Washington is rotting from the inside out, and the Executioner knows death is the only cure
As his war against the Mafia has carried him across the United States, Mack Bolan has begun to hear rumors that the mob is planning something big. They call it la Cosa di tutti Cosi—a fiendish plan to use the combined might of organized crime to infiltrate the US government and take it down from the inside. Over the last weeks, politicians, lobbyists, and civil servants have died suspicious deaths, paving the way for a new set of laws that will let the secret Mafia government step out of the shadows. When it does, the Executioner will be waiting.
Bolan is no flag waver, but he has watched too many good men die for their country to let America go down without a fight. To save the States from its corrupt politicians, Bolan makes landing on the shores of the Potomac—to erect a monument in blood.
Washington I.O.U. is the 13th book in the Executioner series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
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The Executioner, Book Thirteen
By Don Pendleton
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1972 Pinnacle Books
All rights reserved.
The woman jumped out of her vehicle before it was fully parked and ran smack into the waiting arms of Horse Lucchese and Tommy the Sandman Roberts, two of the meanest hitmen in Washington. Without even a hello or by-your-leave the enforcers grabbed the flustered beauty and roughly hustled her into the shadows at the side of the apartment building.
Bolan left his car at the curb out front and flitted along in quiet pursuit, making full use of the natural cover of darkness and closing just enough to maintain visual contact.
Obviously something had gone sour and the Executioner wanted to know precisely what that something was.
He'd been on Claudia Vitale's tail for nearly a week, dogging her around Washington on an eighteen-hour a day surveillance—and she had been a very busy little bagwoman for the Capital mob.
Bolan did not ordinarily devote so much time and attention to a payoff courier—he either hit them or forgot them. But this one was something else. Dropping bags around venal Washington was just a moonlighting sideline for Mrs. Vitale. At the stroke of eight every morning she turned back into the sedate and capable Chief Administrative Aide to the venerable old patriarch of Capitol Hill, Congressman Harmon Keel.
And, yeah, this made Claudia Vitale a very special item in Mack Bolan's book of warfare.
She didn't actually tote payroll bags around Cloutville, of course. What she carried were tidy little envelopes which could be inconspicuously passed at bureaucratic gatherings and social-set happenings.
Bolan's chief interest had lain in the recipients of those envelopes.
Not that the courier herself was unworthy of a man's interest. She was the kind who was never inconspicuous, whatever the crowd. Belled hips, alluringly sloped in the upper approaches and firmly rounded at the bases. Long legs, exquisitely tapered from full thighs—all of it together. A nipped little waist exploding upwards toward softly voluptuous womanhood and delicately molded shoulders. Swan neck, smooth as velvet and gracefully supporting a head of classic Roman beauty.
On those evening rounds, she looked more like a Washington VIP-league call girl; Bolan had to wonder if she'd once doubled in that capacity, also.
She'd been an easy mark to watch. Bolan could spot her walk from a block away. He knew all the little gestures as she conversed or dined or sipped at a cocktail. She was highly animated, a very much alive and interesting woman. He had been close enough often enough to know the flash and sparkle of those dark eyes, and he could tell by the tilt of her head if she was bored, interested, sad or mad.
Right now, at the tired end of this evening, Bolan's reading on Claudia Vitale was that she was "scared out of her skull."
And with damned good reason. The Horse and the Sandman were not particularly known for polite conversation and social graces.
They had maneuvered the woman to the rear entrance of the building.... Bolan knew where they were headed. He doubled back, went in through the front door—delayed only momentarily by the efficient security locks—and proceeded directly to the top floor. He emerged from the elevator just in time to see the others disappearing inside the Vitale apartment.
Something about the look on the woman's face as the Sandman shoved her through that doorway struck a sympathetic chord in Bolan's mind. He decided to go in for a direct reading ... but not without a quick recon of the battle zone.
The Executioner quietly backtracked his own route to the ground level, then went to the rear exit and let himself outside. He stood on the small porch for a moment, casually lit a cigarette while his eyes probed the dimly-lit parking area.
