Lone Wolf #12: Phoenix Inferno

BOOK: Lone Wolf #12: Phoenix Inferno
9.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Lone Wolf #1:
Night Raider

Lone Wolf #2:
Bay Prowler

Lone Wolf #3:
Boston Avenger

Lone Wolf #4:
Desert Stalker

Lone Wolf #5:
Havana Hit

Lone Wolf #6:
Chicago Slaughter

Lone Wolf #7:
Peruvian Nightmare

Lone Wolf #8:
Los Angeles Holocaust

Lone Wolf #9:
Miami Marauder

Lone Wolf #10:
Harlem Showdown

Lone Wolf #11:
Detroit Massacre

Lone Wolf #12:
Phoenix Inferno

Lone Wolf #13:
The Killing Run

Lone Wolf #14:
Philadelphia Blowup

The Lone Wolf #12:
Phoenix Inferno
Mike Barry

a division of F+W Media, Inc.

I have never understood why drugs keep coming into this country; there must be some high degree of corruption for those drugs to keep coming….

—Howard Cosell

You’re putting me on, Howie baby.

—Burton Wulff


























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Wulff was rolling down the interstate from Motown, laughing a little at what he had been able to do although not very much because there was not much humor in it, too much pain and blood, when the motorcyclists came from nowhere, bearing down on him left and right on the empty panels of the road near dawn.

The cyclist on the left hit a door frame hard, skittering away, and Wulff thought that he had sideswiped the man. He backed the old Fleetwood down to fifty and then twenty to see if he had done any damage and watched the cycle, behind him now, weave to the safety zone and then come to a stop, the rider falling off in the loose, reckless way that usually happens only when a man is very experienced or hurt badly. There was nothing to do. They had him cold. He thought about going on. He had nothing to do with this at all; he should be long out of Detroit by now. Of course, that was the way to look at it. Move on.

But then again the cyclists were not involved with his own odyssey, and Wulff’s rule from the very beginning of this horror had been that no innocent parties were to be hurt unless they were directly in the way of the parties he had to hit. So, cursing, he braked the big Cadillac over into the safety zone, trying to keep the hurt biker leveled in his rear-view mirror. Just as he came to a stop, skittering up little explosions of pebbles from the fender skirts, the other cyclist, the one who had been on the right and who he had forgotten about, was leaning over the driver’s side, a gun in his hand.

“Get the fuck out of the car,” this second motorcyclist said. He was a short man with an unshaven face, but the.45 he was holding in his right hand would make up for a lot of physical defects.

Wulff sat loosely behind the wheel, trying to figure out exactly what was the best way to come to terms with this. In one way he had expected it, of course, and yet in another he had not. Trouble always came unexpectedly; that was the trouble. At the heart, man was an optimistic animal.

“Didn’t you hear me?” the biker said, waving the gun a little, “I told you to come out.” Looking in the rear-view mirror, Wulff could see the other one struggling up, brushing dust off his cuffs in a casual way, hunching his shoulders then and moving slowly toward them. A beautifully controlled fall. Talent. It looked like the network had finally gotten so pissed off that they were not going the cheap route any more; they were going to deal now only with expensive help. “You fucking deaf?” the short biker said. “I told you to get out of that car, you get the fuck out now. You start screwing around, I’m going to blow your head off. I don’t give a damn.”

Wulff guessed that this was true. The man didn’t give a damn and he probably would blow Wulff’s head off. Having gone this far they would probably go a little farther. The other one was closing in nicely now, out of range of the rear-view mirror, probably with a little surprise in his hand too. It didn’t matter. Surprised at his detachment, at how easily he could see that it did not matter and that the situation had passed beyond him, Wulff slowly took his hands off the wheel and dropped one toward the door handle. The face of the man with the gun twitched. “Don’t try anything,” he said. “Come out slowly and nicely now.” He backed away, a true professional, allowing room for the door to clear. That was good thinking. It meant that Wulff could not push the door hard and jar the man. Not that Wulff was thinking about that, anyway. He still had the other one to contend with. All the armaments in the trunk made no difference; he had iron on him, for that matter, but it did him no good at all. They had control over the situation, and after their beautiful first maneuver obviously had the sense not to lose control. “Easy now,” the man with the gun said. “Get out nice and easy.”

