To save a city, the Executioner must rescue its governor from the mob
For decades the St. Louis mob has been happily small time—raking in profits without making waves. But after Mack Bolan’s one-man war against the Mafia shatters organized crime in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, ambitious East Coast gangsters start coming to St. Louis, where they plan to push aside the softhearted old capo and turn the Gateway to the West into the kind of criminal paradise not seen since the glory days of Al Capone. They’ll start by corrupting the statehouse.
One of the candidates for Missouri governor has a wife with a salacious past, which the mob promises to keep secret in return for full support once the candidate wins office. The frightened politician’s only hope is the man in black: Mack Bolan, the crack sniper known as the Executioner, who will make St. Louis safe for law and order no matter the cost.
St. Louis Showdown is the 23rd book in the Executioner series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
Don Pendleton (1927–1995) was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. He served in the US Navy during World War II and the Korean War. His first short story was published in 1957, but it was not until 1967, at the age of forty, that he left his career as an aerospace engineer and turned to writing full time. After producing a number of science fiction and mystery novels, in 1969 Pendleton launched his first book in the Executioner saga: War Against the Mafia. The series, starring Vietnam veteran Mack Bolan, was so successful that it inspired a new American literary genre, and Pendleton became known as the father of action-adventure.
Read an Excerpt
St. Louis Showdown
The Executioner, Book Twenty-three
By Don Pendleton
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1975 Pinnacle Books, Inc.
All rights reserved.
FROM THE TOP
Mack Bolan was starting at the top in St. Louis. A couple hours of darkness remained of the night when the wraithlike figure dropped quietly over the wall surrounding a crumbling estate in an exclusive neighborhood on St. Louis' west side. He was outfitted in night-black combat garb. The chillingly silent Beretta Belle rode head-weapon position beneath his left arm; the impressive .44 AutoMag occupied the thunder spot at the right hip. A ready belt of personal munitions crossed the chest. Nylon garrotes and pencil-diameter stilettos were slit-pocketed onto the outer calf of each leg.
There had been no time for a daylight reconnoiter of the target. He was moving entirely on combat instincts as he silently crossed the fifty yards of rear lawn to the shadows of the three-story house.
The place belonged to Arturo (Little Artie) Giamba, titular head of the St. Louis mob for many years. Giamba was one of the old guard, an aging nickle-and-dimer of little imagination and limited ambitions who had been content to sit atop a crumbling empire and watch it fade away in concert with his own life.
The Giamba Family was a poor cousin in the national alliance of organized crime and was not even represented on the ruling council, La Commissione.
But things were changing.
Bolan needed to discover just how far the change had gone. According to intelligence sources, Jerry Ciglia had been sent down by New York to "revitalize" the territory, bringing an army of torpedoes with him. Shortly thereafter, Giambia had dropped from view. Underworld rumors of his fate covered the full range from execution to genteel exile in a Latin American republic. Ciglia himself had been in rather low profile in the area since his arrival, but it was known that he had set up his headquarters in the old Giamba mansion.
So, yeah, Bolan was starting at the top in St. Louis. If he should luck onto Ciglia clean, he'd take the guy with the first shot of the battle. And it was too bad, Bolan was thinking as he loped across that no man's land between wall and house, that he hadn't wasted the guy on that golf green down on the Gulf Coast. Maybe all this would be unnecessary, now. It had been a different game, then, of course. Ciglia had been a mere pawn in that fight. So now he was the king ... and that was the way things went in Mack Bolan's world. It was a war of attrition that paved the highway to hell with broken bodies and mortgaged souls, and yet there never seemed to be any attrition in the ranks of the enemy. Like targets in a shooting gallery, knock one down and another pops up in its place—on and on, endlessly, clear to hell's gates. So sure, forget the what-ifs; the name of the king meant not a damned thing. If it were not Ciglia then it would be someone else. It was not the man that mattered, it was the office—and Mack Bolan had come to St. Louis to slay an idea, not a man. Men were going to die, for damn sure, but only because there was no other way to get rid of the idea.
But Jerry Ciglia would not take top honors as the first to die in this battle. An indolent shape detached itself from the shadows at the rear of the house as Bolan approached and a lazy, unconcerned voice drawled, "Who's that?"
