Authors: Don Pendleton
Tags: #Action & Adventure, #Fiction, #det_action, #Men's Adventure
Mack Bolan is informed that Mafia overlords are meeting in Florida toomake arrangements to wipe him out — permanently! He penetrates their inner council, only to encounter the guns of the dreaded Talifero brothers. They are skilled "enforcers" whose cold-blooded modus operandi makes them powerful foes to be feared and respected — even by THE EXECUTIONER!
Overcoming near insurmountable odds, Bolan strikes with devastating force — once more catching the Mafia big shots off guard...
Trained by his government to kill methodically and selectively, Sgt. Mack Bolan became a death machine during two consecutive tours of combat duty in Vietnam. An expert sniper, Bolan's specialty involved deep penetration of enemy territory with specific objectives marked for each mission — North Vietnamese field commanders, Viet Cong leaders, important defectors, etc. So successful was the young sergeant in this highly personal brand of warfare that he became known as The Executioner, feared by the enemy, regarded with awe and admiration by his own comrades and superiors.
Toward the close of his second combat tour in Vietnam, Bolan was sent home to bury his own family — mother, father, and teenage sister — who themselves had died by the gun. Police records showed that the elder Bolan, a steelworker, had gone berserk and murdered his wife and daughter, then turned his gun on himself. Mack Bolan, however, became convinced that a sinister underworld design was actually responsible for his family's deaths; it also appeared to Bolan that the police were powerless to act against this "home-front enemy," known variously as The Mafia and La Cosa Nostra.
Executioner Bolan decamped from the Vietnam theater and declared a one-man holy war against "the greater enemy," bringing his jungle-warfare concepts into the American civil community. Noting that the legal authorities were being hamstrung and largely neutralized by underworld manipulation of constitutional rights and judicial processes, Bolan "disqualified" the Mafia from these protections and applied the rules of international warfare to his personal challenge of the powerful crime combine. His plan was simple: seek and destroy the enemy. The execution of this plan was not so simple. Bolan saw it as:
2. Target Identification and Confirmation!
In a series of daring strikes originating in his home town, Sgt. Bolan put his battle plan to the test in challenging the awesome might of the Sergio Frenchi Family.1 His lightning tactics and contempt of death resulted in the virtual extinction of that Mafia arm and set up reverberations throughout the syndicate.
Bolan was himself operating outside the law, and though many lawmen were sympathetic to his cause, he quickly became one of the most wanted "criminals" in America. He was also marked for death by the most powerful and pervasive criminal organization in existence, with a $100,000 price tag on his death certificate. Sought by virtually every law enforcement agency in the nation and hounded by murder contractors and a horde of underworld bounty hunters, Mack Bolan turned up in Los Angeles where he quickly formed a "death squad" of former Vietnam buddies.2 The Executioner was not retreating; he was attacking to the rear, as the Mafia family of Julian DiGeorge, Southern California Capo, immediately learned. Bolan and his highly skilled band of Vietnam heroes came to grief in Los Angeles, however, thanks largely to Detective Captain Tim Braddock and his special "get Bolan" detail. Seven of Bolan's squad fell to the Mafia guns and the other two were apprehended by the police, but not before the DiGeorge Family had suffered grievous wounds which would prove to be fatal.
DiGeorge himself escaped The Executioner's wrath, however, and went into seclusion at a secret Palm Springs retreat, regrouping his shattered forces with an all-consuming determination to "once and for all smash this bastard Bolan!"
Mack Bolan now knew with a grim certainty that he was running out his last bloody mile of life. With the full resources of the Los Angeles Police Department geared to his apprehension and an enraged criminal "invisible second government" vowing his extinction, he sought refuge in the professional abilities of another former Vietnam friend, plastic surgeon Jim Brantzen. Brantzen gave Bolan a new face3 and a new lease on life, but Bolan refused to pick up the option on that lease. His new face opened a new identity and a new set of tactics for his one-man war on the Mafia, and he infiltrated the DiGeorge Family as Franky (Lucky) Lambretta, triggerman and almost heir-apparent to DiGeorge himself. This gambit ended in the complete disintegration of another Mafia arm, and at least one federal agency was beginning to see Mack Bolan as perhaps a godsent answer to the spreading menace of syndicated crime.
