In a grassy field in North Georgia, Mack Bolan pays tribute to the men who died at Chickamauga. For more than a century, the battlefields of the Civil War have been peaceful memorials, but on a lonely stretch of highway outside Atlanta, the one-man army known as the Executioner is about to open a new battle. His target is the Mafia, which has long used the Georgia highways to smuggle cigarettes, whiskey, and stolen electronics. Lately, something far more sinister has been creeping up from the South: heroin, by the truckload. Bolan is here to cut the connection.
To protect the innocent truckers hauling the Mafia goods, Bolan lets them drop their cargo before he destroys it. When the white powder fails to arrive at its destination, the mob comes after Bolan, and the highways of the South become a battleground.
Dixie Convoy is the 27th book in the Executioner series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
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The Executioner, Book Twenty-seven
By Don Pendleton
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1976 Pinnacle Books, Inc.
All rights reserved.
A Time for War
He was dressed in black, and his hands and face had been treated with a black cosmetic. At the right hip on military web rode the big silver autoloading .44 Magnum. A black 9-mm. "quiet piece"—a Beretta Brigadier with specially engineered silencer—was in shoulder leather at his left chest. Utility belts crossed the torso, from which dangled an assortment of small grenades and other choice items of ordnance—all meticulously selected and "touchplaced" on the belts for instant access. Spare clips for the pistols girded the waist. Slit pockets at the legs carried useful accessories. A leather holster clipped to the web belt in front held a compact walkie-talkie with Citizens Band capability. Slung across the back of the shoulders in a horizontal carry was the M-16/M-79 combo, the "big-punch capability." The M-16 combat rifle would spit a withering stream of 5.56-mm. tumblers at the rate of 700 rounds per minute. She rode atop the M-79, a breech-loading 40-mm. cannon that could hurl high explosive, shot, smoke, or gas rounds.
Although he was already loaded like an army mule, he then selected two "Buck Rogers bazookas"—the Light Anti-tank Weapon, or LAW—armor-piercing missiles that came packed in their own throwaway launchers. He hefted the fiberglass tubes to his shoulder and struck off cross-country on foot, leaving the scout car parked in the greenery beside the access road.
The time was precisely midnight when he gained the low knoll that had been selected as fire base for this mission. The moon was playing tag with fractured puffs of low cumulus scudding over the mountains to the north, providing an on/off lighting effect upon the terrain.
The Southern skies were reflecting the far-off lights of the queen city, Atlanta, about twenty miles downcountry. At his left hand, Marietta slumbered quietly; at his right, the dark shadow of Kennesaw Mountain rose into the night. Directly ahead, in a cluster of muted lights, lay the target—a collection of warehouses and service buildings, at a range of about five hundred meters.
It looked innocent enough, much like any other trucking terminal: small cluster of warehouses, service garage, small office building, scales house, a few other incidental buildings. The main difference here was the high chain link fence topped with barbed wire, the manned gatehouse, uniformed security patrols.
But Bolan had been in there twice already—once in a casual daylight recon from the cab of a truck and again in a quiet nighttime infiltration for a prolonged scouting mission.
And, yeah, he had their numbers.
The "security guards" were genuine Mafia hard men, captained by one Thomas Lago, née Lagossini, an old hardhead from the New York wars. The full force numbered twenty men, with the normal shift staffing no more than three guns, beefed up to six to eight during critical operations.
The management was pure civilian—dumb men. Perhaps the manager himself, a guy named Harrison, knew what was really moving through those warehouses; the other employees would be kept dumb.
Bolan, also, knew what was moving through those warehouses: contraband of several varieties, including drugs, guns, untaxed cigarettes, and whiskey.
This one was the "hard point." Other terminals in the area operated much more openly, dealing chiefly in general merchandise such as television sets, kitchen appliances, and so forth—all stolen from various regions of the country and funneled through the Dixie Corridor for transshipment elsewhere. In addition, the largest stolen-car "recycle" operated from this area.
It was big business, tapping the already weakened American economy to the tune of several billions of dollars a year. Very easy money for the mob, yeah, and several new Mafia empires had been built beneath the cover of this operation.
Bolan's entrance into the corridor had been via Mexico, along the heroin trail. The Atlanta area had become one of the chief U.S. "dumps" for the white powder from Mexico. There were powder factories all over town, where the stuff was cut and packaged for reshipment to the various wholesale markets around the country. This "terminal" served the heroin trail like a revolving door, receiving the raw stuff from Mexico and then distributing the finished product to the street outlets.
But no more.
Bolan's timing was perfect, straight on the numbers.
A truck convoy was just then beginning to move away from the warehouse complex. Six big eighteen-wheelers were moving in close formation just outside the gate and pulling toward the access road. This would be the guns shipment for Ireland, disguised as farm machinery, moving via the Port of Savannah. Bolan had those numbers, too.