The Beretta chugged a pencil of flame in response, but the guy never heard the whispering death that blew across that twenty-foot range to snap him back and punch him over, dead before the fall.
Bolan dropped a medal on the dead soldier's chest as he stepped across the mess and went on around the side of the house to check out the forward area. He found another yardman there, near the vehicle gate, and dropped him just as quietly, then returned to the building with no lost motion.
Knowing hands found the telephone cable and cut it. Several heartbeats later, he was on the rear service porch—a glassed-in affair with laundry tubs and a hodgepodge of appliances. He located the main power panel there and disabled it.
A quick kick in a vital spot sent the kitchen door creaking inward, and he was inside—pencil flash in hand and moving swiftly.
Just beyond a swinging door lay the dining room, and seated there in the dark over an interrupted game of solitaire was a heavy guy in shirt-sleeves and bulging shoulder holster.
Bolan sent the beam directly into the guy's eyes and kept on moving.
"What happened to the lights?" the guy grumbled, holding a card to his eyes to shield them from the flashlight beam.
"I put them out," Bolan replied quietly—then the big silver thundergun was muzzle-up to the guy's nose and no further explanation was necessary.
"Easy, easy," the guy croaked. "Anything you say, eh?"
Bolan deposited the flashlight on the table and disarmed the houseman, then he dropped a bull's-eye cross into the center of the solitaire spread.
The guy groaned and his facial muscles tightened, eyes bulging at the little medal; otherwise he was a marble statue. Bolan coldly told him, "I guess it's you and me, baby. You've got about a heartbeat to decide how long it'll stay that way."
"Name it," the houseman replied quickly, no decision necessary.
"Jerry and a broad, master suite, top of the stairs, second floor. His two shadows across the hall. Two boys on outside detail. Another boy on the third floor with the old man. That's it."
"So far, so good," Bolan said in those icy tones reserved for the living dead. "Who're you?"
The guy's eyes clouded. At a moment such as this, in a world such as this, identity could be a highly important thing. "I'm Steve Rocco," he said, sighing.
"Out of Chicago," Bolan decided.
"Yeah. You, uh, I think met my brother Benny once."
"Your late brother Benny," Bolan reminded.
"Yeah, well—you take your paycheck and your own chances, I guess. I ain't holding no—"
"You're holding your life in your own hands, Rocco. I hope you're not a butterfingers."
"I can be very careful," the guy said very soberly.
"What's Ciglia doing to the old man?"
"Starving 'im, I guess. Nothing goes up there but bread and water, and not much of that."
Rocco shrugged beefy shoulders. "Hell, I'm just one of the troops. They don't let me in on their secrets."
Bolan freed a concussion grenade from his ready belt and rolled it into the next room. Rocco's startled gaze leapt after it, swiveling him about in the chair as he momentarily forgot all else.
It was a short fuse. The explosion shook the room and sent a turret of flame up the stairwell.
Rocco staggered from the chair with a dazed, "Jeez! ..."
"Here's your life. Careful," Bolan declared coldly. "Something just blew up. We've got a fire. They better not chance the stairs. Out the windows, and damn quick."
The guy nodded understandingly and swallowed a heavy lump which had formed in his throat.
A yell floated down from the upper level as doors opened up there amid a hubbub of confusion. Then Jerry Ciglia's sleep-thickened bawl: "Stevie! What the hell is—"
"Something blew up!" the houseman screamed back. "The joint's on fire!"
"The lights!" Ciglia yelled. "What the hell's wrong with the lights?"
"Everything's out, boss," Rocco screamed. "Don't try them stairs! Get outta there, quick!"
Bolan had rolled another grenade toward the stairs, the explosion coming one beat behind the houseman's warning and sending another tower of flames and smoke whoofing up the stairwell.
There was no further comment from above. Bolan told his man, "This is the sweetest thing I can do for you, Rocco," as he conked him with the butt of the AutoMag. He left the guy lying there and swiftly ascended the stairs. Two steps along the dark and smoky upstairs hallway he collided with soft warm flesh and instinctively gathered it in, shutting off a feminine gasp with a quiet warning.
"You!" she exclaimed in a shocked whisper.
"Who else? Where's your buddy?"
"I believe he just dived out the window. Mack—Mr. Giamba is locked into the attic room. I was just headed—"
"I'll get him. You beat it down the stairs and straight out the rear. Wait for me on the other side of the wall."