He scored immediately, finding the thing he'd expected to find.
The outside man.
He was seated tensely at the wheel of a Pontiac LeMans, a beefy man with a nervous cigar. The parking lights were on and the engine was running, the vehicle parked rear-end to the building and ready for a fast departure.
Hell, it was a setup for a hit.
Bolan went on down the steps and walked directly to the Pontiac. The guy's eyes were following his progress with a curious and indecisive stare.
Bolan stepped right up and tapped on the window. It rolled down immediately and the stereo sounds of a tape deck drifted through the opening.
The Executioner's ominously-tipped Beretta Belle drifted in, attaching herself to a point directly between a pair of suddenly-flaring eyes. She coughed once, quietly and almost apologetically, and death whispered in between those eyes and shuttered them forever.
Bolan opened the door and eased the messy remains onto the floorboards, then he turned off the ignition and the lights, rolled up the window, locked and closed the door, and went back to where the action was.
The apartment door yielded to the first delicate probe. Bolan swept on inside.
All the lights were on. The woman's handbag was lying on the floor just inside the door. It was nice, simply decorated but reeking of affluence—sliding glass doors at the end of the living room, small balcony outside, Washington Monument visible in the background.
A large TV-stereo combo served also as a bar, but there was no action there.
An open doorway led to the bedroom, also brightly lighted. The shimmering cocktail gown the woman had been wearing was now lying in a wad just inside the door; other, more intimate articles, were strung along in an erratic path to the bathroom. That door was partially closed. The unmistakable sounds of a bathtub being filled with water were the only sounds in the place.
They had not, Bolan knew, rushed up here for a quick community bath.
He hit the door with a commanding foot, sending it banging into the party, the Belle close behind and at the ready.
Horse Lucchese caught the full force of that moving door and he went over head first into the tub with a startled cry.
The Beretta's whispering death overtook him there, two of her grim little messengers plowing into the rear of the gunner's skull at cerebellum level to liberate bubbling blood and jellied matter into the swiftly discoloring water.
The other guy had his hands full of Claudia Vitale. She was very nude and putting up one hell of a grim fight for her life. The Sandman was scratched and bleeding about the face; both of them were so preoccupied with their own troubles that they were not immediately aware of the new presence in the Vitale bathroom.
Roberts was the first to know, via the unsettling thing in the bathtub. He froze for a split-second, then gave the woman a panicky shove toward the far wall and came around in a fast pivot, clawing gunleather.
The silent Beretta tracked right along with him, and Tommy the Sandman kept right on going round, collecting Parabellum hi-shockers in the head and throat as he spun onto the john, then slid into a deflated heap, wedged between the porcelain fixture and the wall, dead eyes open and reflecting the bewilderment of that final instant of life.
Bolan stepped inside and turned off the bath water.
The woman was slumped against the far wall, one arm raised and steadying herself against the corner, the other pressed flat to the wall beside her as though she were trying to hold it upright. Horrified eyes rebounded from the mess in her bathroom and she moaned, "Oh God...."
Bolan growled, "Get out of here."
"They fed me p-pills," she gasped, "... sleeping pills. Going to drown me. Make it look ... accident. Already taking effect I guess."
One knee buckled and she almost went down.
Bolan snatched a large bath towel from a wall rack and draped it over her shoulders as he grabbed her and pulled her out of there. "How many pills did you take?" he asked her.
"Too many," she replied weakly.
She had her eyes on the bed but Bolan pulled her on into the kitchen and bent her over the sink. "Stick a finger down your throat," he gruffly commanded. "There hasn't been time for that stuff to get into your system."
"You're wrong," she protested. "I can feel it."
"What you're feeling is Tommy the Sandman and Horse Lucchese," Bolan told her. "Now whose finger is it going to be, yours or mine?"
She swiveled her head about and those dark eyes probed his briefly before she asked, "Do I know you?"
The towel fell to the floor.
