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Don Pendleton

Assault on Soho

Prologue

Mack Bolan's one man war against the Mafia began, as do so many larger wars, as an act of rage, frustration, and vengeance. Bolan himself has admitted this in his personal papers, and he makes no attempt to pose as a hapless victim of circumstances.

'I knew what I was doing,' he states. 'I was out to collect a blood debt from the outfit that destroyed my family. That's all there was to it, at first. Then when my hate wore thin, I began to see that there was a lot more at stake than one man's personal revenge. I stopped hating the enemy and began to understand them, and it became all the more important that I stand and fight to the bitter endi Someone has to stand up to these guys and show them that they are not God almighty. They are not trying to provethat they are: they believethat they are.

'This Cosa Nostrais a religion and a sovereign government and a culture all rolled into one. They think the whole world is theirs for whatever they can gouge or terrorize or shake out of it. Everything they touch turns rotten and every place they stake out begins to eat itself. What do you do with a cancer… ask it to kindly go away and die quietly? Not thiscancer.

'Some newspapers have been calling me the 20th century Don Quixote. That's okay. Maybe what I'm doing is stupid and even wrong and maybe I am just another idiot fighting windmills, but I don't hear any laughing from the enemy camp. I am doing what I have to do and all I know for sure is that when I stop fighting, I'll also stop living. I don't want to stop living with all these little gods still carving up the world into personal territories. I intend to go on fighting until my last breath, and I'm going to shake and rattle and bust that kingdom of evil with everything I have.'

In Bolan's case, 'everything I have' was considerable. He had been a different kind of hero before the Mafia cancer reached into his personal life. He was a U.S. Army sergeant serving a second combat tour in Vietnam, a professional soldier with simple tastes and ambitions, a quiet and friendly man as regarded by his comrades, an extraordinary weapon of war as regarded by his government.

Bolan had been a weapons expert, a skilled armorer for every personal weapon in the army's arsenal, and he was a crack marksman with each of these weapons. His combat experiences also revealed steel nerves, a remarkable instinct for guerilla warfare tactics, and a selfnsufficiency which made him a natural for the special role thrust upon him in Southeast Asia, one which earned him the unofficial title, The Executioner.

Operating as a sniper team sharpshooter, the young sergeant repeatedly penetrated hostile territories and strongholds in missions requiring that he remain for extended periods behind enemy lines to 'seek out and destroy' Viet Cong military and terrorist leaders. His score was phenomenal, with more than eighty verified VIP 'kills' in the official record book.

Bolan's personal courage and resourcefulness won him the admiration of superiors and comrades alike, and his effect upon the enemy was incalculable in terms of psychological warfare benefits. He was far more than a sniper. Executing an important defector or enemy field commander on his own soil could be a ticklish business. To simply locate and indentify the target in unfamiliar territory was challenging enough, and a task of no ordinary dimensions. To then make the strike, remain in the target zone long enough to verify the kill, and to then safely withdraw through miles of aroused enemy country—and to perform such missions repeatedly throughout two full combat tours—required a decidedly special kind of man. Bolan was that special kind. The enemy recognized this— his name had become a VC epithet, and he was one of the few noncommissioned soldiers in history with a price on his head.

His own nation's government recognized his value also; he was one of the most decorated soldiers of the Vietnam conflict. According to those who knew him best, however, the young sergeant—son of an immigrant steelworker had remained a quiet man with simple tastes and ambitions, a kindly man who repeatedly jeopardized his own safety to assist a wounded comrade or a terrified child or a stricken peasant woman. He took no noticeable pride in his grim specialty and in fact refused to discuss details of his missions with anyone other than his military superiors. Of the several men who knew him intimately, none would agree with the war correspondent who characterized Bolan as a 'coldblooded and remorseless killer with an Army hunting license.'

In Bolan's own assessment, he was simply a professional soldier doing his job.

Towards the end of his second combat tour, Bolan was called home to bury his mother, his father, and a younger sister. This traumatic homecoming brought a dramatic turn to the young soldier's life. The official police findings in the family deaths were listed as double homicide and suicide, with Bolan's father as villain of the piece. Sergeant Bolan could not accept this verdict, and his own investigation turned up evidence that Sam Bolan, the father, had been squeezed beyond human endurance by a loansharldng operation of a local Mafia arm. When the young Bolan girl was pressured into working as a prostitute to help retire a usurious loan, and her father learned about it, the elder Bolan had gone berserk and had killed the girl, her mother, and himself.

Mack Bolan could find no blame in his heart for his father's insane actions. He blamed the cancer of organized crime and he quickly learned that there was no possibility of getting justice through official channels. And so it was that The Executionerdecamped from the problems of Vietnam and opened a new front against the larger enemy at home. The rest is history.

Bolan expected no medals in this new war. He understood and accepted the fact that his actions could not be condoned by American society, and he felt no bitterness at becoming the nation's most wanted 'criminal.' He did, sometimes, feel very much alone. Warfare can be a lonely business for a one man army. Like any other man, he missed the warmth of human friendship and detested the feeling of utter isolation. Like any other man, he suffered the tensions of a constant balance between life and death… he knew fear, and anxiety, and pain, and revulsion and desperation… he had all the feelings of any normal man.

But, in his words, Bolan had 'built my own hell. I can live here, and I guess I can die here. Some things you just have to accept. It seems that I have a job to do, and I accept that. But I do not accept death—that is, I do not seek it. A man can't look for a place to die;

Assault On Soho y he has to take his stand on a way to live. When you do that, death comes naturally in its own time and place.'

An executioner's philosophy? Perhaps. But Bolan's philosophy centered mainly about action. Peripherally, he was incorruptible, non-negotiable, ready to die if necessary, but anxious to live. But his task was to kill the Mafia and this fact provided the central core of his life. A soldier wars to win, and Bolan had long ago demonstrated his dedication to that proposition. He was fighting the impossible fight, yes… but he was fighting to win, not to lose, and he sought not his own death but the death of the enemy, all of the enemy, anywhere and everywhere, for as long as this impossible war could last. And it could last only so long as Mack Bolan could remain alive. Kill to live, and live to kill. No job, this, for the squeamish, or the weak or the non-dedicated.

'Some things you just have to accept,' said Bolan. And what he had accepted was a kingdom of evil, a domain of violence, a life of unending warfare.

In Bolan's five previous campaigns against the crime combine, we saw him growing into his destiny and taking the war to the enemy with thunder and lightning which, indeed, shook their 'kingdom of evil' to its very foundations. He succeeded in becoming the most feared man in underworld history and the most sought by the police.

Not only the Mafia and the police want Mack Bolan; a $100,000 open contract with generous additional bonuses has drawn professional and amateur gunmen into the largest bounty hunt of modern times—and although the average man in the street thought of Bolan as a sympathetic and heroic figure, every hand stretched out to him in friendship must be viewed with suspicion. Even a genuine offer of aid carried built-in hazard, both to the ally and to Bolan himself. Allies complicate the battle and broaden the responsibility: Bolan had learned that the violent domain was kinder to him when he walked alone.

At the opening of this account, Bolan has again become 'the cat that walked by himself.' Once again in a

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