There was little comfort in all this for Bolan himself, however. The influence and power of La Cosa Nostra was still on his head every day he lived increased the odds against his living another day. His new face was now well known by the police and the underworld alike. Every step he took was echoed by the sounds of pursuing feet, every place he touched down was quickly jarred by a determined pouncing by the hounds of hell, and every hand stretched out to him in friendship was immediately severed by the forces arrayed against him.
There was nothing left for Mack Bolan but unending warfare. He had no illusions regarding the ultimate outcome. One man could not forever persevere against infinite odds. Mack Bolan, however, did not waste much time in contemplating his own death. He merely acknowledged that he was travelling his last bloody mile, and he was not conceding a single step to the enemy. Mack Bolan's war with the Mafia was to the death.
Mack Bolan waited until the last possible moment, then viciously swung the wheel and powered into a screaming turn, his attention evenly divided between the isolated desert road ahead and the receding images in his rearview mirror. A heavy car braked into the intersection behind, swinging broadside and overshooting the turn to careen into the shallow ditch at the side of the road. The pursuing vehicle quickly regained the blacktop and the twin headlights once again began crowding Bolan's mirror. Bolan smiled grimly and pushed his accelerator pedal into the floorboard, then removed a Luger from concealment, thumbed off the safety, and placed the weapon on the seat beside him, fully aware now that he had tarried too long in Phoenix.
The shadowy outlines of an industrial park loomed above the desert horizon. Bolan's mind leaped ahead to the implications thus presented; the road very probably terminated in that cluster of buildings. If so, he could only hope that the complex was unfenced — otherwise, he was trapped on a dead-end road to an executioner's hell. Almost too late, at 95 miles per hour, he flashed past the warning sign and saw the light-reflectors on the heavy chainlink gate just ahead. His mind still racing furiously forward, Bolan hit his brakes and his headlights at the same instant and fought the little car to a fishtailing halt, coming to a broadside rest just inches from the barrier. Then he immediately backed off onto the powdery soil, halting again well away from the blacktop. He left the engine running and jumped out, Luger in hand, and ran to the gate. The chase car's headlights were spotting the road less than a hundred yards distant when Bolan finished smashing the gate reflectors with the butt of the Luger.
Seconds later, Bolan was back alongside his vehicle and leaning in with one hand on the headlamp switch. The heavy car of his pursuers was eating the roadway in smooth gulps when it passed the warning sign, then seemed to falter momentarily halfway to the gate before nosing down in a squealing spasm of locked brakes. Obviously aware that the sliding vehicle could not be halted in time, the driver made a last minute effort to turn away from the impact. The big car slammed into the fence broadside, sheared a steel post, teetered into a sideways roll, then was shudderingly righted and flung back by the tensile strength of the heavy fencing. Both doors on the side nearest Bolan were popped open by the buckling contraction, and a man was flung from the rear seat to flop out onto the roadway.
Bolan had switched on his headlights, catching the other car in their full glare, and was running into the collision scene, his Luger up and ready, even before the car finally settled. A big man with a bloodied face staggered out of the front of the wrecked vehicle and stared dazedly into Bolan's headlights, then raised a pistol into view and wheeled drunkenly toward cover. The Luger roared and dropped him on his second step, and Bolan was already moving swiftly to the other side, firing on the run at the two men still inside.
The horn began sounding, grotesquely perpetuating the noisy invasion of the desert stillness. Bolan moved cautiously into the close inspection. The man in the rear seat had taken a bullet through the throat; a .45 automatic lay on the seat beside him, a sawed-off shotgun on the floor. The driver had an obviously broken neck, in addition to a bullet in the shoulder. The man who had been ejected by the collision was groaning feebly through blood-flecked lips. The first of the group to taste Bolan's lead was dead with a bullet through the heart.
A vehicle with a blue beacon flashing from its roof was approaching from inside the industrial complex. Bolan snatched the registration display from the wrecked car and quickly returned to his own vehicle. He extinguished his lights and made a rapid departure, switching them on again just before reaching the highway junction. He paused there to examine the registry paper he had removed from the wrecked vehicle, then growled deep in his throat as cool anger began to replace survivalist excitement. The car was registered to John J. Portocci; the address shown was in a Phoenix suburb. Bolan recognized the name. Johnny (the Musician) Portocci was the underboss of a Phoenix-based Mafia family.