Bolan stared at her for a moment, taking in all there was to take. There was quite a bit, then he retrieved the towel and knotted it about her waist as he told her, "You're going to. I'm Mack Bolan."
The eyes receded somewhat and a curtain seemed to fall into place there. In a very tired voice she said, "That's all it takes to make my night." Then she turned back to the sink and muttered, "For what it's worth, thanks for my life. Now go away; leave my misery private."
He instructed her anyhow, "If the finger doesn't work, try some salt water. But get it up, empty the stomach completely. Then make some strong coffee and fill your belly with it. Wet the towel and slap yourself in the face with it if you're feeling drowsy. And stay on your feet."
"Okay, okay," she whispered.
Bolan returned to the slaughterhouse.
Blood was spattered across the walls, and pools of it were oozing across the floor tiles. He threw some towels down, then he took two sheets from the linen closet and ripped away the laundry marks. He wrapped the corpses in tight shrouds and stuffed in heavy towels to absorb the leakage.
He heard Claudia Vitale retching in the kitchen as he carried Tommy the Sandman through the apartment.
The time was two o'clock. The quiet Georgetown neighborhood was wrapped up for the night, so there seemed little danger of being discovered with his grisly burden.
On the second trip he found the woman standing quietly in the kitchen doorway, the towel draped around her, sarong fashion, patting her face with an ice cube.
"What are you doing with them?" she asked in a solemn tone.
"Taking them home," he growled.
Horse Lucchese was draped over his shoulder. Bolan gave the woman a reassuring wink and went on about his business. He took the elevator down and exited through the rear, depositing Horse in the Pontiac with the other two. He dropped his calling card, a marksman's medal, into the pile-up of lifeless flesh and drove the cargo to an address just a few blocks away. He parked the Pontiac in a no-parking zone at the front of a renovated brownstone and dropped the keys into the mail box. Then he returned on foot to the scene of the hit and moved his own car to the parking slot in which the Pontiac had been standing.
Claudia Vitale's door was safety-locked, bolted from the inside. He went on to the roof, locating an easy access to the balcony outside her apartment.
The lock on the glass doors yielded easily to the pressure of his blade. He found the woman in the bedroom. She was wearing a frilly dressing gown and she was seated cross-legged in the middle of the bed, sharing it with a half-packed suitcase.
She had one of those toy-like .25 calibre autoloaders in her hand. She was making a point of showing it to him.
Quietly he told her, "Go for the throat if you intend to make any score with that thing."
Her eyes were luminous and regretful, her head tilted into a sad attitude. "I don't know just how to take you, Mr. Bolan," she said solemnly.
"I don't want your head, Mrs. Vitale." He stood quite still and snapped a glance toward the suitcase. "Good idea. Finish your packing. If they've decided to hit you, a momentary setback won't change anything. Every breath you draw now is a stolen one."
She gave a tremulous sigh and replied, "I know. Maybe you shouldn't have butted in. It would all be over now."
Bolan shrugged. "That's one way of looking at it."
"Why did you? Butt in, I mean. What are you looking for in Washington?"
"I'm looking for the man."
She sighed again. "What man?"
He batted the question away with a flick of the eyes. "Why were the boys hitting you?"
She countered with: "Do you know who I am? I mean ..."
He assured her, "I know. I've been living with you for five days."
A tense silence took control of the atmosphere between them. Presently Bolan suggested, "You're pointing the gun at the wrong guy."
Her gaze fell away from his. She dropped the little weapon to the bed and lowered her face into her hands. "I guess it doesn't matter," she said in a weary, muffled voice. "Why'd you save me?"
He replied, "I don't know. Why were they hitting you?"
All the fight had apparently drained from her. She gave the lovely head a dismal shake, still holding it in her hands, and told him, "Gang war, maybe. Who knows?"
He said, "Huh-uh, try again. Why were Carlo Spinella's boys putting you away?"
She hesitated, then dropped the hands and tilted her head to meet his gaze as she replied, "Let's just say I was getting tired of the game."
"The game of crud. Capitol Crud."
