Authors: Don Pendleton
Tags: #Action & Adventure, #Fiction, #General, #det_action, #Mystery & Detective, #Vietnam War; 1961-1975, #Non-Classifiable, #Men's Adventure, #Bolan; Mack (Fictitious character)
This time, all the stops were out. Mack Bolan became a single-minded, death-spewing avenger the minute Eve disappeared...
Someone he cared about, Eve had been swallowed up by the voracious bloodthirst of international terror.
Bolan stalked the savages responsible deep into the labyrinth of double-dealing and betrayal that marks modern terrorism. The hunt took him from the lush Caribbean to the scorching Sahara in pursuit of the Libyan connection that held the fate of civilization in its grasp.
For The Executioner, it was the toughest mission yet, fueled by the most righteous revenge. Anyone who got in his way... was dead.
The essential American is a man
who keeps his moral integrity hard
and intact, an isolate, almost selfless,
stoic enduring man who lives by death.
D. H. Lawrence
For mere vengeance I would do nothing.
This nation is too great to look for mere
revenge. But for the security of the future
I would do everything.
I live on the razor's edge that separates
the living from the dead. Vengeance is not
my sword. I fight only for the future of us all,
and it is an endless fight.
Mack Bolan, The Executioner (from his journal)
It was almost dawn.
The 125-foot yacht, ghostly silent, rode the calm surface of Exuma Cay, 230 nautical miles southeast of Miami. The smoothness of the water was like dark glass.
It did not look to be a scene just minutes short of shattering into hellfire and destruction.
But it was.
The big man broke the water's surface fifteen feet below the "pleasure craft's" stern.
He moved soundlessly from stern to bow, then wrapped hands and ankles around the heavy chain of the boat's anchor line. The dripping of the water was the first sound he had made.
Bolan moved as one with the darkness. He hoisted himself upward, rapidly.
The nightscorcher was outfitted for a hard, fast hit. At his right hip rode the formidable .44 AutoMag, "Big Thunder." Beneath his left arm was the 9mm Beretta Brigadier equipped with a silencer of Bolan's own design. Both weapons were protected by snap-sealed waterproof holsters. Hardpunch munitions rode dry in the waterproof pouch at his left hip. The slit pockets of his blacksuit carried garrotes and small knives. The suit, designed to Bolan's specifications, was skintight, nothing to get snagged or impede movement.
He dropped, catlike, onto the boat's deck.
The predawn stillness appeared undisturbed.
Bolan fisted the Beretta Belle. He eased into a crouch, scanning the deck to encompass all that might lurk there.
Thirty feet separated him from a companionway that led below deck. Just beyond the open hatch was the gray slab of a helicopter landing pad, twenty feet by fifteen feet. Beyond that, the deck stretched to the main cabin and the bridge. A radar dish, turning endlessly, was dimly visible there.
Bolan could make out the forms of two men standing watch behind the windows of the wheelhouse. He saw the pinpoint glow of a cigarette.
He sprinted low and fast toward the hatchway. His black shoes were designed to make no sound, wet or dry. He reached the hatchway and disappeared into it.
Aboard this yacht there was a Puerto Rican agent, and she was known to Mack Bolan.
Known and respected.
Bolan moved with the swift advantage of prior intel to a below-deck companionway that led to the fuel tanks. He paused briefly beside the tanks and unsnapped the waterproof pouch at his left hip, withdrawing a plastic-wrapped clump of plastique explosive that he wedged in between the tanks and the hull. He inserted a timer fuse, set the detonation cap for five minutes, then continued on into the companionway, toward the sound of murmuring voices.
Masculine, relaxed sounds.
The companionway was carpeted a plush red, further muffling his approach.
The human sounds led him two doors down, to his left. He reached the closed door.
A kick that sent the wood panel splintering inward off its hinges powerhoused him through.
The Executioner went in low, the Beretta up and spitting.
Mack Bolan was here to deliver the final tab from Mother Universe for a lifetime of violent and merciless exploitation.
was owned by financier Leonard J. Jericho — fugitive financier, financier Puerto Rico-style.
Jericho was Bolan's target.
The Executioner had long been aware of Lenny Jericho and the man's shadowy dealings in high places. The name had come up more than once during Bolan's previous war.