Wulff did that. He let his kneecap push the door open, shading just a little bit of space, and then came through slowly, his hands in front of him. There was room somewhere in here for a nice, desperate maneuver, the kind of thing that in his youth he might have worked out; he could have dropped his hands below windowline, where the biker from his new distance could not see him, grabbed hold of the gun, and come out shooting. The surprise value would have been worth something even against these professionals; if he could have dropped this one with one shot, he would have had at least a 50-50 chance using the door as cover to get the other. But he simply was not that desperate, Wulff thought. It did not matter enough to him to make the play. Maybe that showed some lack of character, but the hell with it. He had done enough.

He came out of the door slowly, his hands still up. It was empty on the interstate, sun glancing off the panels, just a little bit of haze in the distance now. Not a particularly well-traveled road, but then again passing at seventy-five, sealed into the furniture of a car, no one was going to be fool enough to help him. You were out in the open here but the isolation was complete.

The second biker was there now, his gun out. He was a little taller than the one who had gotten him out of the car but not enough to be significant. Five seven, five eight, both of them, hard, driven faces, efficient eyes, somewhere in their middle thirties, but it could have been forties or fifties too; there was a certain kind of face that started old, stopped aging altogether at twenty, and then just fell in on itself, became more and more bitter. He wished he had gone north out of Detroit instead of south. South seemed the truest way, that was for sure, but north would have led him out of the country and his luck would have been better in Canada. His luck would have been better anywhere, as a matter of fact. It looked, Wulff thought, as if the string had run out. This did not fill him with fear—he was on a one-way ticket, he was a dead man anyway—but there was a certain amount of regret here. He had been in exile so long, he had come out of prison with such difficulty to get started again and do a real job in Detroit … it seemed a shame to see it all end again. He wouldn’t have given a damn if they had thrown away the key in jail, kept him there for a long, long time. But to get back into the swing of it and then lose was excruciating. Shit, he thought. He said nothing, holding his ground. There was a small chance that he could get one of them by going quickly for his gun, but then the other would cut him down. It didn’t matter. “Check him,” the shorter man said, “check him down.”

The other man put his gun away, frowning slightly, and closed in on Wulff. He did not look entirely happy with the assignment but then again he was covered by the gun; he really was in no danger at all. Wulff could see the thought slowly percolating its way through the man’s brain, radiating outward in levels to the broken lines of his cheeks. He was covered and therefore he was safe, but on the other hand he knew exactly who Wulff was and how dangerous he could be and that meant trouble. But the trouble Wulff might cause him was as nothing to what his partner might do if the man backed off. Wulff could see all the calculations and then he could see the man on some deep level saying
oh fuck it
and closing in and as the hands hit him he might really have submitted to it, gone with it all the way, except that the man covering them started to giggle in a hard, harsh voice, a giggle that was almost as sexual as it was from simpler excitement, as if the idea that Wulff was being caressed in the frisk somehow meant that he was being violated too, and it was this that pushed Wulff over the line. He didn’t mind being ambushed and frisked down, at least not so much that he would risk getting killed to fight it. But if they were going to bring in a domination element, that was something else. Besides, if that element of excitement was part of the equation, it meant that they didn’t have as much of an edge as they thought; the edge began to disappear, the element of calculation became blunted, when sexuality of any sort, no matter how transmuted, came into it. As the taller man put his fingers almost limply on Wulff’s pockets, Wulff moved; in a perfect combination of rage and calculation he crouched down under the grasp and then came up hard, butted the man under his eye, brought him back just a trifle and then he was fighting the other man’s hand for his.38, finding it deep in his pocket, coming out with the gun.

