Authors: Don Pendleton
Tags: #Action & Adventure, #Fiction, #det_action, #Men's Adventure, #Bolan; Mack (Fictitious character)
The bloody trail of a loansharking operation in Oregon leads Mack Bolan to a massive shipload of illegal arms bound for Portland.
Bolan refuses to consider the cost in innocent lives if the weapons fall into Mafia hands.
He races against time to smash the smugglers, and his brother Johnny learns some big secrets about the Executioner.
"It does life good to have the devil in it, so long as you keep your foot planted firmly on his neck."
Quoted to Bolan by Buddy, victim of the Council of Kings
Dedicated to the dead of the Mekong.
Mack Bolan tensed as he sighted through the .460 Magnum Weatherby Mark V rifle's scope, tracking a man leaving a small store on West Burnside Street in Portland, Oregon. The man had entered ten minutes earlier, five minutes before the 5:30 P.M. closing time.
Bolan eased his fingers on the trigger guard. A soft misty rain fell. From the roof of the four-story building where he lay, the Executioner watched the man emerge from the store.
He waited for the two others he knew would follow. When the three were outside and the heavy door had been shut and locked, the Executioner fired on the man farthest from the wall. The firing-pin of his bolt-action, long-range hunting rifle ignited the primer in the .460 round, setting off the powder charge that shot a five-hundred-grain bullet through the twenty-six-inch, chrome-lined barrel at 2,700 feet per second. The weapon's roar shattered the soft evening. The bullet tore into the man in the brown suit above the heart and slammed him back into his companions. The Executioner ejected the used cartridge and chambered up another live round.
Sighting again, he adjusted his aim, considered the five hundred yards to the next target, and stroked the trigger.
The bullet hit the sky-blue-suited man beneath the left eye and bored into his skull, splattering his head against the building.
Bolan worked the bolt and kept his eye to the scope. The mist was turning to rain. The last man scrambled behind a heavy masonry planter. The Executioner had to shoot before the target vanished. The round thundered from the big-game rifle with more than 8,000 foot-pounds of energy and ripped into the belly of the crouching figure, spinning him around and spilling his bowels, killing him. Bolan retrieved the two spent shell casings, left the third in the chamber and moved to a door that led to the ground floor and a rear exit. He was a half-mile away when the first Portland police car whined up to the scene. The rain made it probable that no one had seen him. No windows looked directly onto the roof of the building, the tallest for two blocks each way. As Bolan drove the rented Thunderbird toward the waterfront, he thought how much this seemed like the first time — the time back at the beginning of the universe when he executed five members of a loan company because they had provoked his father, already upset over his daughter's forced prostitution, into an insane rage in which he killed his daughter and wife, injured his son Johnny, then turned the gun on himself. The shots today had come from the same kind of heavy-hunting weapon, a .460 Magnum Weatherby Mark V, a beast at ten and a half pounds and deadly as hell from half a mile away. The Executioner had been attracted to this northwest city by the loan racketing that, partly due to high unemployment in the logging and lumber industry, had become epidemic. Pacific Family was the first on Bolan's hit list. He had been in town two days, digging up sources, making lists, gathering all the intel he could find on the Gino Canzonari family.
Bolan returned to Burnside and passed the death scene. Four police cars blocked the far lane. Two cops directed traffic. The Executioner continued down Burnside to Front Avenue and turned north, traveling downstream along the Willamette River.
On Front Street near Seventeenth Avenue, across from the Port of Portland Terminal One, is a small bar that draws a lot of working stiffs, stevedores and truckers taking a break before heading home.
Bolan parked the Thunderbird and entered the bar. It smelled of stale beer, smoke and sweat. He signaled for a draft and looked around. There were numerous booths, a long stand-up bar, an electric shuffleboard, two video games.
For a long time Bolan studied a medium-sized man with a cloth cap, Hawaiian sport shirt and tan pants who was playing solitaire in the far booth. This was Leo the Fish. The Executioner slid in across from him, his blue poplin jacket covering the silenced Beretta 93-R nestled in shoulder leather.
Leo was about to play another hand when Bolan looked at him and cleared his throat. The an glanced up.
"Leo, hear you're the man around here to see for some quick money."
Leo squinted as smoke from his cigarette curled into his eyes. He moved it and dumped the ashes. The squinting, pale-blue eyes took in the Executioner unblinkingly for seconds before he answered, "Massachusetts, I'd say. I know accents. You from back there?"
"Close enough. How much can I get?"
"References. Who told you I dealt money?"
"My sister-in-law. She's married to this longshoreman. He said..."
Leo put up his hand. "How much you need?"