"Well, wait—no! I've got the inside track here! I'm not going to—"
"Toni, dammit, trust me and beat it! Now!"
She moved away from him without another word and Bolan followed the bannister on around and went up the stairs to the floor above. It was no more than a one-room garret with a door set almost into the landing at the top of the stairs.
That door was open, now, and there were no sounds of life within. Bolan chanced the flashlight and found Little Artie Giamba lying face down on the floor halfway between the bed and an open window. A rope-ladder fire escape dangled there. The guard had left the weakened old man to shift for himself.
Some world, Bolan's was.
He hoisted the pajama-clad figure to his shoulder in a fireman's carry, then made quick tracks out of there.
And, yeah, he was starting at the top in St. Louis. This old man was the mission goal, and it was a first for Mack Bolan. It was a rescue mission ... for a capo.CHAPTER 2
THIS OLD MAN
The new boss of St. Louis was hobbling about the darkened and battered interior of his headquarters in his underwear, favoring a painful ankle and checking the damage with a flashlight—and he was mad as hell.
The most incredible part was that more damage had not been done. A couple of windows were blown out, the floor around the stairwell and the lower few steps were badly splintered, paint blistered from walls and scorched woodwork-but that was about the extent of it.
Ciglia promised Nate Palmieri, his chief tagman, "I catch the wise guy threw those firecrackers, I'm going to shove one up his ass and personally light the fuse."
Palmieri grunted an agreement with that idea, then observed, "It could have been a lot worse, Jerry. Let's count blessings, for now. I better go out to the gate and tell Jonesy to stay locked up. One of our good neighbors may have called for cops or firemen."
"Right, we don't need any of that," the boss agreed. He turned to the other bodyguard and asked, "How's Stevie?"
"Coming around," was the reply.
The unconscious houseman had been carried to a couch and was getting the wet towel treatment from Jake Rio.
"Go see about the lights," Ciglia ordered brusquely.
A lamp in the dining room came on before the bodyguard could react to that command. Seconds later, a fourth man hurried into the blast zone. This was Homer Gallardo, the upstairs man. He reported, "The main power bus had been pulled. Some smart bastard ..."
"He cut the phones, too," Ciglia growled. "Find it and fix it."
Gallardo nodded, said, "probably out at the box," and hurried on toward the front of the house.
Steve Rocco groaned and tried to raise himself upright.
Ciglia limped over there, gave his houseman a penetrating gaze, and said, "Easy, Stevie. You took a bad hit there. Just lay still for a minute. You're going to have a hell of a headache. What happened here?"
Rocco groaned again and gave his boss a glassy stare. "Hell, I don't know," he replied groggily.
"Well, try and think about it. You yelled 'fire'. There was a couple of explosions, some kind of bombs. Did you see anybody?"
Rocco's eyes fluttered and closed. "I guess I just panicked, boss. I didn't see a thing but flames shooting up the stairs."
"Okay, just lie there and get your head together," Ciglia growled. "Maybe it'll come to you."
The bodyguard coiled the wet towel about Rocco's face and went into the dining room. He returned quickly, bouncing a small object in the palm of his hand. "You gotta see this, boss," he announced in a tightening voice, handing the object over for inspection.
Ciglia froze there for a moment in the light from the open doorway, then he spun quickly into the comfort of darkness and commanded, "Kill that light!"
The bodyguard lunged into the dining room and sent the lamp flying off the table and into the wall with a crash. Only a thin sliver of light now shone through the swinging door from the kitchen.
"Where'd you find that goddamned thing?" Ciglia called over in a guarded voice.
"On the table," Rio replied.
"Have you seen Jonesy or Huck since the blast?"
"No, boss. I just started wondering about that."
"Well, stop wondering. Get out back and take a look around for Huck. And be careful."
The tagman moved out without another word.
Steve Rocco groaned something and Ciglia furiously shushed him.
Moments later, cautious steps moved across the front porch, then the door cracked open and Palmieri's hushed voice called in, "Jerry? Okay in there?"
"Yeah. Keep down. What'd you find out front?"
"I found a dead soldier, that's what. Half his head blown away. A marksman's medal was on the body."