The taller man screamed as he realized what had happened to him, but he was still scrambling for balance, not even able to get out of the way. Wulff, gun in one hand, reached for the man with the other, pulled him toward the gun by his shirt-front, and then he had perfect cover, the man shielding him from the other. In his grasp the taller man twittered and shrieked.

“You stupid son of a bitch,” the shorter man, invisible, said from behind cover. “You stupid bastard, you fucked up everything.” And then he did something that Wulff hardly could have expected. He shot the taller man in the back. Wulff could feel the impact spreading all through the fingers of the hand holding the taller man, so that suddenly there was dead weight and bubbling across his arm. Desperately he held the man up, maintaining him as cover, but it was close to 180 pounds now falling against him, and his margin of protection could be measured only in seconds. The shorter man must have felt that way too. He put two more bullets into the back of the tall man, encouraging him to die faster. The weight was overwhelming. Wulff let the tall man drop and fell with him, pushing the corpse away at the last moment and putting a shot through the gun hand of the shorter man.

The shorter man screamed, and then something darker than pain overtook him, seeming to convulse his face. Concentrating slowly, desperately, he tried to work his hand around the gun, tried to get off a shot, but he could not. Something in the nervous structure had disassembled; he could not hold the gun. The gun fell from his hand into the dust of the road and the man stood there weaving, shaking his head. He was crying. “You son of a bitch,” he said, “no one gets you. No one. We had you.”

“Forget that,” Wulff said, “it doesn’t matter.” He closed in on the short man, put his gun away, knelt beside him. “You got greedy,” he said, “that was all. You could have killed me but you wanted something more. What did you want?”

The man shook his head. His eyes were dilating with the pain. “Nothing,” he said, “I won’t talk.”

“Sure you will,” Wulff said, almost gently. “Who sent you?”

The biker’s face had a scream in it, his mouth was working all around the edges but he could not get the sound out. “No,” he said, “I won’t tell.”

“Of course you’ll tell,” Wulff said. An old Rambler went by them at ninety kicking up dust and little shards of pebbles, which skittered around them. The car was almost out of sight before he had even looked up. People on the interstates minded their own business, stayed within their own compass, that’s for sure. “You’ll tell fast or you’ll tell slow, but you will most certainly tell and I’d like to make it easier for you. That’s a bad hand,” he said, looking down at it. The hand was opening into little pockets of blood, leaking into the dust. “You’re going to need treatment,” Wulff said almost solicitously. “You could bleed to death with a hand like that.”

“You son of a bitch,” the man said but without conviction. “You bastard.”

“I try to be,” Wulff said. “It’s the only way to survive murderers. Who sent you?” he said casually and hit the man in the face. The man fell over backwards, gasping. “You’d better tell me,” Wulff said. “A man could be tortured to death here on the interstate and no one would notice. They patrol it about once a week, you know.”

The man seemed to be calculating this. Maybe it was only the pain that made him seem to turn inward. Wulff had seen this moment time and again; even the toughest reached that point of inward seeking that came before either confession or death. The man looked over at his dead partner and said, “All right. I don’t give a fuck. It’s none of my affair; I never said I’d die for this.” His tone was sullen even in pain. “Shit, it was a lousy deal anyway.”

“Where were you supposed to take me?” Wulff said. “Obviously you wanted me alive and disarmed or you would have killed me right off; that was your mistake. Where were we supposed to go?”

“Phoenix,” the man said after a little pause. “I was supposed to get you into Phoenix. Preferably alive.”

“Good,” Wulff said, “good.” He knelt next to the man, took out a handkerchief, began to work up an improvised tourniquet almost solicitously as he leaned over, close to him. “You just tell me all about it,” Wulff said. “Like, who it is in Phoenix that sent you, and who we were all supposed to see, and maybe if we get along well enough you can come along with me when we pay him a visit. Won’t he like that?” Wulff said. “He’ll be pleased as hell. And you’ll be off the hook, too; it will be mission completed.”

The biker’s eyes fluttered as the tourniquet was wrapped but otherwise he said nothing. There was, of course, nothing to say.

BOOK: Lone Wolf #12: Phoenix Inferno
9.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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