"That's the one," Bolan said. A smile flickered briefly across that cold face. "Aside from Congressman Keel, who gives you your orders?"
Dully, she replied, "Leave Harmon Keel out of it. That poor old man hasn't given an order to anybody in years. He seldom knows what day it is. We prop him up, send him out and pray he finds his way back home again."
Bolan already knew that. He continued the probing.
"Who is Lupor?"
The woman did not respond.
He tried again. "That's Italian for wolf. It's a code name, isn't it? Who is Lupo?"
Very quietly she told him to go to hell.
He ignored that and told her, "I guess you heard that Al 88 is dead."
"You know who. They buried him in Boston a few days ago, as Albert Greene." Bolan produced a small notebook and riffled the pages. "His personal file was lousy with the names Lupo, Keel, and Vitale."
She said, "So?"
"So ... Al is dead. Vitale was meant to be dead. That leaves only Lupo and Keel. Which one has the most reason to want the other one dead, Mrs. Vitale?"
She asked him, "Do you have a cigarette?"
He lit a Pall Mall and gave it to her. She took a nervous pull at it, then blew smoke at him with a long-drawn sigh. "It's certainly not Keel," she declared, sighing in resignation. "I told you. He's almost eighty years old. Hasn't had a new thought of his own for at least the past five."
"And you've been the real power behind the man," Bolan suggested.
She shook her head. "I've just been the control link. Until a few months ago, Mr. Castiglione ... you know Mr. Castiglione?"
Bolan said, "I executed him."
"That's right," she replied with a rueful wrinkling of the pert nose, "you did do that. Well, until then, Castiglione was running the Keel machine, through yours truly. The Washington end, at least. I got the job after ... after...."
"After your husband was gunned down," Bolan suggested.
"Yes." Her voice had become hardly more than a whisper. "Well ... then ... Lupo stepped into the picture, replacing Castiglione."
Bolan commented, "Big Guss Riappi is supposed to be heir to that throne."
She tossed her head and took another tense pull at the cigarette. "Not the political territory. Those strings are being pulled straight from the national head shed."
"Via Lupo," Bolan said.
"Yes, via Lupo."
"So who is Lupo?"
"Look. I'm not in the organization. I just do what they tell me. They own me body and soul."
"Who is Lupo?"
"I'm trying to tell you, I don't know."
He said, "I think you do."
"You go to hell, then. I'm telling you I've never seen the man. This is real cloak and dagger stuff. I've heard his voice, muffled and disguised I'm sure, on the phone. That's all. I wouldn't know him if he climbed in my bed."
Bolan asked her, "Do you want to stay alive?"
She said, "Of course I want to stay alive."
"How would you go about doing that?" he asked quietly.
"I ... don't know. What would you suggest?"
"Play my game for awhile. Maybe we can figure something out, something lasting."
He showed her a thin smile. "Anti-crud."
Her eyes fell again and she said, "Okay." She handed him the cigarette and dropped onto her back, hands clasped behind her head. Delectably tapered legs dangled over the side of the bed and the dressing gown slid open, revealing, in a more provocative pose, the natural attractions exposed earlier.
She made no move toward recovery. Bolan leaned over her and closed the gown. "That's not part of the game," he said gruffly.
"What did you see?" she asked soberly.
"I saw a hell of a lot of woman," he assured her. "But that—"
"You saw a whore," she quietly corrected him.
So okay, maybe his earlier thoughts about the call-girl angle were pretty close on target.
He tried to tell her that he was not interested in a listing of sins. "That's not—"
"Shut up and let me tell you this. I'm a mob whore. I disguise myself as a legitimate and respected member of the government community, and I seduce reputable and upstanding male members of that same community. I lead them into a set-up where the most vigorous and athletic styles of love-making are strongly encouraged and where hidden motion picture cameras record everything that takes place. Do you understand me?"
Excerpted from Washington I.O.U. by Don Pendleton. Copyright © 1972 Pinnacle Books. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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*he purred and nuzzled her* "you miss me?"