Ciglia muttered a string of hushed profanities which was interrupted by another quiet report from the kitchen area. "Same back here, boss. Huck never knew what hit 'im. And one of those medals lying on his chest."
"Here, boss," the fourth man reported, stepping in quietly behind Palmieri. "I made a quick splice on that phone line. I don't know if it'll work or not."
"Try it! Get Del. Tell him I want his whole crew out here damn quck!"
Ciglia had a quick change of mind. "Nate, you do it. Homer!"
"Where's the old man?"
"I left him upstairs."
"Oh hell, that's great, that's real wonderful. Probably choked on the smoke—or worse. Get up there and check 'im out. Careful, though. You don't know what's up there, eh."
There was no immediate response nor sound of movement from Homer Gallardo's general vicinity.
Ciglia growled, "Homer?"
"You, uh, want me to go up there and check 'im out, boss?"
"That's what I said!"
"Yessir. Uh—wonder maybe someone would like to back me up?"
"Let Homer play with the phones, Jerry," Palmieri suggested heavily. "I'll check the upstairs."
"I want you at my back!" Ciglia fumed. "What is this, all of a sudden, a goddamn caucus? Did I ask anybody for a vote? Homer, move your—wait a minute! Where's my woman? Nate! Where's Toni?"
"I didn't see her since the blast, Jerry."
"Well goddamn! God damn! I have to do everything my own self? You guys just jump out the damn windows and to hell with everything else?"
"It all happened so fast, Jerry," Palmieri apologized. "I figured you had her under your wing."
"You take Homer up there and shake this joint down!" Ciglia hissed furiously. "I mean wall to wall and floor by floor! Jake stays with me—this goddamn ankle! That bastard! I want his head, you hear me! I want that boy!"
"He's probably long gone," Palmieri whispered back from the stairway.
"So what the hell did he want here?" Ciglia growled.
"What did he want at Gulfport?" Gallardo commented, with obvious petulance. And it was the wrong thing to say, to the wrong man, at the wrong time.
Ciglia lashed out in the darkness at the sound of that sneering voice, catching the offender with an open-handed slap that sent him sprawling onto the shattered railing at the bottom of the stairs.
Steve Rocco's defeated tones rose from the darkness to fill the embarrassed silence that followed and to cap the events of the night. "Boss, I got to tell you this. It was Bolan, okay. He held a cannon to my head and made me yell while he tossed grenades. It was a setup. He didn't want anyone coming down those stairs. He wanted up there, boss. He wanted the upstairs to himself."
Palmieri's big feet were already pounding up the stairway. Lights went on up there as he rounded the curve and hurried on to the top level. Even Gallardo was galvanized into action, reaching the second floor just behind the chief bodyguard and racing into the master suite at full gallop.
All was silent below until Palmieri's quiet report floated down the stairwell. "The old man's gone, Jerry."
"So's your woman," Gallardo added breathlessly.
Ciglia growled, "Can you beat that. Now why do you suppose—"
"What the hell could Bolan want with that old man?" Jake Rio wondered aloud.
"Nothing good," Palmieri said testily as he descended the stairs.
Jerry Ciglia hobbled to a chair and dropped into it with a tired sigh. He said, "Somebody find me a cigarette. And let's have some lights on. The bastard's long gone from here now. He got what he wanted."
Gallardo brought a cigarette box and a lighter. Ciglia thanked him, then told him, "Hey, Homer—I apologize, huh? I'm sorry I swatted you."
"It's okay, boss. I earned it."
"Go up and get me some clothes, huh?"
Gallardo grinned and hurried back upstairs.
Someone had found a functioning lamp in the shattered room and turned it on. Steve Rocco sat in a miserable heap on the couch, head in his hands. Everything looked much worse in the light.
"Well well," Ciglia mused.
Nate Palmieri locked gazes with him for a quiet moment, then said, "Guess I better make that call."
"Yeah," Ciglia said quietly. "We're going to get that old man back, Nate."
"I guess we better."
"I guess we damn well better." Ciglia sucked nervously on the cigarette and his eyes danced to some inner drummer as the full implications of that night in St. Louis descended upon him. "You got a good look at the guy, Stevie?" he asked quietly.
Excerpted from St. Louis Showdown by Don Pendleton. Copyright © 1975 Pinnacle Books, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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