved, who knew what might go down?
Grimaldi double-checked his submachine gun, with its casket magazine containing fifty 9 mm Parabellum rounds. The Spectre M4 had a double-action trigger, which allowed the safety to be disengaged without a risk of accidental firing under any normal circumstances, and a shrouded barrel to facilitate cooling. He'd have to watch it, or the cyclic rate of fourteen rounds per second would devour a magazine in nothing flat. But Grimaldi had used the gun before and liked its feel, its firepower and its reliability. The suppressor he had screwed on to its threaded muzzle would prevent the gun from climbing in full-auto mode, as well as muffling the racket that it made.
Rain had begun to drizzle, which was normal for the tropics, handy for the lightweight raincoats Grimaldi and Bolan wore to hide their weapons as they moved along the sidewalk toward their target. Hezbollah had no men on the street that the Stony Man pilot could see, and there was no sign of surveillance cameras around the entrance to their ground-floor offices.
Apparently, they felt secure enough in Paraguay to drop their guard a bit.
The door, all glass, allowed a clear view of the officeor at least its front reception areafrom where Grimaldi stood outside. There was a young guy sitting at a desk, directly opposite the door, with no one else in sight. He might be armed, but at the moment he was busy talking on the phone, half turned in profile to the street, oblivious.
When Bolan gave the door a push, it opened at his touch.
A little chime went off as Bolan entered, with Grimaldi on his heels. No doubt it was supposed to warn whoever occupied the office that they had a walk-in, and it brought the young guy's frowning face around in time to see two silenced weapons pointed at him. Blurting something in Arabic, he dropped the phone and shoved a hand into the knee well of his desk, maybe for a weapon or a panic button hidden under there.
He never made it.
Bolan's Steyr AUG coughed out a single round and granted the Hezbollah's receptionist the martyrdom he may have dreamed about when he signed on to be a terrorist. The exit wound sprayed abstract art across a filing cabinet behind him, and he slithered out of sight beneath the desk.
Abdullah Rajhid was tired of being cooped up in the small apartment, only seeing sunshine through his window or on those occasions when his hosts allowed him access to the building's roof. He understood that he and his two roommates were on every watch list in the world, their faces posted on the internet with prices on their heads, but he was sick and tired of hiding.
He was sick and tired of Paraguay.
Sitting on a sway-backed sofa in his underwear, Rajhid ticked off the things that irritated him about the country he'd been sent to as a fugitive.
The weather. He was used to heat, of course, but Paraguay's humidity was killing him. It sapped his energy and made him feel exhausted from the moment he awoke each morning to the final hour when he dragged himself to bed.
The insects. He had lived with desert scorpions and spiders all his life, and cockroaches, but those in Paraguay were monsters, grown unnaturally large, and they could turn up anywhere. Just yesterday, he'd found a black, five-inch scorpion hiding beneath his pillow when he went to bed, a shock that left him wondering if one of his so-called protectors might have placed it there to rattle him.
And Hezbollah. That was another thing. Its members, with their clique in Paraguay, had treated Rajhid almost like a leper from the moment he arrived with Walid Kha-mis and Salman Farsoun. It was as if they thought their little private army was the only group entitled to make war on the Crusaders in the name of God. Rajhid wrote it off to jealousy, but he resented being forced to smile and thank them for their hospitality. The war was going on without him, and he wanted to get back to it.
The food. Now, there was one thing Rajhid did enjoy. They all avoided pork, of course, but he was very fond of pira caldo, Paraguay's fish soup; the great asado barbecues; the kiveve made from pumpkins; and the lampreado, fried cakes made with manioc. Rajhid had put on weight since landing at the hideout, but he tried to keep it down with exercise, the only form of entertainment granted to him, other than a television set that played three channels, none of which he understood.
He hoped Khalid would reach out to them soon. Ra-jhid and his companions needed action, not the world's worst-ever tropical vacation, locked up in an apartment and eaten by mosquitoes, while they never even got to glimpse the rain forest.