But Jericho was always an illusive presence: a vicious, hungry cannibal, the same age as Bolan, who personally directed a widespread web of activities (read: crimes) from any number of secret bases around the world that neither the authorities nor the majority of Jericho's own associates could ever identify.
For Bolan it was simple cat and mouse. Easy to identify, easy to hit, easy to git. Easy to mark up as one more scene for Stony Man to cleanse while the authorities blinded themselves with dollar signs and international law.
Except that Bolan would never have allied himself with the get-Jericho forces if his own ally was not personally imperiled. That made it a whole different game.
Jericho was under federal indictment charging him with looting an estimated three hundred million dollars from Paris-based Investors International Services Limited. The globe-trotting financier was also accused by Senate investigators of masterminding a thirty-million-dollar bribe network that had reached into the White House itself during two recent administrations.
The CIA also suspected him of Central American gunrunning.
Jericho had the money and the brains to stay out of the picture, yet he controlled the picture itself, bartering souls with an impunity bought by bribery, fear, murder.
Thanks to the Puerto Rican authorities, the Justice Department had finally gotten a handle on Jericho. The man was tolerated but not loved in his place of exile. The guy's connections to international organized crime were particularly visible in both Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, and the rumors were that Jericho had been busy establishing a new heroin pipeline for the tattered remains of some of the U.S. Mafia families.
The Puerto Ricans had eventually planted an undercover agent in the middle echelon of the Jericho Bahamas organization, and the agent had picked up tremors of something of even greater import.
The agent's name was Evita Aguilar.
Eve was Bolan's friend and she had been his lover.
She possessed the unmistakable capacity for living large.
Bolan had first met the female firestorm during his war against the Mafia, when the Executioner hunted down the Mob's Caribbean Carousel to the Glass Bay stronghold of Vince Triesta.
During the flight south for this rescue today, names and scenes of violence from long-ago action had flashed in Bolan's memory: Quick Tony Lavagni, Triesta, Riappi, the brutal firefights that had seen their end...
And Eve Aguilar, the beautiful, gutsy, tender woman who had played a vital role in aiding Bolan destroy the Caribbean plans going down at the time.
That very special lady held permanent claim to a large part of this warrior's large heart.
Bolan was aboard the now-doomed floating charnel house off Exuma Cay to rescue his kind of woman. And to ensure no replay by the hoods who held her.
This was not a rescue mission like with Toby Ranger, who had become involved once the mission was under way.
This was a mission occasioned by a friend from the very outset.
This was a personal mission with a vengeance.
Bolan was supposed to be on R & R to speed recovery from some badly ripped-open flesh inflicted by a misinformed rookie in London, England. Thanks to the doctors in London and back home in Virginia, Mack Bolan a.k.a. Colonel John Phoenix of the new Terrorist Wars was healing well — too well to stay at home. Rest and goddamned recreation was out of the question, he had told Hal Brognola. Forget it. Hear the real world, Hal.
Bolan did not listen to his liaison officer's woeful predictions about the real world of good health. Instead he listened to bitter news. It was news played to him hourly by the monitoring computers of his organization. It was the data that had brought him here to this unhealthy boat. Sufficient data to launch a search and rescue: self-evident, self-justifying. Like all bad news about good people, it was a call to action.
Eve's agency had not heard from her in seven days. Too long. Eve had been sucked into the Jericho operation, her cover probably blown.
Bolan was here to do whatever damage he could to the unfolding Jericho scam... which, under the circumstances, would be considerable.
They had Eve.
here to give quarter.
Three men were sitting around a table playing cards. The air had become stale and hazy with cigarette and cigar smoke. A naked low-watt bulb cast the walls and corners of the room in dark shadow.
The men were all armed.
They were all fast.
But they were not fast enough.
Bolan plugged an ugly, scarred Puerto Rican with an even uglier hole through the head. The shot sent the guy spiraling backward from his chair into the corner, a hand still wrapped tight around the butt of a shoulder-rigged .357.
The second guy was big, and fast enough that he managed to fill his fist with a P-35 Browning hi-power and track it around on Bolan, before death from the Beretta stopped him cold. He was kicked back in a deadfall slide to join the first corpse.