If Bolan had learned any full-dimensioned truth in Vietnam, it was that an aggressor holds all the aces when the defense is limited to purely reaction and containment. Bolan had been in a reaction-only posture for two full weeks, ever since the close of the Palm Springs battle with the DiGeorge Family. He was tired of "reacting" — and the truth was growing on him that his only way out of Arizona probably lay in a power sweep right through the middle.
Now that the shooting had started, the Arizona Troopers would undoubtedly be getting into the act. Roadblocks, in a sparsely-inhabited state such as Arizona, could be a powerfully effective device.
Bolan weighed the registration slip on an index finger, gazed longingly toward the east, then sighed resignedly and turned back west toward Phoenix. A long-forgotten item of information tugged at his brain lobes, something he had read once in a study of ancient history. The phoenix was the fire-bird of Egyptian mythology, the symbol of regeneration or resurrection. Bolan grinned to himself and sent the little speedster hurtling along the backtrack to the city.
The two-story residence of Johnny the Musician was in Mediterranean villa style and set back about fifty yards from the road. The neighborhood was one of the best in the area, a settlement of curving roads, circular drives, and executive homes. Bolan idly wondered if Portocci had been accepted by the country-club set, as he cruised past in an inspection of the Mafia boss's mansion. Several vehicles occupied the circular drive at the front of the house. A limousine was parked outside the attached garage which was linked to the rear of the house by a short breezeway; extra living quarters were above the garage. A single floodlight illuminated the front area and light spilled through several ground-floor windows.
The upper story of the house and the garage apartment were darkened. Two men in the front drive leaned against the fender of a car in the full glare of the floodlight. Bolan went on by, turned onto the next intersecting street, and parked. The neighborhood was quiet and dark. Bolan removed his suit coat, pulled a black, tight-fitting jumpsuit from the rear seat, and stepped out onto the street to get into it. Next he buckled on a web belt with a flap holster, affixed a silencer to the muzzle of the Luger, reloaded, and checked his spare clips. Then he changed into lightweight, crepe-soled "cat shoes" and melted into the darkness. Moments later The Executioner dropped lightly over a low stone wall at the rear of the Portocci property and stepped silently into the shadow of a wooden-slatted windbreak, beyond which lay an oval swimming pool.
The pool was dry and showed signs of neglect. A man, fully clothed, sat at the end of a low diving board, his feet dangling in the air, head thrown back, obviously star-gazing. Bolan watched the man for a full minute, noting the shadowy outline of an object lying across the man's lap and deciding his best move. The decision made, Bolan scooped up a piece of rotted wood which had fallen from the windbreak and sailed it into the shadows of a patio at the far side of the pool. It hit with a soft clatter and slid along for several feet.
The man on the diving board reacted instantly, coming to both knees and peering awkwardly toward the sound of the disturbance, precariously off balance as he swivelled and swung a short shotgun at chest level. Bolan stepped into the open, some twenty feet from the man's position, weapon at arm's length, and said, "Hey!"
The guard jerked about with a startled grunt, trying to bring the shotgun around with him. The Luger bucked in Bolan's hand and reported with a dull
through the silencer. The guard's head snapped back grotesquely, and man and gun continued the pirouette into thin air and disappeared from Bolan's view. The shotgun clattered as it struck the cement bottom of the pool and skittered noisily along the incline. Bolan was already streaking across the open area around the end of the pool. He made the shadows of the garage just as another man leaned over the railing of the porch from the upstairs apartment and called out, "Al? Al! What is it?"
Bolan's Luger whispered again and another body abruptly took to the air, impacting almost at Bolan's feet. His progress unchecked, Bolan went on to the stairway and quickly ascended to the porch, then stepped off onto the roof of the breezeway and crossed to a flat overhang of the roof of the main house. The second window he came to stood invitingly open. Bolan entered, and found himself in an alcove of an upstairs hallway, dimly illuminated by a small nightlight in the baseboard. He began a methodical search of the upper story, found two darkened and obviously unused bedrooms with doors ajar, a third with male clothing scattered about but also unoccupied, and a large bath which smelled faintly of disinfectant. A door at the end of the hall was showing a sliver of light at the bottom.
