Don Pendleton

Continental Contract


Mack Bolan's war with the Mafia was only a few months old, and already the man had become a legend and a modern day folk hero. Law enforcement agencies at every level of government and throughout the land had taken to keeping a special file on the exploits of the man known as The Executioner, and various foreign capitals would soon be added to the alert network of international police organizations. Others, also, sought the lifeblood of Mack Bolan. It was common knowledge that a $100,000 death contract had been issued against Bolan by the ruling council of bosses of that vast 'invisible second government' known as the Mafia, or La Cosa Nostra. This was an 'open contract,' with bounty hunters of every walk and stripe invited and encouraged to participate in the hunt. It was also being rumored that various individual family bosses had added attractive bonuses to the final payoff in the event that the murder contract was closed in their territory; it has been estimated that in several areas of the country, Bolan's head would be worth a quarter of a million dollars to his killer.

What sort of superman could inspire such nationwide awe, fear, and respect from both sides of a modern society? Bolan himself would be the last man to attempt to answer that question. He knew that he was no superman. Like any other man, he bled when wounded, trembled when frightened, felt loneliness in isolation, and regarded life as preferable to death.

Short months earlier, this 'superman' had been on combat duty in Vietnam, in his own eyes just another non-com fighting another version of the impossible war. But in that war had been comrades, a sense of national purpose, and the brawn and brains of the United States government backing him. Now he was alone, often doubting his own moral imperatives, and with only his own abilities and instincts to stand against what often seemed to be the entire world.

When Bolan killed enemies in Vietnam, he was decorated for heroism and applauded by the bulk of his society. When he killed the enemy at home, he was charged with murder and hounded as a dangerous threat to that same society. In that other war had been respites from combat, a reasonably safe place to lay the head and rest the soul; in this new war were no places to pause, no zones of safety, no sanctuaries for the man whose battlefield was the entire world and whose enemies were both infinite and often invisible.

No, Mack Bolan was no superman, and none knew this better than himself.

Bolan was perhaps a bit too modest in his assessments of self, however. He had received the tag 'The Executioner'' by virtue of his unusual military specialty in Vietnam. A sniper team sharpshooter, the young sergeant had repeatedly penetrated hostile territories and strongholds, often spending many days behind enemy lines on deep-penetration strikes against Viet Cong terrorist leaders and officials. Steely nerves, precision tactics, and remarkable self-sufficiency had spelled the difference for sniper Bolan, the difference which had kept him alive and functioning through two full combat tours in Southeast Asia and earned him the respect and admiration of superiors and peers alike. But Sgt. Bolan had been much more than a sniper. Executing an important defector or enemy field commander on his own soil could be a ticklish business. Merely locating and identifying the target in unfamiliar territory was challenge enough; to then make the strike, hang around long enough to verify the success of the mission, and then to safely withdraw through miles of aroused hostile country required considerable personal resources.

Bolan had obviously possessed those resources. He had been regarded as a highly valuable weapon of the psychological warfare being waged for the soul of Vietnam. Now it appeared that Bolan, along with legions of other young Americans, had lost his own soul in that conflict, a point which many homefront moralizers were hastening to make. He had been editorialized as 'a government-trained mad dog,' and lamented on the floor of the U.S. Senate as 'America's military sins coming home to roost.'

All this was inconsequential to Mack Bolan. He had not expected medals for his war at home. He would admit, even, that his initial strike against the Mafia had been largely motivated by a desire for vengeance. His parents and teen-aged sister had died violently as a result of Mafia terrorism and the police had seemed helpless to do anything about it. Bolan had not been helpless, and he had done something about it. He took his pound of flesh from the Sergio Frenchi family and his sense of personal justice was satisfied in the lightning strikes that left that Mafia arm in shambles. Long before that first battle had ended, however, Mack Bolan came to realize that he had entered into another war without end. The mob would not, could not hold still for that sort of treatment. The entire premise for their survival was based on the idea of their invincibility and omnipresence in the American society. They had to crush Bolan and run his head up their pole for all to see and beware.

Bolan's war thus became a holy war, good versus evil, and he clung to this battle philosophy as his only buttress against a disapproving society. And as the war waged on, from front to successive front, his growing familiarity with the syndicate served to intensify this certain feeling that he was fighting the most vicious enemy to ever threaten his nation. The mob was everywhere, in everything, controlling, manipulating, corrupting, wielding an influence such as no political party had ever dared dream. Invisibly they reached out to touch every man, woman, and child in the country, stealing more from the poor than from the rich, squeezing the working man with invisible taxes and tributes, demoralizing and enslaving the young with drugs and insidiously corruptive pleasures, cannibalizing industry and victimizing both retailers and consumers, seizing the reins of government through blackmail and the exploitation of human greed and everything they touched turned rotten and spoiled and ugly and corrupt. This was Mack Bolan's vision, and his sustaining truth, and his reason for living when often the most pleasurable thing possible would be to merely die.

He earned distinction as The Executioner in the jungles and hamlets of Vietnam and it was this same brand of warfare that he brought to the American continent. A police lieutenant in Pittsfield, Bolan's home town and scene of his first Mafia encounter, was responsible for the nickname living on through the transition from Vietnam to hometown, but it was Bolan alone who endowed the name with the terrible attributes that rocked the Mafia ship of state and struck dread deep into the bones of Mafiosi everywhere, from the lowest street soldier to the most exalted Capo.

The Executioner was not a cop; he could go and do as no cop could. The Executioner was not a judge or jury; he was not interested in legal technicalities, bribes, or threats. The Executioner was not a prison guard or trusty; he was not impressed with political or underworld influence and intimidation, and he had no reasons whatever for granting special favors or dispensations. He was incorruptible, non-negotiable, ready to die, and willing to kill; he was THE EXECUTIONER, and his target was the Mafia, La Casa Nostra, anywhere and everywhere, so long as he should live.


The Dulles Trap

For one frozen heartbeat, Mack Bolan knew that he was a dead man. And then the moment ticked on, recording the confusion and hesitation and perhaps even awe in the eyes of the adversary, and Bolan lived on. Trained instincts of the jungle fighter responded one flashing synapse quicker; Bolan's reaction to the surprise encounter was a total one as mind and body exploded into the challenge for survival His left chopped against the gun even as the yawning bore of the .45 thundered its greetings, his knee lifting high in the same reflex as he twisted into the attack. The shot went wild, the gun clattered to the ground, and the foe momentarily rode Bolan's knee, buckaroo style, then he was groaning groundward and rolling into a spasmodic knot.

Bolan scooped up the .45 in a continuation of the defensive reflex and was swinging into the lineup on the fallen opponent when his corner-vision warned him of activity on the flank. He whirled and rapidfired three rounds in the general direction of that threat. Answering fire immediately triangulated on him as shadowy shapes rapidly dispersed and went to ground some twenty yards distant. A thick voice yelled, 'It's him allright — now waitaminnit — Bolan!'

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