Bolan held open the jacket to shield his action from onlookers, then drew the Beretta so Leo could see it. Bolan lowered it under the table and pushed the muzzle into Leo's belly.
"I want all you have, Leo. Right now."
"Listen, I'm retired, this is just a little payday and a little fun. Keeping my hand in."
"Let's have the cash, Leo."
"I only got a thousand or so. Guys cleaned me out, lots of loans."
"I want the loan cards, too."
Slowly Leo reached in a shirt pocket and took out six, 3x5-inch white cards. He laid them on the table facedown. His hand moved toward his hip pocket.
"Real easy, Leo. You're about a three-pound trigger pull from finding out if there's life after death."
"Hey, take it easy. I'm just getting the goods. I'm not dumb." He eased a well-used leather billfold from his rear pocket and removed a sheaf of twenties and fifties.
The cash and cards vanished into a pocket of Bolan's jacket.
"Yeah, Leo the Fish, Chicago. You specialized in delivering a fish to the next of kin. That was your notice that the victim was now sleeping with the fish in Lake Michigan."
"So sue me."
"I will, exterminator. Move inside the booth. Against the wall."
Leo's eyes searched the room for help, anything. A tinge of terror touched his closely shaven face.
"So long, scum. You just made your last transaction." The Beretta coughed twice in the noisy bar. The rounds were aimed upward under the table, and one of them tore into Leo's heart. Leo sighed, closed his eyes and dropped his head against the wall as if sleeping.
Bolan replaced the Beretta under his jacket and stepped from the booth. He tossed a black metal marksman's badge beside the dead man.
Outside he crossed a name off a list. Then he wheeled the Thunderbird across the Willamette River to the east side of Portland. He was acting exactly as he had in Vietnam. Identify.
Infiltrate. Destroy. But the similarity, the necessity of war, grieved The Executioner.
* * *
The greater Brotherhood finance company was well out on Southeast Powell, past Mount Tabor Park and toward Powellhurst, but still within city limits.
The one-story building stood between a hi-karate school and a small grocery. The building was dark. Bolan parked in the back alley, slung a small supplies pack over his shoulder and left the car.
He picked the lock on the back door of the finance company and stole into the place.
It was a highly efficient operation. Loan records were stored on a TR'S-80 computer. Bolan found a file of 51 still 2-inch floppy diskettes marked Outstanding Loans and dumped them in a metal wastebasket.
On the wall was a computer printout graph that showed that interest payments had reached 186 percent of total payments on principal. In a legitimate loan operation the percentage would be fifteen or eighteen percent at most.
The Executioner closed the blinds on the front windows and tossed a white phosphorus grenade into each of the two main rooms.
The burning phosphorus splattered around both rooms the instant the grenades went off. It stuck to everything it hit and burned holes through anything flammable. The heat was intense and the flame impossible to extinguish.
The building was an older wooden one. The neighboring karate school was in a new concrete block structure that would not ignite easily. The safety of the building on the other side would depend on the Portland Fire Department.
As the flames took hold of the two rooms, Bolan went out the back door and drove away. So much for any outstanding loans.
He drove downtown and parked in the under-ground garage of the high-rise hotel he had checked into two days earlier.
He covered the weapons, made sure the Thunderbird was gassed full and went up to his room.
* * *
He stared out his window at the masses of evergreens marching up the hills.
The whole city was one green carpet, nothing like the brown semidesert of Southern California. Bolan realized how much he loved the Northwest.
But even here the cancer of the Mafia was destroying fine men and women.
He felt a special empathy for its victims, something deep and personal and painful. He could never undo the tragedy of his family, but he could strike out to prevent other tragedies.
Because he despised them so, loan sharks would always be among his primary targets.
The Executioner planned to tear up the Canzonari family's loan division until its blood turned the Willamette River into a red flood.
Also Charlotte Albers heard the phone's tenth ring.
Frustrated and frightened, she slammed down the receiver.
She wiped away tears and rubbed her eyes.
Dammit! This was the fifth time she had dialed her sister's number. Leen should have been home from work by now. Charlotte dialed again, making sure she hit the right numbers. The phone rang four times. Then someone picked it up.
Thank God! "Leen! I've been calling for an hour. I've got to talk to you!" Charlotte spoke intently. "Look, I've got some trouble, big trouble." She fought back tears. "Leen, I need help!"
"Hey, take it easy. I'm here. We've always helped each other. Now tell me what this is all about."
Charlotte exhaled into the mouthpiece. "Leen, I need some money. Quite a bit."
"Is that it? How about a hundred and fifty as a loan."
"That's not enough. I need twelve hundred and fifty by six o'clock tomorrow evening."
The line was silent. "Lot, you into coke again?"
"No, no. I just had some short money days, and I borrowed from a finance company..."