In microseconds Bolan sidestepped deeper into the crew's quarters, deep in the belly of Lenny Jericho's yacht. The third guy, an Arab, had lunged for a sawed-off Remington 870 pump shotgun that was positioned on the floor near his chair.
He never made it.
The Beretta sneezed a third time.
A third man died.
Not one of them knew what in hell had come exploding through that door.
Bolan straightened. He saw a wall of personal lockers, another with a row of bunks.
And he saw one lower bunk, separate from the others, built into the far bulkhead.
Gliding over the three dead men, he moved over to it and made a cursory inspection of the bunk.
It was indeed different from the others. Heavy chain shackles that ended in braces were built in to imprison the occupant by wrists and ankles. Rough blankets were in twisted disarray, indicating a recent struggle.
Tiny red droplets on the mattress screamed in Bolan's eye. He reached down and touched the stains with a fingertip.
Blood. Still sticky.
He hustled back into the corridor, to his left now, along the narrow walkway toward midship.
He slowed his pace when he reached the hatchway that led up to the deck. Then in silent, ghostlike manner he mounted the hatchway steps. He was halfway to the companionway when the opening was fully filled with the bulky form of a crewman toting an ugly FN Model 49.
Bolan pulled off two rounds, head shots. The man was propelled backward as if pulled by invisible forces. Bolan holstered the Beretta and unlimbered the mighty AutoMag as he continued on up the steps.
He erupted onto the deck, then wove a brisk zigzag pattern across the forty feet that separated him from cover at the base of the wheelhouse superstructure.
The second guard, partner of the late creep with the FN, had not left his post behind the windows of the wheelhouse. The guard spotted the black-clad figure in the dawn's early light before Bolan had gone five paces.
The guard leaned through an open window and opened fire. A NATO round splintered the planking of the deck where Bolan had been a split-second earlier.
Bolan halted his course, in the same movement bringing up Big Thunder on the guard's silhouette on the bridge, and squeezed off a round from a two-handed target-range stance. The blazing issue of the mini-howitzer ruptured the guard's skull into a misty pink shower. The guy toppled down and out of sight.
Silence reclaimed the dawn.
Bolan gained the base of the superstructure. He knew that half his allotted time had run out since planting the five-minute fuse on the plastique.
Bolan heard a dull bump on the port side.
He responded with economy of movement. He circled the wheelhouse and cabin and came around a corner on the far side of the superstructure, just as Leonard Jericho was reaching over to activate the lowering mechanism for the lifeboat in which he was standing.
The bump was the hull of the lifeboat clunking against the yacht as Jericho clambered aboard.
Lenny was not alone.
His co-passenger was a heavyset guy, in his fifties, dressed in a five-hundred-dollar suit that was as out of place as hailstones in these surroundings.
Bolan quit the safety of cover with no attempt at secrecy. Still drenched, but silent as a wraith, he approached the lifeboat.
The two men sensed their executioner's presence. They glanced in unison toward him and their eyes widened.
The guy in the sharkskin suit reacted first.
He was Manny Mandone. Bolan recognized him from his Dixie mop-up.
Right now the Mafia shark was trying to negotiate too many things at once: turning around in the small boat, trying to maintain his equilibrium, reaching for his hardware.
The AutoMag belched flame from Bolan's fist, the heavy round tearing flesh and bone. Manny Mandone toppled over the side of the lifeboat with an astonished look on his face and a baseball-sized cavity where his heart had been.
Leonard Jericho did not move except to glance over the side, ever so briefly, after Mandone. Then he looked back at Mack Bolan.
Bolan recognized him from the intel dossier. Ten years ago, Jericho had been movie-star handsome. But now that he was assessed to be the third or fourth richest man in the world, layers of dissipated flab had been added to the financier's features.
A heartbeat pause.
"Get out of the boat," said Bolan. His voice had the same command of Jericho's attention as the extended barrel of the AutoMag. The seconds were running out on the plastique.
Jericho obeyed. He climbed from the lifeboat. A patina of sweat glistened below his hairline despite the coolness of the early hour.
"I don't know who sent you," Jericho said. "But I can double whatever you're getting."
"I want Evita Aguilar," growled Bolan.
Jericho blinked. "Evita? She's not here."