The drivers of those trucks were dumb men also; special provisions had been made for that in the mission planning. He gave them half the distance to the road; then he thumbed an HE round into the sliding breech of the M-79 and lofted it onto the roadway a hundred feet in front of the convoy, following immediately with another round to the rear. Scarcely a heartbeat separated the two explosions. The line of trucks stumbled to an immediate halt.
"Cotton picker!" came an exclamation through the radio. "What's that up there at the front door?"
Another excited voice rode the airwaves to announce: "Whatever it is, we got one at the back door, tool"
Bolan coolly told them what it was. "You're bracketed, cotton pickers. Bail out and beat it, over the hill and far away. The first wheel to roll gets one dead center."
An intensification of personal risk, sure. Bolan knew that the police routinely monitor the truckers' CB channel. In these hills, CB range could be spotty and unsure; still, a savvy cop could tumble to something going down in the areaor, at worst, the truckers could put out a Ten-thirty-four, a call for help, and pinpoint the location. But it was a necessary gamble. Mack Bolan did not make war on civilians.
The immediate reaction to his challenge, though, was a shocked, "Mercy goodness!" It was a substitute expletive favored for CB radio use.
A less excited guy announced, "We definitely got a problem here, good buddies."
Bolan assured one and all: "You definitely got that. You're hauling contraband. You've got thirty seconds to gather your gear and clear the fire zone."
"Comb your hair and brush your teeth, boys," suggested a third radio voice from the convoy. It was CB-ese for a police radar unit "taking pictures." In this context, close enough.
The cool, troubled voice was wondering, "How about if we just drop the loads and run on naked? We own these tractors, Mr. Smoky. Impound them, and we're out of business."
"I'm not a Smoky," Bolan told him. "And I'm not impounding; I'm burning. How long will it take to drop the trailers?"
"Not long," was the immediate reply.
"Okay, do it. Is your base on this channel?"
"Try fourteen," the guy replied. "The good numbers on you, sir, whatever you are."
Bolan smiled grimly at that pleasant response as he tuned down to Channel fourteen. "How about you there, Bluebird Base?" he called.
Instantly, came the reply: "Yeah. What the hell is going on out there?"
"You're next. Sound the alarm and get all the civilians out. I want no innocent blood."
"Come back? Come back on that? Who've I got there?"
"You've got hell afoot, buddy. Now do it. You've got sixty seconds."
The cool trucker had also switched channels. He came into it with: "Better do as he says, Ned. They've got artillery or something out here. Better take him seriously."
The base station replied with a weak, "Ten-four."
Immediately, the fire alarms inside the compound began their clamor. Another risk factor, sure—those alarms were probably tied directly to the nearest fire station. But there were a dozen or more civilians in those buildings. And, yeah, the risk was part of the game.
Bolan passed a final instruction in there. "Keep clear of the guards. Those guys are targets. Get your people together and run like hell to the rear. Keep to the rear fence line, and you'll be okay. Ten-four?"
"Ten-four, thanks," came back quickly. "We down. We gone."
The trucker mildly inquired, "What're you going to do, guy?"
"I'm going to shake their house down, guy," Bolan told him.
"Yeah—Ten-four on that. Hey, who've I got here? I think I—what's your handle?"
"Depends on who's calling it," Bolan replied amiably. His eyes were measuring the passage of time. "Hadn't you better be losing that load?"
"It's lost. I'm first man out. Can you eyeball me?"
"I've got you, yeah," Bolan said. "Been good modulating with you, guy. B'bye."
"Hey, wait! You've got the one Georgia Cowboy. Catch you on the flip-flop some day?"
"Probably not, but I'll be looking. Better ball it now, guy. Hammer down."
"Ten-four on that balling it, hammer down. But let me try one time." The guy had a bee in his bonnet, and he just had to get it out. "Would this be the one Big B-the Hellfire Kid?"
Bolan was smiling soberly as he replied, "I guess it might fit. I'm down and gone."
So was the time, he reflected, as he turned off the radio. All the numbers had come together. Six trailers loaded with contraband were lined up neatly just outside the compound. All of the tractors had reached the high ground—except for the "Georgia Cowboy" who seemed to be straggling a bit. The terminal lighting had gone to full bright, and Bolan could see a dozen or so figures hurrying toward the rear. The alarms were still sounding. The gatehouse guard had come outside and was pacing nervously at the gate with a shotgun at his chest. Two other guys in uniform were running in from the perimeter, guns drawn.
Bolan's attention was centered on the "flop house"—a ten-by-fifty-foot mobile home that was parked behind the office. A full backup crew of off-duty hard men usually rested there. And, yeah, they were beginning to straggle outside. He counted three of them in various stages of undress, but each was toting a heavy weapon—automatics, probably.
The warning shots had been fired and non-combatants cleared from the fire zone. The numbers were all in and the big clock was reading go.
It was a time for war.