"A loan shark, right? Dammit, you know how those bastards operate." There was a pause. "Charlotte, I'm sorry. We just don't have that kind of cash laying around." She paused. "What happens if you can't pay?"
"I have a choice, get gang-banged or my arm broken."
"Okay, it isn't that bad. But tomorrow night, the new interest is added. That's $250 more. I'm getting in deeper and deeper."
"They won't hurt you."
"Younger sister, you don't know how they play.
"But if they hurt you, you either never be able to pay them."
"They call it "making an example.""
"Who is it, Lot?"
"You want me to swish my ass into your bank and apply for a signature loan?"
"Baby, I'm sorry. If I'd known, we would have thought of something. Warren hurts people."
"Thanks for the support," Charlotte sobbed. "Look, I shouldn't have called. Jody said if I couldn't raise the cash, to come there tonight and we'd talk, work out something."
"You know what he's going to work out, baby. He's going to work you out of your panties."
"I'm no fragile little flower, Leen. So maybe I let him play around a little. If I do, maybe I can put him off a few days."
"I don't know! Christ, how did I get into this?"
"Lot, call me right after you talk to him, okay? We'll be home tonight. I can hock my engagement ring for almost $1,200. Or I could sell my Toyota, maybe get $2,000."
"Oh, Leen, I couldn't let you do that. I'll find a way out of it."
"I'd do it for you, babe."
"I know you would, but I won't let you. I'm gonna think about this and call you tonight, okay?"
Charlotte Albers replaced the receiver and inspected her slender body. Some white guys got their kicks with black girls.
It was worth a try, even though she knew her price was steep. She was attractive, had a good figure and big breasts, but would he go for the deal?
A half-hour later she was dressed and had done her makeup to show off her big eyes to best effect. She wore a low-cut white dress. She hoped to hell the bait was good enough.
* * *
She stood in Jody Warren's pricey cliff-top condo overlooking the Willamette River. Warren laughed again and shook his head.
"Let me get this straight. You can't pay, but you'll give me two nights in the sack for $625 a night?"
"That's right.. If you buy me, you pay what I'm worth."
"Not a chance. You owe me $1,250, and tomorrow at six it goes to $1,500. I want my money."
Jody Warren was short and fat. His face was pocked from acne. His hair was stringy, messy and long. He wore a dirty T-shirt that barely covered the big gut, white and hairless, that protruded above his tight blue jeans.
His zipper was half open.
"Can you pay, Charlotte?"
"You know I can't."
"Maybe you can. You got yourself an exciting body." He petted her breasts.
Charlotte gritted her teeth and held her rigid.
"Tell you what. You want to pay off your loan getting laid, I can find two, maybe three johns a night for you. I'll shoot for $250 and sell at about $200. You earn half. In a week you should be able to work off your loan."
"As a whore?"
"You got special privileges or something? You'll work as a black call girl. You don't walk the streets."
She pulled away. His hand clawed her dress, pulling it off her shoulder.
"Not a chance." She ran for the door.
"Suit yourself. I got twelve guys who'll gang-bang you right now."
Charlotte Albers leaned against the door and slowly slid to the floor.
Warren stood over her and lifted her to her feet.
"Hey, Charlotte, sweetheart, it won't be that bad. Course you know I got to test you out first before I can offer you to my customers."
She stared through him.
"As soon as you pay off the loan, you can keep on working or quit. That's up to you."
He pulled the remaining thin white strap off her shoulder and drew the white dress down to her waist. She wore no bra.
"Yeah, Charlotte, I think we'll make some money together. Come in here and we'll find out for sure."
* * *
Two hours later, Charlotte Albers sat in a bedroom on the fourteenth floor of the Rose Hotel. She was naked. A white man twice her age drank from a glass and put it on a dresser.
"Little lady, that was fine. I mean fine! Warren sure can pick good whores."
Charlotte stared at the wall.
She turned. "May I go now?"
"Go? Hell, no! We got an all-night deal here, sweetheart. We're just getting started."
She got off the bed and headed toward a doorway.
"Where you going?"
She might get paid off, but not in a week or two. It would take a year! She could never stand the humiliation.
"After I use the bathroom I'm dressing and going home," she announced. "You're a disgusting pig!"
"You shitty little slut. Nobody calls me names."
"I'm not a slut!"
"What is this, a church picnic? You sell your ass for your bread, girly."
"You've got no right..." Charlotte ran for the bathroom, and stared at her image in the mirror.
When she came out she was crying.
I'm sorry, Leen. I'm so sorry!
She opened the sliding-glass door that led to the balcony.
The man looked up at her.
She stared back for a moment, then rushed forward and dived over the railing.