"Where is she?"
"Who sent you? I'll triple whatever you've been paid. If you're working for the Libyans ..."
A noise came from the northeast.
Grimaldi, coming in for the pickup. Right on schedule.
Which meant there were seventy-five seconds remaining before the plastique blew.
Leonard Jericho did not appreciate that the approaching helicopter was not his. Victory flashed in his eyes.
Bolan triggered the AutoMag, blowing away Jericho's left ankle, effectively amputating his foot.
They had Eve.
No quarter would be given.
Bolan stepped forward and knelt atop the stunned, silently shrieking man, pinning Jericho's neck to the deck with his leg. He grabbed a handful of Jericho's hair and banged the back of the guy's head down hard to get some more of his attention.
"I want Evita. Tell me where she is."
The financier gasped for air. The pain of his shredded ankle was numbed by breathtaking shock. Blood pulsed from the wound, swilling around bone shards to form a widening puddle on the deck.
"Evita was taken from here... an hour ago..."
"I swear to God I don't know! Santos... took her. Libya? Business finished here... Thatcher was aboard last night... paid and gone..."
Time was running out. But this man was talking.
"You're not Jericho."
"Let me live, please, I beg you!"
"I'm here to collect dues from Jericho."
"I'm not Jericho, you're right... you said it yourself."
Jack Grimaldi was hovering at two o'clock off the
port bow. The bubble-front of the Hughes 500-D chopper reflected the rays of a new Bahamas day. A secured rope ladder dropped from the copter's side door.
Fourteen seconds to detonation.
Bolan could not allow the talkative Jericho imposter to die here. He was invaluable now for the information he could give about the boss cannibal. And about Eve, which is where Bolan came in.
The guy was losing plenty of blood. A tourniquet in the chopper, a quick airlift to medical help, and he would be fine for some hard questions.
Suddenly the guy went for broke and rolled his dice one last time. A Colt .38 snubnose was in his fist, yanked from concealment and zeroing in on Bolan.
The Executioner darted to the right. The AutoMag and the guy's .38 fired as one. The wounded man's slug went wild. Bolan's did not.
Whoever the impostor really was, his meat was nailed to the boat's deck by a .44 headbuster that had ended his life forever.
His stupidly untaught-out course of action had confirmed for sure that he was not Lenny Jericho.
Bolan leathered Big Thunder and sidestepped the latest dead man. Timing was everything now.
He climbed the railing of the
side and dived. It was a dive that expertly knifed the glassy waters of Exuma Cay to propel him down deep.
The underwater concussion from the exploding yacht was painful, like being hit by a steel door. But it lacked the shrapnel of hot yacht pieces and hurtling ice picks of fire that would have deafened and torn him if his dive had been shallow and he had surfaced one second prematurely.
He broke surface as debris from the disintegrated
sizzled in the water about him.
A blown-out hulk was all that remained of Lenny Jericho's yacht and those dead men aboard it. The hulk began to sink as Bolan watched.
Grimaldi held the Hughes in a low hover, directly over Bolan's head, with the rope ladder dangling within easy reach. Bolan gripped the ladder and began pulling himself upward from a sea made suddenly choppy by the rotors. Grimaldi eased them away from there with a gentle increase of power.
The waters of Exuma Cay pulled away below him. The sea was a dark turquoise blue, tabletop smooth again in the rising sun as if nothing had happened.
Bolan preferred it that way.
He tugged himself up to the last rung of the rope ladder and hoisted himself into the bubble-front chopper.
"More pestilence of fire, Colonel Phoenix!" beamed Stony Man's premier flyer. "You nearly blasted me away from you forever."
"Should have ducked like I did," smiled Bolan. "You knew I was going to thunder it."
"That I did," said Grimaldi, subtly maneuvering the controls as if the whirlybird was a part of him. He glanced at Bolan through silvered glasses. "You got wet. Anything else?"
"Yes and no," muttered Bolan. "The yes turned out to be a no, so to hell with him." He pushed his damp hair back from his brow, unzipped the top of his blacksuit. "To hell with anyone who comes between me and Eve. To hell with them."
"Got you," nodded Grimaldi, well aware of the grim message in Mack's soft-spoken words. "Just point me where you want me to go."