"We gone, b'bye," Bolan muttered as he turned to his weapons.CHAPTER 2
The Good Numbers
The first LAW flashed from the tube and rustled angrily through the night toward its rendezvous with the rear trailer, impacting dead center with a flash and a roar to stagger the heavens. Some fifty yards down range, the guy at the gate reflexively hit the deck and rolled for cover behind the small gatehouse. Almost instantly, a secondary explosion snuffed out the first with a whoofing fireball that lit the night and rained burning debris throughout the target zone. And, yeah—bet your best numbers, good buddy—there'd been more than guns in that shipment. From the sound and sight of that spectacular secondary, there'd been some heavy explosives as well. And now they were pummeling the night, trumpeting out with horizontal jets to engulf the other trailers in successive fireballs and rippling the earth beneath Bolan's feet.
It was quite a bit better than he'd expected. He had simply wanted to give those hard men something upfront to think about. But now they were in a pell-mell rout to the rear, and this gave Bolan something to think about. He sent the next LAW into the liquor warehouse, again finding volatile substance and brilliant secondary reactions. Ten thousand cases of good Tennessee whiskey joined the festivities with blue flames and searing heat, sending the reeling hard force in panicky retreat to another quarter.
Bolan left his fire base behind him, closing in on foot and advancing with the M-79 at continual bellow. A well-placed round of HE provided enough slope to a section of the fencing to enable him to walk right up it. He poised there for a moment to send a clip of 5.56 tumblers in a tight wreath around the shoulders of a startled mafioso in khaki uniform who'd come dashing around the corner of the office building for a look-see. The dying blast from the guy's shotgun tore a hole through the wall of the building, but the man himself went down without a murmur.
Two other guys ran out from behind a row of warehouses, gawked at the black-clad figure atop the fence, then hastily reversed course, and quickly disappeared from view without firing a shot. Bolan sent a round of high explosive after them, just to keep them moving, and he went the other way.
Someone up there in the night was screaming, "It's him! It's that Bolan guy! I seen 'im, black suit and all! It's him!"
Another guy yelled, "Shut up, just shut up! Alla you boys, close on me. Pete! You get it up to the hot line and pass the word! Tell 'em this bastard is running crazy out here!"
It was probably "Pete" who yelled back, "Fuck that! I'm planted and I'm staying! It's no good, Tommy. Get a defensive position and hold it! That's the best we can do!"
An angered retort bounced back from somewhere in the cluster of buildings, but the mad din of the moment plus Bolan's own movements reduced the argument to a mere whisper. He had heard and seen enough, though, to know that there was no heart in that army. Against a weak or disadvantaged enemy, it would be a different story entirely; they'd be tough as hell, then. Against an equal force, this outfit did not usually stand well. Bolan had not come for them anyway, and there was no time calculated into his mission planning to allow him to track them down nor did he even desire to.
He went on with the shelling and the burning, making certain that no corner remained untouched. The numbers were moving swiftly now; soon, they would run out completely. Soon, too, the law would be making the scene—and that was always Bolan's cue for a quick and quiet exit. He took no chances on a direct confrontation with the law, those "soldiers of the same side." Most of those soldiers did not know, or did not choose to believe, that Mack Bolan was their brother. From sea to shining sea, in fact, the official orders regarding Mack Bolan were: "shoot on sight!—shoot to kill!" Which was precisely as Bolan preferred it. He'd asked for no license to wage war, nor did he expect one. If the law could get to him, okay. He'd accept that. In the meantime, he would evade them in every way possible short of a shoot-out.
And, yeah, he could hear them coming now, even above the madness of that fire zone. The trailers were all belching and sizzling; the various warehouses were roaring with abandon and spreading their heat to adjacent buildings which, in turn, were joining the wild dance to oblivion. An inferno, yeah, and there would be no stopping it now until the final ember was spent.
The mission was a complete success. It was time to disengage, to put that place behind him and leave it to the law. But something was drawing him onward, deeper into the inferno, some dumb instinct that gave no heed to numbers and tactical decisions.
Bolan found the source of the summons in a small building deep within the complex of burning warehouses, behind a heavy wooden door implanted solidly into the corrugated metal of the building. He blew the lock away with a thundering round from the AutoMag and pushed his way inside.
His nose knew it first, leaping to an awareness of the situation in there even before the pencil beam from his light illuminated the scene in that hell room. A guy was there—or something that had once been a guy—naked and trussed like a holiday turkey and bearing harsh evidence of the programmed indignities inflicted upon that pitiful flesh.
Bolan steeled himself and reached into the mess in search of a life sign, hoping there would be none. There was not, and he sighed with relief, remembering from the back porch of hell why he hated the Mafia so. He found trousers draped over a chair in the corner of the room along with a wallet, a jackknife, thirty-seven cents in coins. Then he went out of there and flipped up a fresh belt of loads for the M-79, a new mission goal flailing at his nervous system, tracking surely along the line of flaming buildings until he could feel the stink of vermin sifting through his pores.
They were inside the service garage—a defensible position no doubt under ordinary circumstances.
At the moment, Mack Bolan was feeling a bit extraordinary.
Excerpted from Dixie Convoy by Don Pendleton. Copyright © 1976 Pinnacle Books, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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