Bolan had to move past the stairwell to reach the end room. Men's voices floated up as he passed, mixed with the sounds of a television late movie. He went on to the closed door and pressed an ear against it. Agitated voices, muffled in excitement, were coming through. A man's and a woman's. Bed sounds. Bolan frowned, hesitated, then tried the doorknob. The door was locked. He moved cautiously to the nearest open bedroom and exited onto the roof through a window, then made his way back to the corner of the end bedroom. It was at the front of the house. Kneeling on the flat overhang, Bolan could see the two outside men in the front drive, still leaning against the automobile and conversing in low tones, backs to the house.
Bolan inched along to the window. It was open, but the drapes were closed, allowing only a muted spillage of light although hardly muffling the impassioned voices on the other side. Bolan surmised that the bed was positioned directly beyond the window. A woman's breathlessly urgent tones implored, "God, Freddie, hurry — hurry up — come on, huh!"
Bolan's scowl deepened. He had hoped to find Johnny Portocci in that bedroom. A playful male voice was replying, "Hurry and do what? How d'you know I'm not just gonna get up, get dressed, and walk outta here and leave you like that? Eh?"
"God, don't tease me, Freddie," the woman was saying as Bolan stepped into the room. She lay crosswise on the bed, a beautifully proportioned blond — late twenties, Bolan guessed — flat on her back and fighting for a scissors-lock on the nude man who knelt on the edge of the bed.
The blond, also totally unclothed, did not see Bolan immediately; the man did, facing him head-on across the bed. His face went momentarily blank as his eyes lingered on the big silencer-tipped Luger in Bolan's hand, then he flipped back in a panicky reaction. Failing to understand his reason for the sudden move toward disinvolvement, the blond lunged after him and wrapped him up with both legs about the waist. He dragged her off the bed with him in a futile attempt to reach a gunbelt which was draped across a nearby chair. The Luger phutted a bullet into his ear, and he hit the floor with the blond still in tow. She stared at him stupidly for a moment then made a sick face and lifted stunned eyes to Bolan, apparently noticing his presence for the first time.
She quickly disentangled from the dead, shuddering, and declared, "God, you sh-shot 'im."
Bolan pulled her to her feet gently pushed her toward the bed. She grabbed a pillow and held it in front of her and began talking in a sudden rush of words. "That big ape was trying to rape me. I told 'im Johnny would kill 'im for this. I told 'im Johnny always had somebody watching. God, he was trying to rape me!"
Bolan was busily shaking down the room. "Yeah, I could see you were putting up a hell of a fight," he told her.
"Well h-he threatened me. Said he'd shoot off my nipples if I didn't play ball."
"Yeah," Bolan replied. He was going through the dead man's clothes. "Where's Portocci?" he asked, fixing the girl with a baleful gaze.
She laughed in near-hysteria and said, "God, he don't check in and out with
Look, you don't have to tell 'im about this — I mean, about me 'n Freddie. When he gets back, we can tell 'im-"
Bolan had crossed to the girl. She fell back onto the bed, retreating from the ominous advance, eyes on the Luger. The pillow fell away. She raised arms and knees in one supplicating motion and gurgled, "God, give me a break. I can make you glad you did."
Bolan grabbed an outstretched hand and jerked her to her feet, then pushed her towards the door. "Downstairs," he muttered.
She planted her feet at the door and looked back over a soft shoulder at him. "Like this?" she asked weakly.
"That's right," Bolan growled. "You walk straight through the hall and down the stairs, and don't you say a word, not one word."
"Wh-what do you want me to do?" she asked dully.
"I just told you. I'll be watching from up here, so don't get cute."
The blond opened the door, then turned back to Bolan in obvious confusion. "But Ralph and his boys are down there," she protested. "Shouldn't I put something on first?"
Bolan placed a hand between her shoulder blades and gently shoved her on out the door. "Just do what I told you to do."
"Johnny'll kill you when he finds out what you did to me."
"And when will he do that?"
"Soon as he gets back from this trip."
The blond swivelled about and regarded Bolan with a curious stare. "Say . . . who
"I'm Mack Bolan."
The girl's eyes flared wide. She wet her lips nervously with her tongue, said, "Well I'll be," and went on toward the staircase in a wooden walk. She threw a final look over her shoulder, smiled archly and, seemingly finding something perversely comforting in the sudden twist of circumstances, began humming lightly and swinging her hips in a provocatively swaying descent of the staircase. As soon as her head dropped from sight, Bolan trotted back along the hallway to the bedroom, stepped across the lifeless body, extinguished the bedlamp, and moved to the open window.